Information is a global public asset that does not end by consuming, but enriches by sharing. It is like the candle that does not lose light when another candle is lit and together they shine more to all.
It is fundamental to assure and maintain equitable access to this public asset so that any citizen may participate in all decisions related to their individual and collective health.
There are positive trends strengthened by developments in information and communication technology and in search of linking science, culture and society in a fluid and permanent fashion.
New knowledge production modes emerge, as well as new participatory forms of formulating research agendas and new spaces to produce knowledge, moving from closed to flexible institutions of diverse nature. Divisions between users and producers of knowledge disappear, and new criteria and forms to validate knowledge arise, with everyone's participation.
Simultaneously, negative trends are maintained and tend to be stronger, such as privatization of knowledge, decreased transparency of associated processes and limited access justified as national security.
In face of these controversial trends and conflicts, the State should play a fundamental role strengthening the positive trends since public assets naturally require investments by the State and public policies to promote them.
The complexity of any intervention in the relation between science and politics requires study and deep analysis. Moreover multidisciplinary approaches are important and some were presented in the event.
The impact of new technology in the political, economic, social and private life was put forward and analyzed, as well as the challenges set forth in human and social relations, particularly increased uncertainty.
More information and knowledge does not reduce uncertainty but increases it and demands training to live with it. Thus, it is increasingly more relevant the role of politics - the space to find options to tackle problems, and of ethics - which should provide principles and values to face unpredicted situations.
NTIC simultaneously provides great opportunities and threats that require development of participatory public policies based on the ethical principles of equity and solidarity.
Empowering citizens to make decisions presupposes access to information and knowledge; however it implies appropriating information and being capable to interpret knowledge.
There are several national and international efforts to develop tools and strategies to make citizens acquire this capacity.
Apart from citizens, the institutions should change to face these challenges. There are many models and forms to deal with these modifications; however they all point out the capacity of institutions to make their media available in an expedite and flexible manner, in order to solve the diverse and complex problems presented.
Therefore, the importance of establishing networks and making organizations open to learning so as to perceive and interpret new situations was emphasized.
Since the individuals are the essential components of these organizations, they must be prepared with new technical, political and investigative capacities to guide and participate in this change.
Experiences regarding the use of TICS to support these continued education processes were shared. It was stressed the relevance of the active and conscious role played by individuals in taking advantage of all this.
The construction of VHL is considered a concrete space in which we observe actions and initiatives pointing out these features and making us be optimists as to our capacity to put this technology at service of our people's health.
The national VHLs, the thematic VHLs, the ScienTI network, Scielo and this Congress are evidence of what could be done.
Pedro Cantú (FaSPyN-UANL/México)
Raúl Londoño (OPS/Guatemala)
Alberto Pellegrini (OPS-OMS/WDC)
Pedro Urra (INFOMED/Cuba)
Jorge Walters (BIREME-OPS/Brasil)
Puebla, Mexico - May 9, 2003