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Stakeholders of the ICT sector in West Africa have agreed to embrace the universality of the internet with the aim of deepening internet penetration across the region and ensuring safe internet.

 UNESCO and the African ICT Foundation jointly organized a knowledge-sharing session on how to mainstream Internet Universality and ROAM principles (Rights, Openness, Access, and Multi-stakeholder approach).

 The session, which was held on the occasion of the West African Internet Governance Forum 2021, focused on how to encourage more countries to use ROAM-X indicators for improving national Internet development and digital policies in West Africa.

 The session was moderated by Dr. Kossi Amessinou, who underlined the main objective to engage an extended partnership with the Internet community of West Africa by mobilizing them to participate in Dynamic Coalition and provide the necessary tools to conduct national assessments in all ECOWAS countries.

 Our work on Internet Universality seeks to identify and close digital divides, foster digital inclusion, protect rights including freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy, as well as to contribute to strengthening resilience and development.

Marielza Oliveira, UNESCO’s Director for Partnerships and Operational Programme Monitoring Tony Ojobo, President of the African ICT Foundation commended the collaboration with UNESCO and highlighted the need to carry out periodic evaluations in African countries to enable the improvement of national Internet governance.

 The ROAM principles and indicators go beyond the traditional rationale of physical access. They contribute to comprehensively advancing digital inclusion, focusing on multiple dimensions of human rights, open Internet, quality of access, and inclusive multi-stakeholder governance for building resilient West Africa and achieving SDGs.

 Dorothy Gordon, Chair of UNESCO’ Information for All Programme, reaffirmed the need for strong advocacy from national and regional stakeholders to implement the national assessment of IUIs across the West-African countries. She further called for more engagement from civil society to represent vulnerable and marginalized groups, such as disabled people, women, or the youth.

Professor Alain Kiyindou pointed out that the assessment of the ROAM-X indicators in countries like Benin and Niger offers tremendous opportunities to push forward the development of the Internet in West Africa. This framework empowers national stakeholders to gain a better understanding of their digital landscape and engage in the digital transformation and inclusion process.

Representing Development House, Kafui Aheto introduced the initial findings of the ongoing national assessment of ROAM-X indicators in Ghana. He highlighted the importance of multi-stakeholders in guiding the overall assessment process and building policy development in Ghana.

ROAM-X indicators assessments have been progressing in 28 countries, including the following African countries: Benin, Senegal, Kenya, Ghana, Niger, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, Cabo Verde, Burkina Faso. All participants agreed on the importance for African countries to mainstream ROAM principles and the urgent need to expand advocacy, capacity-building, resource mobilization, and multistakeholder partnerships to scale up national assessment projects across the region.

UNESCO encourages all countries in the West-African sub-region to continue using the ROAM framework and join the Dynamic Coalition on Internet Universality Indicators (IUIs) to bring the Internet forward in the region.

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