From the pioneering book on The Production and Distribution of Knowledge by the American economist Fritz Machlup published in 1962, and through the work of various researchers, it is increasingly recognized that knowledge is a key factor for economic development in modern societies. In a parallel way, thinkers since the earliest days of civilization have proclaimed that knowledge, albeit of a different kind, is crucial in pursuing the high road to peace. Knowledge is certainly valuable for economic reasons but not only for these reasons. It is also at the core of culture and human life. In the first decades of the 21st Century, we think that all forms of knowledge should contribute to the creation of peaceful societies on the way to sustainable development.

In 2005, UNESCO participated in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), suggesting a move from the information society to knowledge societies. In its World Report, Towards Knowledge Societies, these were defined as societies benefiting from their diversity and their capacities for stimulating knowledge sharing. These offer many new opportunities for development, supported by technological innovation and by wide-scale participation in the production and consumption of information. The report especially pinpointed four key dimensions of knowledge societies: freedom of expression and freedom of information, universal access to information and knowledge, quality education for all, and respect for linguistic and cultural diversity.

UNESCO’s contribution stipulated clearly that knowledge societies consistent with equity and human and sustainable development could not be achieved only by developing the technological infrastructure. The report rejected technological determinism and called for recognition of the diversity of knowledge societies. It also warned against an excessive commoditization of knowledge. When knowledge societies are not limited to information societies, knowledge cannot be reduced to the mere diffusion of information and cultural content. It also requires the acquisition of a range of abilities for the development of analytical and critical thinking.  

  • The report ended with ten recommendations, focusing on the necessity to improve:
  • High quality education for all,
  • community access to information and communication
  • technologies (ICTs),
  • enlargement of the public domain of knowledge,
  • scientific cooperation networks,
  • sharing of environmental knowledge for sustainable development,
  • linguistic diversity
  • knowledge certification on the internet
  • creation of partnerships for digital solidarity,
  • increased women’s participation in knowledge societies, and
  • development of statistical tools to measure knowledge societies.

Since 2005 much has changed. This is acknowledged in recent reports on the importance of information and knowledge in society. ICTs, especially mobile phones and digital information, as well as the content of the media, are becoming much more accessible to the world’s population. But the rapid and uneven diffusion of digital technologies and greater access to digital information has not eradicated the danger that knowledge societies which respect human rights and are consistent with peace and sustainable development are being jeopardized by persist inequality and social injustice. Therefore, UNESCO has insisted that Knowledge societies must build on the four pillars: freedom of expression; universal access to information and knowledge; respect for cultural and linguistic diversity; and quality education for all. The Organization’s thrust to create knowledge societies is premised on the conviction that universal access to information is key to building peace, sustainable economic development, and intercultural dialogue. UNESCO promotes ‘Openness’ in content, technology, and processes through awareness raising, policy formulation and capacity building. These solutions include Open Access to Scientific Information, Open Educational Resources, Free and Open Source Software, an Open Training Platform and Open and Distance Learning. Such resources allow researchers and innovators to more easily share and use data. They also provide students and educators from around the world with unprecedented access to knowledge and information. Central to its mandate of promoting peace and intercultural dialogue, UNESCO supports the preservation of documentary heritage by strengthening existing preservation frameworks, and emphasizes long-term preservation of digitized and digitally-born information.

  • TO FOSTER the development of sustainable knowledge societies through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs).
  • TO FACILITATE capacity building in ICT tools for the knowledge societies
  • TO UNDERTAKE AND PROMOTE research studies on every aspect of knowledge societies.
  • TO COLLABORATE AND DEVELOP networks of individuals, organizations, researchers, policy-makers, teachers, administrators and the civil societies engaged in the development of knowledge societies.
  • TO LIAISE with government, as well as inter-governmental agencies for supporting the development of knowledge societies.
  • To CREATE an environment where all levels of development processes interact with indigenous knowledges. This would be the development strategy undertaken by the Institute which will rely substantially on indigenous knowledges and would move towards a careful amalgamation of indigenous and foreign knowledge. This does not necessarily mean the use modern technology alone, it would include indigenous practices developed and applied under their own cultural conditions. 

However to concretize the actual implementation of the Institute we propose to begin with the following aims:

  • To further the interdisciplinary study of knowledge in society   
  • To plan and guide research in a strategic and focused way   
  • To facilitate collaborative research
  • To enhance the reputation of the Institution nationally and internationally 

To further the interdisciplinary study of knowledge in society:  A number of recent reports by national and international agencies (e.g. OECD, HEA, RIA) have highlighted the centrality of new modes of knowledge to continued economic and social growth.  Within this context, IKS offers expertise in examining the construction and dissemination of knowledge by and in society, with particular emphasis on the cultural, political, linguistic, historical, legal aspects of these processes.  A key distinguishing element of this focus is its multi- and interdisciplinary nature, which will straddle the traditional barriers between the social and natural sciences.

