UNESCO and Digital Content

I read that the UNESCO has launched a couple of programmes to foster digital content:

ICTs for Intercultural Dialogue (ICT4ID)

The main goals of the project are to provide training on the use of ICTs for local cultural expression (be it through audiovisual and/or computer-based content) and to encourage the production of indigenous cultural contents for the media. It also aims at providing international exposure to locally produced contents.

ICT-enhanced Public Service Broadcasting (ICT@PSB)

This project aims at putting information and communication technologies (ICTs) to the use of programme development on major societal and development issues such as human rights, peace, tolerance and the fight against discrimination by providing public service broadcasters in developing countries with training, production and distribution opportunities in these areas.

If these two projects are aimed at digital content to be broadcasted — i.e. the production and diffusion of digital content —, the other side of the coin would be the production of digital content aimed to teaching. More or less this is what the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Resource (emerged out of the UNESCO IIEP OER Community) is aimed to.

The circle is closing…

ICT4D – Linking Policy to Community Outcomes

I recently found Donna Vaughan’s article ICT4D – Linking Policy to Community Outcomes . The article suggests moving from the macroeconomic approach of current ICT4D policies design to a more community based one. While the concept never appears in the text, what the author is actually demanding is a little bit of endogenous development stress in the Information and Communication Technologies for Development policies. She puts it this way:

We should move from this framework:

Current ICT4D policy development framework

To this one:

Alternative community centred ICT4D policy development framework

While I mostly agree with her, and community, social capital and sustainability should be a must in every policy design, I understand she’s talking to change one model for the other, to shift from the current model to the alternative one. Well, this is where I disagree.

I fully believe that capacitation (i.e. digital literacy) and everything related to content and services should be community driven. Indeed, these two aspects should lead the whole ICT4D policy and projects. The question is that:

  • Concerning ICT Infrastructures (hard, soft and connectivity) there’s so huge economy scales that endogenous development would very likely appear as inefficient
  • Regarding regulation and the legal framework I believe that things will happen easier if the norm comes before that if the community has to pull the legal framework for a change

In between, the need of a strong (or sufficiently developed) ICT sector, which comes in between the ICT infrastructures policy and the regulation changes.

Thus, my oppinion is that regarding capacitation and uses, endogenous development is the option. For all the rest, the current approach is quite a good second best, provided is driven by capacity and uses, not per se, which is the key.

Don’t forget to have a look at the article’s bibliography: a very good choice.

About UN-GAID

Created in june 2006, the United Nations Global Alliance For ICT And Development (UN-GAID) is the initiative to foster ICT4D from the UN but gathering all stakeholders involved.

In a nice article, Nalaka Gunawardene asks himself the same questions almost everybody does:

ICTs have to prove their worth, and be accepted as adding value to living and working conditions of people. […]Does the new technology or process:

  • Put more food on our tables?
  • Add more money in our pockets?
  • Make interfacing with government easier?
  • Save time and effort involved in commuting?
  • Support cultural and personal needs of individuals and groups?
  • Finally, is it affordable, user-friendly and widely available, with minimum entry level barriers?

I do hope so. We’ll see…

Digital Divide and Digital Literacy approaches

We’re used to see the Digital Divide defined two ways:

  • Have vs. have not, concerning the ownership of ICT tools — a materialistic or infrastructual approach
  • Possibility of access, access to ICTs, including, sometimes, access to digital services and content — a broader approach, but still quite simple

A correct definition of digital development and e-readiness relies on an accurate definition of what digital divide is (all in all, the same thing). Forgeting what Digital Literacy is and implies is, usually, what lacks in all this concepts around the Digital Divide and a functiona empowerment of ICTs.

