Empowering the public with truth in a turbulent world

Global Media and Information Literacy Week (October 24 to 31) commemorated annually, is a major occasion for stakeholders to review and celebrate the progress achieved towards ‘Media and Information Literacy for All’. 

Global Media and Information Literacy Week 2021 is hosted by South Africa. This year marks 10 years since the seeds of Global Media and Information Literacy Week were planted in 2011 in Fez, Morocco. This was long before the exponential rise in disinformation, political polarisation, increasing influence of digital platforms and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021 the UN General Assembly decided to commemorate the week, citing the need for the dissemination of factual, timely, targeted, clear, accessible, multilingual and science-based information. The resolution recognizes that the substantial digital divide and data inequalities that exist among different countries and within them can be addressed in part by improving people’s competencies to seek, receive and impart information in the digital realm.

In the current ecosystem of complex and sometimes contradictory messages and meanings, it is hard to conceive of the public good being advanced, if the public is disempowered in the face of opportunities and threats. Each individual needs to be equipped with media and information literacy competencies to understand the stakes, and to contribute to and benefit from information and communication opportunities.

What is Media and Information Literacy?

Our brains depend on information to work optimally. The quality of information we engage with largely determines our perceptions, beliefs and attitudes. It could be information from other persons, the media, libraries, archives, museums, publishers, or other information providers including those on the Internet.

People across the world are witnessing a dramatic increase in access to information and communication. While some people are starved for information, others are flooded with print, broadcast and digital content. Media and Information Literacy (MIL) provides answers to the questions that we all ask ourselves at some point. How can we access, search, critically assess, use and contribute content wisely, both online and offline? What are our rights online and offline? What are the ethical issues surrounding the access and use of information? How can we engage with media and ICTs (Information and Communications Technologies) to promote equality, intercultural and interreligious dialogue, peace, freedom of expression and access to information?

Through capacity-building resources, such as curricula development, policy guidelines and articulation, and assessment framework, UNESCO supports the development of MIL competencies among people. The world is shifting from analog to digital faster than ever before, further exposing us to the vast promise and peril of new technologies. While the digital era has brought society many incredible benefits, we also face many challenges such as growing digital divides, cyber threats, and human rights violations online.

Access to the Internet is increasing worldwide. Between 2000 and 2015, global Internet penetration grew seven-fold from 6.5 percent to 43 percent. Yet millions of people still lack access to quality, credible information. In some instances, this lack of information can be life threatening; in others it constrains social and economic growth. In fact, half of the world’s population currently does not have access to the Internet. By 2030, every person should have safe and affordable access to the Internet, including meaningful use of digitally enabled services in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We must undertake a concerted global effort to encourage and invest in the creation of digital public goods: open source software, open data, open AI models, open standards and open content. These digital public goods should adhere to privacy and other applicable laws and best practices, do no harm, and help attain the SDGs. Digital divides reflect and amplify existing social, cultural and economic inequalities. The gender gap in global Internet use is a stark example – in two out of every three countries, more men use the Internet than women. Similar challenges affect migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons, older persons, young people, children, persons with disabilities, rural populations, and indigenous peoples. We must close these gaps through better metrics, data collection, and coordination of initiatives.

Many countries and citizens are deprived of capacities and skills crucial to the digital era and to attaining the SDGs. Digital capacity building must be more needs-driven and tailored to individual and national circumstances, and better coordinated globally. Digital technologies provide new means to exercise human rights, but they are too often used to violate human rights. Regulatory frameworks and legislation on the development and use of digital technologies should have human rights at their centre. Data protection, digital ID, the use of surveillance technologies, online harassment and content governance are of particular concern.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) brings enormous benefits to the digital era, but it can also significantly compromise the safety and agency of users worldwide. Enhanced multi-stakeholder efforts on global AI cooperation are needed to help build global capacity for the development and use of AI in a manner that is trustworthy, human rights-based, safe and sustainable, and promotes peace. The digital technologies that underpin core societal functions and infrastructure, including supporting access to food, water, housing, energy, health care and transportation, need to be safeguarded.

