Tag Archives: knowledge society

Implications of Being a Knowledge Society

In class we discussed the difference between knowledge and information.  When these two terms were dissected, we decided that knowledge is the understanding and use of information that can be applied to the formal sectors of society.  This brings apparent the idea of knowledge and information societies.  The United States and much of the developed world can be considered a knowledge society as they are responsible for producing and sharing  present information to all members of society to improve human conditions.  Knowledge societies process the data and information to further economic, social, and political wealth.

The concept of knowledge societies are extremely important to the relationship between developing and developed countries.  Since knowledge societies are responsible for making all  information and data available to their own nation, the responsibility of these developed societies in bridging the knowledge gap between the developed and developing world can often be in question.  Particularly with information technology and the digital divide, new information is constantly being circulated throughout the developed world.  As a knowledge society with a moral responsibility for the social welfare of the developing world, the United States must further use its available knowledge to aid developing nations and build an infrastructure that will allow these countries to also further advance as knowledge societies.

 

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ICTs and Neoliberalism

In class this week, we discussed some of the development theories and frameworks that we use to think about ICT4D. One of these frameworks is neoliberalism, an economic ideology that emphasizes free markets and a minimal role for the state. In the context of development, neoliberalism says that macroeconomic growth is the most important goal. This framework has been heavily criticized both within the development world and in other academic fields for its imperialist approach and lack of attention to local conditions. In his article, “ICTs, the Knowledge Economy, and Neoliberalism,” Richard Hull from the Department of Human Sciences at Brunel University in the UK argues against dominant theories of ICT and the ‘knowledge society’ because he claims that these theories perpetuate neoliberalism. You can check out his article here.

Hull says that the common argument that ICTs have created a new era in which information and knowledge are central to politics, society, and the economy is actually in danger of perpetuating neoliberalism. He supports his claim by arguing that the idea of ‘knowledge’ as a measurable factor and a unit of analysis was invented by neoliberal theorists in the 1930s and later used to justify the search for new markets. Hull’s article is interesting because he claims that the concepts of the information and knowledge society that we now take for granted as givens are actually part of the neoliberal agenda. It seems to me that Hull would probably fall under the category of post-developmental thinkers because of his criticism of the concept of knowledge as a universal, measurable idea. Hull argues that there are different forms of knowledge, an idea also supported by post-developmentalism with its emphasis on indigenous forms of knowledge. Like other post-developmentalists, Hull offers a stinging criticism of neoliberalism, but without offering many suggestions for how development should be done. It is also interesting to see how ICTs and ICT4D fit into these frameworks about how we view development and how ICTs can be used effectively (or ineffectively) in achieving development goals. 


An Innovative Approach to Food Security

Radio National, a segment of abc.net.au, recently broadcasted an interview with Mark Wahlqvist from Monash University on their program Ockham’s Razor. In the discussion the issue of food security was evaluated. Walqvist argues that food security is a growing concern around the world, and that in order to combat the growing phenomena a fundamentally different approach is necessarry. This approach must consist of support from national governments, international organizations, and assistance from the local and commuity level. More emphasis needs to be placed on biodiversity and ecology of local areas in relation to the functioning food ststem. A way to encourage these types of innovation come with connecting the communities at hand. While Walqvist’s Australia may have access to advanced ICTs enabling the farmers to community, developing regions are relying on other ICT.

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According to Dr. Hilde Munyua in a report published for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, food security can only be achieved “when all people at all times have access to sufficient food for a healthy and productive life, and has three main components: food availability, food access, and food utilisation” In order to obtain this reality an effective and efficient agriculture system, that suppies food utilizes natural resources in a sustainable manner needs to be put into play. The information revolution is just one way the issue of food security can be alleviated. By increasing the spread of knowledge of rural development, we can increase one of agricultures most important inputs. Knowledge and information are basic ingredients of food security and are essential for facilitating rural development and bringing about social and economic change. These communities need information on new technologies, early warning systems in relation to drought, pests, and diesease, credit, market prices, and their competition. These systems of rural information sharing must place emphasis on the local communities. Traditionally the information has been spread through radio, print, television, film, and mobile phone messages. New ICTs, however, have the potential of getting vast amounts of information to rural populations in a more timely, comprehensive and cost-effective manner, and could be used together with traditional media.Telecommunication and internet can completely change the global agricultural industry. It worked with the Green Revolution in East Asia, why not spread the word?

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The Sustainable Livelihoods Framework: Technology as an Equalizer

In the last class, we discussed some of the approaches to development, not necessarily directly relating to ICT4D. One in particular, the Capabilities Approach advocated by Amartya Sen, reminded me of something I had learned about in a previous International Development course called Urban Spaces and Development. In the course, we discussed the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (SLF), which, according to this DFID publication, is “a tool to improve our understanding of livelihoods, particularly the livelihoods of the poor.” This tool’s purpose is to encourage a holistic approach when undertaking development initiatives and underscores that the main focus is on people.

For that reason, the SLF fits very well into the Capabilities Approach, which focuses on human development more directly and much more so than the Neoliberalism/Modernization approaches, which emphasizes economic development as the precursor to other types of development. The SLF considers the inter-relatedness of the many different factors affecting people’s abilities to “create a livelihood for themselves and their households” and has distilled these factors  into five key  “assets”: human capital, natural capital, financial capital, physical capital, and social capital (IFAD).

