UNESCO

First, in the field of knowledge, there are profound inequalities between rich countries and poor countries. One of the vicious circles of under-development is that it is sustained by the knowledge gap while accentuating it in return. Second, the rise of a global information society has allowed a considerable mass of information or knowledge to be disseminated via the leading media. However, the different social groups are far from having equal access and capacity to assimilate this growing flow of information or knowledge. Not only do the most disadvantaged socio-economic categories have often a limited access to information or to knowledge (digital divide), but also they do not assimilate it as well as those who are on the highest rung of the social ladder. Such a divide can also be witnessed between nations. An imbalance is thus created in the actual relationship to knowledge (knowledge divide). Given equal access to it, those who have a high level of education benefit much more from knowledge than those with no or only limited education. The widespread dissemination of knowledge therefore, far from narrowing the gap between developed and less developed countries, may help to widen it.

2 thoughts on “UNESCO

  1. shinichi Post author

    UNESCO World Report: Toward Knowledge Societies (Paris: UNESCO, 2005)

    http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001418/141843e.pdf

    Chapter 10

    From access to participation: towards knowledge societies for all

    Will everyone one day be able to find their place in knowledge societies, without distinction of any kind – race, sex, language, religion, political or philosophical convictions, income or class? Or will knowledge again be a powerful factor of exclusion, the temptation to acquire it being made all the keener by the advantages it brings in its wake? As early as the end of the nineteenth century, clear-seeing minds had already announced the will to knowledge as an expression of the will to power. The strategic importance of knowledge is fully illustrated today by the acute character of the economic imbalances between the countries of the North and of the South, of which the brain drain is both a consequence and a cause, or again by the growing importance attached to secrecy, even in democratic societies (defence secrets, industrial or commercial secrets, secret protocols, confidential reports or classified information).

    In quite a number of fields, knowledge has already now become a most valuable resource which, in the twenty-first century, will increasingly determine who has access to power and to profit. Can it reasonably be assumed that there will, in the future, be ever-fiercer competition over what is now so strategic a resource? Shall we, one day, see nations seeking to gain possession of it at any price? Will there, in the future, be knowledge wars just as in the past there were opium and oil wars? Conversely, the collective bid to knowledge-sharing requires an effort of thinking and understanding, an ability to call into question one’s own certainties, an openness to Otherness or to the unknown, a desire to cooperate and a sense of solidarity. Most of the early knowledge societies were based on different systems of exclusion. Knowledge there was largely reserved for the happy few, for a small circle of initiates. In sharp contrast with such an elitist conception, knowledge societies in the twenty-first century will only be able to usher in a new era of sustainable human development if they ensure not only universal access to knowledge, but also the participation of all in knowledge societies.

    From the knowledge divide to knowledge sharing

    The aspiration at the heart of the effort to build knowledge societies is underpinned by the conviction that knowledge, as the source of empowerment and capacity-building, may be a decisive instrument of development. In knowledge-based economies, human capital is the main source of profit. But even more important, knowledge, as we have seen, is also the key to a broader understanding of development – whether human development or sustainable development. The worldwide development of knowledge societies therefore offers a unique chance for the least developed countries to catch up with the industrialized countries by taking advantage of the widespread dissemination of knowledge.

    Two remarks should however lead us to considerable precaution in advancing this promising hypothesis. First, as we have seen, in the field of knowledge, there are profound inequalities between rich countries and poor countries. One of the vicious circles of under-development is that it is sustained by the knowledge gap while accentuating it in return. Second, the rise of a global information society has allowed a considerable mass of information or knowledge to be disseminated via the leading media.1 However, the different social groups are far from having equal access and capacity to assimilate this growing flow of information or knowledge. Not only do the most disadvantaged socio-economic categories have often a limited access to information or to knowledge (digital divide), but also they do not assimilate it as well as those who are on the highest rung of the social ladder. Such a divide can also be witnessed between nations. An imbalance is thus created in the actual relationship to knowledge (knowledge divide). Given equal access to it, those who have a high level of education benefit much more from knowledge than those with no or only limited education. The widespread dissemination of knowledge therefore, far from narrowing the gap between developed and less developed countries, may help to widen it. Does this mean that knowledge may be a means of developing but not of catching up? Under such circumstances, can the promise held out by the rise of knowledge societies become a reality for all the countries and for all citizens worldwide?

    The remarks in the preceding chapters, whether on the development of telecommunication infrastructure, research and development potential, the importance of innovation in national economies, the literacy ratio and the quality of education systems, or the capacity to collect data or to promote local knowledge, apparently lead to the same obvious conclusion – namely that, in actual practice, all countries are not equal before the challenge of knowledge. There is a basic divide overlying all the divides previously described – whether the digital divide between the “connected ones” and those relegated to the sidelines of the world information society, the science divide, the education divide and the culture divide (not to mention the divides that affect particular population groups such as the young and the old, men and women, minorities, migrants or the disabled).2 This fault line is nothing but the knowledge divide between those who have access to knowledge and participate in knowledge-sharing, and the others, those relegated to the sidelines of knowledge societies. An adequate description of this knowledge divide might entail a systematic evaluation of the situation of countries in this field, on the basis of a synoptic index (see Box 10.1) that would incorporate all parameters bearing on the production, dissemination, valorization or acquisition of knowledge.

