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People's Empowerment in Information
and Communication Technology
Charles Leopold Mayer Foundation (FPH)
Publication date:
December 1998
Why this project?
Workings methods
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Charles L´┐Żopold Mayer Foundation
for the Progress of Humankind (FPH)

Project for an International Collective Book
and Call for Strategies for Tomorrow

December 1998

Table of contents

Why this project?


Working methods


- Top -

Project Coordination
Science, Technology, and Society Workshop

Alain His - [email protected]
Fran´┐Żoise Holtz-Bonneau - [email protected]
Charles L´┐Żopold Mayer Foundation
for the Progress of Humankind (FPH)
38, rue Saint-Sabin - F 75011 PARIS
T´┐Żl. : + 33(0)1 43 14 75 75
Fax : + 33(0)1 43 14 75 99

Why this project?

Science and technology occupy an increasingly important position in our different societies. The role and the value they are assigned contribute to shaping the development of humankind. In the area of technology, electronics, data processing, and telecommunications constitute what current usage designates by the overall appellation of (new) information and communication technology (N)ICT. The Charles L´┐Żopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind (FPH), which is concerned with these issues, is launching an international collective book project on the subject of people's empowerment in such technology. This latter, which is no longer really "new," but is distinct from the classic mass information media (printed press, radio, and television), plays a very determinating role, both today and for tomorrow: "information society" has become ordinary terminology. Most human activities - whether everyday or professional, at the local or the global level - are directly or indirectly involved in exchanging information and all kinds of data in the forms generalized by the development of information and communication technology, and are at the same time being changed by this activity.

They are signs, factors, and engines of tomorrow's society, and beyond the fascination that they exercise on their present users, the various manifestations of ICT can become privileged means for meeting the challenges of a society in mutation.

To play this determinating role, ICT needs to be considered, despite its complexity and the technological progress it represents, as a simple tool at the service of "people." There are choices to be made so that, whether it is used by individuals or groups, it can serve its users in active processes adapted to their own needs in information, training, and all kinds of activities.

This technology is most often considered through its various forms of use in a great variety of fields: their development is observed with curiosity as an anticipation of the future that they represent. The objective of this book will be to raise questions differently: What are the important problems of our time for which information and communication technology can be, or become, a tool to build a society of responsible and solidary men and women, in a sustainable world? The questions regarding the purpose of this technology and its corresponding tools must be asked by citizen-users themselves so that they themselves can determine the added value (or the modified value) that society can obtain from an appropriate use of information technology.

Controlled appropriation of information and communication technology is based on the active relationship between technology and people. This includes: control over the means, which should not only be imposed at the technological or economic level and the most relevant uses of which should be determined by the social dynamics; the learning and a critical awareness of these means, in all their phases - production, reception or exchange; and a cross-disciplinary approach (scientific, cultural, professional, geopolitical) to the questions raised. Considering ICT from this point of view, it is possible to contemplate methods for discussion, exchange, and participatory relationships aimed at supporting and developing social links through a conscious, critical, and controlled use of this technology.

In the framework of its work and action on the relationship between technological progress and human development, the Charles L´┐Żopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind proposes to coordinate the writing and publication of an international collective book on the overall topic of people's empowerment in information and communication technology. In association with this research and publication project, the FPH is also launching a call to the greatest variety of groups, for concrete proposals of action in favor of people's empowerment in ICT.

Alain His,
Fran´┐Żoise Holtz-Bonneau,
Project coordinators



  1. The World of Finance and Currency

  2. Governance and the Renewal of Democracy

  3. Culture and Communication

  4. Training for All

  5. North-South Cooperation and Sustainable Development

  6. Communication among People through the Tools


The World of Finance and Currency

The fast progress of information-processing technology has had an important impact on the tools, practices, and functioning of monetary systems and financial institutions. This change of scale in the management of the economy has introduced new methods in how trading is conducted, in currency-creation practices, and in the sovereignty of states and of world organizations.

  • In what way has the development of information processing and transmission through ICT led to radically new monetary and financial situations?
  • Should not the role of currency be expected to undergo deep mutations in the development of societies?
  • Are not new types of exchanges based on "parallel currencies" likely to be developed?
  • Who are the new acting parties in the national and international finance sector?
  • What are the implications of ICT use for individuals? What are these latter's expectations with regard finance professionals?
  • What is the fallout of ICT use on trade and industry? In what way can it contribute to improving how society works?


Governance and the Renewal of Democracy

Relations between citizens and public administrations and institutions, in rural or urban contexts, at the local or the world scale, have been modified by the development of information and communication technology (ICT).

Principles of active citizens' participation in the political life of their society can then contribute to a renewal of democracy and point to new forms of governance - in the sense of human society's capacity to give itself representatives, institutions, and other types of social processes to manage itself in a voluntary process.

  • How can an appropriate use ICT make it possible to avoid the top-down management of social problems that local authorities tend to develop?
  • What added value can information technology contribute through "citizens networks," federations of organization networks?
  • How can public or general-interest services appropriate specific ICT resources to improve relations between administrations and their constituents?
  • How and in what conditions are citizens able to master ICT in view of better participation in the life of their village, their city, and their region?
  • Are new forms of citizenship emerging through ICT empowerment and appropriation?
  • Can the use of this technology contribute to the construction of new forms of political organization, reinforce the construction of peace, and renew the practice of democracy?


