From Internet Universality to ROAM-X Indicators

2013: Conceptualizing Internet Universality

UNESCO’s Internet Universality ROAM-X Indicators, as finalized in 2018, are the result of a process that started back in 2013. That year, UNESCO started conceptualizing Internet Universality.

Inherently, Internet Universality embraces four principles, four “pillars” underpinning the growth and evolution of the Internet, fundamental to the development of the Internet in ways that are conducive to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

These are known as the ROAM principles: an acronym for Rights, Openness, Accessibility to all, Multistakeholder participation.

In other terms, UNESCO stands for an open Internet that is accessible to all, in which human rights are respected, and where the multi-stakeholder governance structure is preserved.

2015: The Internet Universality ROAM principles are endorsed by UNESCO’s 38th General Conference

In November 2015, UNESCO’s 38th General Conference marked a milestone for the progression of the Internet Universality concept and its related projects through the endorsement of the CONNECTing the Dots Outcome Document and the concept of Internet Universality.

2017-2018: Developing Internet Universality Indicators

It is to enable more concrete analysis of the Internet Universality concept at country-level that a research framework of indicators was then developed. The purpose of this framework of Internet Universality indicators is to assist interested governments and other stakeholders who seek to voluntarily assess their national Internet environments as a means towards enabling evidence-based policy formulation.

The Internet Universality indicators draw on UNESCO’s previous experience with indicator frameworks concerned with media and communications, from the Media Development Indicators (2008), to the Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media (2012), UNESCO's Journalists' Safety Indicators (2013) as well as indicators concerned with media and information literacy.

The development of the Indicators was done in three phases:

Phase 1: March - October 2017: Focus on broad themes 

  • March 2017: Launch
  • Desk research and multistakeholder consultation on the broad themes of Internet Universality

A process of desk research, expert consultation internationally, and field testing in a range of countries, lies behind the Internet Universality indicators. This work was undertaken by UNESCO with the support of a consortium led by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and including ict Development Associates, LIRNEasia and Research ICT Africa.

The first round of consultation was concerned with the broad themes of Internet Universality and the ways in which they might be encapsulated in an indicator framework. An online consultation was held between June and October 2017 and attracted 198 contributions. Consultative meetings and workshops were also held at 26 international, regional and national events between March and October 2017.

Phase 2: November 2017-March 2018: Focus on specific indicators

  • November 2017: First report
  • Desk research and consultation on the draft Internet Universality Indicators

second round of consultation, held along similar lines between December 2017 and March 2018, invited contributions and comments on a draft indicator framework and set of indicators. This attracted 138 contributions, while additional consultative meetings and workshops were held at a further 15 international, regional and national events. This led to the second version of the Indicators.

Face-to-face consultation meetings

Phase 3: April-November 2018: Pre-testing and piloting the Indicators

  • Feasibility assessments in Brazil, Ecuador, Nigeria, and Pakistan (May 2018).
  • Part-pilots in Brazil, Senegal and Thailand (July to September 2018)
  • November 2018: Endorsement of the use of the Indicators by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Council of IPDC
  • November 2018: Final report

In a third phase, the indicators which emerged from these consultation processes were then further refined and put to the test through scientific screening or pre-testing in four countries – Brazil, Ecuador, Nigeria and Pakistan. This was followed by another refinement exercise as a prelude to part-piloting exercises in three countries – Brazil, Senegal and Thailand. The result of this experience enabled a final improvement of the indicators.

2018: 303 ROAM-X Indicators endorsed by the 31st session of the IPDC Council

Recognition of the indicators came in November 2018, as the 31st Session of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Council of the International Program for Development of Communication (IPDC) “welcomed the Internet Universality indicators framework” and “endorsed the use of this tool on a voluntary basis as a useful resource available for Member States.”

The final draft of the Indicators was approved, leading to its publication.

Based on the ROAM principles, it consists in a set of 303 indicators, including 109 identified as “core”, divided into six categories:

  1. Contextual indicators  
  2. Rights
  3. Openness
  4. Accessibility to All
  5. Multi-stakeholder participation
  6. Cross-cutting indicators.

Alongside the Indicators, the publication features an implementation guide as well as a section that provides sources and means of verification.

2019 onward: Ongoing implementation of national assessments

Following the validation of the Indicators by the IPDC Council, the process of voluntary national implementation at country-level could start.

As of September 2019, 12 countries are set to publish a national assessment report of Internet development in their country using the ROAM-X Indicators in 2019-2020, while discussions about the possibility of conducting an assessment is ongoing in 13 other countries.

UNESCO receives an increasing number of expressions of interest from stakeholders that are interested in implementing the Indicators in their country.

To express your interest, please contact the project’s focal points Xianhong Hu and Lucy Levinson :

Financial support

Financial support has come from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), the Internet Society (ISOC), the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN),, and LACNIC.