Building a better informed knowledge based society may help - Ahmed Imran
When we think about human rights over the last century, ‘access to information’ is unlikely to have figured in our mind until relatively recently. Now there is much debate on this issue across the world. Countries are listing information access as one of the basic human rights.
We’re not just talking about access by and for individuals. Access is also being extended and facilitated in different forms by governments to ensure equal opportunity and democratic rights for citizens.
For example, Australia plans to roll out national high-speed broadband for all Australians by 2017 at the cost of $43 billion , which has become a high priority for the government. This is simply because it makes a hell of difference whether or not you are information rich or information poor in this modern, knowledge-based economy - be it in business, education or in social life.
Today’s citizens are indeed eCitizens. They are enjoying eServices form government, business and welfare agencies. The overwhelming impact of social networking sites such as Face book and Twitter cannot be overemphasized.
While correct and abundant information can help to build a good society, incorrect information and half truths on the other hand can cause great damage to the society.
It is common to feel bombarded by information, whether from the Internet, TV, radio, mobile etc. One need be smart enough to synthesize the information.
Information on global climate change is no exception. The innovative use of media at a massive scale in climate change campaigns has led to many people being aware about the issues and taking a stance accordingly. Schools, cultural associations, and societies at large have absorbed, synthesized and responded. When I see my six-year-old child can explain the climate change issue in detail, I get optimistic about the future generations. At least they will be better informed and, perhaps, qualified than us to deal with the emerging crisis.
However, the exploitation of ‘hype’ around climate change for political and vested interests has created much debate and confusion. Many people are torn between the viewpoints of the climate skeptics and scientists, barraged by jargon words like carbon footprint, CFC and so on.
This conflict has impacted not only the real issues surrounding this but also caused a dilemma in many people’s minds. Hacking and leaking of climate data from Britain’s leading climate research unit led to much controversy. Often research findings were misinterpreted or misrepresented as a result of the misunderstandings of technical explanations and complex statistical analysis. Thanks to the legislation of Freedom of Information- the news of these failures can be revealed to the public.
Nonetheless, climate change is not an isolated issue. It encompasses the multi-level involvement at the social, economical and political spheres. Such a global problem can only be dealt effectively when society is better informed and prepared. A well-informed, knowledge-based society would be able to speak with a stronger voice in the right frequency.
Innovative and effective use of information technology not only can be an effective tool for knowledge-based-society, the “Green IT” practices and policies are likely to contribute in preserving the better environment for the society. Many of the developing countries, including Bangladesh, are still on the other side of the digital divide. They must understand and address this access issue more strategically with utmost priority, as all other development work is closely dependent on the connectivity of the information economy. Unlocking this potential for every citizen should be a key goal of the national strategy and the educational curriculum. However, caution and care in the approach is necessary, otherwise negative and wrong information may risk the positive outcomes.
Ahmed Imran is an Information Systems Researcher at the Australian National University
06 June 2010