E-Forum on Sustainable Development Goals: The Impact of Access to Information on our Societies – Wrap up of the first week

At the mid-point of the e-Forum on “Sustainable Development Goals: The Impact of Access to Information on our Societies” it is time to wrap up the first week:

356 people from 80 countries and territories are participating in the e-Forum. All in all there have been 68 contributions in the first week, most of them of participants from Europe, South America and Africa.

Two webinars by Jean-Claude Guédon and Stuart Hamilton gave closer insights into how Open Access can foster Sustainable Development (http://aims.fao.org/capacity-development/webinars/eforum-webinar-sustainable-development-and-open-access-jean-claude) and how IFLA developed the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information to influence the SDGs (http://aims.fao.org/capacity-development/webinars/e-forum-webinar-libraries-lyon-declaration-and-road-2030).

Here are some results of the first week:

1.) What are the ways that access to information (and more narrowly open access) contributes to sustainable development? Please elaborate in case studies and examples if possible.

We have learnt about several case studies on how access to information can contribute to sustainable development from several countries including Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Peru. These cases together with other contributions made clear that the process of implementing access to information in different societies is a multidimensional challenge: It needs a cultural change within societies, new systems of collaboration, pedagogical strategies, political support and business models.

However participants agree that Open Access supports the dissemination of knowledge in all social groups and thus fosters social justice. On the other hand there are good economical reasons for it: Open Access can foster technological developments, empower people through better training and avoid duplication of work.

An open knowledge exchange is still not granted everywhere and it was pointed out that a first step in this process is to raise awareness for the importance of accessible knowledge for all. Access to information has to be understood as a high value and all people involved in the process need to be aware of their responsibility to share information that is well validated and understandable. Communication strategies may help to disseminate digestible knowledge. Other forms of collaboration like for example Research4Life may help to enable people to actually use research literature.

But after all, the technical infrastructure to reach information is crucial. In this regard also the high importance of mobiles especially for knowledge exchange in Africa was underlined.

To summarize this discussion, one of the participants, John Tshinseki, brings it straight to the point: “if you have knowledge you take development to the next level”.

2.- How can libraries and information centres promote the adoption of access to information as part of the "post-2015 agenda, in particular SDGs"? Have you considered contacting your relevant Ministries to ensure that access to information, open access, and information providers (such as libraries and information centres) are reflected in the National Development plans?

Examples from Madagascar and Zambia show that it is possible to encourage governments to add the right to information to the constitution and to push for the digitalization of content. However this might be a long process with obstacles as the example of SciELO shows: SciELO tries to encourage the Bolivian government to adopt creative commons license.

The promotion of the right to access to information would be highly supported if it would be rooted in international agreements. In this regard participants named the declaration of Human Rights or the Berne Convention/ the WIPO Copyright treaty. The UNESCO document “Recommendation concerning the promotion and use of multilingualism and universal access to cyberspace” has included the rights to access to information already and could be a basis to start from.

The development of strong indicators to measure the actual success of providing access to knowledge would support the promotion of Open Access at all political levels. However, they are also needed to stimulate funding and motivation.

IFLA gave further information on why and how to contact decision makers and shared an action plan: http://www.ifla.org/node/9615?og=7409

3.) What can we do collectively - for example, through COAR, FAO and IFLA- to raise awareness of open access and access to information in the context of SDG discussion?

Participants emphasize the importance to provide a central point with resources and tools to advocate, facilitate and do capacity development in favor of Open Access. Access to information success stories and good practice examples could be developed to support promotion. Communities of practice can strengthen these efforts and support knowledge exchange itself. In this regard it was mentioned that already this e-forum would be a step to encourage exchange and get people connected.

We kindly thank all participants of the forum and especially the contributors for a fruitful and exiting first week and we are looking forward to the findings, insights and arguments of the second week.

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