Internet access has become a cornerstone of human development: Offering individuals and communities access to an immense corpus of knowledge through which to develop their identities and harness a broader understanding of the world we live in. The Internet has also become a means of access to public goods and services, and given that those with limited internet access are typically the same groups who suffer from other forms of exclusion, this new form of exclusion further widens the gap between haves and have-nots that is already creating tensions in societies across the globe.
Thus, governments should adopt policies towards the provision of internet access to all persons, regardless of their status or geography, ensuring standards for reliability and security are met, whilst fostering demand for, and improving the potential benefits of connectivity. This requires smart policies and provisions to ensure not only that everyone can access the internet, but also the skills to use it effectively through technical training and digital literacy programmes.
Human Rights Framework
This section includes non-exhaustive list of references to United Nations documents that provide a foundation for the interpretation of human rights in the context of the Web.
Preamble to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) : ‘Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights.’
“Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all States. Each State should thus develop a concrete and effective policy, in consultation with individuals from all sections of society, including the private sector and relevant Government ministries, to make the Internet widely available, accessible and affordable to all segments of population.”
– Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights , 5 May 2017 (A/HRC/35/9)
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) : ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’
“Giving effect to the right to freedom of expression imposes an obligation on States to promote universal access to the Internet. Access to the Internet is also necessary to promote respect for other rights, such as the rights to education, health care and work, the right to assembly and association, and the right to free elections.”
– Joint Declaration by UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, 2011
“States should create a policy and legislative environment conducive to a diverse, pluralistic information environment…”
– David Kaye – Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, 29 August 2018 (A/73/348)
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) : ‘Everyone has the right to education.’
“Quality education plays a decisive role in development, and therefore calls upon all States to promote digital literacy and to facilitate access to information on the Internet, which can be an important tool in facilitating the promotion of the right to education.”
– Human Rights Council , 1 July 2016 (A/HRC/RES/32/13)
“States should include Internet literacy skills in school curricula, and support similar learning modules outside of schools. In addition to basic skills training, modules should clarify the benefits of accessing information online, and of responsibly contributing information.”
– Frank La Rue – Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (A/HRC/17/27)
Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) : ‘Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.’
“Governments must respect and protect freedom of information and expression, including on the Internet to ensure the implementation of article 15 of the Covenant. With the Internet emerging as a critical platform for scientific and cultural flows and exchanges, freedom of access to it and maintaining its open architecture are important for upholding the right of people to science and culture.”
– Farida Shaheed – Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, 14 May 2012 (A/HRC/20/26)
Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) : ‘… All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.’
“Gender equality should be promoted in the design and implementation of ICTs and in the policy decisions and frameworks that regulate them. It is critical for all stakeholders to invest in creating an enabling and empowering ICT environment that serves the needs of women by respecting, protecting and promoting their human rights online…
States should collect, analyse and track sex-and gender-disaggregated data on ICT access and usage in order to reach a better understanding of how digital inclusion can be achieved and how to develop informed policies.”
– Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights , 5 May 2017 (A/HRC/35/9)
Art 9 (CRPD) : “[The States Parties to the present Convention…have agreed:] To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility…”
“Legislation should incorporate and be based on the principle of universal design, as required by the Convention (art. 4, para. 1 (f)). It should provide for the mandatory application of accessibility standards and for sanctions, including fines, for those who fail to apply them. Efforts should also be made to achieve the interoperability of goods and services, especially in the field of transport, information and communication, including the Internet and other ICT, through the promotion of internationally recognized accessibility standards.”
– Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities , 25 November 2013 (CRPD/C/11/3)
The sections above are a selection of the many Human Rights that government officials should uphold when developing policies that affect the internet.
Other Existing Frameworks
This section includes references to frameworks that third parties have developed to further delineate rights and principles in the context of the Web. Though this list is not exhaustive, it can provide further support to those interested in understanding the Contract’s objectives.