A broad and overarching statement outlining common elements of an understanding on digital trust and security, endorsed by all Member States, could help to shape a shared vision for digital cooperation based on global values. There are significant gaps in global digital cooperation, and digital technology issues are too often low on political agendas. Even where there has been cooperation, it is frequently fragmented and lacks tangible outcomes or sound follow-up processes. As a starting point, the Internet Governance Forum must be strengthened, in order to make it more responsive and relevant to current digital issues.

The Internet of Good Things (IoGT) is a UNICEF-led initiative that aims to bridge the digital divide and build knowledge in societies.

The Internet of Good Things (IoGT) hosts mobile-packaged content designed to make life-saving and life-improving information available for free, even on low-end devices. IoGT is helping communities and frontline workers access educational and lifesaving information at the point of care.

Topics and issues on Internet of Good Things include maternal health, hygiene, emergency information on diseases such as Yellow fever, Polio and Cholera, HIV and sexual health advice for adolescents, Internet safety, positive parenting techniques and more. Including multimedia elements and two-way communication features, the IoGT platform can also be used to capture feedback and local best practices from communities through polls and survey functionalities.

To date, more than 30 million users have accessed IoGT since launch in 2015 – 60 percent between the ages of 13 and 24 – and hundreds of thousands more every month benefit from the IoGT and get free, life-saving and life-impacting information through their mobile phones. Local IoGT mobile sites are made accessible free of data charges in 61 countries and territories. IoGT hosts content modules in up to 13 languages. There are currently a total of 88 IoGT mobile sites and 91 mobile operators supporting a free-of-data-charges access to IoGT.


World Day for Audiovisual Heritage

Preserving stories of people’s lives and cultures

Audiovisual archives tell us stories about people’s lives and cultures from all over the world. They represent a priceless heritage which is an affirmation of our collective memory and a valuable source of knowledge since they reflect the cultural, social and linguistic diversity of our communities. They help us grow and comprehend the world we all share. Conserving this heritage and ensuring it remains accessible to the public and future generations is a vital goal for all memory institutions, as well as the public at large.

The World Day for Audiovisual Heritage (WDAH) provides an occasion to raise general awareness of the need to take urgent measures and to acknowledge the importance of audiovisual documents. It serves as an opportunity for Member States to evaluate their performance with respect to implementing the 2015 Recommendation Concerning the Preservation of, and Access to, Documentary Heritage, Including in Digital Form, and it promotes the free flow of ideas by word and image as a representation of our shared heritage and memory. In so doing, the Day highlights the role of heritage in building the defences of peace in people’s minds.

Through initiatives such as the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, the Memory of the World Programme, and UNESCO Archives project ‘Digitizing our shared UNESCO history’, the work of preservation professionals is encouraged, in order to manage the range of technical, political, social, financial and other factors that threaten the safeguarding of our audiovisual heritage.

The 33rd session of UNESCO’s General Conference adopted 33 C/Resolution 53 to proclaim October 27 as World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, in commemoration of the adoption, in 1980 by the 21st session of the General Conference, of the Recommendation for the Safeguarding and Preservation of Moving Images.

While the Recommendation has helped to raise awareness of the importance of our audiovisual heritage and has been instrumental in ensuring the preservation of this often unique testimony to economic, political and social development for future generations, more efforts are needed as audiovisual recordings are particularly vulnerable and require special attention for their long-term security. The anniversary of the adoption of the Recommendation is considered a timely opportunity to launch a movement in recognition of the benefits of the preservation of audiovisual heritage.

Sound recordings and moving images are extremely vulnerable as they can be quickly and deliberately destroyed. Essentially emblematic of the 20th century, our audiovisual heritage can be irretrievably lost as a result of neglect, natural decay and technological obsolescence. Public consciousness of the importance of preservation of these recordings must be engaged and the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage is intended to be the platform for building global awareness.

– Daily News Sri Lanka

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