A2K symposium (Post by Pr Anil Gupta)

By Pr Anil Gupta

Some posers:

If the basic needs of the majority of people in the world remained unmet:  why people’s access to knowledge of other people, institutions and knowledge systems (in their language) is not at the heart of the debate?

Is it because people lack  imagination, ideas, innovations? Is the river of ideas dry?

is it because the institutions which can convert their ideas into enterprises – social or economic, individual or collective are missing?

what will just just access without supporting institutions providing assurances and ability (skills, technology) really then achieve?
What are the resources in which many economically poor people are potentially rich:
• Knowledge, creativity and innovation for survival;
• Ethics and values;
• Institutions (common property institutions, social arrangements for using natural or other resources);
• Kinship and social networks: the social capital;
• Cultural communication channels.

What are the resources they lack:
• Institutions (like gian.org, www.sristi.org nifindia.org) providing handholding support at their doorstep;
• Access to local or nearby labs and workshops to add value to their knowledge or fabricate tools for meeting their need;
• Access to local language multimedia tools / databases of traditional knowledge or grassroots innovations by other communities in the region or around the world (such as Honey Bee database, sristi.org);
• Flexible access to natural resources governed by state or  large private owners;
• Access to micro venture capital and risk funds to support new product development
• Linkage with formal sector scientific labs for validating and valorising their knowledge of herbal healing and other technological claims;

Lack of low transaction costs system of IP protection without preventing people to people learning but ensuring benefit sharing with corporations: why should people disclose their knowledge at all??–a la technology commons (Sinha, 2009, Gupta, 2010)

Whose access: whose knowledge

Madhavi Sunder made an interesting point: local people are left behind just in the proportion that some others people gain advantage through modern ICTs,

But are not we too left behind in gaining access to their, the people’s knowledge, institutions, ethics, values and creativity?

In Which kinds of knowledge do some people are ahead and some behind?

a) database of green grassroots solutions developed poor peers (honey bee database)

b) opportunity for blending formal and informal knowledge

c) acces sto frugal empathetic heuristics: the ways in which grassroots innovators achieve solutions may also teach us new heuristics about solving problems and in the process, sometimes, advance the frontiers of science. One must, however, accept that no one system of knowledge can provide all solutions.
d) Blending of formal and informal science is necessary to produce sustainable outcomes.
In fact, such blending has taken place implicitly in lot of intuitive discoveries and explorations. Why is it then formal scientific applications make reference to them less often?

e) The trade off between accuracy, affordability, accessibility and local adaptability has to be made in technological portfolios by the households, particularly in disadvantaged regions all the time. Social sustainability, therefore, requires recognition of the challenges that emerge on the scientific frontiers.

f) Who will develop a windmill in 120 usd?

Whose knowledge is valuable for whom?
Whose access will make this solution accessible to whom where in world at what cost?

This is the question we have been trying to answer in Honey bee for last twenty years.

The local  knowledge base has tremendous opportunity for generating cross cultural and regional linkages.

Cross-cultural linkages among knowledge systems:

For instance, pastoralists in Mongolia used a home made lick out of onion leaves with wheat germ, sodium bicarbonate and dried milk for the animals. It was found that this lick was very rich in selenium. The deficiency of this element could cause the young calves to die prematurely apart from causing other problems. While discussing the idea of HB network with Akwasasne people in Canada, it was discovered that they were facing a problem in the livestock which was traced to the deficiency of selenium. This is what the potential of Honey Bee network is. A practice in Mongolia documented by a professor in Scotland, published in Honey Bee becomes available for use in Canada or Laddakh.


The economically poor –knowledge rich people lack a little space in the dreamland of modern knowledge managers
Why are so few knowledge/innovation bases available on the internet in local languages or even in English
Whose access we want to improve, whose transaction costs we want to reduce, at what cost and for whom.

Concept of technology commons:

People to people knowledge exchange free, unrestricted, unhindered.

People or communities to firms: not free, not without due reciprocity, not without PIC, benefit sharing contract.

What myths are we blowing:

Poor are not just consumers, they can also be providers of knowledge, innovations and ideas.

Poor are not at the bottom of all pyramids:  they may be at the bottom of economic pyramid, but are they at the bottom of ethical, innovation and knowledge pyramids.

Innovations are not made only in high tech institutions, these also evolve in the ‘laboratories of life’, at the grassroots level by individuals as well as communities.

Innovations are imperative for survival, these  are not as infrequent as we assume.

Traditional knowledge has not lost its relevance.  The functional elements can be valorised to generate solutions for contemporary problems.

What can we do together:  Honey Bee Network, member institutions and IIMA are willing to join hands with public and private institutions, community initiatives and individuals who want to make a difference without devaluing the local knowledge, innovations and institutions.
Creativity counts,
knowledge matters,
innovations transform,
incentives inspire (not just monetary, also non monetary, collective and not just individual)


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1 Response

  1. Stuti Saxena says:

    Great thoughts. Thanks.

    That the poor are “rich” in resources was an excellent note.

    Which side of the pyramid are we looking at – this will solve all the imbalance “perceived” by us. So, there is hope for the future!

    Its the visibility and “discovery” and the “madness” to unleash the hidden potential and knowledge, which shall open up new vistas.