HIGHLIGHTS FROM GLOBAL KNOWLEDGE 97
23 JUNE 1997
GK97 delegates convened in two Plenary sessions in the morning, on the
Global Knowledge Agenda and on Investing in Knowledge, and in a dinner Plenary
on Investing in Knowledge Infrastructure. Delegates met in a variety of working
sessions during the afternoon.
THE GLOBAL KNOWLEDGE AGENDA
Diane Marleau, Canadian Minister for International Cooperation and Minister
responsible for La Francophonie, emphasized the importance of equitable access
for all and productive partnerships. She stressed that information must be
practical and adaptable to local needs. Equitable access is founded upon
literacy, numeracy and problem-solving. She highlighted the importance of
education for girls, particularly in Africa, and emphasized that partnerships
can facilitate equitable access. She said governments should guarantee that all
citizens have access to information and foster an enabling environment for
private sector investment in ICT.
James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, stressed the need to
overcome the gap between rich and poor. The major challenge is to increase
people's ability to access new technology, and success must be measured by
impacts on poverty and development. He remarked that governments and
institutions should be guided by the wishes of their citizens. He recalled
Annan's observation that ignorance, not knowledge, constrains society, and he
urged participants to strive for a better world.
José María Figueres, President of Costa Rica, stressed that
the purpose of this conference is to discuss knowledge in the information age in
the context of furthering the well-being of people. He outlined Costa Rica's
experience and investments in health, infrastructure development, education,
communications and institution-building. He stressed that of all these areas,
education is the most important. He outlined many indicators of improvement,
including: increased life expectancy; improved environmental indicators; and
greater economic liberty. He suggested that sustainable development is a way of
taking decisions that encompass all areas of action in society. He called for
more work to provide access to ICT in order to ensure equality for all.
Yoweri K. Museveni, President of Uganda, stated that in the past, man has
been oppressed by nature and by fellow men. He said science and technology
enabled humanity to overcome the former, and only the universalization of
knowledge will create an equilibrium where none will use knowledge to the
detriment of others. He outlined the obstacles to access to knowledge in Uganda:
illiteracy; archaic curricula; difficulties in the transmission of knowledge to
farmers; and dormancy of ancient knowledge. He highlighted efforts to address
these obstacles: reducing the cost of education and expanding secondary and
university education; reforming curricula and allowing the demands of the labor
market to shape curricula; expanding the network of extension workers; and
working to bring products of ancient knowledge to the marketplace. He stressed
that as knowledge spreads across the globe and becomes more democratically
owned, an adjustment in the world system will be essential, and all will have to
find a niche where they can contribute to this knowledge.
INVESTING IN KNOWLEDGE
Maurice Strong, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General, chaired the
Plenary. He stressed that although GK97 is focusing on knowledge, civilizational
changes driven by the knowledge revolution are also at issue.
Joy Male, Administrator, Mengo Senior School, Kampala, Uganda, spoke of the
pioneering school-to-school initiative (SSI) underway in Uganda. The SSI, a
one-year pilot project started in 1996, has made computers, printers and, for
the first time in Uganda, access to the Internet available to three schools. The
SSI is very popular in the schools and local communities and is being used to
network, share best practices and increase skills. She outlined challenges for
the future: to ensure the program continues beyond the pilot project, and to
carry the program forward into other schools.
Joseph E. Stiglitz, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World
Bank, emphasized that knowledge is the driving force behind economic
development. He listed prerequisites of the telecommunication revolution,
including: continued investment in human capital; an enabling environment for
investments in new technologies; policies that ensure that the benefits of
economic growth are shared widely; creation of knowledge infrastructure; and
democratic development. He stressed the importance of: effective competition
leading to low prices and allowing the poor to participate; a regulatory
structure to protect consumers; and political and regulatory stability.
John Manley, Canadian Minister of Industry, observed that advances in
information technology are transforming industrial economies into
knowledge-based economies. He emphasized that this state of "connectedness"
provides new opportunities and has the potential to level the playing field
between developed and developing nations. Developing countries can "leapfrog"
old technologies and avoid regulatory and policy pitfalls. He stressed, however,
that we must not lose sight of basic human values. He outlined several programs
that Canada will initiate at home and abroad to improve access to IT tools and
Fawzi Al-Sultan, President of the International Fund for Agricultural
Development (IFAD), stated that for knowledge to become a force for poverty
alleviation, the poor require access to experiences of comparable communities,
and their knowledge must be sharpened by access to outside knowledge in ways
that enable them to select those elements most relevant to their needs. He said
information is the cornerstone of sustainable development, and modern
technologies must be made available to the poor. He outlined efforts by IFAD in
this regard. He stressed that investment in knowledge represents a commitment to
people and a better future for all.
Delegates also attended a Plenary dinner, sponsored by the GK97 private
sector partners, where statements were delivered by: Michael Dell, Founder and
Chairman, Dell Computer Corporation, Claude Forget, Special Advisor to Chairman
of the Board and CEO, Teleglobe, Inc., and Jean Monty, Vice-Chairman and CEO,
Nortel. (Editor's Note: these speeches are available in RealAudio at
A variety of working sessions were held in the afternoon. Following are
summaries from some of these sessions.
Partnership for Knowledge Sharing and Connectivity: Special Challenges in
Africa: In this two-part session, it was noted that Africa was the last
continent to be connected to the Internet. The Africa Information Society
Initiative, which aims to enhance information infrastructure and ensure that
every African has the information necessary to build economic capacity and
exercise democratic rights, was described. Panelists addressed a range of social
and technological issues, often noting that despite difficulties with costs,
content and connectivity, there are numerous local success stories.