To plan and guide research in a strategic and focused way at the pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary levels:  IKS proposes to bring together expertise from the centres and units of the University, from the Vocational Education unit of the University, and from other Faculties of the University to create a critical mass of researchers and resources.  IKS is designed to complement the work done so far in the different departments and centres, by providing a higher level of research infrastructure and resources for all centres and faculty, and by enabling centres and individuals to exploit funding, training and other opportunities.

To facilitate collaborative research:  IKS will operate a centralized research hub of the University which aims to bring together individual faculty from the existing research centres and faculty and non faculty members who are not currently members of research units or centres to facilitate collaborative research.  A further objective of IKS is to help those members of faculty who wish to become more research-active to do so, principally through training, collaboration and support.

To enhance the reputation of the University nationally and internationally:  IKS aims to establish Centurion as a national and international centre of excellence in research, which brings together the Humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.  A visiting scholar's programme will bring leading international scholars to IKS and a graduate education programme will enable students in the Institute to benefit from local and international expertise and advice.  A key element in this strategic focus is the recruitment and retention of excellent researchers in cognate areas.

Consultancy, advocacy and extension work:  IKS will undertake Consultancy and Advocacy in its areas of expertise both nationally and internationally and hope to fulfill its commitments through vigourous outreach programmes both in the communities that it works within and the intellectual community at large.  IKS will be committed to bringing the results of its research to the far flung and deprived communities of the state within which it works and then further afield.

Project management, skill development:  One of the main means by which IKS would like to fulfill its objectives is to work in the area of skills development.  India is a nation of large populations of young people and a large percentage of illiteracy.  The education system required to facilitate and ensure quality education for all is a herculean task for any government.  The challenge, in this country, is to afford vocational skills to a large number of youth and at the same time to develop and upgrade the skills of those who are already in service.  IKS would endeavor to fulfill this very important task as one of its primary responsibility.

The main focus areas of research and operation will be open ended, however some areas of interest in which IKS would like to engage are the following:

  • Accessibility
  • Archival science
  • Cyber security
  • Digital culture
  • Digital library
  • Digital preservation
  • Distance education
  • Cultural Studies and Liberal Arts Education
  • Educational for all
  • e-Science
  • Free and open source software
  • Freedom of information/ATI
  • Information ethics
  • Information management
  • Information science
  • Internet gouvernance
  • Knowledge management
  • Media and information literacy
  • Culture and Technology
  • Indigenous Knowledge Systems
  • Multilingualism
  • Net-neutrality
  • Open access
  • Open data
  • Open educational resources
  • Open learning
  • Open science

A complete book can be written on any of these topics, however for purposes of brevity and the academic freedom of researcher(s), I leave this list as is and wait for producers of knowledge in each of these areas to take them forward in ways that would be much more comprehensive than anything that I can attempt at this stage. 

Organs (Academic)

  • College of Education
  • College of Knowledge Management
  • Centre for Staff and Continuing Professional Development

Organs (Administrative and Central Services)

  • Knowledge Management Centre
  • Information Technology Network Group
  • Knowledge Resource Management Group
  • Innovation, Ideas and Incubation Group  

In order to pursue the fulfillment of the aims and objectives, IKS will focus, at the outset on education and research to start with. IKS proposes to initiate a few high end courses in the areas of Media and Communications, which includes ICT. This will allow us to set up a functional base for the institute and allow us to begin some experiments in our core competence domains.

As the discipline of Media and Communications is an area that is comparatively new in the region and that the industry is growing at an exponential rate, we propose that we start a Masters programme in media and communication. This course will be based on the UNESCO model curriculum for journalism and communication education for developing countries and emerging democracies. This curriculum will be implemented for the first time in the country and will give a Phillip to the program and the Institution.

While we develop and implement this programme we will not loose sight of our main goals and therefore, plan on instituting at least 3 vocational programmes in tandem. These programmes would be so designed that they allow a student to gain lateral entry into the mainstream course at 3 predetermined stages. However, If the student so chooses he/she may get a diploma in his/her area of specialization and enter the industry/market.

