Normative, strategic and operational contexts of Openness and Inclusiveness stressed to achieve universal access to information and knowledge

WSIS process has recognized the role of ICTs in enhancing people’s access to information and knowledge. Within this framework, two areas have primarily received heightened and concerted attention- 1) how to "Open" contents, processes and technologies of information and knowledge to the benefit of humankind; and 2) how to make information and knowledge as "inclusive" as possible. The session unanimously recognized the central role of universal access in achieving sustainable development and noted a critical need to rethink normative, strategic and operational strategies to realize this goal.

The session was dedicated to analyze how access should feature in the post 2015 sustainable development goals. The session discussed both opportunities and risks involved in providing universal access to information and knowledge and concluded the following:

  • Clear-cut connection between access and development goals are lacking. Thus there is a need to examine the benefits of universal access within the broader context of sustainable development, viz, it's role in empowerment, enhancing human rights, and in dealing with "knowledge challenge".
  • The gamut of enabling mechanism to enhance accessibility is still poorly understood. Not least, access divide is a very poorly understood subject. Various aspects of the access divides are essential to be studied and internalized in the post 2015 development dialogues. This in essence can help consolidate understanding about accessibility, affordability, and equitable dimensions of universal access.
  • Available technological solutions need to be examined from their affordability, sustainability, and practicality. It needs to be understood that public policy instruments for these issues are already available, but their judicious use is still lacking.
  • There is a need for locally relevant content development to fuel the demand for access. Multilingualism must be respected while developing such contents,
  • Strengthening of the provisions to examine the sustainability of projects initiated to improve access to information and knowledge is essential.
  • Panelists also noted the need for the inclusion of Open Solutions, Open Standards, and stressed on the needs for special consideration for the people with disabilities.
  • "We may be talking about access within the broader context of the sustainable development goals but still a clear-cut connection between access and MDGs are lacking. ICTs and access always appear as annex to development discussion" Mr. Suman Prasad Sharma, Secretary of Ministry of Information and Communication and Head of the Delegation, Nepal.
  • "The relationship of access to local contents (or contents made available locally) is clearer, though, if the context of Internet peering and transit agreements (IXPs) is made explicit." dr. Mawaki Chango, CEO of DIGILEXIS
  • "We should not only look at social and technical issues, but also legal and ethical issue of access, Ms, Elia Armstrong, UNDESA.
  • "As much as Openness and Inclusiveness are important to achieve universal access to knowledge, Technological fix and policy fix are equally essential. Perhaps these are four sides of a cube" Dr. Andrew Taussig, moderator of the panel discussion.
  • "Sustainable development Goals should recognize access to information and knowledge as a supporting element for all focus areas" dr. Stuart Hamilton, iFLA
  • "The quest for universal access to information already has resulted in several low hanging fruits such as using Open Access, Open Educational Resources, Free and Open Sources Software, but the world continues to ignore these and debates on the philosophical issues" Bhanu Neupane, Program Specialist, UNESCO.