    Worldwide knowledge inequalities

    Between the North and the South there is worldwide a major knowledge divide. Statistics on patents registered in the world are particularly instructive in this regard.3 The first lesson to be drawn from them is that such an imbalance in the field of intellectual property tends to amplify the economic imbalance that exists between industrialized countries and developing countries. But there is another lesson too – big differences in competitiveness exist between countries belonging to the same geographic area. The knowledge divide exists, then, on many fronts – alongside the basic North-South divide there are North-North or South-South divides.4 The existence of such inequalities between countries in gaining access to knowledge has a particularly worrying consequence, namely, the brain drain, which affects not only developing countries insufficiently provided with the infrastructure of knowledge, but also countries in transition and advanced industrialized countries.

    Because of insufficient public and private investment in the field of research and new technologies, part of the elites of countries affected by the brain drain migrate to countries whose competitiveness relies on a scientific and technological potential of a very high level and on a capacity to bring in qualified foreign workers by offering them better job conditions. Inequalities in relation to knowledge are then likely not only to persist but to grow worse. In this regard, however, the gap tends to widen between poles where cutting-edge knowledge is highly concentrated and vast outlying areas where it tends to become scarce. As shown in Box 10.2, it will not be easy to fill this knowledge gap between countries in so far as the most advanced countries are constantly pushing back the frontiers of knowledge. In the face of this moving target, developing countries are thus engaged in relentless efforts whose outcome no one can yet foresee.

    To fill the ever widening gap that exists between the most advanced countries and the others in the field of knowledge, development efforts, in addition to active policies of knowledge promotion and diffusion, and of efficient protection of intellectual property, will necessarily have to focus at the same time on all the forms of relationship to knowledge, according to scales of priority adapted to the situation of each country. Failing that, we are in danger of seeing the perpetuation of an unequal economy of knowledge exchange, with some countries specializing in the production of knowledge and others in turning to account this knowledge produced elsewhere. Such a solution, however, carries the risk of excessive knowledge dependency and is bound to trigger a profound identity crisis in the dependent countries. It is meaningless to want to construct a world economy of knowledge on the principle of such knowledge dependency since knowledge is the preeminent means of promoting empowerment and contributing to capacity-building. The risk of a specialization of the world that would lead to its being divided into two knowledge “civilizations” (one based on the production of knowledge and the other on its consumption or application) is then one of the main pitfalls to be avoided in twenty-first century knowledge societies. Knowledge cannot be consumed like a “packaged” finished product ready to be used – even when it is transmitted in the form of information. Knowledge societies will be knowledge societies for all only on the condition that we can actually get beyond this asymmetric opposition between producers and users of knowledge contents.

    It may seem at first sight utopian to raise the possibility of the simultaneous development of all the dimensions that characterize the relationship to knowledge. In actual fact, however, putting forward such a hypothesis means posing the question of the exact nature of the knowledge-sharing that UNESCO wishes to see in place. For knowledge-sharing cannot be reduced to the exchange of a scant resource for which nations would vie simply because it would help to create a balance of payments equilibrium or surplus. Such a view, inherited from the mercantilist era, may no doubt momentarily guarantee the superiority of certain countries in respect of research, information or the command of information systems, but it does not take into account the fact that creativity is a natural and renewable resource that is best spread worldwide, and that it needs to be promoted and protected in order to achieve its full potential. Humanity has far more to gain from knowledge-sharing through cooperation between the most developed and the least developed countries. This could indeed allow the diversity of knowledge cultures to flourish worldwide. Such ways and means of cooperation and knowledge sharing are particularly important, for they would enable the least developed countries to become full participants in the rise of knowledge societies, which is still all too seldom the case.

    Reply
  2. shinichi Post author

    Knowledge divide

    Wikipedia

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_divide

    The knowledge divide is the gap in standards of living between those who can find, create, manage, process, and disseminate information or knowledge, and those who are impaired in this process. According to a 2005 UNESCO World Report, the rise in the 21st century of a global information society has resulted in the emergence of knowledge as a valuable resource, increasingly determining who has access to power and profit. The rapid dissemination of information on a potentially global scale as a result of new information media and the globally uneven ability to assimilate knowledge and information has resulted in potentially expanding gaps in knowledge between individuals and nations.

    **

    In the 21st century, the emergence of the knowledge society becomes pervasive. The transformations of world’s economy and of each society have a fast pace. Together with information and communication technologies (ICT) these new paradigms have the power to reshape the global economy. In order to keep pace with innovations, to come up with new ideas, people need to produce and manage knowledge. This is why knowledge has become essential for all societies.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.