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Internet Impact Assessment Toolkit: Introduction

The Internet Impact Assessment Toolkit – the roadmap


Like any live ecosystem, the Internet is constantly evolving. This perpetual evolution without a centralized plan or control – but with thousands of people and organizations working collaboratively on standards, protocols, and their application in the real world – is what has made the Internet a success. But as the Internet has come to permeate most of our lives we are facing a new reality in which governments and businesses are increasingly making decisions that could harm the Internet, and they might not even realize it. This is why the Internet Society created the Internet Impact Assessment Toolkit (IIAT). It is meant to help decision-makers of today and tomorrow make better decision about the Internet, and to act as a framework to evaluate whether a proposed change threatens the fundamentals of the Internet.

The Internet Society works to make the Internet bigger and stronger for people everywhere to connect, communicate, and innovate, now and in the future. But it’s not just our privilege to use it. It is up to everyone to protect and support the Internet’s fundamental properties and conditions that make it more open, globally connected, secure, and trustworthy. If not, we risk a series of irreversible and accelerating changes that chip away and ultimately break the foundation underpinning this incredible resource for humanity.

This toolkit is centred around benchmarks for change. It includes a collection of resources that use “the Internet Way of Networking” and “Enablers of an Open, Globally Connected, Secure and Trustworthy Internet”  as a framework to test whether new ideas support the best potential of the Internet. The toolkit offers a stable frame of reference to evaluate current networking conditions, proposals for technological development, regulations, and technical governance arrangements. It helps people make better decisions about the Internet by providing an easily applicable lens through which to assess whether a new development supports or undermines what the Internet needs to exist and thrive.

How to Use the Internet Impact Assessment Toolkit

The Internet Impact Assessment Toolkit helps users assess whether a regulatory proposal, trend or technology could impact the Internet. It includes a how-to guide, visual references, and a series of case studies and Internet impact briefs as examples of real-life issues and developments that could impact the Internet.

Internet impact briefs are intended as a first assessment to analyse how a proposal, development or trend could benefit or threaten the Internet. They are meant to help inform multi-stakeholder dialogues, and determine whether certain interventions may warrant in-depth impact assessments to safeguard a thriving Internet of tomorrow.

We invite you to use the Internet Impact Assessment Toolkit to develop new Internet impact briefs on issues that are relevant to your community and share the results. Which technological, policy, and other new developments and trends are affecting the Internet near you? Are they beneficial, or are there risks involved that should they be mitigated or lessened?

The choices we make today help determine the Internet of the future. If those choices are guide by actions to protect what the Internet needs to exist and support what it needs to thrive, its ecosystem will keep its vitality as it continues to evolve.

A Framework for Analysis

What makes the Internet ‘the Internet’? Why has it been adopted so rapidly by so many people across the world? How does it continue to birth and sustain innovations? And what do we want the Internet to be in the future? To ensure the Internet’s continued success we need to know what makes it unique, and what makes it thrive. The Internet Impact Assessment Toolkit uses two technical papers as framework for analysing impact on the Internet. The first describes the critical properties the Internet needs to exist, and the second describes the enablers that help it thrive as open, globally connected, secure and trustworthy resource.

What the Internet Needs to Exist: Critical Properties of the Internet Way of Networking

The Internet is not centrally managed. Intelligence and autonomy are concentrated at the edges, in the hands of those running networks and services. Anyone can enter the Internet, multiplying its connections and increasing their value for all. So it is not just the technology, or its services and use that define the Internet. How we network – what we call the ‘Internet Way of Networking’ – also matters.

The Internet Way of Networking is built from five critical properties that maximize the benefits the Internet brings.

  • An Accessible Infrastructure with a Common Protocol
  • An Open Architecture of Interoperable and Reusable Building Blocks
  • Decentralized Management and a Single Distributed Routing System
  • Common Global Identifiers
  • A Technology Neutral, General-Purpose Network

These properties are critical both because they are necessary for the Internet’s healthy evolution and because they convey what makes the Internet unique.