One of the factors that has made higher education in India irrelevant, is the fact that there is very little connection between what is taught in classroom and the livelihood that the student pursues. IKS will explore all avenues of reducing that gap and to that end IKS will try to set up demonstration laboratories to create the conditions for linking Education, Livelihood and Community. To this end some proposals:

  • To set up a Community Radio Station that will be run collaboratively by the community and IKS.  While it will be a vital link between IKS and the Community at large, it will also be a lab for training our students in a skill set and be linked in a real way to the media industry.
  • To explore the possibility of setting up a TV station which will again fulfil similar goals as the Radio, but take our word further to a much larger audience.  Government of India is planning on opening several educational TV channels starting this year.  We may look into the possibility od getting one of these on campus.  This will facilitate both the short term plans of a live lab but also be the central tool to develop distance education in the near future.
  • To use the already existing infrastructure to create new-media labs.  This would allow us to create labs foe animation graphics, VFX and photography as viable directions in vocational education.
  • In consonance with the proliferation of convergence technologies, IKS will set up an Apps lab.  This will mean to connect experts from different disciplines so as to kindle an idea that that may have seemed crazy just a few years ago.  A lab that will be a social and collaborative apps centre that will both open up new areas of innovation and research but will also allow for a new arena of vocational training in apps building. The new areas to explore here would be in the areas of 3D modelling, content and simulation apps with real-time 3D experience.  These are areas of great importance in the gaming domain and IKS would like to be in all new and cutting edge areas.
  • IKS will create a book lounge, which would inculcate reading habits among students in an environment conducive and non-threatening to learning.

While IKS would be engaging in the business of interfacing between technology, education and culture, we are aware that this is not possible with the complete back up of a research team. In the true spirit of liberal education IKS will work toward creating a research hub that will try to bring science, social science and the humanities closer together. A fresh and compelling vision is needed to energize new reforms inside the academy and among the general public it serves. Many leaders in the field of higher education have debated these issues and suggested useful blocks for a new vision for liberal education which must address both content and delivery. Some of those ideas are given below. These will also be the guiding principles by which IKS will move towards being more inclusive.

  • Intellectual Vitality.  New knowledge and understanding starts with the questioning of old truths and assumptions, not only in science but in all fields.  A new vision must include new perspectives and voices, even if they are disturbing ones
  • Integration of Learning.  Scientific thinking and the products of science pervade our culture and are reshaping the world.  Scientists are exploring the fundamental questions that have been central to humanistic learning, and the results they produce will demand our best ethical and political responses.  Science must be an integral part of any future conception of liberal learning.  Ways must be found to engage a continuing conversation across the major domains of learning and knowledge and to prepare students to be informed participants in it
  • Multicultural and Global Perspectives.  Future-oriented liberal education must prepare students to function effectively in a multicultural society and in a world where national borders may sometimes blur.  The capacity to understand and communicate with people of other cultures begins with an understanding of one’s own culture and its relationship to others
  • Accessibility.  Learning must meet the needs of students who learn best through engagement with ideas in application and practice as well as those who are able to engage ideas abstractly and conceptually.  Learning must be integral to the curriculum of professional and technical schools as well as liberal arts colleges
  • A Vision That Can Be Shared.  The new vision must be presented in terms that are compelling to the beneficiaries of education — students, their families, the world of business, legislators — as well as to educators.  Educators must recognize that the benefits of the education are not self-evident and that “learning for the sake of learning” may not be compelling when students and families face large commitments of time and money.  Students and families need help in understanding how education contributes to personal development and career opportunity

While IKS would be engaging in the business of interfacing between technology, education and culture, we are aware that this is not possible with the complete back up of a research team. In the true spirit of liberal education IKS will work toward creating a research hub that will try to bring science, social science and the humanities closer together. The challenge of creating and implementing a new vision should not be underestimated, but the moment has come to try. For three decades, colleges and universities in India have struggled to accommodate open access with standards of excellence, new knowledge within old curricular structures, and new cultural perspectives with traditional ones. It is time we learned how we can and should inform a new vision of liberal education that, along with Indian enterprise and technology, will shape a global free society. The Institute of Knowledge Societies will endeavor to strive in these directions.

While IKS would be engaging in the business of interfacing between technology, education and culture, we are aware that this is not possible with the complete back up of a research team. In the true spirit of liberal education IKS will work toward creating a research hub that will try to bring science, social science and the humanities closer together. The challenge of creating and implementing a new vision should not be underestimated, but the moment has come to try. For three decades, colleges and universities in India have struggled to accommodate open access with standards of excellence, new knowledge within old curricular structures, and new cultural perspectives with traditional ones. It is time we learned how we can and should inform a new vision of liberal education that, along with Indian enterprise and technology, will shape a global free society. The Institute of Knowledge Societies will endeavor to strive in these directions.

So, what needs to be done? We need to extend our education practices in at least three fundamental ways to meet the challenges of the 21st century:

  1. We need to expand our work in educating scientists, with a special emphasis on integrative sciences.
  2. We need to address globalization by making sure our students experience a well rounded liberal education in a global context,
    and
  3. We need to extend the importance of our programmes to make sure students learn the life skills of communications, community and organization building in the 21st century fashion of working across boundaries and of being holistic thinkers and doers.

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