Action Line C3. E-learning: Is Software the Key to Access to Knowledge in the Digital Age?


Session 295

09:00–10:45, Thursday, 15 June 2017 Popov Room 1, ITU Tower Interpretation: E/F Interactive Action Line Facilitation Meeting

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Preserving and sharing software’s source code as part of human heritage.

In a digital driven society, Computer source code assumed a crucial role which is often underestimated or relegated to technical considerations. Software is then a key part of the technological and scientific knowledge of humanity and must be preserved and shared.
Action line 3 set out in the WSIS’ Geneva Declaration of Principles and plan of action echoes UNESCO’s message that “the ability for all to access and contribute information, ideas and knowledge is essential in an inclusive Information Society”. The WSIS Beyond 2015 vision, reiterates that “ensuring the preservation of digital heritage in the information society by putting into place cohesive, conceptual and practical digital strategies”, is among the key priority areas, as well as “the sharing of existing expertise and best-practice solutions between all stakeholders” to create “replicable and sustainable ICT projects”.
UNESCO’s implementation of Action line 3 includes the promotion of “open approaches to technology and software development, standard-setting, infrastructure access, and the publication and sharing of information and knowledge such as educational resources and scientific research”. Such an approach has led UNESCO to work on programmes and partnering with initiatives promoting an approach to computer source code (in particular free and open source software) as a key mean to fully understand and harness today’s digital world, notably through adequate education. Increasingly, source code can be seen as expression of particular form of thinking (computational thinking), or as an ultimate mean of participation in shaping the future (problem solving). Certainly, software and source code is a ubiquitous ingredient of today’s knowledge, and even more certainly, it is an essential component of gateways to access this knowledge, being it a particular file format, or a specific processing procedure.
Putting this vision in practice, UNESCO has successfully rolled out its YouthMobile Initiative in more than 25 countries worldwide, aiming to provide youth with the necessary skills and confidence and fully participate in the digital society.
On the other hand, the recent partnership between UNESCO and INRIA, France's national computer science institute, aims to bringing software source code the attention that it merits, as a creation, an expression of a human intellect and a source of inspiration for innovation. This cooperation is part of UNESCO's action to preserve and share digital heritage and will rely in particular on INRIA’s Software Heritage initiative which aims to collect, organize, preserve, and make accessible to all the source code of all available software, a major global issue.
This session will be the start of a larger consultation among experts, educators, academics as well as companies, on the theme of software preservation and sharing of software source code. The discussion, which will be open to the audience, will be an opportunity for defining some of the aspects that will have to be taken in account, such as education and pedagogy (coding as literacy), to conservation and access (software repository), legal issues, security, and which actions should be envisaged both at institutional and country levels.


Davide Storti, Knowledge Societies Division, UNESCO, France


  • Roberto Di Cosmo, Director Software Heritage project, INRIA, France
  • Jonas Oberg, Founder, Free Software Foundation Europe, Sweden
  • Prof. Dr. Daniel Burgos, Chair on eLearning, UNESCO, Spain
  • Prof. Natasa Milic-Frayling, Chair of Data Science at the School of Computer Science, University of Nottingham (United Kingdom)

Session's link to WSIS Action Lines

  • AL C3 logo C3. Access to information and knowledge

Session's link to Sustainable Development Process

  • Goal 4: Quality education logo Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions logo Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies
  • Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals logo Goal 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development


Link to this session