Lecturer in International Development, University of Leeds, UK
People need information at various times and at different points in their life course, and access to information in order to facilitate knowledge creation processes underpins the capacity to address both individual and collective development challenges. At the heart of Knowledge for Development (K4D) goals to support the achievement of inclusive knowledge societies must be a commitment to social justice, and addressing gender inequality is rightly singled out as a priority area for achieving socially just development. Gender inequality, exacerbated by other axes of difference including but not limited to race, class, sexuality, marital status, age and religion, emerges as a concern in relation to both information access as well as the capacity to turn information into knowledge and, as importantly, action. Information initiatives should aim to raise awareness and facilitate action to address the lived realities of gender inequality across a diversity of contexts. We need to create spaces where improved information access supports action to challenge unequal political, economic and social structures in which gendered norms and practices persist, privileging the voices and views of women and men marginalized from mainstream development. Since inclusive knowledge creation processes are essential to achieving the SDGs, we need to acknowledge the systemic challenges faced by initiatives seeking to leverage knowledge to promote more inclusive knowledge societies. My research has highlighted the persistence of what I have termed embedded exclusion, embodied in the professionalisation and elitism that characterises so much of K4D practice. This finding forces us to question how we facilitate the inclusion of a diversity of voices through challenging not just whose ideas count, but how we communicate ideas, in what language and through which media, channels or technologies. We must also challenge the tendency for K4D to become a supply-side tick-box exercise where the responsibility to access and thus respond to the increased availability of information is down to the agency of the individual information-seeker. Instead, the inclusive knowledge society should place at its heart a triad of listening, dialogue and learning as a way of achieving locally-relevant and inclusive social, political and economic development.