Training webinar on Internet Universality Indicators convened for African Countries

By Juliet Nanfuka |

On 26 October, the International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) convened a regional training webinar to raise awareness of the Internet Universality ROAM-X indicators and their potential to promote Internet development to advance media freedom and digital rights in Africa. ), The UNESCO Information for All Programme (IFAP) and International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) jointly supported the training.

Present at the meeting were PROTEGE QV (Cameroon), Youth Net and Counselling, YONECO (Malawi), namTshuwe (Namibia), Digital Shelter (Somalia), and CIPESA (Uganda). Each partner presented the state of digital rights in their respective country as a foundation for discussing the ROAM-X indicators with Malawi and Somalia hosting physical convenings. 

In her opening remarks, Dorothy Gordon, Chair of UNESCO’s IFAP stated: “There is a need to take control of the digitally mediated future and understand the impact of policies on our digital environments: the ROAM-X indicators give stakeholders factual tools to discuss and advocate for the future we want to see in Africa.”  

Xianhong Hu, UNESCO’s Programme Specialist  representing IFAP Secretariat, unpacked the 303 the Internet Universality ROAM-X indicators and elaborated on the eight-step multi-stakeholder methodology of conducting national assessments. She highlighted that the unique value of applying ROAM-X indicators is to improve national digital ecosystems and foster cross-border and cross-jurisdictional digital collaboration. 

UNESCO encouraged more African countries to pursue a ROAM-X assessment as a tool to evaluate the ever-changing developments in technology, reverse the digital divide, and to harness digital transformation. Given the launch of the Namibian national assessment and the follow-up ROAM-X assessment in Kenya, as well as the monitoring of new developments following the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2022 national elections, incorporating ROMA-X assessment is critical.

UNESCO and CIPESA jointly reaffirmed the need for increased mobilization using the multistakeholder approach to ensure an open and inclusive implementation process and to scale up Internet development in African countries over the next two years. 

Participants urged UNESCO to continue its support in organising more capacity-building activities to meet the growing demand to assess ROAM-X indicators in African countries.  

All participants were invited to continue their engagement with UNESCO and attend its events  on the ROAM-X indicators : the Day-0 pre-event and Dynamic Coalition session to be held at the December 2022 Internet Governance Forum (IGF), in  Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

African Countries Engage in Regional Dialogue Over Internet Universality Indicators Study

By UNESCO |

On 16 March 2022, UNESCO, jointly with the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) convened a regional dialogue on implementing Internet Universality ROAM-X Indicators (IUI) in Africa.

The event, supported by the  International Program for Development of Communication (IPDC) of UNESCO,  gathered a number of leading  national actors and experts who shared best practice and lessons learned from implementing national assessments of ROAM-X indicators in Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Niger and Senegal.

Juliet Nanfuka representing CIPESA opened the session by recalling that the event builds on CIPESA’s joint efforts and long-term partnership  with UNESCO to raise awareness on the intersection of access to information and application of the ROAM-X indicators  initiated at World Press Freedom Day celebrations in 2018 and the same year’s Forum on Internet Freedom in Africa as part of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).

Xianhong Hu, UNESCO’s focal point of the ROAM-X project, presented the global progress of assessing ROAM-X indicators in 45 countries and highlighted Africa as the leading continent with 17 countries having undertaken the assessment. Ms Hu stressed the urgent need to scale up the ROAM-X indicators’ assessments in more African countries to promote meaningful connectivity and humanistic digital transformation for advancing human rights and sustainable development.

“Africa needs to adjust its digital policy to be more inclusive and the ROAM-X indicators assessment would make a huge difference to support African countries’ inclusive digital transformation and build evidence-based policies.” Dorothy GordonChair of UNESCO’s Information For All Programme (IFAP)

 

Giving perspectives from West Africa, Professor Alain Kiyindou, Lead researcher of the assessment in Benin and Niger, pointed out the gender inequalities in access to Internet and in the workplace and called for more inclusion of African actors and vulnerable groups in the digital space as well as in the composition of national Multi-stakeholder Advisory Boards and research teams.

Also giving a West African perspective, Dr. Gideon Anapey, researcher for the assessment in Ghana, stressed that, “For African Member States to engage with UNESCO and initiate the ROAM-X project in the region, there is a strong need for capacity building that consists in deepening awareness on ROAM-X, fostering various stakeholders’ engagement, covering ICT integration and inclusion”.

Aderaw Tassew, Mr Asrat Mulatu (Ph.D), both representing Ethiopia and Ms Grace Githaiga from the Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) presented on how they approached the assessment in their respective countries alongside highlighting the potential opportunities held by the indicators. Despite vast dissimilarities between the two countries in Internet access, they noted shared challenges unveiled by the assessment including on data collection, funding, political instability, weak legal frameworks and political will, digital literacy gaps, and various levels of the abuse of digital rights.

UNESCO and CIPESA jointly call for more African countries to take up the national assessment of ROAM-X indicators to promote Internet reforms for advancing media freedom and digital rights in Africa.  Following the webinar, in-country training sessions on the indicators will be conducted by CIPESA in Cameroon, Malawi, Namibia, Somalia and Uganda. Member States that are interested in  getting involved are invited to reach out to CIPESA: [email protected].