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) : Adopted by world leaders in September 2015, the document establishes a clear link between Internet access and the achievement of all of the United Nations SDGs. It also establishes clear goals towards infrastructure roll out, such as through Target SDG 9c — “Universal and affordable access across the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) by 2020.”
The Tunis Agenda for the Information Society : A consensus statement adopted in 2005 at the World Summit on the Information Society, which set the ground for the creation of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).It includes a clear call to action for affordable access in line C2 — “Infrastructure is central in achieving the goal of digital inclusion, enabling universal, sustainable, ubiquitous and affordable access to ICTs by all, taking into account relevant solutions already in place in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, to provide sustainable connectivity and access to remote and marginalized areas at national and regional levels.”
This section provides a set of references that may help those seeking to understand the technical terminology used in the Contract.
At the end of each definition, there is a reference to the key Principles to which each definition relates. Key: Governments: Principles 1-3; Companies: Principles 4-6; Citizens: Principles 7-9
- Affordability of internet access : the extent to which internet use is limited by the cost of access relative to income levels (Source: A4AI 2018 Affordability Report). – Relevant to Principle 1
- Barriers for people with disabilities : limitations faced by people with varied hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive abilities in the ways they can navigate the internet, contribute to and enjoy the tools made available through it (UNESCO). – Also see “Web Accessibility. – Relevant to Principle 4
- Civil discourse : engagement in conversation with the purpose of enhancing understanding. It requires respect of the other participants; avoids hostility, direct antagonism, or excessive persuasion; it requires modesty and an appreciation for the other participant’s experience (Source: K.J. Gergen -Read More: Wikipedia). – Relevant to Principles 7-9
- Community networks : telecommunications infrastructure deployed and operated by a local group to meet their own communication needs. They are the result of people working together, combining their resources, organizing their efforts, and connecting themselves to close connectivity and cultural gaps (Source: ISOC, based on DCCC IRTF). – Relevant to Principles 1 and 4
- Competent and independent judicial authority : an impartial and independent authority, conversant in issues related to and competent to make judicial decisions about the legality of communications surveillance, the technologies used and human rights involved, and adequately resourced to exercise those functions (Source: Necessary & Proportionate, P6). – Relevant to Principle 3
- Data : an interpretable representation of information in a formalized manner suitable for communication, interpretation, or processing (Source: ISO). – Relevant to Principles 3 and 5
- Data breach : a breach of security leading to the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorised disclosure of, or access to, personal data transmitted, stored or otherwise processed (Source: GDPR, Article 4(12)). – Relevant to Principle 3
- Digital literacy : the skills and capabilities needed to participate fully, effectively and equally in our digital world (Source: Web Foundation). – Relevant to Principle 1
- Dig once regulations : “refers to policies that allow for and/or encourage deployment of conduit and fiber in transportation rights of way during other infrastructure improvement projects. This can include, for example, installing pipes under roadbeds that can house numerous internet cables. Rather than digging up the road each time a new company wants to install high-speed internet cables, the Dig Once infrastructure would permit companies access to their cables, allowing for upgrades and additions as needed” (Source: IEEE). – Relevant to Principle 1
- Diversity : diversity means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences, which include but are not limited to age, ethnicity, class, gender, physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, national origin, religious status, gender expression, educational background, geographical location, income, marital status, parental status, work experiences, among others (Source: UN: Delivering successful change on diversity and inclusion in the UN). – Relevant to Principle 6
- Gender inclusive : a process that refers to how well different gender identities are included as equally valued players in initiatives. Gender-inclusive projects, programmes, political processes and government services are those which have protocols in place to ensure all genders are included and have their voices heard and opinions equally valued (Source: Adapted from UNDP). Inclusion policies have become key to close the measurable gap between women and men in their access to, use of and ability to influence, contribute to and benefit from ICTs (Source: A/HRC/35/9). – Relevant to Principles 1,4 and 6
- Gender responsive : refers to outcomes that reflect an understanding of gender roles and inequalities and which make an effort to encourage equal participation and equal and fair distribution of benefits (Source: UNDP). – Relevant to Principles 1 and 4
- Human Rights : “Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination (Source: United Nations). – Relevant to all Principles.
