UNESCO (2005) TOWARDS KNOWLEDGE SOCIETIES: RECOMMENDATIONS

 

In light of the observations contained in this report and of the possibilities for reflection and action that it explores, UNESCO would like to call the attention of governments on all levels, of governmental and non-governmental organizations, and of the private sector and civil society to the need to implement the following recommendations, which throw into relief the ethical dimension of knowledge societies and propose specific initiatives to spur their growth.

 

1. Invest more in quality education for all to ensure equal opportunity

Commitment to the expansion of knowledge societies is a matter of global concern. It is indispensable for the reduction of poverty, the implementation of collective security and the effective exercise of human rights. That commitment must translate into not only stepped-up efforts on the part of all the world’s countries to reinvest, depending on their means, the fruits of their growth in strengthening the productive capacities of knowledge, but also an increased mobilization of resources in favour of education for all through a better partnership between developing countries, donor countries, civil society and the private sector. In particular:

• Countries should earmark a substantial share of their GDP for education spending and confirm the commitment made at Dakar that “no countries seriously committed to education will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by a lack of resources”.

• Donor countries must significantly raise the percentage of ODA intended for education and, in partnership with the beneficiary countries, make that assistance more reliable, flexible and sustainable. More specifically, they should pledge to provide countries with the additional resources required to achieve the goal of primary education for all.

• The international community should also encourage innovative education and research funding methods, including debt-swaps, and debt and debt service remission, in order to release the resources needed for basic

education.

• Governments, the private sector and social partners must explore the possibility of gradually setting up, in the course of the next decades, an education “study time entitlement” that would entitle people to a certain number of years of education after the completion of compulsory schooling, usable by all depending on their personal choices, paths, experience and timetables.

• The contribution of institutions of higher education to lifelong education for all must be encouraged by adopting diversified class schedules and designing relevant formulae.

• All of these steps must benefit in priority the poorest and most marginalized populations, as well as vulnerable groups such as orphans and people with disabilities.

• Access to education and quality education must be thought of as interdependent and inseparable needs and rights. Education must teach learners how to cope with the challenges of the twenty-first century by encouraging, in particular, the development of creativity, the values of good citizenship and democracy, and the skills necessary for everyday and professional life. Education investments must aim to improve the learning environment and the status of all the teaching professions (see Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 10).

 

2. Increase places of community access to information and communication technologies

To facilitate universal access to networks, it is important to build on the success of certain experiments currently under way in this area. Places of community access, in particular Community Multimedia Centres, that promote the spread and sharing of knowledge, and make information and communication technologies new vectors of socialization, should be increased on the national level, especially in developing countries. To strengthen the learning and handling skills of digital tools, the spread and use of freeware and inexpensive computer hardware should be stimulated in communities and countries that lack sufficient resources, and software designers and access providers should be encouraged to produce culturally adapted contents that contribute to the growth of freedom of expression (see Chapters 1 and 2).

 

3. Widen the contents available for universal access to knowledge

The promotion of the public domain of knowledge is predicated on the notion that it is truly and easily accessible to as many people as possible. The main knowledge centres, such as institutions of higher education, research centres, museums and libraries, should play a greater role in the production and spread of knowledge through better networking made possible by low-cost high-speed connections. The availability and spread of knowledge in the public domain, especially in science, must be integrated into respective policies and laws. The creation of portals of protected works unavailable on the market should be encouraged – subject to the agreement of publishers and copyright-holders – by any entity interested in investing in them: libraries, companies, administrations, and international and non-governmental organizations (see Chapters 3 and 10).

 

4. Develop collaboratories: towards better scientific knowledge sharing

Collectively managed scientific cooperation networks and infrastructures accessible to researchers from several countries and regions, including those working in developing countries, should be set up. These collaboratories, which enable scientists separated from each other by huge distances to work together on specific projects, such as the study of the human genome or AIDS/HIV research, offer an outstanding way of sharing and spreading knowledge more effectively (interoperability and meta-data standards, facilities, databanks, large information technology centres and possibly larger infrastructures). Setting up collaboratories might lead to the creation of sustainable platforms for sharing knowledge, research and innovation between the planet’s different regions, especially along the North-South and South-South axes (see Chapters 6 and 8).

