Knowledge versus information societies

I’m in the midst of some work for the MoE that includes reference to the “Knowledge Society” concept which has raised issues forme, in particular, the constant substitution of the word “information” for “knowledge” when referring to this concept – and the fact that many people use the terms interchangably in this regard.

An interesting media release titled Knowledge versus information societies : UNESCO report takes stock of the difference arrived in my mailbox today which provides some helpful distinctions.

The release from the UNESCO website refers to a report launched in Paris this week by UNESCO Director-General Ko??chiro Matsuura which is the first in a new series of World Reports, ??Towards Knowledge Societies?? and will be presented at the World Summit on the Information Society (Tunis, November 16-18.

The distinction made by the authors of the report is sumamrised as:

  1. Knowledge societies contribute to the well-being of individuals and communities, and encompass social, ethical and political dimensions.
  2. Information societies, on the other hand, are based on technological breakthroughs that risk providing little more than ??a mass of indistinct data?? for those who don??t have the skills to benefit from it

The report contains examples of development from around the world, and interesting statistics on the extent of internet access in different countries.

The report urges governments to expand quality education for all, increase community access to information and communication technology, and improve cross-border scientific knowledge-sharing, in an effort to narrow the digital and ??knowledge?? divides between the North and South and move towards a ??smart?? form of sustainable human development.

The stakes are high, stresses the Report, for the cost of ignorance is greater than the cost of education and knowledge sharing.

3 thoughts on “Knowledge versus information societies

  1. The thing that I think most people leave out of the equation is ‘wisdom’


    At the heart of it all needs to be a quest for wisdom. Both information and knowledge are pointless if they are not seen as a pathway to wisdom.

    “Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?”

    A bit deep for a Wednesday morning – perhaps I should have another coffee 😉

  2. Couldn’t agree more, Glen – I’ve been saying this for years now since it first registered for me after reading “The Monster Under the Bed” by Stand Davis and Jim Botkin.
    There is increasing evidence of this thinking in much of the literature also (see Jane Gilbert’s book for instance)- it’s just a bit difficult to try and introduce the notion of ‘wisdom’ into an international policy document.
    All the same, if you ponder on what is required to achieve the state of well-being of individuals and communities, encompassing social, ethical and political dimensions (as stated in the UNESCO report), then the notion of Wisdom becomes important, particularly if you use your equation of:

  3. >it’s just a bit difficult to try and introduce >the notion of ‘wisdom’ into an international
    >policy document.

    Yes I am sure you will get some funny looks if you put a “national wisdom strategy”, or “pathways to wisdom” document in front of the minister – depending on if he is wearing any clothes or not 😉

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