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UNESCO promotes Internet Universality indicators to advance SDGs at WSIS Forum 2018

MD Staff

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Panelists shared their feedback on the first Internet universality indicators.© UNESCO

Building on the vibrant consultation that UNESCO conducted on defining the Internet Universality Indicators at the WSIS Forum in 2017, UNESCO hosted a high-level session on Promoting Internet Universality Indicators as a comprehensive tool for achieving the SDGs during the WSIS Forum 2018.  In the session, UNESCO presented the first draft Internet universality indicators, a comprehensive tool to help states and stakeholders to measure Internet policies in support of achieving the SDGs at the national level that can serve as a recognized and authoritative global research tool for stakeholders to assess Internet development in their countries.

“Implementing the Internet Universality indicators is crucial as it will help all stakeholders understand the state of their national Internet environment, and therefore support the development of concrete policy guidelines” underlined Getachew Engida, Deputy Director General of UNESCO, at the opening of the session.  The session, moderated by Boyan Radoykov, Chief of the Section for Universal Access and Preservation at UNESCO, attracted more than 100 participants.

“The application of the indicators will be an important step towards Internet development and policy improvements” underlined Getachew Engida, Deputy Director General of UNESCO at the opening of the session.  The initiative to develop the Internet universality indicators, supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Internet Society (ISOC), was jointly presented by Xianhong Hu (UNESCO) and Anri van der Spuy, representing the Association for Progressive Communications Consortium commissioned by UNESCO to conduct the research on defining Internet Universality indicators.

During the high-level session, a panel of eight speakers provided their feedback on the first Internet Universality indicators. Participants discussed all six categories of indicators developed in light of UNESCO’s internet universality framework and ROAMX principles, based on the principle that the Internet should be Rights-based, Open, Accessible, Multi-stakeholder and take into account crosscutting themes including gender equality and youth.

“The Internet universality indicators project is a useful initiative to assist the international community and national policy makers to tackle the legal, ethical and societal challenges of the information society” underlined Chafica Haddad, the Chair of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Information for All Programme (IFAP). She stressed that IFAP would serve as a platform to debate and implement Internet universality indicators in Member States and assist national counterparts  in formulating policies aimed at bridging the digital divide and ensuring equitable knowledge societies.  Providing an overview of IFAP priorities including information literacy and information ethics and the work of the programme in addressing emerging issues such as the dark net and deep web, Haddad emphasized that “information literacy empowers people in all ways of life.”

“Human rights should equally apply online and offline; an Internet that fails to uphold human rights is incompatible with the SDGs” stressed Thomas Schneider, Vice-Director of the Swiss Federal Office of Communications.  “The concept of internet universality is very valuable because it promotes features of the internet that are fundamental to it fulfilling its potential for sustainable development,” he further stressed. When discussing the Access and Multi-stakeholder participation indicators part of the Internet universality indicators, Schneider underlined that “access to the Internet should be equal, non-discriminatory and affordable to all citizens.  Multi-stakeholder cooperation is essential if you want to create an Internet Society with a human dimension.”  Rati Skhirtladze, from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), equally insisted on the affordability of ICT services as an enabler of Internet universality, and suggested, on behalf of the ITU, using ICT Price baskets as a measure of affordability.

On crosscutting indicators, Dorothy Gordon, the UNESCO IFAP Chair on Information Literacy, stressed that the Internet universality indicators “have the potential to be really transformational” and will help address the gender gap in Internet use and access and boost the development of Knowledge and Information Societies.  Gordon further stressed the importance of the open consultation process, mobilizing not only Government but also civil society and the private sector to provide feedback on the process.  She further suggested that UNESCO develop an interactive platform online to ensure stakeholder feedback at the national level on the use of the indicators and possible adaptations to national contexts.  “It will be crucial that UNESCO ensures resources to build a platform that will allow stakeholders to share how they implement indicators in individual countries” underlined Gordon concerning the implementation of the project at the national level.

Alison Gillwald, Executive director of Research ICT Africa, underlined the challenge, in the framework of the applications of the indicators at the national level, to maintain common values related to human rights while working in national contexts where rights cannot be assumed. “Indexes that assume we should have online rights when we don’t have offline rights can pose a challenge” Gillwald underlined, stressing the importance of acknowledging that the underlying human development issues, including education, that underpin persistent gaps including with regards to gender equality, must also be addressed in tandem.  Ramiz Uddin, Head of Results Management and Data in Bangladesh’s a2i, reflected on the use of the indicators based on the experience in Bangladesh in ensuring openness in education and added that it is important to keep a manageable number of indicators so interested stakeholders can use them effectively.

“This project is very relevant for the future of the Internet. It embraces very complex issues, but we are in a complex time. In the Internet space, complexity is our strength but also our challenge,” stated Raquel Gatto, representative of the Internet Society (ISOC).  Gatto further underlined the possibility of the indicators to help empower communities to shape their own future through collaborative, inclusive, transparent, and multi-stakeholder analysis.