It’s important to note that the Internet’s critical properties may have never existed in their purest form. The critical properties don’t harken back to an idealised past. Instead, they represent the Internet’s optimal state. By codifying the basics of the ideal Internet model, we have a reference point that helps us tell whether this model is moving away from or towards the best it can possibly be.

Each of the Internet’s critical properties helps to sustain particular benefits that the Internet can produce. When they are present, they help maximize both the Internet’s health and its potential to create and disseminate value. For example, unrestricted access and common protocols deliver global connectivity, and encourage the network to grow. As more and more participants connect, the value of the Internet increases for everyone. Another example is a single identifier set that delivers consistent addressability and a coherent view of the entire network, without fragmentation or fractures.

While the Internet’s critical properties cannot guarantee the associated benefits, together they form the necessary condition for future evolution in a way most likely to create and disseminate the value that comes from connection.

What the Internet Needs to Thrive: Enablers of an Open, Globally Connected, Secure and Trustworthy Internet

The critical properties describe the foundation the Internet needs to exist – and illustrate why it is unique from other networking models. However, to help the Internet thrive we need another set of conditions that enable it to reach its full potential. This potential can be expressed by a set of goals for the Internet.

Time and time again, different groups in different parts of the world with different viewpoints keep coming back to a common set of such aspirations:

  • An Open Internet that allows everyone to participate with a minimum of barriers, to use it, to innovate, and to grow and sustain the Internet as a force for good.
  • A Globally Connected Internet that is inclusive, allowing everyone to interconnect without geographical restrictions and use the full power of the network.
  • A Secure Internet that survives attacks, that supports everyone in maintaining integrity and confidentiality of the data. A secure Internet also means that its use does not create insecurity, such as botnets that are used in phishing scams.
  • A Trustworthy Internet that people can depend on to be there, so that the Internet can be a base for worldwide services, everything from recreation to commerce to information.

These four goals become guidelines for us on our journey to a better Internet. They tell us what we want the Internet to be, now, and in the future.

These Internet goals are aspirational statements and because of their broad and abstract nature, it is difficult to use them to analyse how various developments may impact the Internet. To aid this analysis, for each of the Internet goals, we have identified a series of supporting characteristics: things that progress or hold back the Internet’s growth and its global goals. Generically, we call these supporting characteristics “Enablers”: they advance and enable the targeted goal.

Goal Enabler
Open Easy and unrestricted access
Unrestricted use and deployment of Internet technologies
Collaborative development, management, and governance
Globally Connected Unrestricted reachability
Available capacity
Secure Data confidentiality of information, devices, and applications
Integrity of information, applications, and services
Trustworthy Reliability, resilience, and availability

We may never reach a point where we can say that the Internet is fully evolved, or that we’ve reached our goals. But we can move together in a direction that makes the Internet more open, more connected, more secure, and more trustworthy, for everyone. The enablers of a thriving Internet help us understand what needs to be protected and enhanced.

An Impact Assessment for the Internet

Around the world, networking models are emerging that constrict inter-networking and aim to systematically organize the Internet into a permission-based network. More authoritarian countries seek to export their visions for the Internet, with gated access, security restrictions, and policies that impede growth. Elsewhere, concerns have arisen about significant business players’ influence over important parts of the Internet, its direction, and its infrastructure.

All these developments threaten the healthy evolution of the Internet.

To conduct an Internet Impact Assessment is to systematically consider the implications of change. It is our belief that this toolkit can do just that:

  • By mapping the effect of a new developments against the Critical Properties of the Internet Way of Networking we learn about its implications for preserving a networking model that has proven its unique value as a global platform for innovations and socio-economic progress.
  • By analysing the impact on the enablers we can understand the implications for an open, globally-connected, secure and trustworthy Internet.

We hope you find the framework of the Internet Way of Networking and the Enablers both a useful expression of ‘what makes the Internet the Internet’, and a practical tool to help support its healthy evolution for everyone.

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Gender equality and digital development are inextricably linked. Yet globally, men are 21 percent more likely to be online than women, a figure that rises to 52 percent in low-income countriesThe Web Foundation estimates that barriers that keep women and girls offline — high device and data costs, lower digital skills, and restrictive social norms, to name a few — have cost developing countries about $1 trillion over the last decade.

The Digital Development Global Practice recently launched a new approach to accelerate its work on gender equality, with an ambitious vision that centers women and girls across its financing and analytics. The approach orients solutions to the five foundational pillars of the digital economy: digital infrastructure, digital public platforms, digital financial services, digital businesses, and digital skills. It also emphasizes the need for more and better sex-disaggregated data and to tackle risks, such as algorithmic bias and online gender-based violence.

Digital Infrastructure

Within infrastructure, practical solutions that increase access, affordability, and usage are critical. Intentional design that locates public Internet access points in safe spaces (for example, libraries and community centers) is a good start. Other interventions that support the closing of adoption gaps improve the affordability of devices and data plans and tailor digital skills programs for women. Traditionally underutilized universal service and access funds can help. However, only four out of 69 countries have deployed these funds to close the gender digital divide.  Device affordability schemes also show promise. The recently approved Uganda Digital Acceleration Project will test some of these innovations.

Digital Public Platforms

Access to digital public platforms often requires digital identification, which women lack compared to men. Barriers that women face often include legal requirements to present additional documents, for example, a marriage certificate. High registration costs and inconveniently located registration points also deter women. The Nigeria Digital Identification for Development Project conducted a qualitative study designed to understand the needs of women and marginalized groups, which surfaced several solutions. These include working through trusted networks and women’s groups to share information; locating registration centers close to communities; and designing registration policies that prioritize vulnerable groups. Other options include women-only registration centers, mobile registration services, and female enrollment agents.

Digital Financial Services

Digital payments, whether to provide wages, social assistance, or agricultural transfers, can save women time and provide added privacy, security, and control, thereby contributing to women’s empowerment. This is a key focus on the G2Px initiative, launched in early 2020 in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In Benin, where an estimated 19 percent of women make or receive digital payments compared to 38 percent of men, another World Bank initiative aims to provide women smallholders with a safe and private place to store their money and connect them with other financial services. Complementary training on digital financial literacy for recipients and promoting a network of women agents can also help, as social norms often limit women’s ability to interact with male agents.

Digital Businesses

Women entrepreneurs often face a range of barriers, including unequal access to financing, legal discrimination, differences in skills, less access to networks, and more care responsibilities. They are also poorly represented in technology startups. To address these constraints, the Digital Cabo Verde Project aims to support women entrepreneurs with business and entrepreneurial mindset training, access to business networks, peer support, and mentoring.

Beyond comprehensive support for women-led businesses, tackling investor bias is critical. Research suggests that the persistent gender gap in financing cannot easily be explained by differences in education, experience, sector, intellectual property, or geography.

Digital Skills

Building digital skills starts early with hands-on exposure to technology to build girls’ interest and confidence. Typically, complementing technical skills training with soft skills, engaging role models, and creating structured linkages to the labor market through internships, apprenticeships, and job placement programs have positive outcomes. The Kosovo Digital Economy Project, which trains rural women in programming and web design to become online freelancers, shows how digital skills training can create pathways to economic prosperity. Women with disabilities, older women, and illiterate adults may require tailored curricula and flexible programs with active outreach to develop their basic digital skills — another key area for engagement.

Cutting across these pillars is the need to address restrictive gender norms that prevent women from fully participating in the digital economy. Solutions to tackle these vary with context but addressing gender stereotypes and engaging men and boys are essential steps in shifting beliefs and behaviors.

Ensuring that women and girls have equal access to and use of digital technologies — mobile phones, computers, and the internet — is central to their economic and social empowerment and inclusive economic recovery. As we accelerate our efforts on the digital inclusion of women and girls, we call on our partners to join us in this ambitious agenda.


Some 2.9 billion people still have never used the internet, and 96 per cent live in developing countries, a new UN report has found. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the estimated number of people who have gone online this year actually went up, to 4.9 billion, partially because of a “COVID connectivity boost”.

This is good news for global development, but ITU said that people’s ability to connect remains profoundly unequal – as many hundreds of millions might only go online infrequently, using shared devices or facing connection speeds that hamper their internet use.

