Communications infrastructure is essential for effective social function at at scales of society, and has been so throughout human history. Dependence on overly-complicated or sophisticated technological communication can pose problems when the level of performance cannot be guaranteed; or when it is incongruent with the needs of the society.
At the national level communications can be divided structurally into two main branches: production on one hand, and distribution on the other, of information, opinion and entertainment. In practice, the division has never been absolute and overlap and unified control of both branches is now often much greater than in the past. The distinction is relevant because many countries, when developing their own communication systems, have given priority to distribution at the expense of production. Hence, they find themselves dependent on investment from abroad in the infrastructure, on news compiled by outside organizations, on entertainment also created far away, and in general on sources of production over which they have no influence. Although most countries have national news agencies, they often have meagre resources, material, technical or staff, so that their supply of news must be supplemented by outside material. For this reason, among others, the mass media in such countries still depend mainly on news selected and transmitted by larger outside agencies. Entertainment schedules on radio and TV are also heavily laden with imports from abroad and the advertising field is often influenced, if not controlled, by branches of international companies. In many instances this pattern leads to large-scale foreign intervention, heavy external investment and unhealthy competition in the development of the material-producing branch of the communication industry. It may also sometimes cause the creation of national and international monopolies in one or more of its components. Such centralization often tends to create a certain amount of standardization in media products.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
Non-profit, apolitical, independent, and non-governmental in nature, the UIA has been a pioneer in the research, monitoring and provision of information on international organizations, international associations and their global challenges since 1907.