UNESCO’s Information for All Programme contributes to the successful outcome of an international conference on electronic governance

The 8th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance was held in Guimarães, Portugal from 27 to 30 October 2014. Organized by the United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance (UNU-EGOV), the University of Minho and the Agency for Administrative Modernization of the Portuguese Government, the event was held under the High Patronage of His Excellency the President of the Portuguese Republic.

With a theme of ‘The Rise of Data Post-2015 – Empowered Citizens, Accountable Institutions”, the event generated considerable interest amongst governments, academics and practitioners attracting papers from 330 authors from 50 countries as well as hundreds of attendees. The conference was structured around daily plenary sessions, six thematic parallel tracks which ran over three-days as well as 8 thematic and 13 invited sessions.

The conference’s outputs will be distributed by UNU-EGOV to inform the preparation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda being developed under the leadership of the United Nation System.

UNESCO/IFAP’s contribution to the event comprised co-organization and co-chairing of the conference track on “Ethics, Accountability and Transparency”, as well as two UNESCO-sponsored sessions. The Ethics, Accountability and Transparency Track included tutorials, presentations of national experiences from Portugal as well as academic and practitioner papers which highlighted experiences from developed and developing countries. The first UNESCO-sponsored session “Ethical Challenges of the Information Society” presented work being undertaken to develop an Information Ethics Training Kit for policy makers that builds on activities in the framework of the WSIS C10 Action Line “Ethical Dimensions of the Information Society”. The session provided an opportunity to conduct a tutorial for policy-makers and receive feedback on the Training Kit. The second UNESCO-sponsored session, “Building Knowledge Societies: Lessons from the Mekong River”, brought together senior government officials from Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam to share experiences on national strategies, lessons and achievements towards equitable and inclusive knowledge-based development.

The ICEGOV2014 event represented the 4th step in the UNESCO/IFAP – UNU collaboration that begun last year. This collaboration commenced in July 2013 with the organizing of a one-week Executive Training on Foundations of Government Information Leadership in Kampala, Uganda for senior policy makers from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda. In November 2013, a similar event was held in Yangon, Myanmar, attracting policy makers from Mongolia and Myanmar. During the ICEGOV2013 organized in Seoul, Korea in October 2013, UNESCO/IFAP co-organized several sessions including a Town Hall-style plenary debate on Building Knowledge Societies.

ICEGOV2014 also provided opportunities for Mr. Paul Hector, UNESCO Programme Specialist with responsibility for IFAP’s overall operations worldwide, to explore opportunities for collaboration with a variety of participants working in the IFAP priorities areas. According to Mr. Hector, “ICEGOV was an excellent opportunity to meet with a number of new potential partners working on many of the policy, programmatic and technical issues central to building knowledge societies. I was able to share and explore areas of complementary activity particularly around accessibility, multilingualism and information ethics”.

Speaking about the prospects for UNESCO/IFAP - UNU-EGOV cooperation, “As further concrete steps we are exploring engagement of UNESCO/IFAP at ICEGOV2015 in Tunis and how to incorporate the UNESCO/IFAP Information Ethics Training Kit and other courses into our Government Chief Information Officer training”, said Dr. Tomasz Janowski, Head of the United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance and Coordinator of ICEGOV.

The intergovernmental Information for All Programme was established in 2001. It provides a platform for international policy discussions, cooperation and the development of guidelines for action in the area of access to information and knowledge. The Programme supports Member States to develop and implement national information policy and strategy frameworks.