Friday, November 02, 2007

Towards Knowledge Societies -- UNESCO Progress to Date

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was an international landmark event setting targets, developing new approaches towards harnessing the potential of information and communication for development and mobilizing multistakeholder approaches and new networks “to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society” (WSIS Declaration of Principles). WSIS was held in two phases. The first phase culminated in the first Summit meeting in Geneva from 10 to 12 December 2003, and the second phase culminated in the second Summit meeting in Tunis hosted by the Government of Tunisia, from 16 to 18 November 2005.

The Summit adopted the following documents:UNESCO believed the notion of a single global information society does not capture the full potential of the information and communication revolution for human development. It promoted instead, the concept of “knowledge societies” stressing plurality and inclusiveness and puting emphasis on what technology can do to improve people’s lives rather than on technology itself.

For UNESCO, the Summit resulted in a considerable increase of the Organization’s visibility and importance as a significant actor in the area of communication and information for development. The increased importance on the Organization in the process is illustrated by the fact that it was assigned one of the leading roles in the implementation process including:
  • implementation of concrete activities contained in the Geneva Plan of Action within the framework of its own programs so as to operationalize its concept of knowledge societies;
  • facilitation of the coherent implementation of the six action lines in its areas of competence; and
  • cooperation, together with ITU and UNDP, in the overall multistakeholder coordination of the facilitators of all 11 action lines.

In May 2006, UNESCO was designated as the facilitator for the multistakeholder implementation of the following six WSIS action lines included in the Geneva Plan of Action:
  • access to information and knowledge (C3);
  • e-learning (C7);
  • e-science (C7);
  • media (C9);
  • cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content (C8);
  • ethical dimensions of the Information Society (C10).
All sectors of UNESCO are concerned with the implementation of The WSIS decisions. The aims of WSIS require UNESCO to operationalize the concept of knowledge societies throughout its action in education, sciences, culture and communication. Intersectoral mechanisms need to be strengthened to provide adequate and coherent responses to this challenge.

Therefore, the Director-General has set up a “Task Force on Knowledge Societies” whose main mandate is to ensure coherence of UNESCO’s own action to operationalize the concept of building knowledge societies. This includes:
  • coordinating the activities of the various sectors involved in the facilitation of the implementation of the six action lines in its areas of competence;
  • providing the strategic and consistent focus of UNESCO’s efforts and its added value in relation to new mechanisms emerging with the development of the information society;
  • advising the Director-General on key issues of relevance to UNESCO emerging from the rapid development of ICTs and their societal, cultural and ethical implications and proposing adequate institutional response.

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