freed.in had the tagline “Knowledge shall set you free” and keeping this in mind the organizers had arranged for conclaves to discuss around this topic. The conclaves were held behind closed doors but the attendance was by no means invite-only.
As revealed so precisely in this quote (from The Future of Ideas by Lawrence Lessig): This, however, is a new century; our questions will be different. The issue for us will not be which system of exclusive control—the government or the market—should govern a given resource. The question for us comes before:not whether the market or the state but, for any given resource, whether that resource should be controlled or free.
The Government of India says that anyone who can sign or count the numbers is literate, the Knowledge Commission talks about knowledge and infrastructure around it. Hence one of the objectives was to arrive at some sort of definition of knowledge. Since knowledge hegemonies impede and affect dissemination, the idea was also to talk about the “text” based knowledge which has become accepted per se across various segments of the Internet. Thus, the internet as a carrier medium is very much different from internet as a knowledge repository which requires interactive participation.
The focus was more on knowledge dissemination techniques. Instead of talking about and around the seductive appeal of technology, the mutually agreed point was to discuss around usage of technology as a means to an end objective of knowledge dissemination for the largest possible segment of the society. The Indian economy is at a stage where it needs to be powered by knowledge as much by infrastructure projects. Institutional and non conventional structures have the agenda and perhaps a mandate to participate in creation, tagging and dissemination of knowledge. An important aspect of dissemination would of course be to identify and understand the target audience and arrange for the focal point of the knowledge circle to be located near them. This of course implies that the state provided infrastructure could be used, but the state would not be directly participating in the management of knowledge.
For most societies, the existence of an academic “open” system encourages and provides incentives for knowledge sharing and information transaction. The sharing is both within education framework and outside it, rather than being a homogenous monoculture. An interesting point that emerged during the discussion was that the relevance of traditional education has changed due to the nature of social and labour expectations. And thus traditional education is the primary place for dissemination of knowledge. India is perhaps the only country which has a dedicated satellite for education content production (at the uplinking studios) and distribution. Thus, the EduSat community needs to be strengthened and re-focussed into achieving its mandate.
While the agenda this time was deliberately kept vague to encourage the churn of ideas, the intent was to look as how to see digital societies can go beyond localized educational institutes and change the mode of education. Discussions around the Commonwealth Education Project, the Open Education Project and also the by now increasing awareness that research conducted at universities need to be put under Open Access Licenses.
The first day of the conclave ended with a discussion along User Technology Interaction Models, Community Radio, Community Infrastructure, Content Courseware Development, GIS and Geolocation. At a very high level knowledge was identified into implicit and explicit knowledge, academic and non academic knowledge and short-term+long-term information.
On the second day the conclave did a deeper dive into the aspects of encoding of the knowledge content and how information technology can be applied at verticals like health, education, governance etc. A significant number of instances were discussed where the content would not be useful or relevant without re-processing and re-writing to make it relevant to the context.
The discussion also touched upon the area of tacit knowledge and how to address the capture and storing of such a corpus and encoding such that everybody is allowed to access, use and share that information. In this case technology would be the enabler and not the driver.
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