Access to scientific information and access for persons with disabilities discussed in China

UNESCO presented its activities in the field of open access to scientific information at the inaugural session of the 7th International Conference on Cooperation and Promotion of Information Resources in Science and Technology (COINFO'12) last week in Nanjing. This year’s conference focused on “Information sharing in the cloud” and was co-organized by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China (ISTIC), Nanjing University and Beijing Institute of Technology, together with Chinese and overseas universities.

More than 200 Chinese and international scholars participated the conference, where they discussed issues such as science and technology information resource sharing in a cloud environment, data management and sharing, and information resource sharing for e-health, environment, industrial development, research and development.

The UNESCO Beijing Office’s Advisor for Communication and Information, Mr Andrea Cairola, delivered a keynote address at the opening session of COINFO’12.

Mr Cairola started by introducing how open access and information sharing are essential for living in a “knowledge society” and key to building sustainable social, economic and human development, as well as peace.

He furthermore presented arguments in favor of open access and presented some of UNESCO’s flagship activities in this field, such as the Global Open Access Portal (GOAP) and the Open Science Directory, as well as related initiatives in Open Educational Resources (OER) and Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).

Mr Cairola’s speech at COINFO’12 comes as part of a broader cooperation between the UNESCO Beijing Office and Chinese national partners aimed at fostering universal access to information.

To this end, the UNESCO Beijing Office also participated in the “2012 China Information Accessibility Forum” held in late September at the China Braille Library in Beijing. The forum was co-hosted by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, the Internet Society of China and the China Foundation for Disabled Persons, with support from the National Commission of China for UNESCO and the UNESCO Beijing Office Beijing. The forum saw about 200 participants from Mainland China, Hong Kong, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia.

At the China Information Accessibility Forum, topics discussed included the development of innovative technologies that promote access to information, as well as the creation of educational, learning and employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.

“Promoting the realization of information accessibility is a very important goal in China's economic and social information development process,” said the Deputy Minister of Industry and Information Technology of China, H. E. Mr Shang Bing, at the forum. “It is also the inevitable requirement for safeguarding social fairness and justice, and improving people's livelihood. In addition, it is a noble and great process of rich spiritual and cultural life of the disabled and other vulnerable groups, and sharing the achievements of economic and social development with them.”

On behalf of UNESCO, Mr Cairola, opened the September forum, noting that in building inclusive knowledge societies, universal access to knowledge and information is of vital importance to ensuring that all persons are able to participate as creative and productive members of their communities. We must include and pay particular attention to the needs of persons with disabilities, he said.

Mr Cairola also underlined that information and communication technologies (ICTs) are offering and will increasingly offer individuals the ability to compensate for physical or functional limitations and thus improve their development prospects.