Kronberg Declaration: Knowledge acquisition is changing radically

UNESCO has released an important assessment of the nature of knowledge acquisition in our technologically-mediated age. The“Kronberg Declaration on the Future of Knowledge Acquisition and Sharing” (PDF) recognizes that…

  • Knowledge is the key to social and economic development;
  • Creation, acquisition and sharing of knowledge have been going through dramatic changes because of rapidly emerging new information and communication technologies (ICT) and the societal transformations that they generate;
  • New approaches are needed to bridge international knowledge gaps while ensuring cultural and linguistic diversity;
  • The Internet and new education technologies provide manifold opportunities for all;
  • There is a need to continuously harness new technologies and processes to develop knowledge societies that are people-centered, inclusive and development oriented.

…and it goes on to suggest political and structural changes that are needed to improve knowledge acquisition and sharing, including:

  • The impact of technology on the evolution of knowledge societies;
  • The concept of universal “knowledge norms”;
  • The impact of emerging technologies on models of knowledge acquisition;
  • The future role of classical knowledge acquisition structures including those of teachers/trainers;
  • The role of public-private partnerships in knowledge acquisition and sharing;

The declaration includes a multitude of other areas that need to be focused on, ranging from “Develop long-term strategies to efficiently harness the enormous potential of new communication and information processes and technologies for developing new approaches to knowledge acquisition and sharing” to “Preserve mother-tongue languages while encouraging competencies in one or more global languages” to “Promote user-friendly ICT applications to make knowledge acquisition and sharing available to everybody anywhere and anytime.”

One focus area that is missing involves the increased ability to track, capture, and aggregate people’s knowledge acquisition activities through technological means. Our technological world has largely moved us beyond sole reliance on oral or written transmission of knowledge to an increasingly digital mode of knowledge acquisition. I no longer visit the local library to read up on a subject; instead, I Google it. More efficient? Yes. Access to more sources and opinions? Yes. But this also means the ability to track the knowledge I hope to acquire has increased significantly as well. (I could spend the whole day in the local library and no one would necessarily know I was there, who I am, and what books I happen to browse from the shelves. When I search Google, it is much easier for them to know all those items.) This relates to some of the privacy concerns latent within the access to knowledge framework, something which needs to be further explored.

This absence notwithstanding, this is an important declaration and I agree with its framers that “leaders in the public and private sectors must embrace change in organizations and people by providing opportunities and incentives to facilitate and motivate, as well as to overcome typical barriers in knowledge acquisition and sharing.”

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