“What characterizes the current technological revolution is not the central personage of knowledge and information, but rather the application of this knowledge and information to knowledge generation and information/communication processing devices, in a cumulative feedback loop between innovation and the uses of innovation.” He also remarks: “The diffusion of technology infinitely amplifies its power when its users appropriate it and redefine it. The new information technologies are not merely tools to be applied, but rather processes to be developed.(...) For the first time in history, the human mind is a direct productive force, not only a decisive element of the production system.” The knowledge economy is the Knowledge Societys economic counterpart whereby wealth is created through the economic exploitation of understanding. Specific to this kind of society is the central position information technology has for production, economy, and society at large.
Example 1. The Australian approach The Australian Approach Australia defines an Information Society as one where information, knowledge, and education are major inputs to business and social activity. It is not a separate ‘new’ society—it is a society in which the rapid development and diffusion of ICT-based innovation is transforming all sectors and all aspects of society. The Australian approach is one of a market-led information society with the government providing the framework for economic and social development, ensuring universal, affordable access to the information economy and its benefits, and ensuring a predictable, safe and secure environment.
Partnerships with the private sector and civil society involving consultative processes, joint projects and the development of co- or self-regulatory processes ensure the development of an information society that meets the needs of all participants.
Source: Sadagopan and Weckert, From Information Society to Knowledge Society According to Sally Burch in The Information Society/ the Knowledge Society (2005), “[t]he notion “knowledge society” emerged toward the end of the 90s and is particularly used as an alternative by some in academic circles to the “information society”. UNESCO, in particular, has adopted the term “knowledge society”, or its variant, “knowledge societies”, within its institutional policies. As Burch et al. state, any definition that uses the term “society” will be extremely limited if it cannot describe a reality circumscribed to the World Wide Web or ICTs. The Internet is a new social interaction scenario, but this interaction coexists and interacts with the physical world. Meanwhile the Argentine expert Alejandro Prince (2005) reinforces the value of networking in the informational era. He defines an Information/Knowledge Society as "The economic and social state which survival and development actions are characterized by the potential capacity of its actors to connect to each other through networks, using ICTs extensively, intensively, and strategically in order to obtain and share, stock, process, analyze, and distribute information”.
The UNESCO World Report on Knowledge Societies for All (2005) stresses that Knowledge Societies are not to be confused with Information Societies. Knowledge Societies contribute to the well-being of individuals and communities, and encompass social, ethical and political dimensions. Singapore, for example, started out as a developing country of shantytowns at independence and achieved economic growth rates that surpassed those of most industrialized nations in just four decades by promoting knowledge (education) and creativity. On the other hand, Information Societies are based on technological breakthroughs that risk providing little more than “a mass of indistinct data” for those who don’t have the skills to benefit from it.
Information Society is therefore considered as a necessary previous step to build Knowledge Societies. Abdul Waheed Khan, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information of UNESCO, quoted by Burch (2005), states: “Information society is the building block for knowledge societies. Whereas I see the concept of ‘information society’ as linked to the idea of ‘technological innovation’, the concept of ‘knowledge societies’ includes a dimension of social, cultural, economical, political and institutional transformation, and a more pluralistic and developmental perspective. In my view, the concept of ‘knowledge societies’ is preferable to that of the ‘information society’ because it better captures the complexity and dynamism of the changes taking place. (...) the knowledge in question is important not only for economic growth but also for empowering and developing all sectors of society.” National Information Society Policy: a step to Knowledge Societies UNESCOs approach states that emerging knowledge societies form the origin of a virtuous circle in which the progress of knowledge and technological innovation produces more knowledge in the long term. Therefore, knowledge production undergoes a considerable acceleration.
However, UNESCO (2005) considers that while information is a knowledge-generating tool, it is not knowledge itself. Emerging from the desire to exchange knowledge by making its transmission more efficient, information remains a fixed and stabilized form of knowledge. Thus information is in many cases a commodity, in which case it is bought or sold, whereas knowledge, despite certain restrictions (defence secrets, intellectual property, traditional forms of esoteric knowledge for example), belongs to any reasonable mind.
“The idea of the information society is based on technological breakthroughs. The concept of knowledge societies encompasses much broader social, ethical and political dimensions. There is a multitude of such dimensions which rules out the idea of any single, ready-made model, for such a model would not take sufficient account of cultural and linguistic diversity, vital if individuals are to feel at home in a changing world. Various forms of knowledge and culture always enter into the building of any society, including those strongly influenced by scientific progress and modern technology. It would be inadmissible to envisage the information and communication revolution leading – through a narrow, fatalistic technological determinism – to a single possible form of society”. (Bind et.al., UNESCO, 2005, p. 17).
Therefore, ICT tools are a necessary but not sufficient precondition for the societal and political process of developing knowledge societies. This Template concentrates on some aspects of this broader issue Information or Knowledge Society issues are not isolated from other national strategies.
