The rapid changes in the world economy, technology, and digital society have transformed people’s traditional ways of life at local, national and global levels. In this digital world, the changing demands of knowledge and skills acquisition continue to challenge formal education systems and call for alternative modes of learning. With the development of the Internet and multimedia technologies, distance learning is becoming
a well-accepted and indispensable part of educational systems worldwide and there is greater awareness that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in education, such as online distance learning and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), is important to ensure equitable access to quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. Nevertheless, there are also concerns about the accessibility, connectivity, quality, the gaps in ICT use, and recognition of qualifications earned through non-traditional modes of learning. In this context, digital distance education is an open educational system that can address such concerns and accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Education 2030 agenda known as Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4).

Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University (STOU), one of the leading universities in Thailand, provides lifelong learning under the distance education system. Over 39 years, the university has created various innovations and technologies related to distance learning in order to achieve the mission of excellence as an open university. To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Foundation of STOU and to advance the Education 2030 agenda, STOU and the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education (UNESCO Bangkok) will co-organize the International Conference on Distance Learning: Research and Innovation for Digital Society from 1-3 August 2019. This conference will provide a great opportunity to all attendees including lecturers, researchers, and educators to share their experiences, expertise and best practices to promote quality open and distance education. The conference will assess the current status of distance learning, share successful initiatives and good practices regarding distance learning and explore innovative strategies, partnerships and mechanisms to promote distance learning in the future throughout Asia and Pacific in support of SDG4.