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Promoting Best Use, Preventing Misuse
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Culture and Education in Culture Networks

Minister of National Planning and Co-ordination Bendik Rugaas, Norway

Mr. Chairman,

Through ages it has been of vital importance for Norway to be able to communicate efficiently, domestically and internationally. This is still true in the digital age - and for that reason we are in the process of implementing a national strategy for ICT development and usage, covering all main aspects of societal uses of the new technologies paving the Norwegian way to the information society. Bit by bit.

From the basket-full of challenges connected to our ICT plan and “The Global Information Networks” I want to focus on the implications this has on culture and education in an information society for all, making three points.

1. Culture Net

First: The basic point of departure is that we must preserve the cultural richness and diversity of the European countries. We should take advantage of it as a primary asset - also for international trade and communication. A fascinating new field of network-related cultural expressions and products is now developing. In Norway, we can witness how the converging technologies and the Internet stimulate work in local and regional institutions, and fueling a general drive to seek new partnership in order to create new cultural products. The use of multimedia contributes to unlocking vast resources that are kept in the institutions.

Given the multitude of cultural expressions and sources, it is a challenge to supply interested parties with easy ways to navigate towards the kind of information and entertainment they want. Therefore the idea to create a Culture Net has developed in many countries as national “front doors” leading to various “rooms” of cultural expressions, products and participatory activities. All the Nordic countries are presently preparing their Culture Nets. At Nordic ministerial level it has been decided to link together the national cultural resources in a Nordic Culture Net. The same ambition should be applied to a wider international community, thus fostering awareness and knowledge of cultures of other nations and create fertile conditions for global unity and co-operation.

2. Education

Second: One important objective of my Government is that all pupils in Norwegian schools shall become able to personal ICT users. To achieve this, we have to establish new teaching methods. We must integrate the use of networked material and other information resources in all fields and at all levels of the education system. Because of the scattered settlement of our country, we see the need for developing distance education, and the Internet will be one of the basic enabling technologies when implementing life long learning programmes. These developments have already started: We have established a Norwegian School Net. Schools are already using the Internet as an important source of information, for communication and international collaboration. Many schools even produce content themselves. Our universities and colleges have long traditions for using the Internet as a tool.

Many efforts within the extended European co-operation on education could benefit from and give considerable contributions to the cultural field. There should be close connections between activities related to the national European Culture Nets and development of educational resources on the Net.

3. Libraries

A crucial question, however is: How do we best engage all ages, all groups in meaningful uses of the global networks to arrive at an information society for all? My third point is that the libraries have an essential role to play in the information society to ensure equal opportunities for all. The public libraries can give access to electronic networks for those who do not have such possibilities. The precondition, however, is that the libraries manage to reshape their services and accommodate themselves to the age of the global information society.

Conclusion

Finally, Mr. Chairman, the vision of a combined and integrated Culture Net and Education Net within an information society for all can become our guiding star. An integrated Culture and Education Net will be a fertile combination for schools, institutions, private sector and individuals, creating informed, confident, and empowered users in the emerging global information society.


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