Here come two interesting references to add to the well known Mark Warschauer seminal articles:

Selwyn, N. (2004). “Reconsidering political and popular understandings of the digital divide”. In New Media & Society, Vol 6 (3), 341–362. London: SAGE Publications

The author starts with four main questions:

(1) what is meant by ICT;
(2) what is meant by ‘access’;
(3) what is the relationship between ‘access to ICT’ and ‘use of ICT’; and
(4) how can we best consider the consequences of engagement with ICT

and answers back proposing four categories of digital development or, as he calls it, stages in the Digital Divide:

(1) Formal/theoretical ‘access’ to ICTs and content
(2) Effective ‘access’ to ICTs and content
(3) Engagement with ICTs and content
(4) Outcomes – actual and perceived Immediate/short term consequences of ICT use. Consequences – actual and perceived

Selwyn is somehow based — it’s cited in his bibliography — in the following work:

Carvin, A. (2000). “More Than Just Access: Fitting Literacy and Content into the Digital Divide Equation”. In Educause Review, November/December 2000, 38-47. Boulder: Educause.

Where the author categorizes the different skills that allow the user to fully access and benefit from ICTs:

(1) Basic Literacy: Can I read and write?
(2) Functional Literacy: Can I put my reading and writing skills to daily use?
(3) Occupational Literacy: Do I know the basics of working in a business environment?
(4) Technological Literacy: Can I use common IT tools effectively?
(5) Information Literacy: Can I discern the quality of content?
(6) Adaptive Literacy: Can I develop new skills along the way?

In my point of view, while Basic Literacy is a must, it does not belong to Digital Literacy in a strict sense. On the other end of the classification, I’d add e-Awareness, as the ability to understand what’s happening in the world and how ICTs are changing it and, thus, how do I have to react to this. Maybe this concept is included in the Adaptive Literacy category, but I guess I’d add it as a 6th category (provided I’d didn’t include the first one, Basic Literacy).

Highly recommended reading both articles.

The Hacker Revolution

Mentally preparing my participation in the Open Education 2006 Conference I tell my colleagues that open access content and free software are to be the vectors of the oncoming development globally, at all socioeconomic levels. Adding to this that I’m a scholar — being diffusion of knowledge one of my jobs — and that my research interests are the impact of Information and Communication Technologies on Development, the interaction among the digital paradigm, intellectual property rights management and knowledge diffusion is a must for me.

Actually, my reflection goes this way: the two biggest revolutions ever have been caused by the decline of a production system along with a rising but oppressed class:

  • The revolution of the bourgeoisie during last XVIII century and first part of XIX century, an oppressed class by the landowners in the framework of a declining system (agriculture) in front of a new system: capitalism
  • The socialist revolution during first half of XX century, being workers the oppressed class and Taylorism and liberalism the declining system in front of Socialism/Keynesianism [sorry for the rough simplification]

If it is evident that we’re entering a new era – the Information Society – and that capital is losing importance in front of information/knowledge as a production asset, how and when is the revolution to come? Who’s the oppressed class?

What is evident is that the first mottos – land for all, capital for all – have to be, necessarily, interpreted as:

  • content for all
  • software for all

Looking for a name to these thoughts, I called it “Hacker revolution”. A simple google search points me to McKenzie Wark and his “A Hacker Manifesto” (Harvard University Press) where he explains almost the same thing as me. His book dates from 2004, so I guess I’m not very original, but at least I don’t feel I’m out (completely) of my mind.

The quotation goes:

The thing about information is that it really does want to be free. It knows no “natural” scarcity. It can escape the commodity economy, at least in part. That’s where hacking — in every sense of the word — has a unique role to play. It’s creating the possibility that something — even if it is only information — can be freed from scarcity and hence from the commodity economy.

Open Education 2006 Conference

Open Access and Open Educational Resources (OER) being a priority to the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Llorenç Valverde, Raquel Xalabarder, César Córcoles, Enric Senabre, Josep Maria Duart, Sònia Pais, Emma Kiselyova and I are attending/being sent to the Open Education 2006 Conference organized by the Center for Open and Sustainable Learning at Utah State University. For those following Susan D’Antoni‘s & team activity through the Open content for higher education forum, at least David Wiley should sound familiar, very familiar, to you.

My interests going there are many — among them, meeting back Susan and knowing personally David — but the most important being the reflection on the impact of the digital paradigm on intellectual property, one of the major revulsives on social issues for the XXI century. I’m specially interested on how it will affect socioeconomic development (my subject) and the diffusion of knowledge (my job), two subjects where ICT’s impact will be crucial.

If anybody’s attending too, please let me know.