In 2015, the 38th General Conference of UNESCO endorsed a new definition on the Universality of the Internet based upon four principles – Rights, Openness, Accessibility to all and Multi-stakeholder participation- the ROAM principles. The four pillars outline a comprehensive framework for the assessment of national digital landscapes towards focusing on multiple dimensions of human rights, open Internet, quality of access and inclusive multi-stakeholder governance, promoting the growth and evolution of the Internet, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

This article was first published by UNESCO on March 22, 2022

International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2020

On this Day WHO joined partners to celebrate “a day for all”. This theme reflects a growing understanding that disability is part of the human condition. Almost everyone will be temporarily or permanently impaired at some point in life. Despite this, few countries have adequate mechanisms in place to respond fully to the needs of people with disabilities.
You can click here to access the event page content.

World Press Freedom Day 2019

Around 1000 participants and high-profile speakers are expected to attend the event, including representatives from governmental and international organizations, the media, academia and civil society.

Since 1993, when the UN General Assembly declared 3 May World Press Freedom, this day has represented an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom and develop joint initiatives in this area. It also serves as an occasion to remind citizens that in many countries around the world, censorship is rife, while journalists, editors and publishers continue to be harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.

See the event page here.

Promoting Accessible ICT in Uganda

By Ashnah Kalemera |
The challenges faced by persons with disabilities (PWDs) in accessing information online and financial services since Uganda introduced taxes on social media access and mobile money transactions came to light last August. These taxes added to the catalogue of barriers to promoting access to Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for disabled persons in the country.
Indeed, national statistics for internet and telephone penetration (49% and 69% respectively), are not disaggregated by disability which in itself could be telling of the state of digital accessibility for PWDs in Uganda. General barriers to ICT use in Uganda include high costs of accessing and owning ICT; a shortage of usage skills which is linked to low adult literacy rates; poor electricity and telephone network coverage in rural and underserved areas.
Furthermore, uptake of ICT for PWDs is hampered by the high cost of assistive technology; low levels of ICT and disabilities literacy among policy makers, academia, civil society and other stakeholders; non-implementation of policies related to ICT access for PWDs; and unavailability of relevant software in local languages. See draft ICT for Disability Policy (2017).
As a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the government of Uganda has been working to ensure equal opportunities and inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Article 9 of the CRPD calls on state parties to take appropriate measures to ensure accessibility of ICT to persons with disability. The CRPD also calls on member states to ensure that private sector service providers, including through the internet, provide information and services in accessible and usable formats for persons with disabilities.

Following the drafting of the ICT Policy for Disability last year, the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance has also drafted Accessible Publishing Guidelines and an Accessible ICT Procurement Policy. The publishing guidelines are aimed at ensuring that government communications, documents and publications (print or electronic) are universally accessible at the same time and no extra cost to PWDs. They build on the Guidelines for Development and Management of Government Websites which set out requirements for accessibility for audio, visual and speech impaired users.
For its part, the proposed procurement policy requires all government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to ensure that PWDs have access to all government electronic facilities, resources and services by incorporating accessibility requirements in procurement of goods and services.
Speaking at an awareness-raising workshop on the proposed policies on October 11, 2018, Silas Ngabirano, the Assistant Commissioner for Information Management Services at the ICT ministry, stated that the policies had undergone participatory consultations, with input from MDAs, local government authorities, the private sector, civil society organisations, development partners and the media.
The proposed implementation plans for the policies include establishment of a national accessibility centre, set up of ICT and disability focal points at each MDA, monitoring of government ICT services for accessibility, and support to private sector initiatives working on accessible ICT products and services.
It remains unclear when the various policies are expected to be finalised. However, according to ICT Ministry, implementation of certain aspects of the proposed policies was already underway. For instance, all education institutions are currently required to have computer terminals accessible for students with disabilities. However, as highlighted by a lecturer participant from Makerere University, infrastructure at the university and many other institutions remained under-equipped for PWDs while course assessment procedures hardly took into account the needs of students with disabilities.
Meanwhile, the Uganda Communications Commission is working to enforce compliance with ICT licensing requirements and regulations with regards to sign language interpretation and subtitles by television broadcasters. In a notice issued on October 19, 2018, UCC states that effective January 1, 2019, it “shall not renew” licenses of any television operators not compliant with the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 2006. Section 21(2)(a) of the Act states that “Any person who owns a television station shall provide sign language inset or subtitles in at least one major news cast program each day and in all special programs of national significance.”
Further, in partnership with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the Uganda government is working to develop an information portal, which once finalised, will track implementation of policies on assistive technologies and provide information and experiences of ongoing accessibility initiatives in the country. Previously, UNESCO has helped to conduct a training for Uganda government officials on web accessibility for PWDs.
At the sensitisation workshop, stakeholders acknowledged that implementation of the proposed policies and existing legal and regulatory frameworks is hindered by inadequate data on PWDs for effective planning. Resource requirements for provision of assistive devices, large print or magnifiers, materials in braille and video captioning, were also cited as a challenge.