New information and communication technologies brought about major repercussions on all aspects of life. This prompted UNESCO’s Member States to mandate the Organization in November 1997 to keep them abreast with these new ethical, legal and societal challenges by establishing a permanent international monitoring mechanism.
In October 1998, the first skeleton of the UNESCO Observatory on the Information Society was presented during the second international congress on Infoethics, held in Monaco. The Observatory initial objective was to provide updated information on the evolution of the following issues in different parts of the world:
- access to information in public domain,
- electronic commerce,
- privacy and confidentiality in cyberspace,
- violence in cyberspace.
The current UNESCO mandate commits the Observatory to pay due attention to the impact of globalization on knowledge societies through the collection of pertinent information and monitoring of main trends. As a part of UNESCO’s strategy to build knowledge societies and in compliance with UNESCO’s function as “clearing house”, the Observatory aims at monitoring the development of knowledge societies by:
- identifying, collecting and organizing pertinent, high-quality and multilingual information on the evolution of ethical, legal, socio-cultural and policy issues of the Information Society at the national, regional and international levels, with particular attention to education, science, culture and communication;
- timely presenting new trends and contexts;
- covering broad international developments and events;
- sharing information about the challenges of the Information Society and advances in ICT;
- providing a joint platform for UNESCO’s clearing houses related to the Information Society issues (including ICT in Education Portal, Free Software Portal, Multilingualism in Cyberspace website, UNESCO WSIS Action Directory, IFAP Projects data base, IFAP Best Practices data base);
- creating a network of users and content providers and interacting with them through community tools;
- serving as a best practice for other organizations working in the area of the Information Society.