Towards the end of 2018 and following further multi-stakeholder consultation, UNESCO will finalize the Internet universality indicators. Pilots and pre-tests will be undertaken in several countries in order to provide insights on the applicability of the indicators in various national contexts. The final Internet universality indicators will then be submitted to UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) Council Meeting for endorsement in November 2018.

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US Blacklist of Chinese Surveillance Companies Creates Supply Chain Confusion

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The United States Department of Commerce’s decision to blacklist 28 Chinese public safety organizations and commercial entities hit at some of China’s most dominant vendors within the security industry. Of the eight commercial entities added to the blacklist, six of them are some of China’s most successful digital forensics, facial recognition, and AI companies. However, the two surveillance manufacturers who made this blacklist could have a significant impact on the global market at large—Dahua and Hikvision.

Putting geopolitics aside, Dahua’s and Hikvision’s positions within the overall global digital surveillance market makes their blacklisting somewhat of a shock, with the immediate effects touching off significant questions among U.S. partners, end users, and supply chain partners.

Frost & Sullivan’s research finds that, currently, Hikvision and Dahua rank second and third in total global sales among the $20.48 billion global surveillance market but are fast-tracking to become the top two vendors among IP surveillance camera manufacturers. Their insurgent rise among IP surveillance camera providers came about due to both companies’ aggressive growth pipelines, significant product libraries of high-quality surveillance cameras and new imaging technologies, and low-cost pricing models that provide customers with higher levels of affordability.

This is also not the first time that these two vendors have found themselves in the crosshairs of the U.S. government. In 2018, the U.S. initiated a ban on the sale and use of Hikvision and Dahua camera equipment within government-owned facilities, including the Department of Defense, military bases, and government-owned buildings. However, the vague language of the ban made it difficult for end users to determine whether they were just banned from new purchases of Dahua or Hikvision cameras or if they needed to completely rip-and-replace existing equipment with another brand. Systems integrators, distributors, and even technology partners themselves remained unsure of how they should handle the ban’s implications, only serving to sow confusion among U.S. customers.

In addition to confusion over how end users in the government space were to proceed regarding their Hikvision and Dahua equipment came the realization that both companies held significant customer share among commercial companies throughout the U.S. market—so where was the ban’s line being drawn for these entities? Were they to comply or not? If so, how? Again, these questions have remained unanswered since 2018.

Hikvision and Dahua each have built a strong presence within the U.S. market, despite the 2018 ban. Both companies are seen as regular participants in industry tradeshows and events, and remain active among industry partners throughout the surveillance ecosystem. Both companies have also attempted to work with the U.S. government to alleviate security concerns and draw clearer guidelines for their sales and distribution partners throughout the country. They even established regional operations centers and headquarters in the country.

While blacklisting does send a clearer message to end users, integrators, and distributors—for sales and usage of these companies’ technologies—remedies for future actions still remain unclear. When it comes to legacy Hikvision and Dahua cameras, the onus appears to be on end users and integrators to decide whether rip-and-replace strategies are the best way to comply with government rulings or to just leave the solutions in place and hope for the best.

As far as broader global impacts of this action, these will remain to be seen. While the 2018 ban did bring about talks of similar bans in other regions, none of these bans ever materialized. Dahua and Hikvision maintained their strong market positioning, even achieving higher-than-average growth rates in the past year. Blacklisting does send a stronger message to global regulators though, so market participants outside the U.S. will just have to adopt a wait-and-see posture to see how, if at all, they may need to prepare their own surveillance equipment supply chains for changes to come.

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After Google’s new set of community standards: What next?

Sisir Devkota

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After weeks of Google’s community standard guidelines made headlines, the Digital Industry Group Inc. (Australia based NGO) rejected proposals from the regulating body based in the southern hemisphere. The group claimed that regulating “fake news” would make the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission a moral police institution. In late August, Google itself forbade its employees from indulging in the dissemination of inadequate information or one that involved internal debates. From the outset, the picture is a bit confusing. After the events in Australia, Google’s latest act of disciplinary intrusion seems all but galvanizing from certain interests or interest groups.

A year earlier, Google was shaken by claims of protecting top-level executives from sexual crimes; the issue took a serious turn and almost deteriorated company operations. If anything but Google’s development from the horror of 2018 clearly suggests a desperate need from the hierarchy to curb actions that could potentially damage the interests of several stakeholders. There is no comprehensive evidence to suggest that Google had a view on how the regulations were proposed in Australia. After all, until proven otherwise, all whistleblowing social media posts and comments are at one point of time, “fake”. Although the global giant has decided to discontinue all forms of unjustifiable freedom inside its premises; however, it does profit by providing the platform for activism and all forms of censure. The Digital Industry Group wants the freedom to encourage digital creative contents, but Google’s need to publish a community guideline looks more of a defensive shield against uncertainties.

