IFAP leads discussion on information ethics and Internet governance in Baku
UNESCO’s Information for All Programme (IFAP), in concert with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), organized a thematic session on information ethics and Internet governance on the opening day of the Seventh Annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held in Baku, Azerbaijan from 6 to 9 November.
The session, entitled “Information Ethics & Internet Governance - Identity, design, data and preservation”, was part of UNESCO’s ongoing efforts aimed at raising awareness of and reflecting on the legal, societal and ethical dimensions of the use and application of information and communication technologies (ICT).
In his opening remarks, Mr Andrejs Vasiljevs, session moderator and Chair of the IFAP Information Ethics Working Group, characterized the current situation as “a race between three competitors – ICT and their applications in the lead; national and international ICT regulations and policies a distant second; with societies’ understanding of the social and ethical implications and impacts of the technologies and their uses lagging far behind”. He therefore underlined the need to enhance understanding in order to improve policy responses, reduce the current gaps and improve societal outcomes.
Panelists drew on global and regional experiences that brought together the perspectives of actors involved in intergovernmental policy-making, both in academia as well as the private sector.
Director of the Irish Software Research Engineering Centre (Lero), Mr Mike Hinchey spoke about his organization’s work aimed at embedding rules that promote human rights into technical architectures. He explained how this approach could address the needs of persons with disabilities and protect security and privacy online.
Another panelist, Ms Eskedar Nega of UNECA, shed light on the regional cyber-security convention being developed by UNECA at the request of Member States of the African Union to create an enabling legal and institutional environment for e-commerce, cyber-security, cyber-criminality and the protection of personal data and privacy. According to Ms Nega, “these efforts are bearing fruit with an increasing number of countries currently engaged in formulating and enacting the required cyber-legislations for a safe and trustworthy cyberspace in Africa".
The challenges around preserving digital content were addressed by Professor Peter Lor of the University of Pretoria.
“Digital content is growing at a rapid pace but is also very fragile… so its cultural, historical, legal and other important roles make its preservation urgent,” said Professor Lor. “Nevertheless, this raises ethical questions around how content is collected and consent, how are permitted uses of content, privacy of records, as well as their authenticity and completeness.”
UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Mr Jānis Kārkliņš, was the final panelist and presented UNESCO’s strategy toward ethical dimensions of the information society, as approved in October by the Organization’s Executive Board. The strategy will further orient and enhance the activities being undertaken through IFAP and UNESCO’s regular programme.
“Given the complexity of these issues, varying levels of understanding and needs, we will be exploring all possibilities, and engaging with research institutions and our global network of partners to develop methodologies and best practices in this field,” Mr Kārkliņš said.
An interactive session with both the live audience and virtual participants followed the panelists’ presentations. The discussion served to provide additional perspectives, as well as to reinforce awareness of the urgent need for understanding of information ethics among all citizens. In that light, a UNESCO-commissioned research study on current and emerging information ethics will be presented at the upcoming WSIS+10 Review Meeting in February 2013.
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