- Individual profiling : any form of automated processing of personal data consisting of the use of personal data to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to a natural person, in particular to analyse or predict aspects concerning that natural person’s performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences, interests, reliability, behavior, location or movements (Source: GDPR, Art. 4(4)). – Relevant to Principles 3 and 5
- Inferred data : personal data that is usually derived or assigned to an individual from interpretations of other data shared by the individual and/or collected through observation of the individual’s use of an online service or device, including connected objects (Source: EU Guidelines on the right to data portability, pg. 10). – Relevant to Principles 3 and 5
- Infrastructure sharing : sharing telecommunications infrastructure (such as towers, high sites, ducts, fibre cables, antennas or transmission components) by competing operators (Source: IFC). – Relevant to Principle 1
- Infrastructure sharing (active) : the sharing of active elements in the radio access network such as antennas and radio network controllers (RNC). National roaming is a form of active sharing (Source: BEREC) – Relevant to Principles 1 and 4
- Infrastructure sharing (passive) : is the sharing of the passive elements of network infrastructure such as masts, sites, cabinet, power, and air conditioning (Source: BEREC). – Relevant to Principles 1 and 4
- Interoperability : the ability of different types of computers, networks, operating systems, and applications to work together effectively, without prior communication, in order to exchange information in a useful and meaningful manner (Source: DC). – Relevant to Principles 2 and 6
- Legality : restrictions [to art. 19.3 of the ICCPR, regarding the right to freedom of expression] must be “provided by law”. In particular, they must be adopted by regular legal processes and limit government discretion in a manner that distinguishes between lawful and unlawful expression with “sufficient precision”. Secretly adopted restrictions fail this fundamental requirement. The assurance of legality should generally involve the oversight of independent judicial authorities (Source: A/HRC/38/35). – Relevant to Principle 2
- Legitimate public interest : a set of values corresponding to an important legal interest that is necessary in a society, often including, public safety, protection of public order, health and morals, the protection of rights and freedoms of others (Source: ECHR, Article 8(2)). – Relevant to Principle 3
- Meaningful connectivity : a new global standard that measures not only if someone has accessed the internet, but the quality of connection they have (Source: A4AI). – Relevant to Principle 1
- Necessity and Proportionality : any restriction [to art. 19.3 of the ICCPR, regarding the right to freedom of expression] should create the least burden on the exercise of the right and actually protects, or is likely to protect the legitimate State interest at issue. States may not merely assert necessity but must demonstrate it, in the adoption of restrictive legislation and the restriction of specific expression (Source: A/HRC/38/35). – Relevant to Principle 2
- Observed data : personal data that is provided through an individual’s use of an online service or device, including connected objects. Examples include search history, traffic data,location data or heartbeat (Source: EU: Guidelines on the right to data portability) – Relevant to Principles 3 and 5
- Online privacy : a sphere of autonomy in which individuals and communities can explore the Web free from private actors’ and Government’s coercion, control, interference or surveillance (Source: Contextualisation of Lord Lester and D. Pannick (eds.), Human Rights Law and Practice, 2004, para. 4.82 adding the reference to the Web and freedom from interference by private actors.). – Relevant to Principles 3 and 5
- Open access rules : all suppliers are able to obtain access to the network facilities on fair and equivalent terms (ITU). – Relevant to Principle 1
- Open data : “Open data is digital data that is made available with the technical and legal characteristics necessary for it to be freely used, reused, and redistributed by anyone, anytime, anywhere.” (Source: Open Data Charter) – Relevant to Principle 6
- Open knowledge : “Knowledge anyone is free to access, use, modify, and share it — subject, at most, to measures that preserve provenance and openness.” (Source: Open Definition). – Relevant to Principles 6, 7-9
- Open license : a document that specifies that a work (be it sound, text, image or multimedia) is free for anyone to print out and share, publish on another channel or in print, make alterations or additions, incorporate, in part or in whole, into another piece of work, use as the basis for a work in another medium, and other freedoms (Source: Open Definition – Read More: Wikipedia). – Relevant to Principles 7-9