On its statement, the disciplinary clause, significantly mentions about the actions that will be taken against staffs providing information that goes around Google’s internal message boards. In 2017, female employees inside the Google office were subjected to discrimination based on the “gender-ness” of working positions. Kevin Kernekee, an ex-employee, who was fired in 2018, confirmed that staff bullying was at the core of such messaging platforms. Growing incidents inside Google and its recent community stance are but only fuelling assumptions about the ghost that is surrounding the internet giant’s reputation. Consequently, from the consumer’s point of view, an instable organization of such global stature is an alarm.

The dissidents at Google are not to be blamed entirely. As many would argue, the very foundation of the company was based on the values of expression at work. The nature of access stipulated into Google’s interface is another example of what it stands for, at least in the eyes of consumers. Stakeholders would not wish for an internal turmoil; it would be against the enormous amount of trust invested into the workings of the company. If google can backtrack from its core values upon higher forces, consumers cannot expect anything different. Google is not merely a search engine; for almost half of the internet users, it is almost everything.

“Be responsible, Be helpful, Be thoughtful”. These phrases are the opening remarks from the newly engineered community guideline. As it claims in the document, three principles govern the core values at Google. Upon closer inspection, it also sounds as if the values are only based on what it expects from the people working for the company. A global company that can resort to disciplining its staff via written texts can also trim the rights of its far-reaching consumer groups. It might only be the beginning but the tail is on fire.

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How to Design Responsible Technology

MD Staff

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Biased algorithms and noninclusive data sets are contributing to a growing ‘techlash’ around the world. Today, the World Economic Forum, the international organisation for public-private cooperation has released a new approach to help governments and businesses counter these growing societal risks.

The Responsible Use of Technology report provides a step-by-step framework for companies and governments to pin point where and how they can integrate ethics and human rights-based approaches into innovation. Key questions and actions guide organizations through each phase of a technology’s development process and highlight what can be done and when to help organizations mitigate unethical practices. Notably, the framework can be applied on technology in the ‘final’ use and application phase, empowering users to play an active role in advocating for policies, laws and regulations that address societal risks.

The guide was co-designed by industry leaders from civil society, international organizations and businesses including BSR, the Markkula Centre for Applied Ethics, the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Microsoft, Uber, Salesforce, IDEO, Deloitte, Omidyar Network and Workday. The team examined national technology strategies, international business programmes and ethical task forces from around the world, combining lessons learned with local expertise to develop a guide that would be inclusive across different cultures.

“Numerous government and large technology companies around the world have announced strategies for managing emerging technologies,” said Pablo Quintanilla, Fellow at the World Economic Forum, and Director in the Office of Innovation, Salesforce. “This project presents an opportunity for companies, national governments, civil society organizations, and consumers to teach and to learn from each other how to better build and deploy ethically-sound technology. Having an inclusive vision requires collaboration across all global stakeholders.”

“We need to apply ethics and human rights-based approaches to every phase in the lifecycle of technology – from design and development by technology companies through to the end use and application by companies across a range of industries,” said Hannah Darnton, Programme Manager, BSR. “Through this paper, we hope to advance the conversation of distributed responsibility and appropriate action across the whole value chain of actors.”

“Here, we can draw from lessons learned from companies’ efforts to implement ‘privacy and security by design,” said Sabrina Ross, Global Head of Marketplace Policy, Uber. “Operationalizing responsible design requires leveraging a shared framework and building it into the right parts of each company’s process, culture and commitments. At Uber, we’ve baked five principles into our product development process so that our marketplace design remains consistent with and accountable to these principles.”

This report is part of the World Economic Forum’s Responsible Development, Deployment and Use of Technology project. It is the first in a series tackling the topic of technology governance. It will help inform the key themes at the Forum’s Global Technology Governance Summit in San Francisco in April 2020. The project team will work across industries to produce a more detailed suite of implementation tools for organizations to help companies promote and train their own ‘ethical champions’. The steering committee now in place will codesign the next steps with the project team, building on the input already received from global stakeholders in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America.

About the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network

The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network brings together more than 100 governments, businesses, start-ups, international organizations, members of civil society and world-renown experts to co-design and pilot innovative approaches to the policy and governance of technology. Teams in Colombia, China, India, Israel, Japan, UAE and US are creating human-centred and agile policies to be piloted by policy-makers and legislators, shaping the future of emerging technology in ways that maximize their benefits and minimize their risks. More than 40 projects are in progress across six areas: artificial intelligence, autonomous mobility, blockchain, data policy, drones and the internet of things.

The Network helped Rwanda write the world’s first agile aviation regulation for drones and is scaling this up throughout Africa and Asia. It also developed actionable governance toolkits for corporate executives on blockchain and artificial intelligence, co-designed the first-ever Industrial IoT (IIoT) Safety and Security Protocol and created a personal data policy framework with the UAE.

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