In Global Peace Through The Global University System
2003 Ed. by T. Varis, T. Utsumi, and W. R. Klemm
University of Tampere, Hameenlinna, Finland
GLOBAL KNOWLEDGE THROUGH
International Telecommunication Union
Teaching is called the noblest profession because of its ability to bring out the best in our students, our community and our countries. Thanks to the revolution in information and communication technologies (ICT) it is now possible to extend this noble profession to the most remote corners of our world. However, while educational methods may have changed over time, the desire to bring the best possible education to the largest number of people is not new.
I was born in Shikoku province in the South East region of Japan and grew up there during the World War II. While it was not the richest of economic environments at the time, I was able to have access to a wealth of knowledge through educational programmes on NHK radio. A number of high-school level courses were taught, including English language training and University preparatory courses. For three years I listened to these programmes, in which I was taught by some of the very best teachers in Japan. I went on to pass my entrance exams and was admitted to one of the finest universities in the country.
Fortunately for distance educators today, ICTs make it easier to fully engage the "hearts, minds and souls" of their students in the learning process. ICTs allow direct interaction between students and teachers through e-mail, online real-time collaboration and multi-media lesson delivery via the Internet. This is why the Global University System and ITU's e-learning initiatives are very promising: they both establish knowledge networks through ICT for both educational and capacity-building purposes and offer men and women a world of new opportunities.
My belief in the value of distance education is based on my experience as a young student and is also reflected in ITU's commitment to the field of e-Learning. I am encouraged that our belief in ICT as a powerful educational tool is shared by some of the greatest minds of our time. A recent survey of Nobel Laureates found that 87% of them held the belief that the Internet would improve education, 93% saw the Internet as providing students with greater access to libraries, information and teachers, and 74% said that more students would have greater learning activities through virtual classrooms by 2020.
It is my pleasure to share with you some of the ways in which the International Telecommunication Union is helping to fulfil the potential for distance learning in the information age and to bring the power and nobility of education to all of humanity.
ITU e-Learning Centres
ITU, through its Telecommunication Development Bureau, has been actively promoting the use of ICTs as a tool to deliver distance-learning courses to telecommunication professionals in a cost-effective way since 1995.
In response to the need to deliver web-based telecommunications training to administrations, operators and regulators regardless of their location, ITU created a "virtual university" based on a network of 'nodes', with contributions from partners in the form of course content, financing or infrastructure. For example, ITU, in partnership with Maltacom Group, established the first inter-regional node on the island of Malta to promote online distance learning.
A fully accredited Masters degree in Communications Management is also available through a partnership with Cable & Wireless, which is targeted at providing distance education opportunities to telecommunication professionals in developing countries.
Today, our Internet based e-Learning platform, is used to deliver instructor-led online courses, collaborative tools and assessment modules to thousands of students worldwide. Participants are enrolled in virtual classes for specific courses conducted via this platform, and are able to learn remotely and interact with one another and the instructor, regardless of their physical location, provided of course they have Internet access.
The main purpose of the ITU e-learning platform is two-fold:
Focusing on the Learner
In the digital economy of our information society, traditional methods of training and education are evolving through the use of ICTs. This change is reflected in the mode of delivery, and in the need to create a more learner-centered environment. This individualized e-Learning environment is characterized by:
Given the pace of change in the ICT field, traditional forms of training cannot keep up with the need to deliver new skills. Through ITU e-Learning, individuals may choose to develop new skills, at their own convenience, from office or home, by joining virtual classes as needed. Although there is an upfront infrastructure cost for e-Learning, economies of scale can be achieved through the deployment to a wider audience or increased use of e-learning facilities.
Increased Learning Options
The Internet has improved individual options for the training of telecommunication professionals by providing access to global resources, education and training programmes. Traditional training methods provide by comparison a rather limited choice of courses, especially in specialized ICT fields.