Their transdisciplinary nature (joining technical disciplines to economic and social sciences) make them cross-cutting to other themes (e-government, e-health, education, social inclusion, infrastructures, etc.) that are fundamental to national, regional and local governments as well as to other relevant social actors. Therefore, Information or Knowledge Society issues, young as they are, are also the basis of transformations in a country’s social and economical organization.
They present also a unique particularity: unlike other areas, technological change advances at the fastest pace known in history. Therefore governments must keep up this pace, elaborating not only long-term policies, but also short and medium term strategies, which will produce visible results to the involved actors and to the general population.
There is no general formula for successful ICT policies and e-strategies. Governmental officers, teams of experts and policy makers in different developing countries may identify examples of successes or best practices either nationally or regionally, or in other similar countries and adjust them as needed to fit their nation’s unique circumstances.
The issue of public policies for the Information Society is relatively young. Even countries that have dedicated efforts regarding local or national strategies, such as Canada, Australia or New Zealand, among others, only began this in the mid 1990s.
Example 2. The Icelandic experience with ICT policies The Icelandic experience with ICT policies More than fifteen years ago, Iceland presented its primary objective for Information Society policies, placing the country at the forefront of nations in the utilisation of information technology in the service of improved human existence and increased prosperity.
To follow up on this primary objective, five main objectives were set out as a foundation for a vision of the future:
1. Icelanders shall have easy access to the information society. That its advantages be utilised to strengthen democracy and increase the quality of life for the benefit of the public and the Icelandic economy. That information technology be employed in all fields, whether for innovation, public health, science, the arts or other fields of daily life.
2. Complete equality shall be ensured between the public and private sectors in the field of information technology and the information industry. That the government, with the help of information technology, facilitate access to governmental information and services to level the status of individuals and companies without regard to residence and economic resources.
3. Information and telecommunications technologies shall be mobilised to improve the competitiveness of the Icelandic economy, increase productivity and proliferate the possibilities of exporting Icelandic inventiveness.
4. The educational system shall adapt to changed social dynamics and focus general education and continuing education upon the advantages of the information society while, at the same time, keeping watch over our language and culture.
5. Legislation, rules and working methods shall be re-examined with respect to information technology to stimulate technological progress and to protect the rights of individuals and companies.
Source: Iceland Prime Minister's Office, Therefore, the history and antecedents of NISPs even if rich in contents and on organizational scehemes, were still relatively young and scarce until the beginning of the new millennium. Policies and strategies are driven not only by each country’s specific history, social structure and endogenous factors, but also by the influence of the international context and external factors, as analyzed in the following pages.
The international context The force to build and update explicit NISPs and ICT legislation is not a local isolated impulse, but an international process that can be followed through international events and documents. The discussion and debate process that took place at national and international levels, triggered by the two WSIS events, deepened the perception regarding the need of constructing NISPs.
The 17th paragraph of the Tunis Commitment (2005) recommends governments, “using the potential of ICTs, to create public systems of information on laws and regulations, envisaging a wider development of public access points and supporting the broad availability of this information” and states “We are convinced that our goals can be accomplished through the involvement, cooperation and partnership of governments and other stakeholders, i.e. the private sector, civil society and international organizations, and that international cooperation and solidarity at all levels are indispensable if the fruits of the Information Society are to benefit all.” Example 3. The Kenya ICT Action Network The Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANet) The impetus for a multi-stakeholder process in Kenya arose from a recommendation of the World Summit on the Information Society and long-standing collaboration between civil society and the private sector in advocating for different ICT policy changes in Kenya over the last two decades. KICTANet was initiated by civil society organisations in October 2004 during a meeting organised by the Media Council, the Association for Progressive Communication, the Catalysing Access to ICTs in Africa (CATIA) programme supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), TESPOK (Telecommunications Service Providers Association of Kenya), Summit Strategies and the Kenya WSIS Civil Society Caucus. These organisations together with the Kenya ICT Federation (KIF) formed the initial members of KICTANet.
The initiators of KICTANet were facing common problems relating to ICT policy in Kenya and felt that their individual goals could be achieved by focusing on the collective goal of sharing resources and skills, stimulating debate and catalysing the policy process.
Through interaction with stakeholders, awareness creation, mobilisation of the private and public sectors and civil society around policy issues and encouragement of synergies, KICTANet was able to achieve trust and social legitimacy among policy-makers, international institutions and the general public in Kenya. KICTANet played a catalytic role in facilitating ICT policy changes in the country.
Source: Adam et al., The “Declaration of Principles, Building the Information Society: a global challenge in the new Millennium” (2003), declares “our common desire and commitment to build a peoplecentred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. Article 42 of the document states that “Sustainable development can best be advanced in the Information Society when ICT-related efforts and programmes are fully integrated in national and regional development strategies”.