Building ‘knowledge societies’ in the digital era

Last month, I had the chance to attend the World Summit on Information Society+10’s (WSIS) first review meeting in Paris as Nicaragua’s country expert of WSIS-Award (World Summit Award e-content +creativity).

The first and second phases of the World Summit on the Information Society forum took place in Geneva in 2003 and Tunis in 2005. WSIS provided a forum in which multiple stakeholders—international organizations, governments, the private sector and civil society—could discuss the opportunities of the new information and communication environment, and also address challenges such as the inequality in access to information and communication, the so-called “digital divide.”

UNESCO introduced the concept of “Knowledge Societies,” in which people are capable not only of acquiring information but transforming it into knowledge and understanding. This empowers people to enhance their livelihoods and contribute to the social and economic development of their society.

Access to quality education for all—which includes access to ICT—is imperative for building inclusive and participatory knowledge societies. However, disparities in access to technology and learning opportunities persist.

 The first WSIS+10 review featured plenary sessions and keynote speeches such as: Promoting Freedom of Expression and Privacy on the Internet; Avoiding e-waste: Sustainable life-cycle management of ICT equipment; and Mobile Learning for Social Inclusion of Women and Girls.

Education reform & the digital gap

Alfredo Wilson at the WSIS+10 summit last month in Paris (courtesy photo)

Today, a nation’s most important natural resource is the intellectual capacity of its citizens—a natural resource that can be developed over time through education.

Governments should prioritize the redesign of education systems to better respond to the challenges of the ongoing digital revolution. Empowering teachers and students to use technology is central to improving education and the assessment of learning.

The outcome report of the Broadband Commission’s Working Group on Education recognizes that participation in the global economy is increasingly dependent on skills for navigating the digital world, but warns that traditional school curriculums still tend to prioritize the accumulation of knowledge above its application, thus fail to train students in the ICT literacy skills they will need for employability in the knowledge economy.

The International Telecommunications Union estimates that by the end of 2012 there were close to 2.5 billion people using the Internet worldwide. But only a quarter of those people live in the developing world. In Least Developed Countries—such as Nicaragua—the number drops to a mere 6%. The latest edition of ITU’s Measuring the Information Society report reveals wide global and regional disparities in both the level of ICT development and the cost of monthly broadband access, which in some 17 countries still represents over 100% of an average monthly salary.

“Much progress has been made to reach the 2015 education goals, but many countries are still not on track,” Irina Bokova, director general of UNESCO said. “In this respect, the digital divide continues to be a development divide”.

 Broadband related infrastructure and access is one of the key aspects in achieving the information and knowledge societies, bringing social and economic benefits.

 Global contest on e-content invitation

UNESCO initiated the World Summit Award (WSA) to promote e-Content production and innovative ICT applications. WSA offers a worldwide platform for all who value the creative use of ICTs and who are committed to making today’s information society more inclusive.

WSA implements the UN agenda for the development of the Information Society and supports specifically the UN Millennium Development Goals of ending poverty, hunger and disease, providing education for all, saving the environment and giving a fair share to women through the use of ICTs. There are eight categories of implementation, including e-business & commerce, e-culture, and e-inclusion.

The next registration will be open from April 1 to May 31, 2013. To apply get in touch with the national expert at

Alfredo Wilson has worked in the ICT sector for over 20 years, 14 of which he spent developing websites and system information based on web interfaces. Since 1996, he manages in Nicaragua, where he is responsible for the web development area and the coordination with programmers and graphic designers. One of their latest projects is the development of mobile applications for Android. Wilson has also worked as an IT manager in different Electoral Observation Missions with the European Union in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • Ken

    I sure would have appreciated ICT being spelled out once in words. Count me among those on the dark side of the digital divide. The acronyms leave me bewildered.

    As for the claim that “a nation’s most important natural resource is the intellectual capacity of its citizens,” I won’t pitch a huge fit, just think a dose of reality is in order.

    The world still mostly needs grunt workers, and while more and more of this grunt work requires skills in internet technology, I would hardly call this “intellectual capacity.” It’s mostly a matter of learning acronyms, how to type on a keyboard, and how to navigate the always finicky software. It strikes me as a good bit of self-flattery to call this “intellectual capacity.”

    Could Nicaragua use more of this skills training? You bet! Could it use more “intellectual capacity” properly understood? Maybe.

    While smart educated people do tend to have the edge in the global economy, last I looked this isn’t how the global economy really works.

    Take us rich gringos. Have you ever met a group with less “intellectual capacity” than us that has been so rich?

    So let’s keep it simple: It would be a good thing for Nicas to get more IT exposure, since that will help them earn a buck. But please, can we not call this “intellectual capacity”? Nicas have plenty of that, what they don’t have is marketable grunt skills.

  • OEstrada

    @Ken, the ICT acronym also left me bewildered. Luckily Google to the rescue again, Information and Communications Technology (ICT). About your point that what societies need is people, paragraphing you, who can do the grunt work, I couldn’t agree with you more. I was talking to colleague of mine today about just that. We’re both engineers by the way, and we were talking about how we don’t people we can hand off our finished Intellectual Property (IP) work for the grunt work left to be done so that we can move on to creating more IP capital for our company. This is a serious problem that’s been overlooked in many countries today because there’s too much focus on not enough engineers and technologists. If these people knew that not everyone is cut out to be an engineer in the same way that not everyone can perform brain surgery.