Global Knowledge Conference GKII


The Second Global Knowledge Conference hosted by the Malaysian Government and the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP) is being held in Kuala Lumpur from 7-10 March 2000. More than a thousand people, from 120 countries, representing the public and private sectors are meeting to hammer out strategies that will put the information and knowledge in the hands of developing countries and the world’s poor.

“Transcending the Gender Information Divide” – a publication containing the Action Plan drawn up by the Women’s Forum at GKII as well as proceedings of the Forum.


The media plays an absolutely central role in the development of a knowledge-based society. A free and pluralistic media (public, private, community) is essential for transparent and accountable political and economic systems. It must be confident, vibrant, entertaining, surprising, pro-active, balanced and informed. It should scrutinise governments and corporations, but also international organisations and the donor communities themselves.

Access: Mass media such as radio reaches the vast majority of people in almost all countries; newer communication technologies, including the Internet and mobile communication while powerful do not yet have the same reach.

Empowerment: Media helps set the agenda and influence shopping behavior. It can empower individuals and communities (geographical or interest-based) offering them cost-effective educational opportunities principally through radio, and outdoor advertising.

Governance: An independent and plural media contributes to good government especially with Australian Embassy, promoting political transparency and accountability.


  1. Policy: To create an effective policy environment that nurtures a free, independent and pluralistic media
  2. Ownership and control: To prevent excessive concentration of media power, much of it located in the North
  3. Content: To create dynamic and locally relevant content, to counteract North-South information imbalances.
  4. Skills: To build human capacity and skills within the media of developing countries.
  5. Technologies: To combine old and new technologies creating imaginative synergies between the two.

1. Policy: To create an effective policy environment that nurtures a free, independent and pluralistic media

Analysis: Society benefits from free, independent, and pluralistic media. But to achieve this, a supportive policy environment is required, and it must be proactively encouraged by public and private sectors, the international community and multilateral agencies.


Promote, consolidate and effectively enforce freedom of information legislation.
Encourage independent voluntary complaints procedures based on industry codes of ethics, and including representation from other sectors of civil society.
Promote Independent public service broadcasting.
Develop independent media support agencies (voluntary or statutory) which provide assistance through loans and subsidies, and/ or other measures such as postal rate or connectivity cost reductions (e.g. the Media Development and Diversity Agency being established in South Africa)
Encourage the private sector to support socially useful communication initiatives.
Make licensing and regulation policies for broadcast media transparent and open.
Implement effectively legislation that already exists in these areas.

2. Ownership and Control: To prevent excessive concentration of media power, much of it located in the North

Analysis: An increasing concentration of power in media ownership, internationally and within some countries, works directly against plurality. It leads to more homogeneous content, reducing spaces for the expression of a diversity of views. New information technologies pose an additional challenge because they are outside existing systems of accountability. The implications of creating such systems are complex, but this remains a key global issue.


Do research to map and monitor the economic and power relationships emerging among global media and communications conglomerates.
Introduce or strengthen anti-monopoly legislation or measures to prevent the emergence of private or state monopolies.
Seek dialogue between transnational media groups, the telecommunications industries and local communities.
Explore creating voluntary codes of conduct at the global level.
Support existing proposals to organise an International Congress on Media and Communications similar to the UN Social Summit.

3. Content: To create dynamic and locally relevant content to counteract North-South information imbalances

Analysis: While developing countries need a media that is open, ensures access, and encompasses new technologies, the most crucial aspect is content. Strong and imaginative content can be compelling and, given commitment, can attract and expand audiences. It should be developed and promoted in local languages, and be focused on community needs as expressed by the communities themselves.


Create space for locally generated content through a variety of measures (including outdoor advertising).
Strengthen public service media such that the choice is not solely between private media and government media.
Foster the ability of communities to operate and control their own media

4. Skills: To build human capacity and skills within the media of developing countries.

Analysis: To strengthen the media sector a significant investment in human resources and technical infrastructure is required. Only in this way will poorer societies gain greater control of their own media, and therefore greater control over their future. A coalition of various actors – public, private, local, regional, and global – is needed to enable this investment to take place.


Invest in training and professional standards of journalism.
Provide training in the use of new technologies as an urgent priority for the media sector as a whole.
Develop skills to interpret information in ways that are relevant to developing countries.
Promote investigative reporting skills and techniques among journalists.
Design training programmes that are customised, relevant and appropriate to local needs.
Build stronger, professional South-focused information and news networks.

