Beyond universal access - the public service value of the internet as a goal of national information policy

3 December 2008 - A Workshop on Access in Hyderabad, India

Original Proposal

Delivering universal access and public value of the Internet: a goal of national information. policy

Internet governance: ex post or ex ante? Just assigned names and numbers or something more? Should we wait and see how Internet will develop, and then act to eliminate deficiencies and maximize the individual and public benefits it can deliver, or can we be wise before the event? Moreover, should we allow events that seriously hamper or block access to the Internet for a large number of users over a significant period of time. 

These are some of the issues to be discussed during this workshop. We rely on the Internet as an essential tool for their everyday activities (communication, information, knowledge, commercial transactions). The Internet and other ICTs can deliver even more public value when they contribute to development and poverty reduction (as a contribution to the Milennium Development Goals). Ultimately, they can enhance the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The question therefore becomes: how can Internet governance ensure and/or facilitate the delivery of the tools and services for our everyday activities which improve our basic quality of life? What role for governments, the private sector and civil society, and what public-private partnerships can be struck? Are current arrangements for Internet governance adequate to this task? Another question is: can this, as well as the educational and cultural role of the Internet (including its multilingualism and multiculturalism) be guaranteed by exclusively commercial use of the Internet?

National information policies including a comprehensive national and local strategy designed both to ensure universal access to the Internet (inter alia by promoting information literacy) needs to be developed and implemented, in particular in areas with a low communication and information infrastructure, and to make sure that it delivers full public value. Information policy should also provide for redressing market failure, where market forces are unable to satisfy all legitimate needs, both in terms of infrastructure and of the range and quality of available content. 

The workshop will also cover, among other things, the integration of ICTs into education and promoting media and information literacy and training in formal and non-formal education sectors for children and adults.

The aim of this workshop is to consider and discuss best practices for the promotion of and strategies for effective access to Internet content and services which is language and culture specific, and of information policy frameworks and development policies best serving these goals.