[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 
multi-stakeholder approval.

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 
Societies Division.

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