The Internet, a public service accessible by everyone

The Internet has a strong potential for serving the public good. Firstly, it is a service in itself, and secondly it is a means of accessing other services. This is why Internet services must be accessible and affordable, as well as secure, reliable and continuously available.

Objectives

  • Promote the public service concept of the Internet and e-accessibility;
  • Encourage the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to reinforce democratic processes and public participation in Internet governance;
  • Make the Internet accessible to people with disabilities and improving their quality of life.


Achievements

Access for all

  • Committee of Ministers Recommendation to member states on measures to promote the public service value of the Internet (2007).
  • The Council of Europe has called on its member states to create public access points offering a minimum range of communication and information facilities, in line with the principle of universal community service.


E-democracy

  • Recommendations of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers to member states on:
    - electronic democracy (e-democracy), setting out principles and guidelines, accompanied by a set of generic tools for electronic democracy and a technical glossary (2009);
    - electronic voting (2004);
    - electronic governance (2004); 
  • The Council of Europe has developed together with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the Association for Progressive Communications a code of good practice on information, participation and transparency in Internet governance.


The code aims to provide a framework of principles such as multistakeholder participation, open discussion and inclusive decision making. It also contains guidelines for Internet governance entities to help them maintain and improve transparency, inclusiveness and accountability. The code is the result of a consultation process carried out in recent years within the Internet governance community including ICANN, W3C and The Internet Society.
 

Participation by people with disabilities

  • Recommendations of the Committee of Ministers to member states on:
    - Achieving full participation through universal design (2009). Universal design aims to make the design and development of environments, products, communications, information technologies and services accessible and understandable to, as well as useable by everyone, to the greatest extent and in the most independent and natural ways possible, preferably without the need for adaptation or specialised solutions.
    - Ageing and disability in the 21st century: sustainable frameworks to enable greater quality of life in an inclusive society, stressing that new technology applications should be fully accessible to older persons with disabilities (2009).
  • The Council of Europe Action Plan to promote the rights and full participation of people with disabilities in society: improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in Europe 2006-2015, which is aimed at improving the quality of life of people with disabilities as regards their participation in politics and cultural life, their employment and their social and legal protection.
    The Action Plan calls on states to ensure that public authorities make their information and communications accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation and Resolution “Access to rights for people with disabilities and their full and active participation in society” (2009), calling on member states to ensure full access to the media, including Internet, for people with disabilities.
  • Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation “Towards full citizenship of persons with disabilities through inclusive new technologies” (2001), determining the conditions enabling people with disabilities to derive full benefit from the opportunities offered by the Internet (availability of products and services, accessibility, ease of use, affordability, raising awareness among decision makers in politics, industry, employment and education, appropriateness and attractiveness, adaptability and compatibility).

    www.coe.int/democracy
    www.coe.int/en/web/coe-portal/what-we-do/society/disabilities