Can ICT help to improve social conditions in the world?
- 0 comments
- 24093 Visits
The elearningeuropa.info portal proposes a debate on the contribution that ICT can make to fulfilling the objectives established in the Millennium Declaration. The United Nations Summit that begins in New York on September 14 this year will evaluate the progress made towards meeting these goals.
The Millennium Declaration, launched by the United Nations Organisation in the year 2000, sets out a series of challenges with regard to eight critical aspects of social conditions in the world: eradicating extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, reducing the maternal mortality rate, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.
The goals established, which must be met by the year 2015, include the following: reducing by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day or who suffer from hunger; ensuring that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling; reducing the mortality among children under five years of age by two thirds and the maternal mortality rate by three quarters; halting and beginning to reverse the spread of AIDS and the incidence of malaria; reducing by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water; in cooperation with the private sector, improving access to new technologies in the developing countries; and addressing the problem of Third World debt in a flexible way.
One of the key questions about progress towards meeting these goals is how New Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can contribute to the process. There is no doubt that there are areas in which extending access and use of ICT can be of assistance to information, prevention and training campaigns and to promoting practices designed to improve living conditions amongst risk populations. These areas including combating the spread of AIDS and other diseases, decreasing child mortality and reducing the risk of women dying in childbirth.
While it is true that improving access to and use of ICT helps to decrease the risk of exclusion in the information society, it is also apparent that the expectations generated by these new technologies may become excessive on occasion.
Given that ICT is a tool that can contribute to growth and development, investment in education and infrastructure is crucial to improving living conditions amongst the most vulnerable sectors of the population in developing countries. In this context, the Human Development Report 2001 puts forward a number of proposals aimed at promoting access to new technologies in these countries. The following are some of the key measures proposed in this report, produced with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP):
- Establishing partnerships between different sectors, such as public organisations, universities and private companies to expedite access to new technology.
- Offering incentives to organisations playing an active role in this process.
- Establishing different tariffs for access to technology according to the particular country’s purchasing power.
- Stimulating research and development in the least developing countries to enable people to acquire the necessary skills not only to use these technologies, but also to play an active role in production and innovation.
- Make access to new technology a goal of public policies and international agreements.
By contributing to economic development in some countries, these measures could have a direct impact on such specific goals as eradicating poverty, making primary education universal and decreasing the proportion of people suffering from malnutrition.
European Commission initiatives such as the eTen, eContent and @lis programmes, the UNESCO Chair in Distance Education and the Virtual Educa conferences have all made important contributions not only to thought about the Millennium Goals, but also in terms of launching specific action to help achieve them.
With a view to exploring the possibility of making new progress towards meeting the goals set out in the Millennium Declaration, the elearningeuropa.info portal proposes a debate on the potential contribution that ICT can make to this process, which has now reached the halfway stage. The following are some of the questions aimed at guiding this discussion on the elearningeuropa.info portal: does the introduction of ICT increase or decrease the digital divide? In what ways can ICT use help vulnerable sectors of the population? Are we sufficiently informed to achieve effective, efficient use of ICT, ensuring that the new technologies do not increase inequalities? The discussion will revolve around articles by experts, forums and interviews by portal users during August and September. We should therefore like to invite all those interested in taking part to put forward any ideas and suggestions they may have.