Science, Culture, Education and Digital Technologies

In the incoming years, the global Internet network will replace the old switched telephone networks created by the former National PTT Administrations. The Internet is the result of the combined efforts of industrialists from around the world, which have been coordinated by international technical standardization bodies. This globalization standardization, orchestrated by the ITU, ISO, ICE, 3GPP, ETSI, to name only its main entities, was created by the whole of the global industry and for the benefit of this industry itself, with regulators judging only relevance to commercial treaties in force between states and state groups.

What is going to disappear in this transformation is the notions of public service and quality of service assessed, not according to the criteria devised by competent technicians, but by users of any category belonging to countries of all levels of Economic potential and also by users with any level of understanding of these new technologies. In principle, whether the user belongs to the category “Computers literates”, “Geeks”, “Digital beginners”, persons with disability, or that this user has, by birth or initial training, intuitive understanding of the operation of terminals, it “must” within a reasonable time, be able to take advantage of the facilities of the new generation networks that the Internet represents, as well as other accessories that can be connected to it.

However, we are far from complying all of this. In town and in professional circles, targeted paying training exists, but outside these circles is the desert. It must be admitted that seniors and people with disabilities face many difficulties in getting closer to the myth of the “Internet for all” so often mentioned in official meetings. More broadly, Information and Communication Technologies respond much more to the wishes of industrialists and major players in the Internet than the hopes of a fairly large proportion of the world’s population, which don’t belong to any system of representation in the circles of technical standardization. Indeed, it is not enough to post an instruction manual on one of the many sites of the Internet to solve the questions of ergonomics, since the first phase of the connection (access to the service) is never fully explained, either by the manufacturer or by the operator. In France, less than 25% of seniors are able to read and write an SMS (a 30-year standard). It is undoubtedly a precaution that published statistics never take into account the population over 65 years of age.

The question therefore arises, in France as elsewhere, of who might be able to respond to the most immediate training needs of connection or uses of ICT. This is a constant issue, given the continuing improvements of ICTs and the plurality implicitly accepted by the circles of standardization of the savant options of operating systems and original (or “intelligent”) profiles of the equipment interfaces.

It is now clear that the number of free services on Internet will decline as a result of the reduction in advertising revenue. It will therefore be necessary to turn to the organization which for a long time had advocated the creation of a global and free information network, in order to disseminate to all the merits and riches of Science, Culture, and Education. It is therefore UNESCO that the burden of sites helping access to ICT and the Internet, the training of local trainers through adapted services of free online training (Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOC) and to provide additional support to the regulatory bodies in terms of assistance to seniors and persons with disabilities.

Alone, and because this task is now within its perimeter of responsibility alongside the role that the industrialists have attributed to themselves, UNESCO can take charge of service tasks in all countries and for the benefit of all populations and quality of service needed to access to new digital technologies and to the Internet. This missing ring, in the chain of access to knowledge for all, can be set up quickly because UNESCO is undoubtedly the perfectly qualified body to play this role with independence and objectivity.

Vows that we form with conviction in the interest of all!

Daniel BATTU

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