You are here: Home People Speak Identify knowledge that is good for people
Identify knowledge that is good for people

Dec 26, 2012

Nitya Nanda, Fellow, TERI, in a short talk with Rahul Kumar of OneWorld South Asia, tells that traditional knowledge cannot be owned by private parties and hence is not amenable to commercial exploitation even if it is often superior to other knowledge.

Nitya Nanda

OneWorld South Asia: It is said that the 21st century is a century of knowledge. At the same time, we see that despite this abundance of knowledge, we are hardly making progress towards a better planet. Poverty continues to stare us in the face and natural resources are getting depleted fast. Where are we lacking then, despite this knowledge and how do we rectify this anomaly?

Nitya Nanda: I am not sure if the 21st century is a century of knowledge. In my view, 20th century saw the largest number of path breaking inventions. Automobile, Airplane, Antibiotics, Electronics, Radio and Television, Telephone, Mobile phone, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, Spacecraft, Nuclear technologies, Genetic engineering/biotechnology, Internet, all happened in 20th century. But of course, with time, cumulative knowledge becomes more and more. In that sense, you can call this to be a century of knowledge. But in my view what we see now is actually an age of information revolution wherein there is a risk that knowledge itself can become a casualty. You can have a situation where ignorance or views of vested interests can masquerade as “knowledge”. For example we have seen the campaign by vested interests to deny climate change with the help of what was also supposed to be “knowledge”.

What we also see now is greater commercialization of knowledge which also started in the 20th century. This has the advantage of incentivizing knowledge creation and often putting knowledge to greater use. But it can also cause a problem when knowledge owned by different people cannot be combined to produce best outcomes for the people or sustainable development. There is also a risk that superior knowledge can be suppressed by poor or bad knowledge backed by greater commercial power. In this context also DSDS can play an important role by identifying knowledge that is good for people and sustainable development.

OWSA: The basic building block on which the knowledge economy rests is literacy. How can the new knowledge economy work for the benefit of communities and people who do not even have access to education. And we have large chunks of population in that category. How will the DSDS-2013 show a roadmap to translate the benefits accruing from a knowledge economy to reach where it is needed?

Nanda: This is a real concern especially in the context of developing countries including India. However, I am not sure if DSDS-2013 should show a roadmap in promoting literacy or education per se. DSDS can definitely play a crucial role in deciding what kind of education should be promoted as it will have an important bearing on people’s attitude towards sustainable development issues. In fact, TERI is already doing significant work on this line. Providing basic education is a fundamental duty of the state. Organizations like TERI can complement this effort. DSDS or TERI can, however, show a roadmap on how knowledge can be made available to people, even when they did not have proper education, through community mobilization.

OWSA: There has been so much emphasis on cooperation, particularly in light of regional disparities, especially in terms of knowledge and technology. Yet there has been little to write home about on technology transfers to developing countries. Such an attitude defeats the purpose of a knowledge economy. What does TERI have to say on this?

Nanda: As I have said before, a significant part of the knowledge available now is commercialized and in private hands. Hence governments might talk about transfer of technology but they do not own technologies, and hence cannot put into effect technology transfer. Transfer of knowledge occurs when it suits the commercial interests of the parties. As such, transfer of technology can be hindered by lack of financial capabilities and lack of absorptive capacity in developing countries which is caused by low spending on education and research and development, very often due to lack of financial capabilities. Organizations like TERI can play an important role in promoting absorptive capacities in developing countries as well as by bringing different parties and different kinds of knowledge together.

OWSA: Some notable examples of the knowledge economy are the IT, automotive engineering, electronics and digital, biotechnology, petrochemical and energy industries. But none of these depend upon or use local and traditional knowledge systems which actually are stronger in promoting sustainable development. So, how can the DSDS bring together different and opposing streams of thought to make them work for sustainable development and eventually bring about social benefit to people?

Nanda: Traditional knowledge cannot be owned by private parties and hence is not amenable to commercial exploitation even if it is valuable and often superior to other competing knowledge. TERI is already engaged in popularizing traditional knowledge often in combination with modern scientific knowledge. TERI’s work on energy and environment technologies, sustainable habitation etc. are examples of this kind of endeavor. DSDS can work as a platform for sharing such experiences by different agencies in different parts of the world and take them to next levels.

Most Read
Most Shared
You May Like
search

blank.gif

Jobs at OneWorld

research-communication.jpg

blank.gifrolling-internships.jpg

blank.gif

blank.gif

blank.gif

blank.gif

telangana-sdg.jpg

blank.gif

CRFC: Toll free number

Global Goals 2030
 
OneWorld South Asia Group of Websites