The Center of Studies on the Development of the Information Society (Cetic.br), an Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) member, in partnership with the Brazilian Network Information Center (NIC.br), recently published the Assessing internet development in Brazil study. The report is the first edition of the UNESCO Series on Internet Universality Indicators assessment which measures a country’s state of internet development. Maiko Nakagaki, Strategic Partnerships and Development Manager for A4AI, interviewed one of the authors, Fabio Senne, ICT Project Coordinator at Cetic.br/ NIC.br, on what his experience was like and what advice he has to offer.
What was the process like for your organisation, Cetic.br, to undergo the pilot assessment for UNESCO Internet Universality Indicators in Brazil?
Brazil has been involved in the development of the UNESCO Internet Universality Indicators (IUI) since its inception. The United Nations uses the indicators to identify a “country’s internet policies and digital environment in order to understand the structural causes of digital inequalities”.
In 2014, the Brazilian Network Information Center (NIC.br) and the Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre (LACNIC) supported the production of a background paper and proposed categories of indicators of Internet Universality.
Cetic.br/NIC.br opened a dialogue and engaged key stakeholders in Brazil who provided feedback on different phases of the consultation process. We also organized and hosted a public consultation on the “ROAM Framework” proposal and provided Portuguese and Spanish translations of key UNESCO documents, such as the “Keystones to Foster Inclusive Knowledge Societies.” By 2018, Cetic.br conducted the pre-test and pilot for the Internet Universality Indicators in Brazil.
Finally, after the document was completed, it was assessed and validated by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br), the multi-stakeholder body responsible for core decisions on Internet governance in the country. The document was submitted to peer reviewers with different expertise prior to the drafting of the final version.
How did the IUI assessment differ from your annual measurement/assessment efforts?
From our perspective, the IUI allows for monitoring Internet development by taking a more holistic approach, that goes beyond infrastructure and access (dimensions that are already covered by other international frameworks). It addresses the policymaking and legislation environments related to the Internet, but also looks to civil society organizations, academia, and society as a whole.
The selected indicators are quantitative where possible and qualitative where appropriate, allowing for implementation by countries with different levels of maturity in terms of data collection regarding ICT statistics.
Another relevant aspect is that the IUI were developed from a rights-based perspective and are connected to the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
What was challenging/rewarding about the multi-stakeholder process?
A multi-stakeholder data collection process is useful to take into account the complexity of Internet development. The ecosystem for collecting data on ICT has changed to include a broader chain of participants, such as the private sector, civil society organizations, and specialized data producers like Cetic.br. By following the IUI framework, it is possible to go beyond official statistics.
Among the challenges we faced in the process was the search for strong evidence to inform each dimension. Having a transparent methodology and using the best available data sources are critical. Another important consideration is how to report divergent visions from multiple stakeholders.
What are the top three or four recommendations you think are key to progress internet development in Brazil?
Overall, the report concludes that the development of the Internet environment in Brazil is positive, and in line with international standards when considering the regulatory framework.
However, the assessment highlights problems in enforcing some areas and significant shortcomings in access and connectivity. One example is that the implementation of the Brazilian Access to Information Law is still weak in the state and local level. The legal framework for the Internet is considered positive for fostering innovation, but businesses operating in the country are critical of it, citing difficulties to operate, overregulation, and a lack of flexibility.
Among the recommendations are the consolidation and development of the national multi-stakeholder governance model, expanding the participation of the various sectors in forums and organisations related to Internet governance and telecommunications policy and regulation.
What do you hope will be different the next time Brazil takes the IUI assessment, and how can this process best enable policy change, in Brazil and elsewhere?
There are some ongoing policy debates regarding the lack of connectivity and traditional digital inequalities. At the same time, there is a fast-changing context in this sector, including the deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G. In the next assessment, we expect to have a very different scenario in terms of accessibility.
Regarding legal issues, one of the most relevant agenda is the implementation of the Brazilian General Data Protection Law [Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados Pessoais – LGPD], approved in 2018 and to take effect in 2020. New assessments conducted in the county will measure the impacts of the new legislation in terms of privacy and personal data protection.
Finally, there is a lack of policy strategies to address cross-cutting agendas, including gender, people with disabilities and children’s rights. We expect that the next report will call attention to those issues.
Any tips for other countries wanting to measure their internet development using the UNESCO IUI?
One important step to applying the IUI framework is establishing sound desk research underpinned by reliable data sources, such as online reports, official statistics, independent surveys, and written assessments produced by academics, research institutes, and other credible and authoritative sources.
Another relevant strategy is requesting information from government departments, private companies, and other sources. Qualitative indicators can be collected by conducting individual interviews with multiple stakeholders or focal groups. An interdisciplinary and diverse team of researchers and peer-reviewers also play an important role in making the most effective use of available data.
Finally, UNESCO team and partners, such as Cetic.br, can also support capacity-building among country teams that are willing to implement the framework.
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