UNESCO AND THE CYBER CULTURE

The rapid development of new applications of information and communication technologies presents the world community not only with opportunities but also with new challenges. UNESCO, particularly its Division of Information and Informatics, which overviews the General Information Programme (Programme général d'information -PGI) and the International Informatics Programme (IIP) is called upon to react to this development in order to facilitate the mutual knowledge and understanding of nations, to advance the free flow of ideas, and to assist in increasing and diffusing knowledge.

THE HISTORY: THE CREATION OF PGI AND IIP

The creation of PGI, in 1977, was based on the hypothesis that specialized information and its transfer between nations is an important tool for social and economic development. The action of PGI concentrated on the assistance to Member States in developing infrastructures and documentation centres, archives and libraries; The “Memory of the World Programme” was developed in parallel with the intention to safeguard the documentary heritage of the people and to assure universal access.
PII, established in 1986, aimed at better mastering informatics, information and communication technologies by training of specialists, the creation of regional informatics networks, the development of software, research and development as well as the creation of national policies in this field.

THE PERSPECTIVES: PGI AND IIP IN A NEW ENVIRONMENT

The new challenges are linked to the globalisation, to the quantity and the increasing rapidity of the information flow and the rapid development of technologies. This development implies an increasing convergence between the traditional domains of information and informatics, even communication. The aims, the main areas of action, and the intergovernmental mechanisms of guidance and planning of the programmes must be adapted to new needs.

PGI and PII, UNESCO's key programmes in this area, are concentrated on three major fields:

More specifically, the programmes will take account of the new possibilities of the application of these technologies for the preservation of library collections and archive holdings facilitating their access (Memory of the World), in order to strengthen the on-line availability of public sector information, the discussion of legal and ethical problems, etc.. The programmes will also concentrate on the development of transversal technical services using new storage technologies in UNESCO's fields of competence. They will also take account of the need of training of trainers in informatics, will provide a technological watch as to new software developments, the development of working methods in virtual groups (groupware) and the establishment of virtual communities on-line.

Since 1 April 1996, the planning and implementing of the two programmes are, , under the responsibility of the Information and Informatics Division within UNESCO Communication, Information and Informatics Sector. This Division includes a Telematics Unit which develops interdisciplinary pilot projects with other units concerned in the Secretariat and a task force for the development of the Sector's website on the World Wide Web.

THE SHOWCASE: THE UNESCO/CII WEBSITE ON THE WORLDWIDE WEB

The establishment of a website of UNESCO/CII is insofar particular as it will represent a tool of information on the activities of the two programmes and, at the same time, a demonstration of the technical possibilities of the new networks and their virtual spaces; in particular, it will provide access to public sector information, and propose projects for the new forms for the organisation of knowledge, of communication, interaction, and of artistic creation. This site will present three areas, i.e. “The Virtual Memory of the World”, “Watch the Cyberspace”,” and “The Media in the Virtual World”. The site will be informational, experimental and entertaining representing a model site for organizations, institutions and individuals in Member States of UNESCO who wish to acquire knowledge and competence in this field.
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27 October 1997