 

5. Share environmental knowledge for sustainable development

The pursuit of sustainable development goals requires sharing environmental knowledge between industrialized and developing countries. Global environmental monitoring instruments based on local knowledge as well as on scientific and technological knowledge should be developed and the conditions for their implementation should be created. An example is the January 2005 United Nations proposal to create a global warning system for all kinds of natural risks. Such instruments will be indispensable for ensuring the follow-up of major environmental recommendations and could contribute to the creation of a genuine public space of Earth information, a source of safety for present and future generations. Environmental knowledge sharing in the framework of new types of partnerships proposed at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development should also be encouraged (see Chapter 8).

 

6. Making linguistic diversity a priority: the challenges of multilingualism

Linguistic diversity is an essential factor of cultural diversity in all its manifestations. Knowledge societies must be based on a “double multilingualism” – that of individuals and that of cyberspace. In addition, it is advisable to encourage bilingualism and, insofar as possible trilingualism, as early as primary school. Furthermore, the creation of multilingual digital contents must be supported, especially in the teaching field. Lastly, the promotion of linguistic diversity in cyberspace must take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the internet as well as other information and communication technologies, for preserving, transforming and raising the value of “minority” languages. Appropriate technologies relied upon for this effort should receive increased research and development investments from the public and private sectors, such as Unicode, automatic translation software, development of international domain names in languages using non-Latin alphabets, etc. (see Chapters 2 and 9).

 

7. Move towards knowledge certification on the internet: quality labels

It is important to promote thinking about the technical and legal feasibility of knowledge certification norms and standards with the aim of ensuring users’ access to a certain number of reliable, relevant contents, especially in the area of scientific information. With regard to the internet, now a major information source, it would be advisable to encourage the setting up of norms and objective guidelines enabling web users to identify sites whose information is particularly reliable and remarkable because of its quality. The definition of norms and standards, necessarily a multidisciplinary task, could unite the efforts of public and private educational, scientific and cultural institutions, as well as the relevant international non-governmental organizations. For example, it could lead to the introduction of quality labels covering a very wide range of knowledge (see Chapters 1, 2 and 8).

 

8. Intensify the creation of partnerships for digital solidarity

The creation of innovative partnerships bringing together representatives of states, regions, cities, and of relevant international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and civil society must be stepped up to achieve digital solidarity. This working framework, which emphasizes decentralized initiatives, would be based on mechanisms of solidarity between industrialized countries, newly industrialized countries and developing countries, and within single countries: “digital twinning arrangements” between municipalities and local governments, project “sponsorship” and a more effective use of computers (see Chapters 1, 2 and 6).

 

9. Increase women’s contribution to knowledge societies

Gender equality and women’s empowerment must be at the heart of the constituent principles of knowledge societies. The public domain of knowledge must include the contribution of women’s specific knowledge. It is important to facilitate women’s acquisition of skills and abilities that meet their specific development needs. It will also be important to work towards eliminating gender disparities with targeted measures, such as creating scholarships for girls, setting up special times to allow women in developing countries to become familiar with the internet, increasing the number of female teachers, promoting continuing training opportunities for women and taking steps to encourage their access to scientific research and technological engineering. The creation on a national level of ombudswomen (mediators), in charge of hearing cases of confirmed discrimination and monitoring the achievement of these goals over a set period of time, could improve the monitoring of progress achieved in women’s participation in positions of responsibility in national and international public organizations and in the private sector (see Chapters 1, 2, 4, 7 and 10).

 

10. Measure knowledge: towards knowledge society indicators?

The various players concerned could study the feasibility of knowledge society indicators that could contribute to establishing a better definition of priorities with the aim of narrowing the digital divide on the national and international levels. Reliable measuring instruments are indispensable for any policy and action, whether they involve the public sphere, the private sector or civil society. It is therefore advisable to forge, as far as possible, the statistical tools that can be used to measure knowledge by gathering data that involve not only economic variables. Such a monitoring system requires partnerships between governments, international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, private businesses and civil society to arrive at a quantitative and qualitative improvement of statistical capacities. In addition to the production of science and technology indicators, in particular in developing countries for which data remain by and large sketchy, this measuring effort should focus on the other constituent dimensions of knowledge societies, such as education, culture and communication (see Chapters 6 and 10).