Information and communication technology (ICT) is fundamentally changing the way people live and work, learn and socialise.
But 758 million adults in the world, including 115 million youth, still lack the basic literacy skills needed to enjoy the benefits of increasingly digitised economies and to participate fully in modern society.
Inclusive digital solutions can help people with low skills and low literacy use technology in a way that supports skills development and, ultimately, advances their livelihoods. Inclusive digital solutions can provide services for health, livelihoods, education, sustainable agriculture, environmental preservation, cultural tourism, urban development, and so on.
The UNESCO-Pearson Initiative for Literacy: Improved Livelihoods in a Digital World releases five batches of case studies featuring digital innovations in support of skills development.
“Any technological revolution leads to new imbalances that we must anticipate” (Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General)
Rapid technological advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), as well as other advancing technologies such as robotics, cloud computing and Internet of Things, are transforming disciplines, economies and industries, and challenging ideas about what it means to be human.
AI has enormous potential for social good and promoting the achievement of the SDGs if it develops in a way that benefits humanity, respects global norms and standards, and is anchored in peace and development.
In a rapidly digitizing world, people who cannot read or write face new forms of marginalization. On top of confronting disadvantages in the physical world, illiterate people—currently 10 percent of the world’s population—have difficulties participating in digital realms and accessing services that can strengthen livelihoods and enlarge learning opportunities.
Yet this exclusion is avoidable. Carefully designed digital solutions can help people—even those with very low literacy levels and limited technology skills—navigate digital spaces and benefit from relevant applications, such as those targeting farmers or connecting users to health services.
UNESCO has partnered with Pearson and its Project Literacy programme to develop a set of guidelines that will help today’s technology pioneers build more inclusive digital solutions. These solutions aim to help people with emerging literacy skills discover life-changing portals to information, social services, and community engagement, while simultaneously providing reason and means to improve foundational literacy skills.
Establishing digital entry points for people with limited literacy and limited digital skills creates a virtuous cycle that accelerates learning and development, empowering individuals, and strengthening communities.
- The UNESCO guidelines for digital inclusion
- Artificial intelligence: between myth and reality – an article by the computer scientists Jean-Gabriel Ganascia (UNESCO Courier, 2018)
Building Knowledge Societies
Knowledge and information have a significant impact on people’s lives. The sharing of knowledge and information, mainly through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) has the power to transform economies and societies.
UNESCO works to create inclusive knowledge societies and empower local communities by increasing access to and preservation and sharing of information and knowledge in all of UNESCO’s domains. Knowledge societies must build on four pillars: freedom of expression, universal access to information and knowledge; respect for cultural and linguistic diversity; and quality education for all.
The Organization’s thrust to create knowledge societies is premised on the conviction that universal access to information is key to building peace, sustainable economic development, and intercultural dialogue. UNESCO promotes ‘Openness’ in content, technology, and processes through awareness-raising, policy formulation, and capacity building. These solutions include Open Access to Scientific Information, Open Educational Resources, Free and Open Source Software, an Open Training Platform, and Open and Distance Learning. Such resources allow researchers and innovators to share and use data more efficiently. They also provide students and educators from around the world with unprecedented access to knowledge and information.
Central to its mandate of promoting peace and intercultural dialogue, UNESCO supports the preservation of documentary heritage by strengthening existing preservation frameworks and emphasizes long-term protection of digitized and digitally-born information. UNESCO equally encourages multilingualism and respect for cultural diversity in cyberspace. It promotes local content production in different languages. It contributes to international debates on internet governance, through participation in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).
To succeed in this constantly changing environment and to resolve problems effectively in every facet of life, individuals, communities, and nations should obtain a critical set of competencies to be able to seek information, critically evaluate it and create new information and knowledge.
Information Literacy creates new opportunities to improve the quality of our lives. Information Literacy is also closely linked to other types of literacies, such as ICT literacy, Digital Literacy, and Media and Information Literacy.
Access to Information in Brazil
International institutions and national authorities must find ways to avoid possible exclusion effects in the areas of access to information and knowledge, the spread of new communication and information technologies, and the development of multilingualism on the internet. Besides, Internet access, considered as a public information service, should be encouraged by the adoption of appropriate policies.
Several concrete measures to promote access to knowledge in cyberspace are proposed by UNESCO within the framework of its Recommendation to guide both the debate and action by the involved international instances in this domain.
Right to Online Access to Information
The right to public information is a fundamental right that protects the exercise of other human rights. It guarantees transparency and the right to the memory of the country, to its real history to strengthen democracy. Besides, it ensures the right to the press to access public information to help with investigative news. General information can also be useful to other users such as enterprises, academia, researchers, and ordinary citizens.
Member States should recognize and enact the right to online access to public records and government administration records. They should include all the information citizens need in modern democratic society to ensure the universal access to information in the public domain and its free flow, without geographical, economic, or social discrimination.
Access for People with Disabilities
Fifteen percent of the world population lives with some form of disabilities. Nonetheless, information and communication technologies (ICT) have the potential for making significant improvements in the lives of these persons, allowing them to enhance their social, political, and economic integration in communities and society by enlarging the scope of activities available to them.