“While almost two-thirds of the world’s population is now online, there is a lot more to do to get everyone connected to the Internet,” Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General said.

“ITU will work with all parties to make sure that the building blocks are in place to connect the remaining 2.9 billion. We are determined to ensure no one will be left behind.”

‘Connectivity boost’

The UN agency’s report found that the unusually sharp rise in the number of people online suggests that measures taken during the pandemic contributed to the “COVID connectivity boost.”

There were an estimated 782 million additional people who went online since 2019, an increase of 17 per cent due to measures such as lockdowns, school closures and the need to access services like remote banking.

Uneven growth 

According to the document, users globally grew by more than 10 per cent in the first year of the COVID crisis, which was the largest annual increase in a decade. But it pointed out that growth has been uneven.

Internet access is often unaffordable in poorer nations and almost three-quarters of people have never been online in the 46 least-developed countries.

A ‘connectivity Grand Canyon’

Speaking in Geneva, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU said: “The internet divide runs deep between developed and developing countries. Only a third of the population in Africa is using the internet.

“In Europe, the shares are almost 90 per cent, which is the gap between those two regions of almost 60 percentage points. And there is what the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, has called in his Common Agenda blueprint for the future, “a connectivity Grand Canyon”.

‘Digitally excluded’

The report found that younger people, men and urban dwellers are more likely to use the Internet than older adults, women and those in rural areas, with the gender gap more pronounced in developing nations.

Poverty, illiteracy, limited electricity access and a lack of digital skills continued to hinder “digitally excluded” communities, ITU noted.


For citizens in countries around the world, paying taxes is among their most challenging and time-consuming interactions with government.  For many governments, enhancing tax compliance and collecting sufficient revenue have been a matter of necessity to finance public goods and services.

That is why tax administrations are undertaking the digital transformation and automation of their systems. The adoption of technology can enable successful and sustainable tax reforms, ensure the proper taxation of the digital economy, and reduce the obstacles to compliance. The COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a boom in the use of digital commerce, made this change especially urgent for tax administrations.

The transformation has progressed increasingly rapidly over the past decade, as the cost of digital technologies has plunged and powerful tools to develop applications have become more user-friendly. One example of the falling cost: Cloud storage is now over 50% cheaper than it was a few years ago.

The rise of big data is an important factor in the shift because it can allow easy cross-checking of information, which enhances compliance by taxpayers. Overall, global data volume from mobile payment providers, electronic cash registers, online marketplaces, and other digital sources is expected to nearly triple from 2020 to 2024. 

Digital transformation is also being driven by the rapid growth of e-commerce, which is projected to expand 24% from 2020 to 2025, making it an increasingly important part of the tax base.

The increasing use of cashless payments, through mobile phones and other devices, is also powering the change. Such payments can be easily reviewed by tax administrations and often leave a digital trail that can be audited.

Digitalization makes life easier for authorities by easing the administrative burden, which gives officials more time to focus on higher-value activities.  But it also allows authorities to simplify procedures and reduce the compliance burden on taxpayers. Research shows that in South Korea, for example, digitalization has reduced compliance costs by as much as 19% in the 2011-2016 period.

A real-time, more user-friendly future

With these changes underway, taxation is likely to look a lot different in the future:

  • Instead of storing huge amounts of taxpayer data, administrations will have access to encrypted, distributed ledgers that allow them to capture tax information seamlessly and in real time. This has the added benefit of making tax administrations “less visible” to the public.
  • The decisions of the tax administrations will increasingly be supported and strengthened by artificial intelligence. But the system will need to be closely monitored for errors.
  • Tax administrations could become warehouses for more and more government data. That will give them a central role in the formulation of economic policy, enabling policymakers to review transactions in the economy and allowing better forecasting.
  • The tax system could become much more user-friendly. Services could include prefilled tax returns, taxpayers’ access to their own filing information, the sharing of data with banks to expedite credit approval, along with privacy preserving queries on the tax file by researchers and local communities.
  • Tax administrations will streamline the interface between taxpayers and tax officials, for instance by connecting corporate accounting systems with the tax administrations’ e-filing and e-payment platforms.