Personal Learning Plan
Traditional training methods means, for the most part, demand that an individual progresses according to the pace of the class rather than their own ability. E-learning provides the option to custom design study plans for the specific needs and skills of the telecommunications professional.
Collaborative Learning Opportunities
The ITU e-Learning platform offers two types of interaction - synchronous and asynchronous. An example of a synchronous discussion is an online chat room. Students and the instructor may login to a scheduled chat to discuss related issues. Asynchronous discussions may be facilitated through the bulletin boards or discussion threads, also typical features of an e-learning environment.
The Future Path of E-Learning
A fundamental change from an industrial to information-based society is taking place and this information revolution is affecting the way people live, learn and work. In order to develop a better understanding of this revolution, a World Summit on the Information Society will be held in Geneva, Switzerland (10 - 12 December 2003) and Tunis, Tunisia (16 - 18 November 2005).
The first phase of the Summit in Geneva will adopt a Declaration of principles and a Plan of Action for implementation by governments, institutions and all sectors of civil society to deal with the new challenges of the ever-evolving information society.
It is not surprising that the use of ICTs is recognized in the Summit preparatory documents as a vital component to creating more efficient and better quality education services.
It has been proposed to the World Summit on the Information Society that:
The future for e-Learning is indeed bright, but it must also be recognized that the successful implementation of any digital education initiative will depend on a combination of factors. These range from human resource development to friendly institutional structures and a local demand for and capability to use ICTs in educational settings.
ICT and Education: a Development Imperative
For students and teachers in both the developed and developing world, ICTs in the classroom or online fuel creative capacities and knowledge gathering while providing the technical skills necessary for active participation in the global information society. And despite the many hurdles facing developing countries as they strive to modernize their education systems, few would dispute the contention that ICTs are an effective vehicle for helping these countries bring the best possible educations to their people.
E-Learning provides a digital opportunity for communities, regardless of socioeconomic status, geographic location, gender or diversity and like teaching, it holds out a very noble promise. The promise of e-learning is to extend the benefits of our information society to all of humanity through shared knowledge and understanding.
Author Biographical Sketch
Mr. Yoshio Utsumi
International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
Place des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 20
Mr Yoshio Utsumi has been in the telecoms business for over thirty years and has a proven track record of expertise at senior policy levels gained both nationally and internationally.
After earning a Bachelor degree of Law from the University of Tokyo and a Masters of Arts in Political Science from the University of Chicago, Mr Utsumi joined the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT). In 1972, he was nominated professor of public administration at the MPT Postal College. In 1986, he led Japan's largest investment fund at the Postal Life Insurance Bureau of the MPT until 1988 when he moved to broadcasting as the Head of the General Affairs Division of MPT's Broadcasting Bureau.
For seven years, he helped shape Japan's domestic policies at the Communications Policy Bureau. His experience in international affairs include three years in Geneva where he served as First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Japan in charge of ITU affairs and two years as Director-General of International Affairs of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. In 1994, he was elected Chairman of the ITU plenipotentiary conference. At the senior policy-making level, he served as MPT Director-General, assistant Vice-Minister and Deputy Minister until his election as Secretary-General of ITU on 20 October 1998 by the Minneapolis Plenipotentiary Conference. He has been re-elected for a second term as Secretary-General on 1 October 2002 at the Marrakesh Plenipotentiary Conference.
Mr Utsumi is credited with having introduced the competition and liberalization policy at a time when such ideas were not widely accepted. His initiative led to Japan's first reform of its telecommunication market. He was also a major driving force in many of Japan's most important projects to develop multimedia industries. In the postal sector, he undertook a major restructuring of Japan's postal services which he carried out successfully with the cooperation of the 200 000 staff at every level which he skillfully enlisted. On the international scene, Mr Utsumi has played a very active role in many negotiations, and in particular, those leading to the historic WTO agreement on basic telecommunications.
Mr Utsumi was born on 14 August 1942. He and his wife Masako, an architect, have a son and a daughter.