Voices for Choices: Participatory Innovations in Knowledge Creation: This
session highlighted innovations in knowledge-building and participation in
public policy deliberations by research, non-governmental and social action
groups. Participants emphasized: why citizens do and do not participate in
policy dialogue; successful uses of modern technology to spread information on
human rights issues; the need for interaction between human rights and
environmental movements; experiences of information training in Hungary and
Peru; the North-South Institute's women's projects in Africa; and "gendered"
information. Participants debated gender, equity and structural adjustment in
Tools and Technologies for Crisis Prevention and Disaster Relief: Panelists
emphasized that humanitarian agencies are increasingly judged by their capacity
to provide and use information, although some are falling behind in this
respect. It was highlighted that agencies need to systematize and
professionalize their information operations while simultaneously increasing the
capacity of local organizations.
Building Knowledge Economies in Asia: Lessons from Experience and Challenges
Ahead: Discussions focused on: drawing lessons from the Asian experience;
forging links between industry, information and society; and investing in
education. Some participants underscored making knowledge and ICT available and
affordable, while others cautioned that income and knowledge gaps could increase
if these changes are not made properly. Many new opportunities were presented,
such as the use of telecommunications for disaster and emergency relief. It was
also highlighted that the roles of the various players need to be more clearly
IMF Surveillance in a World of Increasingly Integrated Capital Markets: This
session focused on the need to provide timely and accurate data about domestic
and international capital markets in order to enhance the stability and
effectiveness of the global economic system. The IMF provides a number of
services to achieve this, including its new website which offers current data on
economic growth, government debt, national inflation and other key financial
Knowledge, Science and Engineering for Sustainable Development:
Presentations were made on: the role of academic research in industrial and
economic growth; global environmental issues; health; and agriculture.
Participants stressed the importance of partnerships and suggested that science
and technology, while facing challenges in the next century, will be key in
addressing these issues. It was also noted that science and technology must be
combined with appropriate policies and institutions to achieve sustainable
Environment: The Challenge of Sustainable Development: Participants
discussed the relationship between knowledge, the economy and the environment.
Some participants outlined the positive aspects of the relationship between the
physical environment and human development, while others suggested that
sustainable development is an unachievable oxymoron. Others stressed the
importance of: the appropriate application of knowledge for sustainable
development; local-level implementation of technology; and viewing science and
technology within a social and political context.
Mainstreaming Environment into Development Programs: Policies and Strategies
for Education, Training and Communication: This session focused on the
importance of integrating education, training and communication components into
environment programs. Case studies from the Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka
were presented. Recommendations were made on: the importance of mutual learning,
and technology as an effective means of reaching the local level.
Colloquium on Distance Education for Teacher Development: In this two-part
colloquium, participants shared experiences on the challenges facing teacher
development and how distance education solutions can be applied to address them.
Examples of innovative approaches in Senegal and India were presented. An e-mail
discussion group preparing for the colloquium identified difficulties, including
educating policy makers on the benefits of distance education and linking
distance education to social development and community concerns. Themes and
questions included: how technology provides opportunities for distance
education; how to manage distance education on a large scale while adapting it
to different local systems; and curriculum issues. Panelists presented case
studies of distance teacher education in Israel, Mexico and the UK.
Participants: asked about fallback plans when technology fails; discussed the
benefits of using video-conferencing, radio, tutors and print to train teachers;
and raised concerns regarding costs of new technologies for distance education.
Participants raised questions regarding: quality assessment and the criteria by
which to measure it; equity; and the outreach potential of distance education.
Classrooms Without Borders: Internet and Education: Participants discussed
how to improve educational outcomes and global understanding through
Internet-based distance learning activities. Four programs were presented,
including the World Bank's "World Links for Development," which links
students and teachers in developing countries with peers in industrialized
countries for collaborative research, teaching and learning via the Internet.
Discussions highlighted the importance of: content over technology;
self-learning and student-centered, interactive learning; partnerships to
facilitate Internet access; training teachers to integrate Internet into the
classroom; and developing tools to assess the value of Internet use on the
quality of education.
Spinning the Web: Linking the Voices of the South to a Global Sustainable
Development Gateway: The International Institute for Sustainable Development
(IISD) brought together its regional and international partners to present their
work on building a new gateway to sustainable development information on the
Internet. Challenges facing organizations in developing countries in delivering
their information electronically, as well as solutions to issues of
telecommunications access, reliability and costs, were addressed. Discussion
centered on CD-Rom production, low-end e-mail networks and diskette products.
IISD explored how the diverse research and experience of these organizations are
being brought to international attention at http://sdgateway.iisd.ca/.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
BREAKFAST: A breakfast, on Global Knowledge: A Partnership for Women
and Men, will take place from 7:45-8:55 a.m. in the Sheraton Centre Grand
WORKING SESSIONS: Working sessions will meet from 9:00-10:30 a.m.,
11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 2:30-4:00 p.m. and 4:30-6:00 p.m. in the Sheraton Centre,
Hilton and Colony Hotels.
PLENARIES: There will be a Plenary lunch, on Knowledge for Good
Governance, from 12:30-2:00 p.m. and a Plenary dinner, on Global Knowledge and
Local Culture, from 7:00-10:00 p.m., both in the Sheraton Centre Grand Ballroom.