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UNESCO organizes Information Ethics Panel at WSIS +10 High Level Forum

On Thursday 12 June 2014, UNESCO organized the annual WSIS C10 Action Line Facilitation Meeting under the theme “Information Ecologies: Social Transformations, Ethics and Policy”, during the WSIS+10 High-level Review Event held from 10 to 13 June at ITU’s Headquarters in Geneva.

Information networks, the content they transmit, the actors they connect and the diversity of their uses creates a rich, dynamic global information ecosystem. This has created new modes of social existence as well as relations of power and influence that are shaping the contemporary social, economic, political and cultural reality. Accordingly, the C10 Action Line session explored opportunities and challenges as well as potential policy responses to these developments, using a format that combined expert panel presentations with interactive exchanges between panelists and the audience.

Three areas were identified where greater attention is needed if human rights and development goals are to be realized:

  • The philosophy, process and roles that support the design and use of information architectures,
  • Supporting multi-dimensional responses to the complexity of information ecosystems, and
  • Supporting greater engagement and involvement of all users through the provision of media and information literacy programmes that enhance their capacity to effectively use the virtual spaces.

Participants and experts highlighted the important role of multi-stakeholder approaches in the co-managing of information ecosystems, reducing undesirable effects and ensuring that the potential benefits of these development are realized and available to all persons. As Dr Rafael Capurro, of the Capurro Fieks Foundation explained, “we need to broaden the discourse, we need to have other viewpoints…and we must also think more about vulnerability and human dignity in the digital world”.

Cloud computing and big data were identified as additional drivers of societal transformation whose impacts were not yet fully understood, consequently there was a need for greater awareness of information ethics among users as well as information professionals about emerging technologies. Formal and non-formal educational programmes, public debates and town hall consultations were identified as effective public awareness raising strategies.

The meeting report will inform the preparation of activities organized at next year’s 2015 WSIS Forum and the post-2015 workplan for the Action Line. Hopefully these efforts will contribute to what Dr S. Romi Mukherjee of Sciences-Po, calls “a new enlightenment to accompany the digital revolution”.

In his concluding remarks, the session Chair Mr Paul Hector, Programme Specialist in UNESCO’s Knowledge Societies Division, thanked participants for the rich, vibrant and constructive exchange of viewpoints, which in his view “clearly demonstrated that information ethics was now intimately weaved into daily life… our challenge was through active, informed engagement of all stakeholders, based on human rights principles to collectively envision and shape the futures we desire”.

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