Today, about half of the world’s population is still not using the Internet. That represents 3.8 billion people. In order to bring the rest of the population online, we need to assist our members to build the necessary infrastructure for connectivity, ensure digital inclusion for all, and deliver public services to remote areas.
Since 2016, UNESCO annually marks 28 September as the “International Day for Universal Access to Information”, following the adoption of a resolution declaring 28 September of every year as International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI). The IDUAI has particular relevance with Agenda 2030 with specific reference to SDG 2 on investment in rural infrastructure and technology development, SDG 11 on positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas and SDG 16 on initiatives to adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information.
Infrastructure and technology development are essential elements in building knowledge societies as inequalities of access to information sources, contents and infrastructures cast doubt on the information society’s global character and, consequently, hamper the growth of knowledge societies. UNESCO promotes, through the Global Broadband Commission, for accelerating broadband rollout worldwide and examines applications that could see broadband networks improve the delivery of several social services, including education, environmental management and safety.
However, despite the growth in Internet penetration in the world, the distribution of access between developed and developing countries, between urban and rural communities and even between different age groups and genders is still inequitable. These problems reveal the necessity for new approaches to Knowledge Societies as promoted through UNESCO’s Knowledge Societies Policy Handbook. Generating and updating public policies for Knowledge Societies is a never-ending task, which runs together with the evolution of the Internet and other emerging technologies.
The adoption of freedom of and/or access to information laws has been noted as a global trend during the last decade with more than 120 countries (including some independent jurisdictions) having legal frameworks in 2019. Nevertheless, according to the World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development report of 2017/2018, there is much to be done globally to improve awareness of such laws and their especially their implementation.
WAY believes that universal access to quality and reliable information is an essential human right that plays a pivotal role in empowering young people, facilitating fair debate and giving equal opportunities to all. It is a driving force for transparent, accountable and effective governments, and paves the way for freedom of expression, cultural and linguistic diversity, and participation in public life. For this reason, universal access to information is a pillar of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.