[A2k] UNESCO convenes session to discuss open and inclusive access to information
Susan Isiko Strba
susan.isiko.strba at bluewin.ch
Tue Jun 9 05:45:28 PDT 2015
UNESCO convenes session to discuss open and inclusive access to information
Global solidarity coupled with advanced technologies have allowed
connecting knowledge pools with those who can put the best use for it.
It has redefined the concept of “Access” and levelled the playing fields
for everyone as never before.
While the contexts of “Openness” and “inclusiveness” have been
appreciated as the two key pillars to improve access, their interplay
within the broader realm of globalization, the rise in the mobility, the
increasing demand for lifelong learning opportunities, the proliferation
of open and inclusive governance systems; and the growing role of
private sector still remain to be properly understood.
This session discussed WSIS Action Line C3 - Access to Information and
Knowledge (A2K) - specifically the two key pillars that improve access
to information and knowledge - “Openness” and “Inclusiveness”. The panel
agreed that numerous global collaborative initiatives and consultations
are helping to shape the Post-2015 and the WSIS +10 Development Agendas.
These processes though in many ways separate, share common goals of
world peace, human progress and the full realization of human
potentials. Thus exploration on ways to support policies for access to
information and knowledge takes on a heightened significance given its
clear potential for contributing to and advancing development processes.
The panel highlighted that in the last 10 years, global landscape of
knowledge has benefitted because of an improved connectivity, especially
due to the availability of cheap mobile networks and inexpensive
handheld devices. A very encouraging scenario was noted for Africa. The
panel noted that the technology is not the ultimate accelerator for
knowledge dissemination, as it does not fix everything! The panel noted
the need to address the basics and not just regulatory issues but also
the fundamental issues – such as power to charge phones in developing
countries. The panel asserted a need to examine the available
technological solutions from their affordability, sustainability, and
practicality points of views. It was also highlighted that there is a
need to understand that public policy instruments for these issues are
already available, but their judicious use is still lacking.
Thus, good governance was noted as absolutely essential to access, and
particularly human rights and the rule of law were noted as the key
enablers of A2K. The panel also noted continuing importance of
community based spaces such as libraries to encourage accessing
information and knowledge, and providing such access to all forms of
digital and traditional media.
Both the panellists and audience highlighted the importance of synching
SDG and WSIS+10 processes and alluded to the imperative for maintaining
transparency in the processes so that the outcomes received
The panel noted the need to consider the speed of innovation, economic
and social change and the challenges these pose to existing
institutions, governance models and “ways of doing things”. Panellists
highlighted decreasing control of individuals over their data and the
challenge this poses for identity, privacy and security – a challenge
that will only increase in all economies, developed and developing.
In order to address these, the panel noted the critical role that
empowerment could play. Especially there is a need for getting beyond
the talk of “people-cantered, inclusive development oriented information
societies” and actually achieving the “people-cantered and inclusive”
dimension of the knowledge societies, which cannot be solved by ICTs
alone. The panel asserted that although much progress has been made in
instilling “inclusion” in A2K, there remains so much to do be done to
empower all persons by addressing issues related to human rights,
environmental concerns, gender, disabilities. The panel also noted that
there is a need for locally relevant content development to fuel the
demand for access, in which multilingualism must also play a key role.
Concerns were expressed that the efficiency and adequacy of the
processes while synching SDG and WSIS+10 goals are of absolute
importance. It was hoped that the SDG and WSIS+10 processes would
strengthen provisions to examine the sustainability of projects
initiated to improve access to information and knowledge, thus
developing a set of key indicators is essential to monitor progress.
The panel noted the need for an enhanced inclusion of Open solutions,
open standards, and understanding the needs of the people with
disability as important features in addressing A2K.
The panel consisted of Prof. Roni Aviram, Vice-Chairperson of the Bureau
of the Intergovernmental Council for the Information for All Programme
(IFAP) of UNESCO; Mr Makane Faye, Chief of Knowledge Services Section at
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UN-ECA); Mrs Janice
Richardson, Representative of African Child Online Protection,
Education, Awareness; Mr Nigel Hickson, Vice President IGO Engagement,
ICANN; Mr Matthew Shears, Representative and Director, Global Internet
Policy and Human Rights Project, Center for Democracy and Technology;
and Mr Ephraim Percy Kenyanito, Policy Fellow at AccessNow.Org. The
panel was moderated by Mr Bhanu R. Neupane of UNESCO's Knowledge
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