Knowledge et al, UK
Firstly, I’d like to thank the organising committee of the forthcoming conference in Geneva for the opportunity to share my thoughts on this topic. I believe it is the right time to be addressing the important role global institutions can play against a backdrop of the re-emergence of nation states and a potential reduction in budgets for the global development community. Definitely a case of doing more with less! The biggest challenge as I see it is how to translate these strategic goals and visions into effective implementation; to learn from what’s been done before; to tackle events safe in the knowledge that the best knowledge on that subject has been mobilised before actions taken; and to ensure that communities and people are equipped and empowered to address issues now and in the future. For me, effective use of knowledge has always been about improving decision making at all levels of society whether in a client / consumer facing role, providing administrative support or setting policy. I’d like to highlight a couple of the specific goals of the Agenda Knowledge for Development to illustrate what I mean.
Development organisations should be aware that their financial means and knowledge resources make them part of the problem. Any development practitioner and organisation has the responsibility to critically reflect on its practices, its success and its wider impact on development – including the growth of knowledge and independence in the developing countries. Providing resilience for communities weaned on development support has to be at the forefront of our efforts: self-sufficiency and ownership based on good access to knowledge and information; information literacy should be an objective. We have to make ourselves redundant! By avoiding prejudice and ignorance, by opening up for the new, by sharing our knowledge with others who need it, we will not only create a better world, but we will also grow as human beings. We cannot delegate this responsibility to the governments, experts or Artificial Intelligence. The Agenda Knowledge for Development will be realized through a multitude of small and responsible steps taken by many actors, with boldness in the projection and patience in the implementation. Special attention should be given to the competence of knowledge service professionals. Not only the professional knowledge of his/her domain, but also the competence to add real value to societies based on high ethical standards are to be developed at the highest possible level. The development community is awash with great toolkits, instructional videos and how to guides. While the forthcoming ISO KM Standards should provide a principle based set of guidelines for Knowledge Management Systems, is there a common coordinated global development approach to competence development in the field of knowledge and information management? And to what extent do the development goals include equipping communities with information and data literacy skills, while capturing essential data and information on which policy can be developed?
My vision (my future story) is as follows and focuses on a country I have recently visited for a community/World Bank Group sponsored set of knowledge events: It’s September 2024 and, after very heavy and unseasonal rainfall which many experts attribute to climate change, severe flooding is predicted along the Nile. 2020 WHO / World Bank efforts using a range of hand held devices aimed at improving the quality of data collection and analysis from the field, health centres and municipalities in outlying areas and provincial capitals have proved effective. A lot is now known about the physiology and population density of the areas potentially impacted and how similar regions around the globe have dealt with such incidents. Though many of the development community left in 2021, those NGOs that remain in the country have been working in conjunction with the new administration to ensure rapid approval/response times should a crisis arise. That same year, the local population and health centres were empowered after a set of ‘what’s in it for me?’ events to develop contingency plans for evacuation and immunisation against the waterborne diseases that will follow. Reviewed annually, with the results shared among all communities at regional events and via state media, this will be the first ‘live’ test. Fortunately, in 2024 the country-wide health informatics system went live so a year on all doctors are equipped with access to the latest knowledge on how to manage the outbreak of illness post-flooding and have the ability to connect with health professionals and medicine providers nationally using the UN sponsored and cloud based ‘webinfo’. The people’s trust in technology and information is improving from a low point. The official population census of 2022 and the eradication of Mycetoma after a government sponsored footwear education campaign the following year proved watershed moments. As people’s collective knowledge has increased so prejudice has decreased. Knowledge is no longer viewed as power but a resource available to all. As a result, in 2023 a country wide knowledge and information literacy programme was developed by the international development community in collaboration with Sudanese universities and run by its local agent, the Sudanese Knowledge Society, for all citizens. Delivered as blended learning, it focused on data, cyber security and the effective use of knowledge and information, and has become part of the teaching curriculum. It has helped tremendously in improving the quality and quantity of content and people’s understanding of its importance. At a regional and government level, it and an investment in predictive analytics has significantly improved their ability to create evidence based policies and to allocate resources and research funds to where they are needed. Crisis and health management are now informed by data, science and knowledge.