Knowledge without borders

We live in a knowledge economy. But how can we ensure that the world reaps all its benefits, and that they are fairly shared?

Today, information can be gathered and diffused on a global scale, bringing with it countless opportunities, but also fear and frustration, with many people worrying that they are being left behind.

So, can we speak of an information technology (IT) revolution? In the wake of the painful series of collapses and the plummeting share prices of many leading technology corporations, it has become all too clear that technology alone will not suffice to ensure economic success. The true source of competitiveness and the key to improving human welfare is knowledge.

But how can we define and promote the knowledge which is needed to succeed in the 21 st century global economy? There is no standard answer, but certainly it cannot be achieved through command and control. Policymakers and businesses must together foster institutions and incentives for developing, diffusing and using knowledge throughout society.

How can nations and businesses reap the benefits of the knowledge revolution? What are the ethical bases for a knowledge-based economy? How can we identify best practices in knowledge-based corporations or policy strategies? How can we bring together the best brains around the world in a particular field? These are just some of the questions that the World Knowledge Forum to be held in Korea in October will attempt to answer.

“We aim to discuss what potentials we can realise by using knowledge. More realistic issues, such as value creation, leadership, learning and technology are the main topics,” says Dae Whan Chang, executive chair of the WKF. Dr Chang is also president of Maeil Business Newspaper & TV, Korea’s leading business information provider, which is organising the WKF event, the second of its kind. This year’s theme is “Drawing a Roadmap for the Knowledge Economy and Global Prosperity”.

The OECD’s recently completed two-year study of the effects of IT and other “new factors” on economic growth noted the importance of knowledge sharing, a key topic of the WKF. The OECD is a knowledge partner of the event and OECD secretary-general Donald Johnston will speak for the second consecutive year, along with figures such as incoming World Trade Organization director-general, Panichipakdi Supachai, and secretary general of the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD, Bruno Lamborghini.

The WKF will bring together key actors and stakeholders for a structured debate on how to capture the major opportunities of our time while trying to overcome the hurdles that curtail their potential, and risk limiting the benefits to the favoured few. It aims to be inclusive, with representation from small enterprises and poor countries as well as representatives from big business and academia, and to present an innovative format and set-up while focusing on the key issues which are essential for constructive progress.

©OECD Observer No 228, September 2001

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