India Centre of Excellence for Information Ethics (ICEIE), Centre for Digital Learning, Training and Resources (CDLTR), University of Hyderabad (UoH); African Centre of Excellence for Information Ethics (ACEIE), University of Pretoria (South Africa); Russian National IFAP Committee, Interregional Library Cooperation Centre (Russian Federation); UNESCO Chair on Language Policies for Multilingualism, University of Santa Catarina (Brazil) under the Auspices of  UNESCO Intergovernmental Information for All Programme (IFAP) has conducted Three Day Online International Conference on “Access to Information in Time of Crisis – The UNESCO Information for All Programme Priorities and the COVID-19 Pandemic” during 26-28 August, 2020. This prestigious event brought together the UNESCO Intergovernmental Information for All Programme (IFAP) partners: Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa. The online conference addressed global divides. It also linked not just North and South, but also attracted vulnerable groups, women, youth and the elderly. The conference has covered all six IFAP priority areas. It is highly relevant conference, especially in consideration of the Covid-19 pandemic and International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI, UNESCO). The rich agenda of the conference will lead to global cooperation, especially in support of linguistic diversity and preservation, role of information in crisis times. It was attended by 272 participants including speakers. There were 23 presentations by 27 speakers.

Knowledge being shared and networking amongst the role players, addressing problems arising from digital divide, hacking, education, but also a discussion of opportunities. This pandemic has seen an impact on education:

  • Pandemic’s severe distribution of world’s education systems: 1.5 billion school going children had to move from offline to online education; 24 million learners at risk of dropping out, losing decades of progress as well as severely impacting Sustainable Development Goals: SDG 4.
  • User safety online, ethical and legal implications of the use of ICTs. Data protection, privacy, PVE and youth together with algorithms that limit diversity, echo chamber, filter bubble – impacting access to information. We should consider the constant surveillance.

The organising committee was represented by various countries and IFAP UNESCO and by the committee: University of Hyderabad which is at the forefront of taking forward IFAP priority areas, has plans to setup an IFAP office in India. The University has newly established India Centre of Excellence in Information Ethics (ICEIE) pioneering the science of information ethics in the country. Russia like India is one of the most multilingual nations in the world. Hence, preservation of cultural and linguistic diversity using emerging digital technologies is a high priority. IFAP South Africa in their activities with UNESCO offices in Kenya and Head Quarters (HQ) champions a number of Media and Information Literacy (MIL) and Information Ethics (IE)-related activities. From Brazil, Brazilian Institute of Information in Science and Technology (IBICT) is prioritising research across 10 Latin American countries and represents IFAP interests in Brazil.

The Inaugural session was chaired by Prof.B.Rajashekhar, Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of Hyderabad.  Welcoming the participants he mentioned that it is a privilege for the university to lead a conference on such a vital topic like Information in COVID times. Prof.J.Prabhakar Rao, Chair person of the conference has highlighted aims and objectives of the conference. He has highlighted the relevance and significance of information especially in pandemic situation. Congratulating the organizers of the conference for bringing IFAP community in the conference, Ms. Dorothy Gordon, IFAP Chair has threw light on issues related transformative role of digital technologies, digital divide and digital governance. She emphasised that IFAP will contribute to built inclusive knowledge societies. Mr.Eric Falt, Director, UNESCO, India has mentioned about the role of IFAP in building equitable and knowledge societies. Mr.Timur Tsybikov, Head of the Department, The Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs, Russian Federation said that Russia attaches great importance to IFAP because Russia is one of the highly multilingual and multicultural countries in the world. He also highlighted some of the steps taken by Russian government to protect the linguistic and cultural diversity in the country. By joining in organising the present conference by University of Pretoria, Mr. Carlton Mukwevho, Secretary General for SA NatCom for UNESCO, South Africa felt that the UNESCO, South Africa joins world community in taking forward IFAP objectives. He has highlighted some of the initiatives taken by UNESCO, South Africa such as Global Sign Research Project, African Regional Programme for Media and Literacy, etc. Ms. Bianca Amaro, Coordinator of the Brazilian Open Science Program at IBICT, Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations, Brazilian Institute of Information in Science and Technology, Brazil emphasised on the initiatives taken by IBICT to promote IFAP objectives such as creating Repository for teaching and research, forming Regional Latin America Network of Libraries etc. The inaugural session ended with vote of thanks by Prof.R.Siva Prasad, University of Hyderabad.

The three-day online conference has deliberated on the following IFAP priority areas and related themes. The session on Multilingualism was chaired by Prof.J.Prabhakar Rao of UoH. The themes covered in this session are Promotion of multilingualism, prioritisation of the ethical considerations in language policies.

S. No Name of the Presenter Title of Presentation
1. Dr. Evgeny Kuzmin (Russia) Multilingualism and Access to Information: Challenges and Opportunities in Crisis and Post-Crisis Time
2. Dr. Gilvan Muller de Oliveira (Brazil) Multilingualism of Indigenous Peoples: Threats and Opportunities in the Face of the Covid19 Pandemic
3. Dr. Prasannanshu  (India) Multilingualism as a Reality, and a Remedy to the Pandemics’ Challenges: A Look at the Governmental Role and Response to the Vulnerable Populations’ Survival
4. Dr. Elin M. Emilsson (Mexico) Dealing with Diversity in Mexico in Times of Covid-19:Policies and Reactions (Video Presentation)

The session on Information Preservation was chaired by Dr.Evgeny Kuzmin, Russia. The following themes were covered by the speakers: lack of trust in government, implications of archiving and digitalisation on future generation and retention of knowledge.


