The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) phase II, organised by the International Telecommunication Union, took place in Tunis (Tunisia) from 16 to 18 November 2005. Leaders from over 70 countries and delegates of governments, businesses and NGOs attended this conference. The WSIS focused on discussing issues of promoting development through constructing the information society through estrategies, e-commerce, e-governance, e-health, education, literacy, cultural diversity, gender equality, sustainable development and environmental protection. WSIS, MDGs and education Among other issues, the Tunis Summit showcased several initiatives and deliberated on the potential and ways in which ICTs can help to enhance outreach and quality in education; in augmenting basic literacy as well as to build human capacities. There has been a spurt of ICT enhanced lesson plans and processes that make technologies more useful for educational purposes but can also build human capacity to use technology for better access to knowledge. Education and ICTs were recognised as a fundamental basis for preparing for a knowledge society. Various civil
society groups organised themselves into a Civil Society Plenary (CSP) at every official meeting of the WSIS process, and advocated their agenda through Civil Society Content and Themes Group and the Civil Society Bureau. Identifying the priorities for action Recognising the criticality of education and capacity building in constructing the knowledge society, a Task force on Education, Academia and Research, set up under the Civil Society Group, identified the education priorities for knowledge sharing. The two key principles for education are nowledge sharing and open access. To further these principles, the Task Force identified four major priority issues in education and research: • Teachers’ Education with ICT; • Open Courseware; • Media and ICT Education; and • A New Status for Research In support of open courseware, the Task Force pointed out that such approach ‘can generate huge avings in the long run and help developing countries to bridge the “digital divide” in education’. However these open courseware, should be ‘submitted to serious accreditation and quality assurance processes’. The Task Force also suggested the adoption of ‘free software and an exemption of Intellectual Property Rights in matters of education, documentation and archiving in non-profit context’. The Task Force highlighted the need for media and ICT education for youth, with both a critical and a capacity-building approach to help he youth to learn to ‘inform and be informed, via the networks, in a learn-to-learn lifelong process’. The task force pointed out that one needed to be ‘ICT literate and information literate’ and “media and ICT education” literacy is ‘a pillar of democracy and one of
the elementary rights of every citizen’. The Task Force recommended that this specific education should be introduced wherever possible
within national curricula as well as in tertiary, non-formal and lifelong education. The Task Force pointed out that research on ICT should focus beyond technological innovation and market development to users and the social and cultural implications of the Information
Society. However, ‘sociallyorient d research should not develop apart from, or just in addition to, but in close connection with industrial research from the earliest stages.’ The Task Force also reminded that the scientific community should work in close connection with civil society, the industry and political institutions. The Task Force also tabled some
concrete strategies for international consideration and implementation • Lowering the cost of access to nternet and ICTs for education • Against exploitative targeting of children and youth through ICTs. • An ‘open cognition platform’ for fostering education for general interest The Task Force called upon the private sector to increase their investment in regional IP backbones and access points. The Task Force also recommended the Governments and international organisations to create an enabling environment for the provision of ICT infrastructure, particularly for rural and marginalised communities, especially for the
education sector. The education Task Force for long has been advocating for a “open cognition platform” for fostering education,
as a UN recommendation to be adopted by all countries. The Task Force made the following recommendations: An Open courseware validation
body To help create a coherent body of standards and formats, for coaccreditation and exchange across currently existing websites (and
extension to mirror sites in developing countries) that provide the primary teaching materials for courses taught at educational nonprofit institutions; An international rationale for Media and ICT education
To train media and information literate people, in national curricula. Such document must provide a modular curriculum, with evaluation criteria and rocedures and adequate teaching materials and resources, in local language; An education exemption to IP rights for access to repositories of content In the non-profit contexts of education and research, like schools, museums, libraries, archives, etc., along the lines of the directive currently enacted at the European Union; An international researchers’ charter To promote the status of teacherresearchers and ensure their independence and low-cost access
to repositories of knowledge. The message was clear. Access to knowledge is crucial for building human capacity. Access to knowledge creates well-informed and competent citizens who can participate and strengthen the knowledge society.
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