One point that the DFID guide on SLF makes is that an important component of building human capital is “extending access to … knowledge generated [by the community, such as research]” by increasing and improving methods of communication, especially to include the poor, who have a particularly difficult time in becoming part of the knowledge society. Technologies to address this issue should be considered as to whether they are internally produced or externally introduced, relating to the suggestion that governments should create “polic[ies] to invest in… technology generation,” which reinforces what our class discussed last week about national policy having a significant influence on the success of ICT4D.

Technology is relevant to all of the assets, but the fact that it is hilighted in relation to human capital is significant because it proposes a direct link between individual exposure to technology and “development” of a community. It really promotes the creation of a knowledge society that permeates throughout a community, a process that depends heavily upon distribution of technology.

I really like the SLF because it does not promote a one-size-fits-all approach to development; it considers the different degrees of influence different assets have on individuals’ lives to build a development strategy that will most effectively impact a community. Technology seems to play an equalizing role because it will help in the inclusion of the “poor” (sorry, Richard Heeks) in the development of their communities .


Is Internet Access a Fundamental Right?

Within one of the assigned readings for this week, namely, The Economist Intelligence Unit Digital Economy Rankings 2010 (http://tinyurl.com/a4f4k2ka point was raised that sparked my curiosity- should access to the internet and other ICTs be considered a fundamental human right?

The traditional reliance on mass media intermediaries been superseded by the exchanging of ideas, opinions, and information over the emerging global network called the Internet. Because media has grown to be more and more independent, and communication practices are successively evolving, further attention paid to those pockets of people who are still excluded from the benefits of public access to ICTS is warranted. A growing number of policy makers are working to address this issue, particularly where network infrastructure is still being developed and invested in. The report provides the example of Australia, which is working to bring the minority of its citizens, who live in remote or rural residences, within reach of high-speed Internet through their $40 billion National Broadband Network Initiative. Another example that illustrates a changing attitude towards uniform access to the Internet is that of Finland, the country that comes in as number 4 on the EIU Rankings. Finland “has gone so far as to enshrine a law in Internet access as a basic human right.” This debate goes hand-in-hand with the other emerging concept of a knowledge society. According to UNESCO (as taken from the Untwin text), in said society, “knowledge is a public good, available to each and every individual.” A knowledge society favors inclusion; and the only way such societies will be formed, recognized, and sustained is if the consideration of even access to the Internet and other ICTs as a fundamental right becomes an internationally accepted belief. Statistics positively point to the likelihood of this type of a global attitude shift. As the report states, “a recent BBC poll of Internet users found that 87% of people across 27 countries believe this should indeed be” treated as a basic right as defined by being human.


Open Innovation Spaces: Promoting Technological Entrepreneurship

As we work through the introduction to ICT4D, one main concept we have encountered is the knowledge society, where knowledge is a public good, readily accessible to all members of the community. A program entitled iHub in Nairobi, Kenya, is an example of a real world attempt to promote innovation and sharing of knowledge.

iHub is an open space, both physical and digital, where “technologists, investors, tech companies, and hackers” are able to create and share ideas with the iHub community. The product of this open technological space is meant to be new technologies that will address the most pressing issues in Kenya. The program itself does not establish any new technologies or projects, but simply provides a forum in which bright minds can come work together. Members can post job openings, research findings, blog posts, business pages and upcoming local events on the iHub website.

Projects featured on the website include a data incubator to help the public better understand data relevant to public issues, a database for refugees to reconnect lost family members, and a project to analyze mobile phone usage among poor populations, among other projects. Through these projects, iHub is helping create a knowledge society in Nairobi by way of the innovation of the community itself.

One question to consider, however: Does the limited membership of the program lend itself to a situation where knowledge is open to all? I would argue yes, since only creating and researching through the program is limited to members, while viewing the website and its content is open to the public, regardless of membership .


WSIS e-strategies and UNESCO knowledge societies

After reading a little bit about the various ICT rankings and strategies, I wanted to learn more about them, particularly who is behind all of the initiatives regarding ICT development policy and strategy. When I looked into it I came across this article that showed the role of UNESCO in developing the Action Lines we read about in the WSIS National e-strategies for development article.

The article is interesting because it brings together the WSIS concept of e-strategies with UNESCO’s concept of knowledge societies we learned about last week. I learned that the idea of information societies, characterized by technological innovations, evolved to the concept of knowledge societies throughout the process of the WSIS. Knowledge societies are able to use technological innovations and transform them into a comprehensive understanding that leads to development. UNESCO argues that the presence of ICTs is not enough to bring a country to its full potential, as measured in the WSIS Action Lines, but they must utilize ICTs to transform into a knowledge society.

UNESCO became an active member in the progression of WSIS. It was a driving force in the organization of WSIS events, particularly debates and workshops, while developing the idea of knowledge societies. UNESCO has continued to be a central part of WSIS development and programs.

I thought it was interesting to see how the e-strategies and knowledge societies overlapped, hopefully you will too!