Making change work

Despite all the benefits, this transformation is up against major challenges. Research shows that most digital transformation initiatives don’t succeed. Of the $1.3 trillion spent in 2018, an estimated $900 billion was wasted.

To have the desired result, the digitalization of tax systems must enlist a broad coalition of stakeholders to make the necessary legal reforms and provide the funding. 

The shift should also focus on providing value by simplifying procedures and permanently bringing taxpayers into the e-filing, e-payment, and e-document ecosystem. The value could be provided by reduced compliance costs, increased tax certainty, and higher compliance.

In addition, reform should aim to change the culture from managing processes to managing data, and administrations should focus on getting the right data. One high-income jurisdiction told us that there were errors in 15% of their taxpayer files and that 98% of returns could be prefilled with data from just banks.

Finally, tax administrations must develop scalable and interoperable systems that can be used across departments, in headquarters and in the field. 

The process can be cumbersome, but by providing finance and technical assistance, the World Bank has already supported administrators’ efforts on automation and digitalization in dozens of countries—benefiting governments and citizens alike.


ITU Digital World 2021 SME Awards showcase sustainable digital solutions, helping creative start-ups forge partnerships and attract investment

​Inspiring technology solutions hold the potential to change and improve lives across the globe through the drive and dedication of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Winning solutions from digital SMEs based in Hong Kong (China), Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, South Korea, and the United States were showcased and announced at the ITU Digital World Awards Ceremony, the finale of the ITU Digital World 2021 event and a key SME promotion programme from the United Nations tech agency on Wednesday.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – the UN’s specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs) – has highlighted SMEs as crucial contributors to help harness the world’s ongoing digital transformation to ensure sustainable development.

The latest ITU Digital World Awards recognized outstanding SME contributions to advance connectivity, smart cities and smart living, e-health, digital finance, and education technology.

“Innovative tech SMEs – fast-moving and responsive to the needs of different markets on the ground – have a vital role to play in accelerating digital transformation,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “Governments and the ICT industry need to act together to foster a climate that supports technology and business innovation, helping companies like our award winners scale up and flourish.”

Six winners emerged this year, spanning the five key categories.

Winning SMEs

The winners were:
Company Category​ Country
Benefit Vantage Limited – Ipification Connectivity Hong Kong, China
WIWI Connectivity Mexico
URBIT GROUP LLC Digital finance United States of America
Baobabooks Education Sàrl Education technology Switzerland
Mawidy E-health Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
SCE Korea, Inc. Smart cities, smart living Republic of Korea

ITU Deputy Secretary-General Malcolm Johnson recognized the winners and presented their certificates in the presence of Viet Nam’s Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Phan Tam.

This seventh edition of the Awards marked the final event of a three-month online conference and exhibition co-hosted by Viet Nam. Opening in September, ITU Digital World 2021 also marked the 50th anniversary of ITU’s flagship Telecom conference and exhibition series.

During the ceremony, a new partnership for ITU with US technology firm Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) was announced, aimed at accelerating the programme next year and equipping SMEs with access to HPE tools, networks, and mentoring.

Competitive selection

The competition was open to all SMEs worldwide, with winning projects ranging from mobile authentication and information accessibility to connectivity for public transport, financial technology (fintech), creative writing, and healthcare powered by artificial intelligence (AI).A jury of experts, representing the fields of business, technology and entrepreneurship, selected the winners from a total of 133 eligible applicants from 53 countries.

Prepping transformative SMEs

The ITU Digital World Awards formed part of an expert-led SME Programme of online masterclasses and pitching for digital SMEs. Maintaining the virtual format, the final awards ceremony celebrated the creativity and innovation behind digital solutions meeting real-world needs.

The special masterclasses explored areas such as sustainable start-ups and SME-corporate collaboration, bidding for government procurement opportunities, customer service and innovation, e-health, designing for disability inclusion and fundraising. The SME Programme and Awards are key components of ITU Digital World 2021, which was co-hosted with the Government of Viet Nam and took place from September-December 2021.

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