People’s Access to Knowledge can Transform India

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A national drive to ensure access to knowledge and  learning can transform India’s potential for development, lift young Indians to new levels of understanding and competence, and make India one of the leading knowledge societies in the world. This is the central affirmation of the National Knowledge Commission in its 2006 Report to the Nation, released recently. The Report was presented to the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, by Commission Chairman Sam Pitroda. This is also marked by the Prime Minister’s inauguration of two national knowledge portals, opening public access to knowledge and ideas on the issues of Water and Energy.

Appointed by the Prime Minister in October 2005 with a three-year mandate, the Commission is assigned to prepare a blueprint for radical improvement of knowledge access, knowledge creation and application, by and for the Indian people. The assignment includes the generation of practical plans for comprehensive improvement of education standards and opportunities at all levels and notably the uplift of vocational knowledge and skills. The Commi-ssion’s initiatives focus especially on youth and children, who comprise 54 per cent of India’s people, and are its vast human resource of talent and potential competence to meet both national and international needs.

The NKC recommendations are wide ranging, taking in their sweep higher education, vocational training, libraries, e-governance, right to education and translations. Each of the recommendations has been crafted to achieve the objective of tapping into India’s ‘enormous’ reservoir of knowledge and prepare the country for the challenges of the 21st century.

According to the Chicago-based chairman of the Commission, ‘While making the recommendations we have been guided by how knowledge will impact the lives of ordinary hardworking people of India. We are conscious that knowledge is about farmers having access to accurate information about water resources, land quality and fertilisers, students having access to schools and colleges of high quality and good libraries, scientists having access to well equipped modern laboratories, industry having access to skilled workforce and people generally having right to information and good governance.’The Report to the Nation highlights key areas where change could significantly improve people’s inclusion and capability in existing and new fields of knowledge use. This would entail reform in education, learning processes, governance, enrichment of knowledge institutions like libraries and centres of research and learning.

A major thrust is proposed in translation across all Indian languages to further knowledge creation and information dissemination. Access to new technologies and services for information provision and the transfer of knowledge is a priority. The commission has already submitted wide-ranging recommendations for action to the Prime Minister, to which the report has now been made public.

Based on a year-long process of consultations with experts and representatives of government, parliament, academia, industry, civil society and the media, the recommendations are based on open and intensive discussion to identify priorities, concerns, and needed action. The Commission Chairman Pitroda expressed the hope that the Report will generate further discussion and debate, so that public participation enriches the Commission’s efforts.

The inauguration of the two national web portals on Water and Energy marks the Commission’s bid to enhance public access to information and knowledge on these two critical development issues. The promotion of web portals on Internet is just one of the Commission’s initiatives to open up knowledge sources and resources for public use.

Key recommendations of the Report

Right to education

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