|Latin America 2007
|ICTs – a magnet to improve society
|Arq. Carlos Lisandro Salas
|Secretary of Communications, Ministry of Federal Planning, Public Investment and Services
Arq. Carlos Lisandro Salas, Secretary of Communications, Ministry of Federal Planning, Public Investment and Services, Argentina
The sum of human knowledge is now doubling faster than once every five years. If knowledge accumulation continues to accelerate at the same rate, by 2020 knowledge will double every 73 days. The World Wide Web and its successor – the Semantic Web – are our best hopes to control and effectively use this growing hoard of information. Traditional educational systems cannot cope with this increase in knowledge. Lifelong education, most likely delivered over the Web, might well be the best solution.
The study of chaos theory applied to ICTs and education provides a new vision and a new answer to the challenges arising within the globalised world, and establishes a methodology to face the differences imposed by digital division. We live in a complex world, where humankindís knowledge has grown exponentially and historical cycles have undergone an accelerated change. Appleberry explains that, considering the beginning of the Christian era as a starting point, the total sum of humankindís knowledge doubled in different periods, as follows: the first time in 1750 ; from 1750 to 1900; from 1900 to 1950; 1950 to 1960; and, from 1960 to 1965. Taking into account this reduction in the time of duplication, it is likely that the total amount of human knowledge has doubled at least every five years since then. Thus, projections for the year 2020 establish that knowledge might be doubled every 73 days. It is important to note that 2020 is only 13 years away; in education, this is a very short period. Knowledge explosion, accelerated by the impact of ICT, has an impact upon education proportional to the increase in the number of subjects or knowledge areas, which implies, in turn, the need to adopt a model of continuous education in order to enhance its applicability to real situations. An example of the difficulty derived from such a vast amount of knowledge can be seen in the various curricular strategies, such as the organization in modules instead of the inclusion of an unlimited number of subjects. Many strategies can be applied to face this problem, but they are failing one after the other or, in the best case, they are being applied but cannot satisfy societyís expectations regarding success in the economic field. Every dollar badly spent in education creates a chaotic distortion in the system, speeds the exclusion curve and exacerbates the lack of opportunities affecting many people, governments and countries. Educational management must focus on giving an answer to this continuous change using ICTs. Educational management can be defined basically, and for introductory purposes, as a study field under construction; thus, we may say that, as a discipline, it has been recently developed. Therefore, it has a low level of specificity and structuring. According to Cassasus, as it is still seeking its identity and is considered a rather new discipline, it implies an interesting relationship between theory and practice. This first approach to the concept of educational management implies a theory based upon praxiology derived from the evolution of management theories and administrative practices applied and developed in the field of education. Now then, this initial concept of management is enough to demonstrate that the system is not prepared to face chaos. We live in a globalised world, and an educational decision taken by an Asian country will affect Latin America directly because it will determine the strengths and weaknesses we will have to compete with in the future. The impact of ICTs upon education has changed the way we teach and impart knowledge to humankind; the application of ICT to learning is also changing our historical sense of knowledge flow. Today, knowledge must look for the learner, instead of expecting the learner to look for knowledge The first lesson of the global village is to understand that the change is continuous. If you donít understand chaos, you donít understand human evolution or the way to manage the stream of knowledge that grows at high speed. We are living in an exciting point in mankindís history; 95 per cent of all scientists that have ever lived throughout the ages are alive and among us today. ICTs give us access on a scale never before possible to the wealth of knowledge these scientists generate, and the Information Society gives us the opportunity to make use of it personally, professionally and for the betterment of society. The Semantic Web We need to define the transition to the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web extends the world wide web by coding and identifying and defining web content in a format easily ëunderstoodí by software agents, so the content can be logically linked to provide specific answers to questions. Todayís popular search engines, which bring hundreds of thousands of sites as an answer, will no longer exist. Search engines using the Semantic Web will be capable of refining their searches and providing the result we are looking for, not just a vast number of possible answers. With the Semantic Web, a common infrastructure that allows sharing, processing and transforming information in a simple way will resolve many common search problems. This extended web, based on the meaning, solves the problems inherent in the original webís design, which was more concerned with formatting information for display than understanding it, making it difficult to find the information one is looking for. ICTs have really changed the way in which human beings communicate, study, help, love, do business or simply entertain. The world has become a smaller place in which every destination is only a click away. Today we can affordably, or even free of cost, communicate with any part of the world at any moment. Trade over the Internet increases each year, generating new opportunities and new risks, to which people, countries, societies, companies and nations struggle to adapt. Day after day we find and perhaps buy new products on the world wide web no matter where they are located or what language they speak, thereby fostering communication and productivity among people the world over. All these factors have contributed to a new vision about the webís value, its potential as a tool for economic and social inclusion and its influence upon the growth of regional economies. The webís undoubted strengths, though, are often among its faults. This powerful technology also has its problems. We face a serious overdose of data; there is much more than we can efficiently deal with, and there are innumerable compatibility problems between data from different sources with different formats as well as between applications that cannot ëspeakí with one another from different sources and platforms. The Semantic Web helps resolve these two serious problems. It facilitates the userís web experience by delegating many tasks to the software. Also, transforming content by adding semantic data – data that identifies the type of content – and moving to Web 3.0 model, facilitates logic searching and provides more pertinent and productive results. The resulting increase in efficiency and productivity these new technologies bring should provide a rapid return on the investment involved. The Semantic Web, by quickly and efficiently directing users to pertinent information, might well prove to be the best and most efficient tool educators have ever had and one of the most effective ways to bridge the digital divide and promote social and economic inclusion. A strong partnership between companies and universities can help achieve a sustainable development framework and bring the benefits of these tools to society. For several centuries, many scientists believed that if you knew enough about the initial conditions of the universe, and could discover the rules and establish a ëcause and effectí chain, one could predict everything that would subsequently happen. More recently, Chaos Theory, which ICTs have helped elaborate on and extend [and quantum physics as well], demonstrated the insufficiency of this sort of wholly deterministic reasoning. The lesson of Chaos Theory is that – despite the complexities and uncertainties involved in social questions, in education and social inclusion, and although one might not be able to predict everything exactly – with enough information, one can establish real limits and real models to understand the workings of the world. The world wide web, and succeeding versions, can give people around the globe the tools and the information needed to understand the world around us and deal with it effectively. The web is more than just an educational tool, it can become a full-time, lifelong educator. ICTs in contemporary society are what iron was to the Industrial Revolution; ICTs are the raw material with which to construct a better world. We live in a remarkable age where the sum of human knowledge is growing precipitously. If we are to be the architects of an equitable society, we must guarantee equality of opportunity and offer all human beings equal access to information and knowledge.