UNESCO Internet Universality Indicators Advancing digital cooperation in Africa

At the Africa IGF (Af-IGF) 2020 on 25-26 November 2020, UNESCO presented the Internet Universality Indicators (IUIs) project at the plenary session on Digital Cooperation and convened a dedicated online workshop to present the national assessments in eight African countries, which are commended as an empirical and multi-stakeholder approach to support digital collaboration in Africa.
By showcasing the national IUIs assessment projects in Benin, Senegal, Kenya, Tunisia, Sudan, Niger, Ghana and Ethiopia, UNESCO aimed to offer a panoramic picture of how the national assessments process and results impact the national policy reforms and facilitate national, regional and international digital collaboration to improve digital ecosystems. UNESCO also encourages more African countries to conduct the IUIs assessments to create synergies within the region and to join the Dynamic Coalition on IUIs, just launched at global IGF 2020, to advocate for stronger Internet policies fostering the development of digital environments and collaboration in Africa.

Ms Anriette Esterhuysen, Chairperson of the United Nations Global IGF’s Multistakeholder Advisory Group, advocated the importance of Digital cooperation in Africa within the framework of UN Secretary General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation and underlined UNESCO’s IUIs national assessments well contribute to digital collaboration via data gathering, evidence-based and multi-stakeholder approach, as a good practice of creating inclusive dialogue and consensus on national priorities.

Xianhong Hu reaffirmed the role of UNESCO’s Internet Universality Indicators as a unique and comprehensive tool relevant for all stakeholders and countries, not only to assess and improve Internet policies at the national level, but also to foster digital collaboration at the international and regional levels. She also shared UNESCO’s policy study “Steering AI and advanced ICTs for knowledge societies: a Rights, Openness, Access, and Multi-stakeholder Perspective” and signalled the importance of global AI collaboration in line with the international standards of the human rights and ethical principles, since no one can afford to leave the question of human rights and ethics as afterthoughts in the process of technological innovation, particularly for Africa.

Representing the Instance Nationale Télécommunications de la Tunisie (INTT), Karima Mahmoudi highlighted the challenges and best practices to tackle issues such as data collection for the ongoing Tunisia report. She noted that surveys and consultative workshops with various stakeholders could be a possible answer to collect missing data.

“The Internet Universality ROAM-X Indicators framework is going to be a topic of conversation for a long time as they contribute to shaping a strong and concrete framework for Internet Governance” said Grace Githaiga from KICTANet. She underlined the key findings in the Kenya report through the ROAM prism and shared best practices and insightful lessons learned along the way.

Elvis Michel Kenmoe, UNESCO Office in Dakar, presented the key findings and recommendations of the finalized national assessment of IUIs in Senegal. One of the key recommendations issued in the Rights category is to accelerate the process of adoption of the Access to Information bill to guarantee the right to information and promote the use of Internet technologies.

Representing both Benin and Niger, Professor Alain Kiyindou from Université Bordeaux Montaigne presented the overall findings of the Benin report and provided inputs on the importance of follow-up consultations for the implementation of better Internet policies during and after the completion of the IUIs report. He informed that the assessment in Niger is newly started.

Highlighting the importance of raising awareness among civil society on the multidimensional aspect of the Internet as well as the involvement of African institutions to make Internet a tool for change, IFAP Chair Dorothy Gordon said “Every member of the society can get involved and help in shaping better Internet policies and fostering the implementation of the IUIs and ROAM principles at national level.”

To express your interest in conducting the IUIs assessment in your country or in joining the IGF Dynamic Coalition on IUIs, contact and consult the UNESCO HQs focal point, Xianhong Hu: x.hu@unesco.org(link sends e-mail) link sends e-mail) and Karen Landa k.landa@unesco.org(link sends e-mail) (link sends e-mail).