Training for All

Relations between education and information technology are highly emphasized by the various media. The object of this topic is to discuss all training given outside of classic schooling, that could be given new impetus thanks to ICT use. The gap that ICT is often accused of deepening between opposite social and geopolitical sectors could be progressively closed through a reconsideration of training for all through information technology. New types of research should be conducted in view of establishing the suitability to social needs of the possibilities offered by ICT.

  • How can the development of ICT use support the struggle against illiteracy?
  • What new fields of training could find answers through an appropriate use of information and communication technology and what would those answers be?
  • What types of previous information is necessary to raise a desire for training among the social groups that have remained fairly unaffected by classic education?
  • How can the problems be defined economically, politically, psychologically, and socially for alternative training to be developed?


Culture and Communication

The access of all to culture - in particular the culture of geographical, social, and cultural minorities - the respect and the development of cultural diversity, communication among cultures, all these concerns can find new answers through information and communication technology. Furthermore, new styles of expression and creation, revealed by an appropriation of ICT, allows artists and artistic or cultural groups to escape the simplification of culture caused by globalization.

  • Can the access of all to culture be encouraged by the development of information and communication technology, and how?
  • Can the expression of social, geographical, or cultural minorities be encouraged by the development of ICT, and in what conditions?
  • Will intercultural fabrics be woven through an innovative use of information and communication technology?
  • Does social and cultural expression through ICT enable the emergence of economic activities parallel to the market sector?
  • What artistic innovations can creators (literary, graphic and plastic artists, composers, etc.) draw from the possibilities of these new tools?
  • Are new forms of culture in the making? What qualitative value added do they bring? Who are the new actors? Who are the new audiences?


North-South Cooperation and Sustainable Development

Far from widening the gap between the countries of the North and the countries of the South, between industrially developed countries and countries with "emerging" economies, information and communication technology, if mastered at the ground level by the social, economic, or cultural groups themselves, can become a lever for sustainable development. Certainly, the development of the countries of the South depends on quantitative data, such as the access to plentiful capital. But a certain generalization of ICT can enable, in a more qualitative way (the circulation of raw information, experiences, etc.), the establishment of the political and social conditions that will favor the granting of financial aid at the service of development.

  • What cooperation methods between the North and the South can be implemented on the basis of the possibilities offered by ICT?
  • What political, social, and economic means need to be developed so that globalization, including the globalization of information technology, does not increase the gap between the countries of the North and the countries of the South?
  • What should be done for the ICT, similarly to what is happening in Central and South America, to become active factors of social and economic development?
  • How can the dissemination and appropriation of ICT be an active factor of sustainable development in emerging countries?
  • How can the appropriation of ICT in the countries of the South contribute to a better use of this technology in the more developed countries?


Communication among People through the Tools

An extended use of the technology of electronics is fundamental in the evolution of social life and practices. Far from neutral, this technology has impacts on the very structure of human organizations of all natures. They are therefore a change factor in the activities, behavior, and relations among people.

  • What are the characteristic features of relations among people through the electronic machines in the fields of communication and information? What teachings can we draw from the features of these interactions regarding the ability of tools to meet users' expectations? What can be expected of the development of tools?
  • So that users can appropriate these tools according to their know-how and their uses, what recommendations can be proposed in view of their ergonomic, functional, and social improvement?
  • What are the impacts of the use of these tools on the nature and the organization of the information that people are going to exchange among themselves?
  • With these tools, how does communication between people and their culture contribute to the construction of a more human world?


Working Methods

One of objectives of the international collective project "People's Empowerment in Information and Communication Technology" is to enable, on the proposed topics, an intercultural expression, founded on experiences in their geographical and social diversity, all to be put together and published in three languages (French, English, and Spanish). On the basis of these same topics, this will also be the opportunity to develop and support intervention strategies in the same direction.

The different partners participate in the project on a volunteer basis. Their role is to serve as relays to people and entities which they consider to correspond, in their experience and competence, to the general objectives of the project, its main topics, and its process of development.

Partnership is being considered on a triple geographic focus (South America and the Caribbean, North America, and Europe). We hope to be able to extend it to other areas, such as Africa or Asia.

The FPH is to act as coordinator among the different partners for each of the working stages. These latter are presented as an indication and for purposes of consistency: they can be adjusted, or even modified, on suggestion from the various partners.



Three stages are proposed to the various partners of the project

74? Initial contacts with people interested in the project.

Precision in the definition of the project and topics.
People interested in the main initial topics offer their opinions and information or thoughts on the topics proposed: this way, precision, developments, and modifications can contribute to the definition of the project and the various previously proposed topics.
At the outcome of this stage (March 1999),
  • relay-persons as well as the people or institutions that are going to cooperate with them on one or several topics are distinctly identified;
  • the various development lines for the topics are determined and distributed among the partners.

75? Development and exchanges of contributions

Each of the partners, together with their correspondents, produce the texts that will serve as a basis for a twofold confrontation: per topic, then cross-topic (to ensure a balance of the whole). This phase includes exchanges among the authors as well as general adjustments, so that the collected elements can constitute publishing material.
At the outcome of this stage (June 1999),
all contributions are in their final draft form.

76? Final organization of the texts

The FPH is in charge of coordination of this last stage: the different elements are organized into several parts, in keeping with the results of stage 2. FPH coordination is in charge of the general presentation of the document (title, subtitles, headings, introductory texts). The compilation is edited and published in three languages (French, English, and Spanish), then distributed according to methods to be considered.
Final stage (publication): November 1999.
During the period of consideration and development of the project, the project coordination team will solicit, receive, examine, and support concrete strategies proposed either by partners of the editorial project, or by other people or groups involved in similar objectives.

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