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Global Knowledge Conference Begins in Malaysia

The Global Knowledge Conference II (GKII) is set to begin today in Kuala Lumpur, with some 1,000 people, representing the public and private sectors, expected to attend. The conference will focus on three critical challenges developing countries and the world’s poor face as they seek to build knowledge societies in the 21st century: access, empowerment, and governance.

The conference follows in the footsteps of its successful predecessor, GK’97, which convened in Toronto, Canada, three summers ago. Some 2,000 people from 144 countries participated, and a unique network known as the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP) emerged from that meeting. GKP members already are working in partnership on initiatives that bring greater access to information and technology, empower people, and promote better governance.

While the “digital divide” grows daily, GKP members—which include the World Bank, along with organizations such as the African Development Bank, the British Council, Cisco Systems, the government of Malaysia, Dell Computer Corporation, UNDP, CIDA, and many others—are working together to build bridges to span the divide, and eventually close it. The partnership was founded on the belief that given the chance to take advantage of the information revolution, people can improve their economic well-being and empower themselves and their communities to participate in their own development.

GKII offers an opportunity for the partners to formulate concrete plans that will help to bridge the divide. “One of our great hopes for GKII is to work out an action plan for promoting knowledge for development initiatives, that GKP member organizations from both developed and developing countries can work together to implement over the next few years,” says Joan Hubbard, coordinator of the GKP Secretariat.

Tengku Mohd Azzman Shariffadeen, secretary of Malaysia’s National Information Technology Council, echoes Hubbard’s view. “Our hope is that at GKII, participants will share an ideal of the information age and what it will bring to the knowledge for development agenda,” he says. “That it (GKII) will showcase...solutions from around the world, provide a place where learning takes place, lasting partnerships are forged, diversity is celebrated and respected, and unity in purpose exists.”

The GKP holds enormous potential for making a real difference to the knowledge for development agenda by pulling together some powerful partnerships, according to Lesley Simmons, communications officer with the GKP Secretariat. The potential partnerships are “not just between governments and international organizations, or between civil society and private sector, but partnerships of all the players....the private and public sectors, academia, the media, NGOs, youth groups, and many more. Such partnership can bring about the innovations that make a real difference on the ground,” she says.

The World Bank has played a significant role in the Global Knowledge Partnership. Since the GKP’s establishment at Toronto’s GK’97, the Bank has supported the secretariat through the World Bank Institute. Apart from its secretariat responsibilities, the Bank is pursuing the “knowledge for development” agenda with members of the GKP in a number of areas, including through WBI’s Knowledge for Development course and through country-specific advisory work.

According to Philip Karp, manager of WBI’s Knowledge Products and Outreach group, as well as manager of the GKP Secretariat, the purpose of these programs is to help prepare countries for the knowledge economy. “As a result of increasing globalization and the rapid pace of technological change, knowledge has become a critical determinant of competitiveness in today’s world. As we move into the 21st century, the knowledge imperative will become even more acute,” says Karp. “A key role of the GKP is to help countries understand and prepare for these changes.”

World Bank President James Wolfensohn will deliver the welcome address to GKII attendees via videoconference. Highlights of the conference include a media forum, at which selected journalists will discuss the media’s role in promoting knowledge for development, as well as a women’s forum and a youth forum. Participants in GKII can also look forward to study visits to locales as diverse as Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor, the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute, the “paperless” Selayang Hospital, which integrates clinical, administrative, and financial management, and the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia experiment station.

Helpful links: For more information visit the conference website at www.globalknowledge.org.my.

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