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Information, Knowledge and politics of technological development

In a recent article of Miriam Meckel commenting on the information and communication behaviour of the pope in the williamson affair I found a great quote of Marice Curie: “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”

On March 12th the Internet celebrated its 20th birthday and Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the Internet, gave a speech at the TED conference 2009 in February about the future development of the Internet and the way it is used. He sees the web of the future as a web of data, that is connected and combined by the users in the way he/she needs it. Data is the source of the web. But the usage of data has two pre-conditions.

  1. The data must be made available and
  2. Users have to able to make use of the information.

These two requirements share one common fundament. Knowledge about the use of data and information about what is happening with the provided data. Especially the last point is creating a lot of negative and denying opinions about the web and the stored data. One current example is the public information about the introduction of internet voting in Austria. The same is repeatedly valid regarding the services of Google and other service providers on the internet. Most of these opinions are relying on wrong or missing information.

This brings me back to the quote of Marie Curie. To understand technology information is required, but we must be able to attain information and generate knowledge out of it. The internet allows us, the users, to get information by ourselfs. Consequently it could increase the independence of each individual and could change the public sphere (as Habermas described it). The vision of the internet should still be the self-informing individual accessing various information and knowledge. But information and knowledge in the internet are some sort of data, that was made available by other individuals.

Therefore we first have to make data available. There is not a single source of information, each participants is one. Each word in blogs, each presentation, each piece of music is a part of the this data web, that Tim Berners-Lee envisions as the future. The users ask questions about security of personal and business data, its usage and the control of it. Most mistakes with information on the web results of lacking knowledge about these important question. Data needs to be secured and available at the same time. This is the challenge of the collaborative web. One possible solution for bridging this gap of knowledge seems for me the political or public institutions. The task is information and certain common rules. This solution has three cornerstones.

  1. Education and information of citizens, especially the following young generations
  2. Common accepted and implemented regulations on copyright and re-use of provided data
  3. A political environment capable of early adopting technology and willing to shape its development

A global system of minimal copyrights could be the first step to open and secure data exchange, but this should not require a user to consult a copyright lawyer. Creative Commons is one great solution for this challenge and it should be used for any data provided on the internet.

Education is in most countries a task of national or regional authorities. Todays education must include media education. Helping yound people to deal with new technology and make use of it instead of not understanding and fearing it. This also requires teachers capable of providing this information.

A political symbol could be the installation of a high-ranked representative for media and information and communication technology. Almost every government has a member responsible for agriculture or education, but in many administration an authority for information and communication technology is missing. This could enable the providing of information and knowledge on new technology, reduce the fear through understanding and shape the development of technology according to social, civil and political requirements.

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