0.2. Foundations Chapter

Building on the terminology introduced in the previous chapter, Chapter 3 introduces elements of KSP. The introduction starts by positioning Knowledge Societies policy within the Sustainable Development approach. Later it presents the vision, principles, stakeholders, networks, governance and evolution, as key elements of public policies for Knowledge Societies.

This Handbook defines a vision of Knowledge Societies policy as the multi-stakeholder aspiration of what a government, together with other social agents, aims to accomplish in the future (in the short, medium or long term) in a comprehensive policy for Knowledge Society, considering above all the wellbeing of its population.

The role of the government is to foreknow the needs and interests of the different social actors, to coordinate the diverse stakeholders´ actions and initiatives, to create operative articulations among them, and to generate and enforce relevant legislation and control through a legal framework, as well as through explicit public policies.

Knowledge Societies goals may be formulated and implemented following seven vital overall guidelines: the UN 2030 Sustainable Society Agenda; the 2003, 2005 and 2015 World Summit for Information Society (WSIS) Declaration; objectives established by regions, e.g. Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, North America, East, West and Central Africa; principles and goals established by North-South, North-North and South-South cooperation programmes between regions; macro-regional development objectives; national development goals; regional (provinces, federal states within a country) development goals; and local innovation and development goals.

Engaging in multi-stakeholder processes have become crucial to address issues affecting Knowledge Societies. The full potential of ICT, as relevant enabling tools to support the process of development, can be utilized only if the ICT policies are effective. An essential element to make Knowledge Societies effective is to ensure the active participation of stakeholders in government, the private sector, civil society, ICT users and eventually international organizations in the formulation and implementation of Knowledge Societies.

It is important to reflect on the relationships among the diverse stakeholders. Stakeholders get together through, e.g. public-private partnerships, public-private-people, government-academia, government-nonprofit, private-users, and other partnerships to put together complementary capabilities, competencies and resources.

Some of the main stakeholders are the following:

  • Public sector entities, and especially governments, play the most important role in the formulation of ICT policy. They decide how countries, regions and cities are able to take advantage of technical opportunities available to them and exploit them for good. They comprise central, regional and local governments, government entities like parliaments, ministries and agencies, public administrations and other publically owned entities (except in the education and research sector). Governments should help frame and guide, though their Knowledge Societies Policies, the initiatives undertaken by other stakeholders, such as companies, the science and technology sector, civil society, etc. Governments’ role as coordinators of other social actors is to be carefully planned and implemented.
  • Private sector entities comprise firms, companies, entrepreneurs, SMEs, corporates, and other profit seeking organizations operating in the market and private sector, including the commercial ICT and technology sectors, as well as the representatives of these stakeholders such as employers’ and trade organizations. The business sector accomplishes an essential role in the establishment of a Knowledge Economy. International, national and local IT enterprises can promote the formulation, updating or changes of Knowledge Societies. It is a strong actor that frequently leads technological and organizational innovations.
  • Education and research entities are vital agents in building Knowledge Societies as they provide highly qualified human resources, researchers, and the necessary knowledge. Such entities encompass schools, colleges, universities, research institutes, and research and innovation labs of all types, IT parks whether in the public, private or civil sectors. Education and lifelong learning are viewed as conditions to keep pace with continuously changing societies, global job markets and technologies.
  • The civil society comprises both non-profit formal organizations like NGOs, charities, foundations, associations, trades unions and social entrepreneurs when not profit-seeking, as well as more informal communities, interest groups and movements, citizens and ICT users. Basically, civil society means community groupings or networks, and their activities. The role of civil society entities in Knowledge Societies is multiple. It includes assessing the impacts of technologies in society, to defend the users´ interests, to contribute to public policies from the point of view of citizenship, and to guide technological applications to the goal of sustainable development.
  • ICT users are individuals and groups who use computers, cell phones, IT devices, in their inter-organizational and interpersonal interactions. These technologies shape who they are as organizational representatives, what they can do in terms of exchange, important aspects of their interactions with other actors (e.g. speed, complexity), and influence the perceptions of other actors and the nature of reciprocal engagements, as well as social actors’ perceptions about themselves. ICT users can influence the design of technological devices, or software, by modifying them or giving them unforeseen uses. It is important to stress that in Knowledge Societies all stakeholders can potentially become both ICT producers and users.
  • International organizations include international government organizations made up by independent states like e.g. UN, OECD or WTO, and international non-governmental organizations that operate internationally like e.g. International Committee of the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders and others. The role of international organizations in domestic and international public policies is not to be ignored. International organizations frequently trigger regional and national initiatives to develop national information and knowledge society policies. They also provide assessments and best practices of ongoing Knowledge Societies policies.

In this Handbook, governance is defined as connected to the processes of interaction and decision-making among the actors involved in a collective problem that lead to the creation, reinforcement, or reproduction of social norms and institutions, as well as public policies and strategies.

