Internet Universality Indicators – UNESCO invites Media Development Stakeholders and Journalists to help Develop New Indicators

By Xianhong Hu

While the emerging digital environment offers new opportunities for journalists to investigate and report information in the public interest, it also poses particular challenges regarding privacy, access to information, source protection, freedom of expression and participation. In this emerging digital environment, UNESCO believes that all stakeholders – including individual users, companies and governments, as well as journalists and media development stakeholders – should take part in the framing of values and norms that could apply to all and be a positive force in shaping Internet development.

In this context, UNESCO launched last April, in partnership with the Association for Progressive Communication, the project called “Defining Internet Universality Indicators”. The outcome of this project will include both quantitative and qualitative indicators, enabling a comprehensive view of national Internet developments, as well as recognizing the different experiences and characteristics between countries.

The indicators will be based on the concept of “Internet Universality” which was adopted to highlight features on the Internet that are crucial to fulfill its potential towards sustainable development. The concept of Internet Universality points the ‘fundamental norms that have been embodied in the broad evolution of the Internet to date, and which provide a comprehensive way to understand how multiple different aspects are part of a wider whole.’ These norms – known for short as the ROAM principles – are the guiding framework that promotes an Internet based on five categories:

Rights (R)

Openness (O)

Accessibility (A)

Multistakeholder Participation (M)

Cross-Cutting Issues (X)

The project aims to elaborate appropriate Internet indicators, which can serve to enrich the stakeholders’ capacity for assessing Internet development, broaden international consensus, and foster online democracy and human rights towards knowledge societies engaged in sustainable development. These indicators will help governments and other stakeholders to assess their own national Internet environments and promote the values associated with Internet Universality. Special attention will be paid to gender and to the needs and interests of children and young people.

Consultation with stakeholders play a central part in developing the indicator framework.  The first phase of consultation, from May to October 2017, is concerned with broad principles, priorities and ideas that should be included for the framework as a whole. The second phase, from November 2017 to March 2018, will be concerned with specific draft indicators.

UNESCO now needs your input! If you are a reporter, a media researcher, if you belong to the media development community, or if you are interested in issues related to Internet and technology developments, your experiences and knowledge on source protection, online privacy or access to new technologies need to be reflected in the Internet Universality indicators. The questionnaire takes about 20 minutes and can be filled in any of the six UN official languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish). The deadline for submitting is set on Tuesday, 31 October. The online consultation platform can be found at: If you have any questions about this initiative, please send an email to

Ms Xianhong Hu has been the program specialist at Division of Freedom of Expression and Media Development, Communication and Information Sector of UNESCO Headquarter in Paris since 2006.  Her main responsibilities are in the areas of freedom of expression online and offline, Internet privacy, media development and Internet governance and she has followed the process of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) and Internet Governance Forum (IGF). She was involved in developing UNESCO Internet Universality framework and the strategic study Keystones to foster inclusive Knowledge Societies: Access to information and knowledge, freedom of expression, privacy and ethics on a global Internet .” She is managing UNESCO ongoing project “Defining Internet universality Indicators”.

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