0.1. Background Chapter

Chapter 2 describes fundamental terms for Information and Knowledge Societies – data, information, knowledge, technology and innovation, convergence of technologies and socialization of information. It also explains how the development of Information Society leads to the emergence of Knowledge Societies in different local, national and international contexts and how the two concepts complement each other and how Knowledge Societies can further development and sustainable development agendas.

ICT offer unprecedented opportunities to benefit from the right to freedom of expression, information and communication, as well as to produce knowledge and use it for individual and social evolution. Accordingly, as stated forcefully in WSIS outcome documents, this translates into an obligation for states and the international community to ensure enjoyment of these opportunities by everyone.

No country starts at “Ground Zero” in the construction and development of a Knowledge Societies, but rather the examples show that each country has its own entry point. Each local, national and regional reality is unique and needs a Knowledge Society adjusted to its circumstances. In addition, the world is rapidly changing; consequently, Knowledge Societies policies have to evolve too.

When facing the generation or updating of a KSP it is necessary to bear in mind that it needs planning for the long term: from ten to twenty years. A policy or strategy with key long-term objectives functions as a framework for making decisions and provides a basis for planning. Generating a long-term strategic plan provides the insight needed to keep a government or a multi-stakeholder organization on track by setting goals and measuring achievements. By analyzing the information in the long-term plan, policy decision-makers and stakeholders can make necessary changes and set the stage for further planning.

ICT are a necessary but insufficient for the societal and political process of developing Knowledge Societies. This Handbook can be useful for all, since its dynamics are intended to allow different countries “to catch the Knowledge Societies train” at any of the “stations”, to analyze their own context in the mirror provided by the diverse suggested steps, and to contribute to the retrofitting of the strategies. The methodology presented in this Handbook is a model intended to stimulate the actors involved to examine their country’s needs and use their best capabilities and strengths to develop an appropriate policy for it, as well as to ensure its concrete implementation in diverse development contexts.

Knowledge Service, or Knowledge Management (KM) has been defined as: “The process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge”. KM, is primarily about managing the knowledge of and in organizations. The most critical advantage in any group or environment (either public sector, private sector, NGOs, Academia, etc.) is what its people know. This knowledge, also called intellectual capital, is the organization’s primary competitive strength. Knowledge Management provides the tools for ensuring that this intellectual asset is captured, organized, analysed, interpreted, and customized for maximum return to the organization. Policies for Knowledge Societies need to take into account the ways of using Knowledge Management to profit from the existing knowledge and skills, explicit or tacit, in the country, region, or cities in which these policies are going to be applied.

Knowledge transfer (KT) is a term used to include a very broad range of activities to support mutually beneficial collaborations between universities, businesses and the public sector1 , all of them preeminent stakeholders in Policies for Knowledge Societies. KT is the practical problem of transferring knowledge from one part of the organization to another. Like knowledge management, knowledge transfer seeks to organize, create, capture or distribute knowledge and ensure its availability for future users. It is considered to be more than just a communication problem. Knowledge transfer is more complex because knowledge resides in organizational members, tools, tasks, and their subnetworks and much knowledge in organizations is tacit or hard to articulate. ICT are valuable tools for knowledge transfer between different social agents, as well as for knowledge management.

Knowledge policies are becoming a progressively significant element of Knowledge Societies, and Knowledge economies. Such policies make available institutional grounds for creating, managing, and using organizational knowledge as well as social foundations for harmonizing global competitiveness with social order, social welfare, environmental sustainability and diverse cultural values. Knowledge policies can be observed from a number of viewpoints: the required linkage to technological evolution, relative rates of technological and institutional change, as a control or regulatory process, obstacles posed by cyberspace, and as an organizational policy instrument.

Looking at the many efforts around the world, there is no general or unique formula for successful Knowledge Societies policies and e-strategies. Government officers, experts’ teams and policy makers in diverse development countries may identify examples of successes or best practices either within their own territories, regions, or in other countries with similar conditions, and adjust them as needed to fit their local unique circumstances.

The Internet can be used as a key tool to empower societies in a sustainable way. There is an enormous potential of stakeholders that act locally while thinking globally. It is at the local level where through collaboration, trust is built and implemented. It is at the local level where the visions and leadership of individuals can be seeds for global implementation.

Public policies show the intentions of governments. Without policies, there can be no governance. Explicit policies allow the public to measure the achievements of the government. A policy document lists out the intentions or objectives of the government for a particular department or government area.

A country has a KSP when such a policy is explicit in an official document, or implicit in a higher hierarchy document, such as a national development plan. The same is true for regions and cities: actions alone are crucial, but they are not sufficient; governments and other social agents have a Knowledge Societies policy when these actions are specified, planned and coordinated in official documents.

Competitiveness, innovation and job creation in Knowledge Societies are increasingly being driven by the use of ICT. This must be supported by a qualified workforce with the knowledge and skills to use these technologies knowledgeably. As technologies develop rapidly, the skills required to use them become more and more complex and need to be continuously updated. Improving the level of e-skills in the labour force requires action at national, regional, and local levels in education, training, research, industrial and labour policies, but also in areas such as immigration and taxation policies. It is then necessary to analyse and diagnose the existence of human capital related to Knowledge Society and to Knowledge Economy (e-skills). In other words, it is necessary to identify which skills are available in each territory and which skills need to be developed through education and training.

In particular fields, such as telecommunications, policies cannot be formulated at the national or regional level alone. International institutions such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) are influencing the rules for global participation. With the globalization of communications, such organizations will increasingly determine the frameworks for effective participation in public policies for Knowledge Societies. Therefore, it has become more and more important to invest intellectual resources in influencing these agendas and their outcomes. It is also relevant to train and prepare national representatives who will attend these international meetings. This is particularly important to represent the interests of developing countries and emerging economies.

This Handbook serves as a tool to assist in developing Knowledge Societies policies. KSP is a collaborative, open, and permanent process, not a finished product. It is a highway, not a harbor. In order to travel through, the highway must be visualized, planed, built, and made travelable to all citizens.

The Handbook is not only useful for the public sector, the business sector, and the academic sector. It is also useful for individual citizens and citizen organizations: it allows them to compare the possible policies with the policies and strategies adopted by their own governments, and hence, to make proposals or claims to their governments.

1 See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/what-is-knowledge-transfer#sthash.WK7XSOHC.dpuf