Call for Internet Universality: 3rd Session of Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Committee


“Today, free, pluralistic, independent and safe journalism is under unprecedented stress,” said Misako Ito, Regional Adviser for Communication and Information, while presenting the Internet Universality Assessment Framework at the 3rd session of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Steering Committee and WSIS Regional Overview, where she invited Asia-Pacific Member States to participate in voluntary assessments of internet development.

The four-day meeting from 26 to 29 August was held by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok to discuss emerging trends and technologies that affect the availability, affordability and resilience of regional broadband infrastructure as a foundation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In a session calling for affordable broadband for inclusive development, Ms Ito presented key media trend highlighted in the 2018 report on “World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development” and introduced the Internet Assessment Framework – Internet Universality Indicators based on the ROAM principles – defining an internet that is based on human Rights, Openness, Accessibility and Multi-stakeholder participation.

“We can see the rise of legal restrictions limiting the right to impart information, and an increase in blocking of the internet by filtering and shutdowns of information online,” said Ms Ito. “Hate speech, harassment and the leaking of personal information are also dangerous hazards that can potentially affect every internet user.”

The open nature of the internet is a benefit to freedom of expression and access to information, but it does have challenges. Within this context, in 2015 UNESCO adopted the concept of Internet Universality, which was then developed into a research framework of indicators to enable more concrete analysis at country level. “We stand for an internet that is based on human rights, that is open and accessible for all, especially the marginalized community, and in which any decision needs to be taken through a multi-stakeholder consultation,” said Ms Ito.

The four principles, along with cross-cutting indicators concerning gender, children, and legal and ethical aspects of the internet form the ROAMX Internet Universality Assessment Framework. Thailand, as the host country of the conference, is one of three countries where piloting assessments of the indicators were undertaken between July and September 2018.

Following a panel discussion at the European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG) conference on 20 June 2019, where the internet universality indicators framework were acknowledged as an opportunity for European stakeholders, the ROAMX indicators were brought to the table at the Asia-Pacific regional level for the first time.

“What is good for me is that the framework identified not only one part, but to see a big and comprehensive picture,” said Nou Keosothea, Deputy Secretary-General of the Office of the Council of Ministers, National Committee for Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

UNESCO welcomes the use of this tool on a voluntary basis, and encourages Member States and all stakeholders to use the research findings for evidence-based policy discussions and recommendations.

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