Infrastructure and policies should be directed towards encouraging the growth of a knowledge economy. Are the policy makers listening?
The quote by Benjamin Franklin sums up the need for efforts to be directed towards a knowledge economy. There is almost universal recognition that knowledge as a product and as an instrument will be the basic foundation for competitiveness of individual business and of nations in the 21st century. Several research findings show that knowledge is a factor that shows the proportion of international economic growth. The last economic crisis saw many turn back to college to obtain a higher degree, a better education and equip themselves with current knowledge.
This crisis also added to the urgency of preparing to apply and diffuse knowledge economy principles and practices to private and public institutions in India. Theprimary task, therefore for the Indian policy makers as well as organisations is to focus on this path, and prepare for such a time. We require good quality institutions, and an outward-orientation for creating, diffusing and adapting knowledge in India. Efforts need to be made to deepen and institutionalise such reforms.
For this purpose, infrastructure policies need to be in place. A strong base in education and training in technology and science are essential. Policies need to be drafted with the idea that new knowledge cannot be created or absorbed unless some basic knowledge already exists.
With this idea, strong reform policies are required, right from the grassroots level. These reforms in education policies, especially their implementation should be prioritised. There is a need to promote scientific enquiry and application.
Along with this, infrastructure should be provided at all institutes that will promote knowledge, like better internet facilities and digitisation of libraries. (See article on page 2).
The National Knowledge Commission (NKC), an advisory body set up in 2005, has five focus areas in this respect. These are:
- Easy access to knowledge
- Emphasis on education at all levels
- Creation of knowledge
- Application of knowledge to all sectors, and
- Better delivery of services in all sectors
The problem, however, is of numbers. With any policy, or its implementation, the greatest problem faced is of numbers. We have 50000 applications for 50 seats. Thus, any policy or initiative seems inadequate in its implementation. The government shifts are also to blame. Since implementation happens in phases, with a shift in government, it suffers due to other, new policies.
Our policy makers are not able to solve the problems of the masses on a mass scale. It is not that we lack policies, but they are few, and half baked. None of them are complete. As is always the case, with the government institutions, we fall back on the example of the coveted IITs and IIMs.
There is no doubt that the country, owing to its vast and growing population needs many more such institutions. The existing ones run well, and produce scholars, but what about taking care of those who cannot be admitted to an IIT, not because he is not smart, but because there was no place! And this, is the case with any institute, at any level, without exception.
To reach higher goals, the policy makers need to demonstrate stronger political resolve and greater competence in preparing India for the knowledge economy.