UNESCO, MMfD launch Internet Universality Indicators Assessment in Pakistan

Islamabad, 9th March 2021: The Pakistan National Assessment of UNESCO’s Internet Universality Indicators (IUI), a framework that seeks to assess the status of Internet universality in Pakistan has been launched to initiate an extensive research and assessment process of the internet ecosystem in the country. This framework seeks to assess the national internet environment and if the Internet in Pakistan is cognisant of human rights, open, accessible and governed through multi-stakeholder participation. The UNESCO’s IUI framework has been applied in 21 countries across the world and assessments in various other countries are ongoing. 

The assessment in Pakistan is being supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), and conducted by a research team at Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD). The research process was formally launched in the first meeting of the Multi-stakeholders Advisory Board (MAB), a diverse group including representatives from the government, parliament, media, academia, legal, information and technology sector. The meeting highlighted the significant  role of the MAB. The MAB members will guide the overall implementation of the IUI assessment and provide strategic recommendations in carrying out the research ensuring an inclusive and multi-stakeholder approach. This assessment is expected to map policy and practical gaps in “Internet Universality” in Pakistan and contribute by offering policy recommendations based on research evidence.

Speaking at the launch, Ms. Patricia McPhillip, the Country Representative and Director, UNESCO Pakistan said, “The Internet can play a significant role in achieving all Sustainable Development Goals. With its unique features of accessibility, openness and multi-stakeholder approach, it can accommodate the most vulnerable groups of our societies. If employed effectively, internet and technology in general can contribute to the United Nation’s aspiration of “leaving no one behind” by acting as a mediator, enabler and equalizer. The IUI will provide key insights for more inclusive policies and thereby complement the United Nation Secretary General’s Digital Cooperation Roadmap for connecting all people with the Internet by 2030.”

Ms. Sadaf Khan, Co-Founder MMfD, the research lead for this assessment, expressed that this study will help different stakeholder groups to collectively assess the policies and practices shaping the technological ecosystem in Pakistan and said that, “One of the core objectives of this research is to have a baseline on which all stakeholders including the government are in agreement and can collectively contribute towards the recommendations made after this assessment.”

Ms. Xiahong Hu, Programme Specialist – Digital Innovation & Transformation, UNESCO explained the importance of a diverse Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Board. She further added that it is to ensure the scientific and policy guidance of the assessment. The formation of the MAB is the first and a necessary step of the whole process. 

The extensive framework consists of 303 indicators, including 109 core indicators, all designed to measure various aspects of universality of the Internet. The indicators are a tool to assess country performances against “ROAM” principles that hold that the Internet should operate in a way that adheres to Human Rights, is Open, Accessible to all and governed through Multi-stakeholder participation. The framework also includes a set of cross cutting indicators focused on gender and children, sustainable development, trust and security, and legal and ethical aspects of the Internet.

As a way forward, the MAB will convene on regular intervals in order to support the research team to ensure a smooth completion of the assessment. 

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