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Tuesday / March 28.

Access to Knowledge: A Tapering Pathway

Puja Bajad

The view that Paulo Freire painted decades back still continues to stand true in the context of the knowledge that is accessible and is needed. The dialogue around knowledge; its source, production, localisation, language and quality, continues to be burdened under a very complex political economy.

The complexity is further intensified with the digital sources of knowledge materials; an environment that has challenges with reliability and reach within the multiple tiers of society. Many international universities have opened certain elements of their courses, but the localisation of content and its availability creates unscalable boundaries.

With a slow yet concrete movement around access to knowledge and intellectual property, and the importance to put it on a policy agenda beyond just access to information and universal education, knowledge should be seen as the basis of several human rights concerns and furthering the idea that free flow of ideas and content informs political decision-making, social dynamics and larger community movements. There is also a need for a creative solution for communities to have the ability to choose fair and relevant content that is true to their realities. Content is highly volatile, it’s a form of goods that never go scarce in case they are shared, in fact they become richer with age and through many additions that continue to add many dimensions to their otherwise exclusive stature.

The imperative question here is about the process of seeking knowledge. The question itself leads to a wider dialogue around the ability to seek and the sources thereof. The dialogue tends to move in circles because the very basis of developing the ability to source and use knowledge material depends on the need itself.

The imperative question here, is about the process of seeking knowledge. The question itself leads to a wider dialogue around the ability to seek and the sources thereof. The dialogue tends to move in circles because the very basis of developing the ability to source and use knowledge material depends on the need itself. The presence of knowledge where it is needed the most and when it is needed the most in its entirety continues to have deep and wide craters in the real world.

In a time when technology is driving a range of innovative solutions across digital media, there still exists a huge difference between the information which is publicly and privately held by intellectual properties. There is a parallel movement to relax the scope of intellectual property and open knowledge sources to further developmental activities and feed into social systems. Knowledge management and sharing is a separate story which is lurking in confusion and chaos. There is a deep gap which is widening due to sophisticated technology- it is slipping away from the hands of people and landing in the lap of a more organised profit-oriented black hole.

The bigger question to ask is if digital libraries, MOOCS and other open sources of information on the Internet truly serve to bridge the gap between privileged and under-privileged communities. Doesn’t it call for a separate dialogue around inclusion? Aren’t we concentrating on the ease of the digital environment and actually overlooking the real-time public communications networks?

Open learning societies are rare and are shrinking at an astonishing rate, which is leading to a situation where the political systems and democratic processes are left to mere speculations at the grassroots. The social-stratification of content and information is not unique to countries like India alone.

Knowledge is not an intellectual commodity, it is the basis of social justice, a dialogue around equality and a seed to informed decision-making and a dynamic social order.

It is not a pedagogical argument, it is a dialogue around oppression; the virtues of our actions today and our will to move past them while we still have the time.


Puja Bajad is a development communications professional with specific focus on young people. She is working on participatory communications methodologies for young people in the flood affected, upper Himalayan belt in India, and assisting UN-Habitat with a communications strategy around the ‘Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award, 2015.