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The Internet Openness
Metric Project

The Internet Openness Metric Project

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Overview: When you go online in Beijing, Brooklyn or Beirut, the web looks and feels different. Most of us think that's fine: the Internet should reflect a country's economic, social, and political culture. However, to some extent, the web looks different because it is different. Some countries restrict their citizens' Internet access more than others. The Internet Openness Measurement Project attempts to measure Internet freedom (how you experience the web) and Internet openness (how governments, business and netizens shape the web) around the world.

Internet freedom is a component of Internet openness; it can be defined as the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet. In contrast, Internet openness can be defined as a broader swath of policies and procedures (including those ensuring human rights and those promoting economic activity) that allow netizens to make their own choices about applications and services to use and decide which lawful content they want to access, create, or share with others.

This proposal attempts to define the components of Internet openness and to develop a multidimensional metric that accurately describes Internet freedom and openness focusing both on human rights and on the regulatory context in which the Internet functions.¹ The metric would be built on new and existing data. Such a metric would include the components of Internet freedom as delineated by the UN Special Rapporteur, Frank LaRue, on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.² This metric would emphasize a broader vision of relevant human rights commitments and include information related to the larger regulatory context that makes provision and access to the Internet workable. It would also accommodate different ideas about the appropriate role of the state online.³

Known-Knowns and Unknowns about the Internet: Measuring the Economic, Social, and Governance Impact of the Web, November 14-15, 2013

Organizers: Dr. Susan Aaronson, GWU and Karin Alexander, Web Foundation

Conference Summary: Policymakers and netizens alike make broad claims about the effects of the internet upon economic growth, business, democracy, governance, and human rights. In recent years, economists have made significant progress in estimating the impact of the internet on areas such as economic growth, trade, fiscal policy, and education. But the progress made by economists has not been matched by scholars, activists, executives, and policymakers who seek to understand the internet's effects on governance, cyber security, and on human rights. We don't know if the Internet has stimulated development or whether the internet has led to measurable governance improvements. Moreover, scholars and activists don't yet know how to effectively measure Internet openness. We will also weigh the evidence that the Internet is splintering. With this conference, we hope to encourage greater understanding of metrics to assess our new digital age.

¹Scott Wallsten,"Regulation and Internet Use in Developing countries," World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 2979, 12/2002, , p. 7; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, "Background Paper,: The Role of Governments in Protecting and Furthering Internet Freedom," 2011,; and UN General Assembly Conference Secretariat, "The Digital Economy: Integrating the LDCs Into the Digital Economy," A/Conf.19/L.15, 19 May 2001; and Internet Governance Forum, TS Workshop 182: Global Internet Related Public Policies: Is there an Institutional Gap? 9/2011,
²UN Human Rights Council, "Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank la Rue, A/HRC/17/27. La Rue stresses that governments should not block access to the Internet. "States should consult with all segments of society to make the Internet widely available, accessible and affordable to all."
³Here we refer to the governments that actively provide public goods such as education and public health services online rather than governments that want to safeguard and control their Internet such as China and Russia.

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