The Internet, a public service accessible by everyone
The Internet is today an essential tool for accessing information and communicating with others, as well as for many other daily activities. It is a service in itself and it provides access to many other services. It has also become important for participation in democracy and for social inclusion.
It is crucial that Internet services are accessible and affordable, as well as secure, reliable and continuously available. Improving access to the Internet is the only way more people will benefit from all the opportunities it offers.
The Council of Europe is currently implementing an Action Plan to promote the rights and full participation of people with disabilities in society (2006-2015). It aims to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities as regards their participation in politics and cultural life, their employment and 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.
- Promoting the public service concept of the Internet and e-accessibility;
- Encouraging the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to reinforce democratic processes and public participation in Internet governance;
- Making the Internet accessible to people with disabilities and improving their quality of life.
In this Recommendation, the Council of Europe calls 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.
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);
- legal, operational and technical standards for e-voting (2004); and
- electronic governance (2004)
The Council of Europe created in cooperation with 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 contains guidelines for Internet governance entities to maintain and improve transparency, inclusiveness and accountability, for example through multi-stakeholder participation, open discussion and inclusive decision making.
Participation by people with disabilities
Recommendations of the Committee of Ministers to member states on:
- The participation of persons with disabilities in political and public life (2011), which calls for increasing the participation of disabled people in political and public life at all levels, including accessibility to information and communication.
- Achieving full participation through universal design (2009). Universal design aims to make the design and development of information technologies and services accessible to everyone, 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 (2009), which stresses that new technology applications should be fully accessible to old persons with disabilities.