Towards Knowledge Societies: Bridging the Digital Divide

Article excerpt

FROM Paris: The digital divide is widening. If Internet users will double to close to 1 billion by 2005, according to the UNDP Human Development Report 2002, it is difficult to see how the imbalance in favor of developing societies is going to be redressed without a strong political will. This, according to UNESCO which cooperates with the International Telecommunications Union which is organizing the World Summit on Information this coming December.

Some statistics: An estimated 72 percent of Internet users still live in the high-income countries which make up only 14 percent of the worlds population. Less than 10 percent has access to Internet. A survey of Internet users per 100 population in 2001 shows that the Philippines has 2.56 as compared with the highest ranking the Republic of Korea with 52.11 followed by the USA with 50.15.

The current buzzwords today are Information Society and the Knowledge Society. Only recently here in Paris, President Arroyo gave what we thought was a strong statement of policy support to the building of a knowledge society when she addressed the 32nd UNESCO General Conference. Much rhetoric has been given to this issue which we hope would be translated in the form of support by the Congress, the private sector and civil society for needed resources and institutional structures.

Among the concerns I raised during my interventions during the Communication and Information sectors sessions were that of giving emphasis to the development of appropriate contents, and ensuring that the necessary prerequisites to the building of a knowledge society are in place. They include functional literacy and knowledge management mechanisms and the sharing of knowledge with others. These would require capacity building in skills and needed attitudes. One challenge is that of setting up standards and criteria in the selection, processing, transformation into knowledge and its application in decision-making: The Conference and the Ministerial Roundtable Meeting, Towards Knowledge Societies presented key questions needing win-win approaches and a balancing of rights such as the rights of intellectual property rights holders and the rights of people to free public domain information. …