S. No Name of the Presenter Title of Presentation
1. Dr. Helen Amunga (Kenya) The Impact of Governmental Communication of Pandemic-Related Data on The Public’s Response to A Crisis: Insights from Kenya’s Handling of Covid-19
2. Dr. Andrey Zaytsev (Russia) Time of Crisis as an Indicator of Dependence on Information Technology: What digital history we will be able to preserve?
3. Dr. Ramesh C. Gaur (India) Accessing Heritage during a Global Covid-19 Pandemic: Are Indian Cultural Institutions prepared to engage users in such situations?

The session on Information for Development was chaired by Greg Simmons, Sweden. The themes include Covid-light vs Covid 3.0, Digital Resilience, the Promotion of Critical Thinking together with Science and Technology and Information Literacy education from school level


S. No Name of the Presenter Title of Presentation
1. Dr. Coetzee Bester (South Africa), Dr. Rafael Capurro (Germany) and Dr. Johannes Britz  (USA) Access to Information in Time of Crisis – A Holistic Model for Information in Developing Solutions in Communities
2. Dr. Daniel Pimienta (Dominican Republic) Impact of Infodemic situation caused by Covid19 Pandemic and Recommendations
3. Dr. Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann (Belgium) How can Access to Information build Resilience to avoid Future Crises?
4. Dr. Susana Finquelievich (Argentina) Access to Information and Digital Tools for Present and Future Crises in Latin America
5. Dr. J. Prabhakar Rao and Dr. R. Siva Prasad (India) Denial of Information: Sustaining Inequalities and Subjugating People

The Session on Information Literacy was chaired by Prof. Vasuki Belavadi, India. The following themes were covered in this session: Adoption of National MIL Policy frameworks, MIL teacher training and integration of MIL from early childhood onwards for lifelong learning, multidisciplinary collaboration across a number of sectors


S. No Name of the Presenter Title of Presentation
1. Prof. Ramon Tuazon (Philippines) MIL Public Policies in Times of Crisis
2. Dr. Tatiana Murovana (Russia) Distance Teaching without MIL: What We have Learned from the Coronavirus Lockdown
3. Prof. Therese San Diego Torres (Philippines) Mainstreaming Media and Information Literacy (MIL) with Youth Organizations
4. Dr. Dokora, L D K, Mr. I Madziko, and Dr. M Mavesera (Zimbabwe) The role of media and information literacies (MILs) in combating COVID-19 infodemic: Some experiences from Zimbabwe

The Session on Information Accessibility was chaired by Prof. Gilvan Muller de Oliveira, Brazil. The themes of this session include Information blockdown, access to accurate and quality health information, transparency by health service providers and governments, human dignity is paramount


S. No Name of the Presenter Title of Presentation
1. Dr. Anna Belkina (Russia) The Dangers of Shutting Out Voices in the Time of COVID 19
2. Dr. M. Sridhar Acharyulu (India) Governance Issues during Covid19: Information Deficit Aggravates Migrant Crisis in India
3. Dr. Thaiane de Oliveira (Brazil) Open Science and Disinformation in times of Epistemic Disbelief: The Challenges for a Democratization of Knowledge
4. Dr. Burri Ranga Reddy (India) Access to Information in the Time of Crisis:

Perspectives from COVID 19 Management


The session on Information Ethics was chaired by Dr. Coetzee Bester, South Africa. The session include following themes: Scale of information crises, critical thinking skills, interdisciplinary and multistakeholder collaborative efforts, the role of community radios


S. No Name of the Presenter Title of Presentation
1. Dr.Gregory Simons (Sweden) Right to Information and not Manipulation: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic
2. Dr.Yves Poullet (Belgium) Why We Need Info-Ethics?
3. Dr. Kanchan K. Malik (India) Vocal for Local Information During COVID-19 Pandemic: Role of Community Radios in Addressing the Digital Divide in South Asia

 The Valedictory Session was chaired by J.Prabhakar Rao, Chairperson of the conference. The session begins with a brief report on the deliberations of the conference by Ms. Rachel Fischer (South Africa). Delivering valedictory address Mr. Jaco du Toit, Chief of Section Universal Access to Information has mentioned that Information and timely access to it will enable the governments to take all important decisions especially in COVID times. He also said that the rich inputs provided by this conference would contribute to make policy decisions with record to help management in present crisis. This conference is very much relevant because UNESCO celebrates International Day of Access to Information on 28th September 2020.

The highlight of the conference was Hyderabad Declaration which has been introduced by Prof.J.Prabhakar Rao. It includes Recommendations made by the speakers and participants under each IFAP priority areas was discussed and approved by the conference.

For, further details please visit the link (