UNESCO: Don’t confuse knowledge societies with information societies

A UNESCO report, arguing the case for ‘knowledge societies’, has come out a week after the Parliament adopted a major EU proposal for lifelong learning.

“The knowledge divide,” write the authors, “today more than ever, separates countries endowed with powerful research and development potential, highly effective education systems and a range of public learning and cultural facilities, from nations with deficient education systems and research institutions starved of resources, and suffering as a result of the brain drain.”

The UNESCO report comes a week after the European Parliament overwhelmingly adopted an EU lifelong learning programme, designed to inject momentum into the EU’s drive towards its goal of becoming a vibrant knowledge-based economy.

Knowledge societies, the authors stress, are not to be confused with information societies. Knowledge societies contribute to the well-being of individuals and communities, and encompass social, ethical and political dimensions. Information societies, on the other hand, are based on technological breakthroughs that risk providing little more than “a mass of indistinct data” for those who don’t have the skills to benefit from it.

Cultural and linguistic diversity are also central to the development of knowledge societies, say the authors.

The stakes are high, stresses the report, for the cost of ignorance is greater than the cost of education and knowledge sharing. It argues in favour of societies that are able to integrate all their members and promote new forms of solidarity involving both present and future generations. Nobody, it states, should be excluded from knowledge societies, where knowledge is a public good, available to each and every individual.

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