Social Capital as Our Score

16 December 2003

Three years ago in Guizhou I saw the smiling face of a child, what was the secret of his smile? He said, “Even the high mountains cannot be in the way of information.” Simple words that echoed a big triumph of technology over reality and destiny. This project, an attempt to tackle digital illiteracy through information distribution and promotion of capabilities and competences demonstrates how cost efficient and powerful its impact could be, if and when we put technology to good use. The greatest enterprise of the mind has always been the linkage of the sciences and humanities; it is the ultimate purpose of our intellect. Destiny is in our hands and in our dreams.

Today, with the upsurge of a new techno-economic paradigm, we face a great paradox; we want more change and need more stability. The digital divide, the learning divide marks a re-concentration of power and an unequal distribution of the benefits. Globalization makes us more aware of our diversities but we must not neglect the importance of building on one’s community. The cumulative weight of the digital divide, the learning divide and this development divide is heavy in our society and it could not be the sole responsibility of the government. It is a collective social responsibility that each and every one of us should undertake.

In 1999, a World Bank report said that “increasing evidence shows that social cohesion is critical for societies to prosper economically and for development to be sustainable.” It is argued that in a Knowledge Era social capital is a key ingredient in sustaining successful economic development. It could be measured as it has many capital-like properties, including transformation capacity, durability, flexibility, substitutability and an ability to create other capital forms like opportunities. Thus, empathy, compassion, trust and shared values, community involvement, volunteering, social networks and citizenship all has quantifiable value. Building up social capital is like investing in a wellspring of hope in a society. Our civic spirit is as important as or even more so than our civic rights. Only through commitment to enhance social capital could we manage the dynamics of knowledge and innovation. Maybe it is the missing link that put macro and micro economic dimensions in the right perspective. We are lucky to live in an exciting age filled with opportunities. We have more creativity, more technology, more time and probably have longer life. It is time to start envisioning the importance of all this to our society, and to give progress new meaning by helping each other to reshape destiny.
Thank you very much.