Knowledge Versus Information Societies: UNESCO Report Takes Stock of the Difference
A UNESCO report launched today urges governments to expand quality education for all, increase community access to information and communication technology, and improve cross-border scientific knowledge-sharing, in an effort to narrow the digital and “knowledge” divides between the North and South and move towards a “smart” form of sustainable human development. “Towards Knowledge Societies”, launched in Paris today by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, also advocates...sharing environmental knowledge and developing statistical tools to measure knowledge and help policy makers define their priorities....The Report, opens a panorama “that paints the future in both promising and disquieting tones,” says the Director-General, “promising because the potential offered by a rational and purposeful use of the new technologies offers real prospects for human and sustainable development and the building of more democratic societies; disquieting for the obstacles and snares along the way are all too real.” One of the main obstacles, according to the Report, is the disparity in access to information and communication technology that has become known as the digital divide. Only 11 percent of the world’s population has access to the internet and 90 percent of those connected live in industrialized countries. This digital divide is itself the consequence of a more serious split. “The knowledge divide,” write the authors, “today more than ever, separates countries endowed with powerful research and development potential, highly effective education systems and a range of public learning and cultural facilities, from nations with deficient education systems and research institutions starved of resources, and suffering as a result of the brain drain.” Encouraging the development of knowledge societies requires overcoming these gaps, “consolidating two pillars of the global information society that are still too unevenly guaranteed – access to information for all and freedom of expression.”...The stakes are high, stresses the Report, for the cost of ignorance is greater than the cost of education and knowledge sharing. It argues in favour of societies that are able to integrate all their members and promote new forms of solidarity involving both present and future generations. Nobody, it states, should be excluded from knowledge societies, where knowledge is a public good, available to each and every individual.
Update. The report is now online in English and five other languages. (Thanks to John Russell and P.Suber of OA News Blog)