Research and Reports

Workshop Background



MIT Workshop

Knowledge Networking & IT for Development

Transcending Barriers to Knowledge
Strengthening Content
Reflecting Multiple ‘Voices’
Creating Critical Mass

October 30-31, 2003

1. Introduction. The convergence of three trends – persistent globalization, rapid expansion of the information and communication technology and infrastructure, and increased knowledge intensity of economic activity – has heightened awareness of global inequalities and attendant fault lines worldwide. Paradoxically, this convergence is also creating new opportunities for transcending barriers to development, enabling technology ‘leapfrogging,' and encouraging contributions of ICT to development. The purpose of this Workshop is to highlight ‘good practice,’ identify operational venues for synergy, and point to new opportunities in support of millennium development goals.

2. Knowledge Content. The preparatory process for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) signaled key priorities in the international community’s efforts to harness the power of information and communication technologies (ICT) for development. And in its catalytic role, the United Nations Task Force on Information Technology (UN-TF) – Working Group 3 – identified content as an important priority. The MIT Workshop will focus on the knowledge-dimensions of content – in terms of substantive issues (local and global), content creation and access to content, deployment and diffusion, as well as the creation of new content for development – and seek operational synergy among major knowledge-based e-initiatives.

3. Context & Synergy. Framed in the context of ongoing international efforts to reduce the gap between knowledge and policy, this Workshop seeks to strengthen operational linkages among key ICT initiatives, reinforce common efforts, build mechanisms for synergy, and consolidate ‘critical mass’ in domains of application. The goal is to share experiences about ways to reduce barriers to knowledge-content, as well as mechanisms for encouraging multiple and diverse ‘voicing’ in global contexts while retaining emphasis on quality of content. In practice this means enabling working relationships in at least five levels – international, regional, national, municipal, and local. Central to the consolidation of ‘critical mass’ is the increased knowledge-awareness and content-linkage among leading international and national institutions (private and public) in developing and industrial societies.

4. Broad Context. The draft action plan of the UN ICT Task Force Working Group 3 Content Committee identifies specific activities to overcome constraints on the local ICT-based content, notably to "promote … local content and content issues in general as a vital dimension of all WSIS themes” to "help develop and promote solutions to language barriers in using ICT, map ways in which local and global content can help and hinder MDG [Millennium Development Goals] delivery via ICT, to promote them to relevant agencies" – and others.

5. Approach. Focusing on e-applications of knowledge-content for development, the agenda will focus on new uses of knowledge networking, innovative applications of information and communications, and implications for innovations in technology collaboration and transfer. The integrating functions for the Workshop (enabled by GSSD) will draw on the experiences of strategic partners and collaborators. GSSD-collaborative mission seeks to:

  • Reduce barriers in knowledge sharing, provision, and management as well as networking, and help make evolving knowledge more accessible for decision and analysis.
  • Consolidate knowledge provision and management through greater connectivity among the key e-knowledge-resources world-wide.
  • Facilitate knowledge-sharing through customized and quality-controlled methods to help reduce prevailing gaps in knowledge-discourse on development.
  • Provide e-based multilingual capabilities for knowledge provision and access, and
  • Support ‘top-to-bottom’ & ‘bottom-to-top’ knowledge provision & communication.
  • Contribute to critical mass, synergy, and leadership in the use of advances in ICT for development.

6. Workshop themes. We seek to take stock of recent initiatives in knowledge networking, knowledge sharing, management, and deployment. At issue are the implications of innovations in information technology for strategies toward sustainability, and we focus on:

  • Reducing Barriers to Knowledge for Development - Reviewing innovations in global knowledge networking and reducing gaps to knowledge provision, access, and diffusion
  • Strengthening e-Connectivity for ‘Best Practice’ - Supporting key global initiatives in 'best practices’ in the domain of sustainability
  • Responding to Demand for Local Content Provision – Extending scale and scope of ‘local’ knowledge providers
  • Highlighting 'on the ground' priorities - Addressing operational ICT strategies and investments supporting development

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