Table of Contents

  • The spectacular growth of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has revolutionized the way people work, interact and conduct their daily lives. It has transformed the global economy and heralded a new and dynamic “information society”. But what are the real implications of this transformation? Greater security risks? Will access to information for everyone, everywhere really be achieved? In this context, this collection of “Visions of the Information Society” presents the perspectives of the developing and industrialized worlds, and zooms in on some of the major themes.

  • The vision of an information-enabled globally-connected, knowledge-based society is driven in large part by the smooth integration of new media—or what we call “information and communication technologies” (ICT)—with traditional media, combined with technical skill-sets, forward-looking government policies, an attitude of lifelong learning, and a desire to improve efficiencies and harness innovation in a humanely and environmentally sustainable manner.

  • The weaving together of digital networks and information with the social networks of the twenty-first century has very significant implications for all of us. No matter how we choose to define the ‘information society’, there are many unanswered questions about how, and the extent to which, we should promote developments that give an increasingly central place to the use of information and communication technologies in our lives. Regardless of whether we believe that today’s information societies are fundamentally new, or that they are simply an extension of certain features of existing societies, the global spread of networks means that there are major implications for those who can participate easily and effectively and for those who cannot.

  • Over the last century and a half, several new technology-based infrastructures have been created. They have been developed and used so extensively that they now partially characterize modern societies. Four of the most important infrastructures are built up around the core technologies of the internal combustion engine, aircraft, space flight, and radio and television. “Cyberspace”—defined as the Internet and other wide area networks based on computing and other information technologies (IT)—seems on its way towards becoming the latest such infrastructure. In little more than 30 years, cyberspace has become the locus of much value, notably in terms of information and money. Cyberspace can further be considered a means of passage, enabling extended personal and organizational presences and interactions. For a number of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries and global economic sectors, cyberspace has also become a locus for many systems that control and manage other more traditional infrastructures, such as those for banking and finance, emergency services, energy delivery, and many transportation and military systems. These computer communications networks are the underlying technological bases that will enable any and all “visions of the information society.”

  • Education is one of the main keys to economic development and improvements in human welfare. As global economic competition grows sharper, education becomes an important source of competitive advantage, closely linked to economic growth, and a way for countries to attract jobs and investment. In addition, education appears to be one of the key determinants of lifetime earnings. Countries therefore frequently see raising educational attainment as a way of tackling poverty and deprivation.

  • Much of the discourse surrounding the ‘Information Society’ is inadequate for developing a deeper understanding of this society and the role of information in it, because it assumes either that information is only now taking a central role in society, or that the social and economic changes currently being experienced are the inevitable consequences of new information technologies. In fact, information and communication have always been at the core of human society, and while technology is playing a role as catalyst, the true dynamics are much more complex.