UNESCO contributes to the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, particularly on article 9 Accessibility, article 21 Freedom of expression and access to information, article 24 education and article 32 International cooperation.
- UNESCO global report: opening new avenues for empowerment: ICTs to access information and knowledge for persons with disabilities
International Day for Universal Access to Information
Since 2016 UNESCO marks 28 September as the “International Day for Universal Access to Information” (IDUAI), following the adoption of a resolution (38 C/70) declaring 28 September of every year as International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI).
IDUAI has particular relevance with the new 2030 Development Agenda, and in particular, with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 16.10, which calls for ensuring public access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms.
Universal Access to Information
Universal access to information and knowledge is key to the building of peace, sustainable social and economic development, and intercultural dialogue. Open Access (OA), Open Data and crowdsourcing platforms, Open Educational Resources (OER) enable information to be freely and legally shared, providing strategic cross-cutting opportunities to improve the quality of decision-making as well as facilitate policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building, including for persons with disabilities.
UNESCO’s Open Solutions Programme targets leaders, professionals, researchers, and ICT users, supporting Communities of Practice, encouraging empirical research and publications, and organizing key events at global, regional, and national levels to share best practices, with comprehensive programmes in:
UNESCO’s Member States and international organizations should facilitate the acquisition of basic computer skills for all and further popularize the implementation and use of information technology and communication for sustainable development and peace.
Media and Information Literacy recognises the primary role of information and media in our everyday lives. It lies at the core of freedom of expression and information - since it empowers citizens to understand the functions of media and other information providers, to evaluate their content critically, and to make informed decisions as users and producers of information and media content.
Information Literacy and Media Literacy are traditionally seen as separate and distinct fields. UNESCO’s strategy brings together these two fields as a combined set of competencies (knowledge, skills, and attitude) necessary for life and works today. MIL considers all forms of media and other information providers, such as libraries, archives, museums, and the Internet, irrespective of technologies used.
A particular focus will be on training teachers to sensitise them to the importance of MIL in the education process, enable them to integrate MIL into their teaching and provide them with appropriate pedagogical methods, curricula, and resources.
UNESCO’s mission is to engender media and information literate societies through a comprehensive strategy. Such strategy includes preparation of model Media and Information Literacy Curriculum for Teachers, the facilitation of international cooperation, development of Guidelines for Preparing National MIL Policies and Strategies, articulation of a Global Framework on MIL Indicators, setting up MIL University Network, unification of and establishment of an International Clearinghouse on MIL in cooperation with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, and provision of Guidelines for Broadcasters on Promoting User-Generated Content and MIL.
The Alexandria Proclamation of 2005 describes information literacy and lifelong learning as the "beacons of the Information Society, illuminating the courses to development, prosperity, and freedom. Information literacy empowers people in all walks of life to seek, evaluate, use, and create information effectively to achieve their personal, social, occupational, and educational goals. It is a basic human right in a digital world and promotes social inclusion in all nations."
Information literacy enables people to interpret and make informejudgments as users of information sources, as well as to become producers of information in their own right. Information literate people can access information about their health, their environment, their education, and work, empowering them to make critical decisions about their lives, e.g., in taking more responsibility for their health and education.
In a digital world, information literacy requires users to have the skills to use information and communication technologies and their applications to access and create information. For example, the ability to navigate in cyberspace and negotiate hypertext multimedia documents requires both the technical skills to use the Internet as well as the literacy skills to interpret the information.
The proliferation of mass media and new technologies has brought about decisive changes in human communication processes and behaviour. Media Literacy aims to empower citizens by providing them with the competencies (knowledge and skills and attitude) necessary to engage with traditional media and new technologies. It includes the following elements or learning outcomes:
- Understand the role and functions of media in democratic societies;
- Understand the condition under which media can fulfil their duties;
- Critically evaluate media content;
- Engage with media for self-expression and democratic participation; and
- Review skills (including ICTs skills) needed to produce user-generated content.
Access to quality media and information content and participation in media and communication networks are necessary to realise Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This right underpin all other rights.
UNESCO has a long-standing experience in enhancing media literacy, founding the Grünwald Declaration of 1982, which recognises the need for political and educational systems to promote citizens’ critical understanding of “the phenomena of communication.
In light of globalisation and the explosion of ICTs, the Grünwald Declaration reaffirmed at the international level by experts (information, communication, and media), education policy-makers, teachers and researchers, NGO representatives, and media professionals from all the regions of the world who met in Paris, in 2007. The deliberations of this two-day meeting gave birth to the UNESCO Paris Agenda - Twelve Recommendation for Media Education (Media and Information Literacy (MIL).
Recognising the close link between media literacy and information literacy, UNESCO has redirected its strategy to treat Media and Information Literacy (MIL) as a composite concept. We have also discontinued the use of the term ‘media education,’ in this context, to avoid confusion with higher-level media studies. The Organization has since supported several initiatives to engender MIL as an engaging civic education movement and a tool for lifelong learning.
Learn more about the overall MIL strategy: