November 2007

The well-being of people

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Social and economic inclusion and well being, is the primary capacity that enables citizens to lead quality lives and partake in the processes of development. It also empowers the people to oppose social oppression and prejudice. In fact many a theorists have claimed 'economic class' to be the single most important parameter that defines, even if it overlaps with certain other parameters (in cases like caste), the performance of an individual on all other parameters. The opportunities available for a person to lead a decent life are directly proportional to the class s/he comes from. There are optimistic messages from the proponents of the “knowledge society” which see technology enabling civic education and the flattening of access structures to basic health  services, quality education, employment opportunities, and government to citizen services. The institutionalisation of such an ecosystem is the underlying challenge for the knowledge society.

One of the most important dimensions of the new information society is predicted to be the availability of learning to every citizen, both qualitatively, and by the standards of employability. It also encompasses the idea of lifelong civic education, where the citizens can be reached by the governments, and the notion of a citizen can gain prominence vis-a-vis other forms of identities. Consequently there needs to be much research on learning environments that can bypass the obstacles of traditional education systems which leave many citizens illiterate. Issues of language,and design become very important in this regard. However, any learning systems, environments, and ICT enhanced education scenarios, cannot be made available to the masses without an infrastructure background.

The village knowledge hub initiatives around the world are trying to close the drastic 'digital divide'. There is also the need to pay attention to the various divides like, the age divide, the cognitive divide, and the economic divide wherein the full potentialities offered by ICTs are at a premium, and there is already a hierarchy building up in the virtual world, to mirror the real world, so to speak. There is also a need to make the new technologies more friendly towards differently-abled people. Special educational material, customised hardware solutions, and skill training is needed to include these people in the information paradigm. New communication technologies are also revolutionising the access to knowledge. There are movements to support open publishing, and a commons philosophy.

Media is also undergoing systemic transformations in the new era. New media technologies are forever changing the face of news production and dissemination.The networking capabilities of the new technologies can be harnessed for local network building, for increasing the bargaining power of the concerned communities. It is also hoped, that the new social formations, assisted by ICTs will be able to fight sectarianism and identities based on religion and gender to pave the way for more equity. This issue of i4d looks into some of the aspects under the umbrella of 'Emerging people'.

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