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Nurturing the democratic debate.  
15-11-2005 11:00 am UNESCO will host a series of events to promote the use of information and communication technology to build inclusive and empowering “knowledge societies” during the World Summit on the Information Society* (WSIS II, Tunis, November 16-18). UNESCO’s vision of knowledge societies is based on four principles: freedom of expression; quality education for all; universal access to information and knowledge; and respect for cultural and linguistic diversity.
UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura will host UNESCO’s main event at WSIS, a high-level round table debate, Shaping the Future through Knowledge (November 17, 3-6 p.m., Room Amilcar). The participants will focus on ways to enhance access to information and knowledge and facilitate knowledge creation and knowledge application for development. They will also consider local and indigenous knowledge and knowledge systems with a view to ensuring their preservation and integration into the contemporary global exchange and networks.

The following participants will take part in the debate: Leonel Fernández Reyna, President of the Dominican Republic; Ahmed Darwish, Minister of State for Administrative Development (Egypt); Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media (European Commission); Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director-General, Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO); Nicholas Negroponte, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA); Professor Atsushi Aiba, of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies; Lynn St. Amour, President/CEO, Internet Society (USA); Hans Åkerblom, Mindo (Sweden); Wendy Hawkins, Director of Education, Intel Corporation.

Other UNESCO events at the summit:

On November 16 (11.30 a.m. Media Centre, Kram Conference Centre), “Toward Knowledge Societies**” the first of a new series of World Reports will be presented by Abdul Waheed Khan, Assistant UNESCO Director-General for Communication and Information, and Jérôme Bindé, Deputy Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences and Director of the Division of Foresight, Philosophy and Human Sciences at UNESCO. “Towards Knowledge Societies”, recommends the expansion of quality education for all, increasing community access to information and communication technology, and improving cross-border scientific knowledge-sharing, to narrow the digital and “knowledge” divides between the North and South and move towards a “smart” form of sustainable human development.

Also on November 16 (9 a.m.-1 p.m., Room Zaghouan), UNESCO and BASMA, the Tunisian, Association for the Promotion of Employment for Disabled Persons will organize a workshop on ICT and Persons with Disabilities. With the participation of government representatives, researchers and civil society leaders, the workshop will share experiences and visions of how ICTs can improve the lives of people with disabilities. The workshop will also examine policies in this area and showcase solutions.

On November 17 (9 – 9.45 a.m., Youth Observatory, 5 Madagascar Street, 1002 Tunis), Mr Matsuura, Jean-Philippe Courtois, President of Microsoft International, and Abdalla Kaabi, the Minister of Youth, Sports and Physical Education in Tunis, will inaugurate the Info Youth Center, which will provide information technology training for young people in North Africa. Acting as a regional hub, it will be connected to ten centres - in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco - enabling them to share best practices and establish joint activities and programmes. The Centre has been created within the framework of the cooperation agreement concluded by UNESCO and Microsoft a year ago. The Tunisian Ministry of Youth has extended extensive support to the Info Youth Centre.

On November 18 (9 a.m. - 1 p.m., Room St Augustin), a round table on the Role of UNESCO in the Construction of Knowledge Societies through the UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs Programme will examine the challenges facing educational systems as they seek to contribute to the social, economic and cultural development of nations. More specific attention will be paid to the following: barriers to harnessing ICT in education, under-development of research, diminishing government financial support to higher education, the brain drain, language barriers preventing access to information on the Internet, and bridging the knowledge gap.

The event will feature two working sessions and one closing session and will include presentations from all regions. The Director-General of UNESCO will open the event.

Ahead of WSIS, UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics prepared a report, “Measuring Linguistic Diversity on the Internet***”, which argues that hundreds of local languages may be sidelined in the drive to bridge the digital divide because of technological oversight and political inertia. The report calls for new ways to monitor information societies, which go beyond a techno-centric view to consider the social impact of the internet.

Throughout the Summit, UNESCO’s stand (number 2303), which also has a virtual version on UNESCO’s website, will host a large number of presentations showing how the Organization is contributing to the implementation of the Action Plan adopted at the first phase of the World Summit in Geneva in 2003. The presentations will concern a wide variety of subjects ranging from the visual arts, to the brain drain, through the development of community multimedia centers, ICT for journalists and multilingualism in cyberspace.****

* For more information about UNESCO at WSIS
** To download the report in English
***For more on the report, available in English and French
****virtual visit

Source Media Advisory N°2005-68


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