The Information Age, oil and the future

OPEC Bulletin Commentary October 2011

The 'Information Age' has transformed lives across the planet in previously unimaginable ways over the past two decades. The internet, mobile phones, laptops, satellite navigation systems, social networking sites and other, now-familiar high-tech systems and equipment have created a new global culture, even with its own evolving language.

However, it has not always been a pure process. Sometimes misinformation slips in, disguised as information. Access to information does not always mean access to good information.

Indeed, this has always been the case with information. However remarkable today's technology may be, human nature remains the same. Most people value honest, objective, helpful information and will be happy to share this with others. A minority think otherwise and will adapt information channels for their own ends. Some people just make mistakes in conveying information. This is as true today as it was half a century ago when OPEC was formed.

But the differences with the past in today's heavily computerized world lie in the sheer speed of communications and the recently acquired expectation for it to be instant, the astonishing volume of information we have access to with just a tap on a touch-screen, and the rapidly expanding global outreach of the information revolution itself. Indeed, the world is still far from coming to terms with the true potential and repercussions of the Information Age, economically, politically and socially. This will continue to reveal itself as the years pass.

The oil industry has adjusted well to this new communications era, and this has coincided with other important advances affecting the flow of information.

OPEC has played a big part in this progress. This includes enhancing dialogue and cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC producers and between producers and consumers. The activities of the International Energy Forum are prominent here, especially the affiliated Joint Organizations Data Initiative, whose specific purpose is the collation and supply of data about the industry. The bilateral energy dialogues OPEC has entered into with the European Union, China and Russia play an important role too, as do the closer ties with the International Energy Agency, the International Monetary Fund and other such bodies.

These have all tied in with the industry's perennial need for access to accurate, objective and timely information to support its activities right along the supply chain, as it seeks to meet the rising number of challenges facing it today and in the future. These challenges are centred around expectations of continued rises in demand, but must accommodate, at the same time, more stringent rules and regulations, the drive for more efficiency and, more generally, the need to reconcile energy use with sustainable development and environmental harmony, as our Member Countries' Heads of State and Government pointed out at the Third OPEC Summit in 2007.

This is where the media come in. In their diverse forms, they provide a vital channel for spreading information about the oil sector within the energy industry itself, to decision-makers further afield, to academics, to associated institutions and to the public at large. Their reports and in-depth features - as well as being accurate, objective and timely, as mentioned above - must also be interesting and informative enough to catch the attention of their targeted audiences in a highly competitive global media environment.

Indeed, OPEC has recognized the very special qualities required of top-rate journalists and other media professionals in 'The OPEC Award for Journalism', which will be presented for the second time at next June's OPEC International Seminar.

With all this in mind, therefore, it is always heartening for us when long-established, highly acclaimed institutions or individuals in the media achieve something special. This does not mean that we always agree with what they write about us or our Member Countries! But, at the same time, we recognise that they are acting in accordance with their set professional standards, and, what is more, over the years this has contributed significantly to the healthy evolution of the energy industry - which, after all, is our common aim.

Hence, we should like to congratulate the staff, past and present, of Petroleum Intelligence Weekly, on reaching its 50th anniversary in October (see page 34). And we look forward to this widely read industrial newsletter maintaining its high standard of reporting on the oil industry long into the future.

OPEC Bulletin October 2011

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