A flatter world

At the recent Knowledge Parks conference in Doha, Abdul Waheed Khan, Unesco's assistant director-general for communication and information, set out his organisation's agenda for development through knowledge. Eliot Beer caught up with Khan at the event.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  June 8, 2008

At the recent Knowledge Parks conference in Doha, Abdul Waheed Khan, Unesco's assistant director-general for communication and information, set out his organisation's agenda for development through knowledge. Eliot Beer caught up with Khan at the event.

How can information economies move away from a fixation with technology and become knowledge economies?

The main element there is access - yes, access to information is important, but access to what?

That is the most important issue - it is the content, what flows through IT.

Content is the human element of communication which is important, it is the content, the substance that flows through technology, and is in a language people can understand.

In fact, we talk about ICT - the ‘C', communication in all its forms, radio, television, press, mobile telephony, internet.

People in remote rural areas rely on radio, which has a 95% penetration rate.

If you're addressing the development issues in Africa, you use radio.

At the moment, internet and web technology reach only a very small percentage of the total population, and the elite of the population.

Our advocacy of knowledge societies is based on the fact that content is the human element of communication which is important - it is the content, the substance, that flows through technology, and is in a language that people can understand.

We know that the bulk of the content today available in cyberspace is in English, and much of it is not even really relevant to the majority of people.

So there are certain conditions that have to be met: content has to be in a language that people can understand, it has to address the specific needs of the people, for people to benefit from technology - and for technology to contribute to development.

How do knowledge parks fit into this?

We talk about the four building blocks of knowledge societies: knowledge creation; knowledge preservation; knowledge sharing; and knowledge application.

The knowledge parks are in the business of knowledge creation - and once they have created that knowledge, they are also able to demonstrate its application, and also share it with others.

They are used as centres to create and generate new knowledge, and many knowledge parks also have a strong programme of knowledge preservation - digitisation of documents of heritage, and so forth.

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