Inequality of Access to Information: Can Information Sharing be universalized?

Access to information has long been established as one of the major problems faced by southern researchers. Enhancing information accessibility and use helps to better understand, analyze and research ongoing development challenges so that practical solutions can originate from those directly affected by them. This cause is supported by the Connect South Campaign that has pledged to promote sharing knowledge and fostering connections between researchers and decision-makers in the global south, supported by GDNet, GDN’s Knowledge services.

Building on the World Bank’s “Mobilizing Knowledge Networks for Development” conference, Alex Bielak, Senior Fellow and Knowledge Broker (UNU-INWEH) and Louise Shaxon, Research Fellow (ODI), tackle the issue of access to information & the equality of access to information from the perspective of internet access. However Bielak argues the importance of communications infrastructure and how everyone should be connected through information sharing backbone networks that facilitates high-definition data transfer. He raises two interesting questions regarding the current global potential of information access, especially in the south; as to who can afford it, and the sufficiency and quality of this access to knowledge. He emphasizes on accessibility granting and whether it is in fact universal.

Universalizing information sharing can be a huge step towards ensuring that data is up-to-date and reliable, as well as maintaining transparency and efficiency. Many institutions acknowledge the need for public availability and accessibility of data, and acting on that note some initiatives have been launched such as the World Bank’s Open Data Initiative, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)’s  Arab Spatial and the Economic Research Forum (ERF)’s Open Access Micro Data project. However, while these initiatives are great contributions to the cause, the missing link remains in making sure that researchers are actually able to access, use and make use of open access to data and knowledge anywhere, anytime.

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