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Issue Overview

“An informed society is one where citizens have the resources, education and skills to access and participate in the free flow of reliable and useful information through a diverse range of platforms and media organizations that empower them to make considered decisions about their economic, social and political lives.”

 Global Agenda Council on Informed Societies1

Before the Global Agenda Council on Informed Societies was established in July 2010, it was known as the Council on the Future of Journalism and focused on better understanding the impact of the digital revolution on journalism and its role in society.

The Council concluded that: “Journalism is no longer the sole preserve of the news professional; it now operates in a networked information ecosystem based on public participation and connectivity.”2

In this context, the Council and its members developed and promoted the concept of “networked journalism” at conferences around the world.

As the Council established its “networked journalism” concept, the World Economic Forum decided to broaden its scope, and renamed it the Global Agenda Council on Informed Societies. The newly named Council was charged with developing a model for a society in which all citizens would have access to reliable and pertinent information allowing them to make better-informed decisions.

In its first year (July 2010-June 2011) the Council began by identifying the key drivers and trends that influence informed societies as defined in the quote above, as well as the current risks and opportunities. For a complete summary of this discussion please see the Global Agenda Council on Informed Societies Report 2010-2011.

 Summary of 2011-2012

During this year, the Council focused its discussion on the role of government and drafted an Informed Societies: Code of Conduct for government leaders, which will serve as a guide as they take on the challenges of creating or sustaining informed societies. Instead of trying to control what is essentially uncontrollable – today’s Internet conversation – governments should embrace the opportunity provided by the Internet and social media to establish a dialogue with citizens.

The results can be more transparency in governance, a government agenda that is better informed by direct citizen input, and a more informed, globally-aware populace. Governments can either use the new digital resources to promote open government and business, or use the same technologies for closing minds and societies.

As a result, the Council has also identified four dimensions of informed societies where government conducts are particularly critical: transparency, media literacy, privacy and empowerment of citizens. Please see the complete Informed Societies: Towards a Code of Conduct for Government Leaders with its four dimensions here,  or an executive summary here.

The Council has shared its Code of Conduct with media professionals through two conferences, namely the News World Summit in Paris on 1 June 2012, and International Media Conference in Seoul on 22 June 2012. The Council aims to use the feedback and comments received to further strengthen its Code of Conduct and develop its next deliverable, as described below.

The Council is trying to crystallize into a single measure the extent to which a country measures up to its model for an informed society. Members therefore have started working on an Informed Societies Index to assess the multiple dimensions of informed societies. The Index will offer a new way to gauge societal attributes that are essential for people’s participation in governance, and in the cultural and civic life of their societies. Please see an executive summary of the Index here.

The Index will be compiled from existing authoritative indicators that are relevant to the Council’s model of informed societies. These indicators are produced by notable international agencies, including the World Economic Forum, United Nations agencies, the International Telecommunication Union and the World Bank. As a composite indicator, the Informed Societies Index will provide a multi-dimensional snapshot of the extent to which countries measure-up to the four dimensions of informed societies. The composite Index will help compare countries, identify trends, and benchmark and monitor performance. The Index will also help set policy priorities.

The Council believes that the Code of Conduct for Government Leaders and the Index will serve as powerful instruments for education, government capacity-building and enhancing informed societies everywhere. Citizens, educators, business leaders and government officials are all invited to join the Council in debates on the critical need for fostering informed societies worldwide, and the development of the proposed Code of Conduct and the Informed Societies Index.

By promoting its informed societies model, which includes the Code of Conduct and Index, the Council will encourage governments and other institutions to take the necessary steps to create or sustain an informed society.

 Next Steps

The Council is aiming for a soft launch of its model of informed societies and associated Index during of the autumn of 2012. It will work on developing the composite Index in preparation for a coordinated press release in different parts of the world through its members’ respective organizations and networks, and potentially at the Forum’s Summit on the Global Agenda, in Dubai, from 12-14 November 2012.


The opinions expressed here are those of the individual Members of the Council and not of the World Economic Forum or any institutions to which they are affiliated.