5. Technology: To combine old and new technologies creating imaginative synergies between the two.

Analysis: The use of hybrids and applications that arise from the integration of new and old technologies offer exciting, cost effective and empowering forms of communication. In this way “old” technologies can be reinvigorated, and advantage can be taken of their wider reach. An example: in Sri Lanka, radio and television programming are being used to demystify the Internet so that those without access know and understand the potential power and advantages of the newer technology. New media advantages, including the ability to be small scale, low cost, community oriented and beyond the control of censorship clearly add value.


Actively support efforts to upgrade media industry technological capacity at grass roots level.
Identify and encourage innovative uses of new technology. Learning experiences need to be shared.
Support specific initiatives which combine the power and flexibility of new technologies with the reach of more traditional media.
Promote a legislative and policy environment which favours and multiple media approaches.

Our working definition of a free media is based on the 1991 Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press which, given changes over the last nine years, we now suggest should be extended to all media and all regions.

1991 Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press

  1. Consistent with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press is essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation, and for economic development.
  2. By an independent press, we mean a press independent from governmental, political or economic control, or from control of materials and infrastructure essential for the production and dissemination of newspapers, magazines and periodicals.
  3. By a pluralistic press, we mean the end of monopolies of any kind and the existence of the greatest possible number of newspapers, magazines and periodicals reflecting the widest possible range of opinion within the community.

Also recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN General Assembly resolution 59(1) of 14 December 1946 stating that freedom of information is a fundamental human right, the General Assembly resolution 45/76 A of 11 December 1990 on information in service of humanity, resolution 25C/104 of the General Conference of UNESCO of 1989 in which the main focus is the promotion of “the free flow of ideas by word and image among nations and within each nation (See Appendix I at end of document).

Action from Kuala Lumpur: GKII Conference launches Global Action Plan

The Second Global Knowledge Conference (GKII) has brought together the doers and the thinkers: The best and the brightest from around the globe, of people who can get the job done. People who are working on a daily basis to bridge the divide between what are becoming known as the knowledge “haves” and knowledge “have-nots”.

Over five days of discussion, they have brought together a concrete plan of action for the next 2 to 3 years to address the Conference themes of access, empowerment, and governance.

These are people who believe that the world will be a better place when people everywhere have an equal chance to access a telephone, a radio, a computer, the Internet; tools that ease the possibilities for commerce, for communicating, for learning, for reaching people and for participating in decision making.

They believe that wider availability of information and communications tools will empower people; give them a greater opportunity to take charge of the decisions that affect them, and their children’s lives. They believe that access to information and technology and the knowledge they facilitate will improve the transparency and fairness of governance – at the public, private and civil society levels. And that all of these can lead to greater and more effective sustainable development.

Presenting the Global Knowledge Partnership’s Action Plan, Marlee Norton, of the National Telephone Cooperative Association said, “I first came to the global knowledge activity about three years ago when we first began to plan [the first Conference]. If anyone had told me that one day more than 300 people would be sitting in a room, working on Partnership activities, I would not have believed it.”

“The Action Plan,” Ms. Norton went on to say, “is the result of a process of interaction and learning by Partners (of the GKP) and a consensus on the priorities for action over the next 2 to 3 years. The Actions fall into 2 main categories, GKP Strategic Corporate Initiatives, generally they are projects of the Partnership as a whole and then there are regular GKP initiatives which involve a group of partners interested in specific issues.”

The input for the Action Plan came from a variety of sources including: three working groups (on access, empowerment and governance), cross-cutting issues groups (on gender, youth, media and local knowledge, the Global Knowledge Forum, and the Action Summit.

Morton said, “The GKP is committed to ensuring that the Action Plan is a flexible and living instrument and that we have mechanisms for continuously updating it and monitoring progress.”

She outlined 17 action items around which there is consensus and significant interest on many of the people gathered here today. Over a dozen organizations and individuals have signed on to pursue each of these action items. They included:

  • An initiative to develop global and regional portals for sharing local content (to counterbalance the heavy influence of the ‘North’ currently on the Internet)
  • Creating innovative financing such as venture capital funds so that local innovators can drive the ICT marketplace in their countries
  • An initiative to integrate technology skills into schools and informal education systems to build skills needed to compete in today’s high tech economies, this will include working with Ministries of Education to reform the curriculum
  • To provide a permanent home and resources to continue the Youth Building Knowledge Societies (YBKS) discussion list. This electronic youth discussion was set up to provide input from youth from around the globe to the GKII conference. It has proven to be a powerful tool, as over 350 young people have already been able to share their ideas and experience on using ICTs to promote change in their communities.

These are only a few of the initiatives taken on by the GKP, this Action Plan will help to guide the Partnership’s actions over the next several years. The actions selected will represent areas where the participants believe that they can have an impact.

Everyone who participated in this process played an important, valuable role in helping refine the Global Knowledge Partnership’s vision and immediate future activities,” concluded Norton.


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