The stakeholders in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in West Africa have agreed to embrace the universality of the Internet with the aim of deepening penetration and ensuring safety of the net across the region.
This was part of the outcome at the jointly organised knowledge sharing session between the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the African ICT Foundation on how to mainstream Internet universality and Rights, Openness, Access and Multi-stakeholder (ROAM) principles.
The session, which was held on the occasion of the West African Internet Governance Forum 2021, focused on how to encourage more countries to use ROAM-X indicators for improving national Internet development and digital policies in West Africa.
The session was moderated by Dr. Kossi Amessinou, Regional Director, West Africa, African ICT Foundation, who underlined the main objective to engage an extended partnership with the Internet community of West Africa by mobilising them to participate in Dynamic Coalition and provide the necessary tools to conduct national assessments in all ECOWAS countries.
The moderator said the work on Internet Universality seeks to identify and close digital divides, foster digital inclusion, protect rights including freedom of expression, access to information and privacy, as well as to contribute to strengthening resilience and development.
While welcoming participants to the event, UNESCO’s Director for Partnerships and Operational Programme Monitoring in the Communications and Information Sector, Marielza Oliveira, stated that the work on Internet Universality seeks to identify and close digital divides, foster digital inclusion, protect rights including freedom of expression, access to information, privacy, and contribute to strengthening resilience and development.
President of the African ICT Foundation, Tony Ojobo, commended the collaboration with UNESCO and highlighted the need to carry out periodic evaluations in African countries to ensure improvement of national Internet governance.
Ojobo said the ROAM principles and indicators go beyond the traditional rational of physical access, stressing that they contribute to comprehensively advancing digital inclusion, focusing on multiple dimensions of human rights, open Internet, quality of access and inclusive multi-stakeholder governance for building resilient West Africa and achieving SDGs.
Chair of UNESCO’ Information for All Programme, Dorothy Gordon, reaffirmed the need for strong advocacy from national and regional stakeholders to implement the national assessment of IUIs across the West-African countries.
She added that there is need for more engagement from civil society to represent vulnerable and marginalized groups, such as disabled people, women or the youth.