Cultural diversity

Publications and Studies

Towards knowledge societies—UNESCO World Report

UNESCO, Éditions UNESCO, Paris-France, 232 pages, November 3, 2005 – 2005/11/03

During the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS-II) in Tunis on November 3, UNESCO director-general Koichiro Matsuura released a UNESCO World Report entitled Towards knowledge societies.

An international team of leading experts and intellectuals contributed to the World Report. It argues in favor of societies that are able to integrate all their members and promote new forms of solidarity involving present and future generations. Nobody, it states, should be excluded from knowledge societies, where knowledge is a public good, available to each and every individual. Knowledge societies, the authors stress, are not to be confused with information societies. Knowledge societies contribute to the well-being of individuals and communities, and encompass social, ethical, and political dimensions. Information societies, on the other hand, are based on technological breakthroughs that risk providing little more than “a mass of indistinct data” for those who don’t have the skills to benefit from it.

The Report concludes that the international community, including governments, international governmental and non-governmental organizations, and the private sector, should focus on three sets of initiatives that could be viewed as the pillars on which genuine knowledge societies for all can be built: a better valuation of existing forms of knowledge to narrow the knowledge divide, a more participatory approach to access to knowledge, and a better integration of knowledge policies.

In light of the observations contained in the Report and of the possibilities for reflection and action that it explores, UNESCO calls the attention of the international community to the need to implement the following recommendations, which highlight the ethical dimension of knowledge societies and propose specific initiatives to spur their growth:


  • Invest more in quality education for all to ensure equal opportunity
  • Increase places of community access to information and communication technologies
  • Widen the content available for universal access to knowledge
  • Develop collaboratories: towards better scientific knowledge sharing
  • Share environmental knowledge for sustainable development
  • Make linguistic diversity a priority: the challenges of multilingualism
  • Move towards knowledge certification on the Internet
  • Step up the creation of partnerships for digital solidarity
  • Increase women’s contribution to knowledge societies
  • Measure knowledge: towards knowledge society indicators