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Sustainable Development and Information Society, from Rio to Geneva

jeudi 6 novembre 2003, par LONGET René


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"Engeneering the Knowledge Society"

"Information technology supporting human development"

Abstract

Our world is facing very strong challenges and needs :

  • Globalisation divides as well as it unites the world
  • The natural resources and heritage are to be preserved for the purposes of the whole mankind and for the coming generations, and cannot be reserved to a minority and for the needs of the present time only.
  • Equity in access of these resources is to be established among humans.

A better world is not only possible, it is absolutely necessary. The World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in September 02 in Johannesburg, called strongly for "fundamental changes in the way societies produce and consume". We must use our technological, scientifical, social, administrative capacities to face the needs of billions of people staying behind, to manage in a sustainable way the natural resources. We all know these necessities. But why are our actions so shy, so slow, si tiny ?

This is the real question, and this question leads us to our personal responsability. Today we discuss about the possibilities and the issues of the Information Society, i.e. one society with very dense, very efficient connexions between its members. My question is to ask ourselves : are we sure to contribute to narrowing the gap between what should be done on earth or will our technology contribute to widen it ? This is the fundamental question underlying this Summit. The only answer is to think about the needs of our time and prevent misemployment of new technologies. Sustainability gives us a goal for the introduction and the use of new technologies.

Sustainability asks for public awareness, capacity building, education (and not global soap opera), free exchange of information and opinion, monitoring, ethical guidance, social justice in access to information and tools, to define limits of abuse also. Every new possibility opening to mankind is morally acceptable only if we get closer to solutions and humanity. In all other cases we have to oppose to it. So the issue is to discuss about the regulations on diffusion, use and production of informations and information technologies. The lesson of our recent history is clear : first we shall have the question (the needs of humanity) and only in a second time the answer (the new technology). Too often we have practized in the other way. The central question is to ensure the good use of each new means we give to ourselves.

Biography

René Longet is born in Geneva in 1951. He achieved the grade of "Licence en lettres" at the University of Geneva. He was engaged in education, politics and publications. Since 2001 he is President of Equiterre, a Swiss NGO whose purpose is the promotion of sustainibility in society and politics. He was member of the Swiss Delegation at the World Summit on Sustainable Development hold in Johannesburg in 2002, and is member of many committes and boards, such the steering committe of the Centre for Technology Assessment at the Swiss Science and Technology Council. He is also Mayor of the city of Onex nearby Geneva (17’000 inhabitants) and has contributed to many publications within the field of sustainability.

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