no imageConnecting knowledge in communications

Bringing together communications specialists from 55 countries around the world, Connecting Knowledge in Communications : Bridging the Gap between Training and Employment took place in Montreal, Canada, from April 14-17, 1999.

The Conference objectives were to both diagnose the challenges, and propose concrete solutions, to the growing gap between available human resources and training in the domain of communications in all economic regions of the world.

Twenty-two speakers from media, academia, the multilateral sector, and industry made presentations to the 300 participants in attendance. As well, Opening Addresses were offered by Henrikas Yushkiavitshus, Assistant-Director General, Sector for Communications, Information and Informatics of UNESCO and Huguette Labelle, President of the Canadian International Development Agency. Luncheon speakers included author and consultant, Nuala Beck, and Derrick de Kerckhove, Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology. Mark Malloch Brown, Vice-President of External Affairs and United Nations Affairs at the World Bank gave the Keynote Address at dinner on Thursday evening.

Research into these issues was commissioned by ORBICOM from seven regions around the world and was launched at the event. This report, Information Societies : Crises in the Making? Diagnostic and Strategies for Intervention in Seven World Regions, is available in its entirety on the ORBICOM Website or from the ORBICOM International Secretariat. The Regional Research, like the discussions at the conference, will fuel ORBICOM's program of activities over the coming year.

During the conference, it became clear that changes to training and employment in communications as a result of the use of information technologies are immense and are felt differently around the world. The conference generated fruitful discussion and healthy debate.

Certain issues emerged as central to the discussions. There remain gaps in the use and diffusion of information technologies between North and South and there is no one Œmagic formula' for addressing this challenge. Regions and communities must be empowered to find their own specific uses and solutions, drawing on the experiences of others, but also adapting these methods to their own context. How we train our communications professionals - journalists, policy-makers, programmers, information managers, scholars, teachers - has to change. The respective roles for traditional training institutions and employers in the training of the workforce must be better defined; there is a role for each to play. Creative means must be found to produce partnerships among governments, the private sector, and training institutions, and between North and South, because no one player or region can meet the challenge alone.

At the conclusion of the Conference, a Plan of Action was unanimously endorsed by the participants, charging ORBICOM, the organizer and host of the event, to move forward with specific projects to address, in a concrete fashion, the issues raised by the conference.

We invite you to read through these Conference Proceedings and the full texts of the papers, to consider again the discussions which took place, and to review the Action Plan. We hope that you will not just put these Proceedings on your shelf, but that you will read them, continue to think and work on these issues, and to use the document itself as a resource to begin building those strategic partnerships in communications necessary to close the gap between training and employment in communications through strategies of governance, technology, employment and lifelong learning.


THE ACTION PLAN (1999-2002)

From 14 to 17 April 1999, ORBICOM convened a conference on Connecting Knowledge in Communications : Bridging the Gap between Training and Employment in Communications in Montréal, Canada. The event was organized by ORBICOM in collaboration with UNESCO, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP), a consortium of some 45 international and national development agencies, non-governmental organisations and the private sector.

Building on past initiatives in the field, the participants agreed that

- access to and effective use of knowledge and information are key ingredients of the emerging global knowledge economy and essential tools for sustainable economic and social development at the individual, community, national and international levels;
- significant investement will be required - from both private and public sources, including the academic - to strengthen the information and communication infrastructure of developing countries, as well as their ability to generate and disseminate content; and
- the world community will need to develop a plan of action that enhances the utilisation of information and communication for educational, cultural, social and economic development.

1.0 - BEARING IN MIND THAT

1. Information and knowledge is a staple of the globalising world economy.
2. Freedom of expression and access to information are essential for development, national identity and democracy.
3. Governments are often slow to adapt to technological change and that their information and communication policies lack transparency due to lack of resources (human and financial) and/or the absence of political wisdom and confidence.
4. Affordable access is a prerequisite for any knowledge and information society.
5. There is no single blueprint and there may be different paths to success, however a vision and appropriate national strategies, policies and plans are indispensable.
6. Rapid technological change in the information sector puts cultural identities and diversity at risk.
7. Shortages of personnel with the necessary skills and expertise constrain the production of new content as well as the processing and distribution of existing knowledge.
8. Technological literacy and fluency is increasingly a requirement for success.

2.0 - POSSIBLE STRATEGIES AND RESPONSES

1. Communication professionals have a vital role to play as both designers and providers of content in the information economy .
2. Human resources are at the heart of economic development - we have the people, what they need is meaningful training , skills development and access to appropriate technologies0.
3. Information technologies must be harnessed to induce individual creativity and innovation, and for equitable social advancement globally.
4. Massive public and private investments are urgently needed to develop national communication infrastructures, capacities and conten
5. Training must be multidisciplinary, intellectually flexible, socially mobile, multilingual and culturally sensitive.
6. The information revolution requires a new generation of trainers with a different skills-profile.

3.0 - CONCRETE ACTION MEASURES

1. No single player can muster enough resources to meet these challenges alone. Strategic partnerships among the media, academia, industry, governmental and multilateral sectors as well as civil society are required for any action to be effective.
2. Organisations specialised in information and communications, such as ORBICOM, are encouraged to launch initiatives.
3. These issues must be placed on the top of the international agenda everywhere and addressed through partnership and teamwork.

4.0 - SPECIFIC ACTION PROPOSALS

1. Creation of a Knowledge Network to serve as an electronic forum for on-going assessment and exchange of information on communication trends and training needs and opportunities.

This network shall :
a. act as a clearing house for the collection and distribution of information;
b. analyse trends to inform ORBICOM's activities and its Learning to Learn Workshops;
c. collect and circulate information across institutional and professional boundaries - policy-making, the multilateral sector, universities, private think tanks, journalism associations, professional organisations, etc.
d. publish regular electronic and printed reports on the state of information and communications in each region;
e. circulate successful case studies relating to capacity building; and f. have suitable staff and other resources to perform these functions.

2. Learning to Learn - organisation of a series of regional workshops for the training and retraining of communication professionals for the new knowledge economy.

This training shall :
a. be based on needs identified for different regions;
b. target management, professionals, new information workers, and educators;
c. develop both concrete multimedia skills and team-building skills;
d. be designed and delivered through partnerships between learning institutions and the private sector;
e. conduct evaluations of both initiatives in order to refine and build the capacity for the next phase.

5.0 - FOLLOW UP

The Conference recommends, funds permitting, that ORBICOM initiate one or more multisectoral meetings of professional associations, multilateral agencies, academic and private sector partners to develop recommendations and present a plan of action at the second Global Knowledge Conference in Malaysia in March 2000.

The 1999-2002 Action Plan is also available in PDF format.