Multi-sectorial policies are a challenging point in Knowledge Societies governance. Diverse sectors and stakeholders hold various and often opposing positions and interests. Negotiating with the sectors to achieve a common policy is an art which requires political mastership, and which often depends on the agency and individuals in charge of formulating a policy. Coordination mechanisms need to be put in place in order to ensure the formulation, implementation, assessment and updating of the policies and strategies.

Governance for KSP should stress the need for quality, quantity and prompt delivery of public services. They also need to emphasize the importance of equality and equity in their provision and greater access to them, also leveraging ICT in innovative ways.

Policy features are subject to the quality of government institutions such as the institutionalization of congress, the independence of the judiciary, the quality of the civil service, and the institutionalization of political parties. Hence, to materialize Knowledge Societies benefits, it is useful to invest in increasing governments´ capabilities. Government capabilities are important for better policy features. Countries that have more capable bureaucracies, more institutionalized congresses, independent judiciaries, and institutionalized political parties tend to have policies that are more stable, adaptable, coherent, efficient, and public regarded.

The strategies and policies of developing countries’ governments need to be aimed at turning those nations into forerunners in terms of technological, social and economic organization and innovation. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to focus on technological and scientific production, innovation, education, specialized training, knowledge management and the use of existing brains, avoiding “brain drain” and encouraging “brain gain”, through coordination plans with science and technology centers abroad.

Knowledge Society policies and strategies need continuity across diverse governments and administrations. It is frequent that a given policy or plan is dismantled by the following government, which would like to make a fresh start, with its own plans and its own staff. Sometimes, within the same government or political party, internal struggles among diverse groups result in destroying valuable and effective policies. Therefore, when formulating a Knowledge Society policy, it is important to have it approved as a Law that ensures that the policy will survive and thrive across several governmental periods. Building institutionalization, particularly in emerging and developing countries, is essential to grant the success and durability of KSP.

According to WTO, Intellectual Property Rights are “the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period of time”. Intellectual property rights are customarily classified into two main areas: a) Copyright and rights related to copyright, encompassing the rights of authors of literary and artistic works (books and other writings, musical compositions, paintings, sculpture, computer programs and films. b) Industrial property, including two main areas: i) the protection of distinctive signs, mainly trademarks and geographical indications. Ii) Other types of industrial property are protected primarily to stimulate innovation, design and the creation of technology.

There is a lively debate on intellectual property and the right to access intellectual production. In Knowledge Societies, information and knowledge can be accessed in larger ways than in traditional industrial societies. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that has created diverse kinds of licenses to allow individuals to choose which type of copyright protection best suits them and their work. Creative Commons licenses allow their holders to grant broad permission to others to share, remix, use commercially, or otherwise use their work without having to ask specific authorization for each use. A Policy for Knowledge Societies needs to debate about the different options of Intellectual Property, and to explicitly define the country´s / regions´/ city´s choices.

In order to encourage citizens to get integrated into Knowledge Societies and reap their benefits it is necessary to provide them with e-services designed to make their life easier. For example, as e–government grows and more public sector services are available via digital technologies, citizens will realize the advantages of time-saving online services, such as to access city information on the go, report issues, submit service requests and get follow up notifications. Other applications allow users to search development projects, apply for permits, track progress through the process, schedule inspections, and pay for services, and register for municipal activities. Also, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are perceiving the value of using digital technologies to serve their clients.

Mobile devices, such as smart phones, are crucial for developing countries´ populations to access and appropriate the benefits of Knowledge Societies. The majority of the population in developing countries does not own computers, but an increasing number use mobile phones that connect them to the Internet. It becomes important to consider the use of mobile devices in KSP. It is relevant to consider the production of specific contents (educational, commercial, management of money and banking, agricultural news, public health, etc.) accessible from these devices.

The governmental and non-governmental provision of telecommunication infrastructure and connectivity services contributes to the people e-readiness. Cybercafés, information kiosks, community technological centers, telecentres, public libraries, schools, and cell phones nowadays represent the access door to cyberspace for a large number of Latin American, Asian and African people.

Networking for KSP means exchanging information and experiences among stakeholders, between the specific sectors involved, and among geographical regions. Electronic networks, virtual or face-to-face workshops, seminars, communities of knowledge, communities of practice, databases and websites allow diverse stakeholders to interact. Though networking regional cooperation can become a mechanism to address public policy issues such as legal framework, norms and standards, and can help to introduce innovative procedures in different regions and countries’ policies.

Knowledge Societies are emerging around the world but in many ways are witnessing the initial stages, even prehistory, of this concept. Looking at the past and attempting to draw predictions, this Handbook examines the evolution of the concept of Knowledge Societies. People around the world are facing new needs. These new needs, coupled with fast technological innovation, result in the necessity to foresee the policies that we will have to generate in the short and medium run. While future needs for public policies are multiple, this Handbook mentions just a few: policies for e-Inclusion, education, and lifelong learning; policies to preserve multilingualism on the Internet; policies for digital citizenship; policies for digital preservation; and policies for green technologies, among many others.