- Open source software : software distributed under terms that include the right to: free redistribution of the source code, access and reuse of the source code, including the creation of derived works to be distributed under the same license (with a series of exceptions only if the license allows the distribution of “patch file). OSS, by definition, must not discriminate against persons or groups, or against fields of endeavor. The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed, and must not be specific to a product or restrict other software. Licenses must be technology-neutral (Source: Adapted from OSI; Read More: Wikipedia). – Relevant to Principles 7-9
- Open source technology : see “Open source software”
- Open standard : a formal document that establishes uniform technical criteria, and is developed through an open, consensus driven, participatory process, focused on supporting interoperability (Source: W3C/IEEE; with edits based on Ken Krechmer – Read More: Wikipedia). – Relevant to Principles 6, 7, 8 and 9
- Open Web : this includes two components, a technical and a legal one. Technical: development of web technologies in accordance with the open standards developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which ensures interoperability across web browsers. Legal: Absence of laws or regulations that restrict people from accessing web content or other web-based technologies over the internet. – Relevant to Principles 7-9
- Personal data : any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person. An identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, identification number, location data, online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person (Source: GDPR, Article 4(1)). – Relevant to Principles 3 and 5
- Privacy / data protection by design : a holistic approach incorporating technology and policy development that places privacy as a central component at the beginning of every service design process(Source: EU Resolution on Privacy by Design and GDPR). – Relevant to Principle 5
- Public registers : a published list made available online and updated regularly. In this particular context the registers must contain general information on data sharing and/or purchase agreements across the public sector and industry, explaining the types of data that are being shared or purchased, the recipient(s), and purpose(s). Additionally these registers must provide a reference source with general information on data breaches from public and private sources, including the organizations and data categories affected (Source: Inspired by Article 30, Anti-Money Laundering Directive with significant expansion and contextualisation from the Working Group, in particular bringing the types of agreements that are expected to be provided within the registers and the information provided alongside them). – Relevant to Principles 3 and 5.
- Quality of service : in the case of Internet access, quality of service measures not only include speeds, but also delay, jitter, availability, and packet loss (Source: A4AI Qos, GSMA). – Relevant for Principle 4
- Radio spectrum : the radio frequency spectrum of hertzian waves allocated based on guidance from the ITU, and used as a transmission medium for cellular radio, satellite communication, over-the-air broadcasting and other communication services (Source: ITU). – Relevant to Principle 1
- Standard technology : see “Open Standard”
- Sustainable Development Goals : the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the UN in 2015 sets 17 goals: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible production and consumption, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, justice and strong institutions and partnerships for the goals (Source: UN SDGs). – Relevant to Principle 6
- Universal service : ensuring every individual within a country has basic internet access service available at an affordable price (Source: adapted from WTO). – Relevant to Principle 1
- Universal Service and Access Funds (USAFs) are communal public funds dedicated to expanding internet connectivity and access opportunities for those least likely to be connected through market forces alone (Source: A4AI). – Relevant to Principle 1
- User interface : all components of an interactive system (software or hardware) that provide information and controls for the user to accomplish specific tasks with the interactive system (Source: ISO). – Relevant to Principles 4, 5 and 6.
- Web accessibility : web technologies that work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability (Source: W3C). – Relevant to Principles 1,4, and 7-9
- Web technologies : a set of computing technologies that together provide a realization of the “Architecture of the World Wide Web” (Source: W3C). – Relevant to Principle 6
Wow, the “Context” page is great! This is for Principle 1 (starting at Contract for the Web). I wish there were more documents with a heading of “Human Rights Framework”!