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The "Unwritten Rules" of the Information Society

One of the challenges in training human resources in public health

Cuernavaca, 8 March 2013 (PAHO/WHO)—The challenges in training human resources in public health in the information society was the subject presented by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) during the Public Health Research Conference, held 6 to 8 March at the National Institute of Public Health, in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

“The information society is a society based on people and we need to accept this context,” said Marcelo D’Agostino (@marcelodagos), Manager of Knowledge Management and Communication of PAHO/WHO, at the beginning of his presentation. According to D'Agostino, our society is governed by information and communication technologies (ICTs), and should involve people in the learning process and not just transmit information to them.

An information society is one in which, with ICTs, everyone can create, access, utilize and/or share information and knowledge, enabling them to reach their maximum potential to promote sustainable development of communities and improve quality of life, according to the International Telecommunications Union.

During the presentation, D’Agostino also emphasized the importance of critical thinking and good selection criteria for information given the deluge of data and information on the Web. By way of example he pointed out that now, during a baby's first day of life, the quantity of data generated by people is 70 times greater than the quantity of information contained in the U.S. Library of Congress. He added that one of the challenges is the need to accept this context and turn it into an opportunity, without necessarily trying it to understand it.

He called for participants, especially human resource trainers, to reflect on the information society's "unwritten rules," which impose new rules of relationships between people, including trainers and students. Everyone is a potential creator of content and all content can and generally should be reusable.

“In the end, what is most important is that the content reaches our audiences to prevent as much as possible problems or situations that jeopardize the health of the population and so we need to open ourselves to discuss new copyright methods,” he said. Do not overload people with communications, and remember that the message is in the receiver and not in the sender, he added.

The technological, cognitive, cultural, and generational convergence was also pointed out as another challenge in human resources education in today's complex information society. D’Agostino explained that often, in the context of virtual education, the trainer does not know exactly who his or her students are. Most of the time trainers and students never meet in person or know what culture the other comes from or what lifestyle they follow, he said.

Furthermore, D’Agostino made reference to Marshal McLuhan’s new forms of communication made possible by the Internet. McLuhan explains that if the medium is the message, we need to permanently rethink the ways in which we educate, we learn and we communicate.

The inherent chaos of this society will continue to exist, some modalities will never change and we should be prepared to this end, understanding that our work and responsibility is to make fair and needed knowledge available to the people who need it, in the appropriate time and format, the speaker concluded.

PAHO/WHO participated in the conference as a part of the commitment to Member States to support knowledge management in the Region of the Americas and use of ICT to move forward in a more informed, equitable, competitive, and democratic society. This commitment was made through the Strategy on Knowledge Management and Communication and the eHealth Strategy and Plan of Action, approved in 2012 and 2011, respectively.

 

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