Past, Present, and Future of Research
in the Information Society

13-15 November 2005
Tunis, Tunisia

This event will examine the role of research and the production of knowledge in the information society, with special emphasis on developing areas of the world. “Past, Present, and Future of S&E in the Information Society” (PPF) is a three day conference that immediately precedes the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), in Tunisia (November 2005). Core issues of the conference lie at the intersection of Science and Engineering, Information and Communication Technologies, and Development. While WSIS is sponsored by the UN Secretary-General, with the International Telecommunication Union in the lead role, this conference is a “satellite event” of WSIS without political affiliation.

PPF will be organized by an International Advisory Committee composed of one representative each from a coalition of partners. (Professor of Sociology, Louisiana State University) will serve as Program Coordinator.

Development of PPF

In August, 2002, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (South Africa), two of the primary organizers of the Global Science Forum (Third World Academy of Science (TWAS) and the International Council for Science (ICSU)) began to consider the next World Summit in Geneva (2003) and Tunisia (2005). This discussion continued through the first phase of WSIS with the Tunis branch of the WFEO and a variety of other organizations. The “Role of Science in the Information Society” (CERN, ICSU, UNESCO, TWAS) and “Engineering the Knowledge Society” (IFIP, WFEO), were two of the most significant satellite events organized in conjunction with the Geneva Phase of the WSIS in December 2003.

Conference Format

PPF will host two hundred individuals, one-half from under-developed areas, in three thematic areas:

  1. Science, technology, and engineering in the origin and development of the Internet will be examined (“Past”).
  2. Current and cutting-edge technologies and trends in the utilization of information technology for science and engineering (“Present”).
  3. Constraints and opportunities that exist for the research communities of Africa, Latin America, and Asia (“Future”).

Conference Objectives

  • Examine the relationships between academic, government, civil society, and the private sector that brought about the development of an information society.
  • Increase understanding of the informational challenges of science and engineering in developing areas in an environment with many world leaders and policy makers present.
  • Discuss the digital divide in science and engineering.
  • Examine specific programs that seek to reduce this divide.
  • Evaluate the opportunities and constraints on the globalization of scientific collaboration with particular reference to the developing world.
  • Provide follow up on the RSIS and EKS events that took place in Geneva
  • Publish the proceedings in printed and electronic form, and distribute a documentary film that provides a record of the proceedings and a resource for program managers and policy makers.

Broader Impacts

Since a diverse range of scientific policy makers and world leaders will be present at the World Summit, this conference represents an unparalleled opportunity to highlight the importance of science and engineering in the information society, as well as to consider and propose solutions to the immense divide in information and communication technologies that exists in the research communities of the developing world. PPF will also bring together scientists and engineers in developed and developing areas of the world to discuss projects and form collaborations.