|Is information power?|
|Monday, 12 December 2011 08:14|
By Ruci Mafi
Last week, I was amongst the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) staff attending a workshop on ‘Moving Beyond Strategy to Improve Information and Knowledge Management for Agricultural Development in Pacific Island States’ held in Nadi, Fiji.
Much of what I learnt was captivating and provided insight into how important information, communication and technology are to me as a journalist and a communicator. It was not a lesson in how to use technical gimmicks and ICT (information and communication technology) systems but rather it focused on how new forms of media have changed the way information is disseminated.
The idea behind the workshop was to encourage people involved in agricultural development to use ICT tools to make information accessible.
I believe that new forms of media should be used in other areas such as gender equality, youth development, non-communicable diseases, forestry, education, maritime affairs and marine resources.
For me the questions I continue to ask are; how can new media like the social media help in conveying information? How can that information be developed and packaged to a content that suits different people and their different needs?
As the workshop progressed, I found myself asking more questions. How do we monitor information that is being passed through social media and how can we be sure that the information is accurate and can be relied upon to be used for improving lives of people?
The more I dwelled on these issues, the more I felt that traditional forms of media, such as print, radio and television are still valuable today.
Participants at the workshop were mainly Directors of Extension Services in Pacific ministries of agriculture. These participants reaffirmed my feeling that while ICT is important for development in the region, it may not be so valuable in some countries where ICT infrastructure is minimal.
Other factors like limited connectivity and high costs hinder the use of ICT.
I spoke to the Director Agriculture from Kiribati, Kinai Kairo, who said that a small country like Kiribati, mass media like radio and newspapers and formats such as DVD and videotape are popular ways to transmit information. And how is this different from bigger countries? The truth is countries like Fiji and PNG have improved ICT infrastructure in place that allows for the use of internet services and social media platforms. Bigger countries in the Pacific have options and can choose for internet services and mobiles usages as opposed to smaller countries that do not have the resources to explore opportunities on the World Wide Web.
These are important observations that can guide the development of information or communication strategies in Pacific Island countries.
Nonetheless, as a communicator, my interest in the workshop was driven by the notion that while technology and information is critical in development, communication and content development are often forgotten in the process.
My views were shared by Professor Ajit Maru of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research in Rome. Professor Maru said content development must be done by communication specialists with the skills to package the information to suit the audience targeted, as different target groups have different information needs. Various groups also use and digest information differently and at different speeds.
At one stage during the workshop, we discussed knowledge management, which is essentially information sharing within an organisation. This is a challenge for some organisations.
Professor Maru summed it well in a discussion.
‘Until you share content you will not be able to make new information nor new ideas,’ he told us.
Knowledge management allows an organisation and its employees to grown by unlocking and using the knowledge hidden in people’s minds.
‘The reservoir of knowledge of each person grows exponentially when people share knowledge,’ a SPC staff member said.
The workshop challenged participants to use existing resources and mechanisms that will support their work in content development, communicating information, and knowledge management.