Monday, October 6, 2008

Brief Note on Knowledge Management and e-Governance

.....There is no clear or well-articulated learning environment in which lessons learned, including those gleaned from evaluations and assessments, can be accessed to avoid repeating mistakes or where proven practices in preparing model strategies can be shared.

--USAID, Knowledge for Development Strategy, FY 2004-2008

1. What do we mean by knowledge management and knowledge sharing?[1]

Knowledge management comprises of a range of practices, which are used by organisations in order to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge awareness, and learning across the organisations. There are a number of technologies 'enabling' or facilitating knowledge management practices in the various kinds of organizations (government, semi-government, non-government and private, civil society, voluntary, rural and urban elected—local bodies), which includes expert systems, knowledge bases, various types of information. Organizational knowledge flows is being supported by management, software help desk tools, document management systems and other IT systems. The Internet age and the knowledge economy has brought with it enabling technologies, including e-learning, web-conferencing, collaborative software, content management systems, corporate 'Yellow pages' directories, e-mail lists, wikis, blogs, and other technologies. Each enabling technology can expand the level of inquiry available to an employee, while providing a platform in order to achieve specific goals or actions. Due to the mainstream population and business community adopting the Internet, there has been an increase in creative collaboration, learning and research, e-commerce, and instant information. Knowledge Management programs basically manages the process of creation or identification, accumulation, and application of knowledge or intellectual capital across an organisation. Knowledge management leads to competitive advantage because of improved or faster learning and new knowledge creation. Knowledge management programs are expected to generate greater innovation, provide better customer experiences, ensure consistency in good practices and make knowledge accessed across a global organization. Knowledge Management, therefore, attempts to bring under one set of practices various strands of thought and practice relating to:
· intellectual capital and the knowledge workers in the knowledge economy
· the idea of the learning organisation
· various enabling organizational practices such as communities of practise and corporate Yellow Page directories for accessing key personnel and expertise
· various enabling technologies such as knowledge bases and expert systems, help desks, corporate intranets and extranets, content management, wikis and document management

Knowledge Management may be viewed from various perspectives:

(i) Techno-centric; (ii) Organizational; (iii) Ecological.

While discussing upon knowledge management, one should differentiate between tacit and implicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is termed as subconscious, internalized, and the individual may or may not be aware of what he or she knows and how he or she accomplishes particular results. 'Explicit knowledge' means knowledge that the individual holds explicitly and consciously in mental focus, and may communicate to others. Intangibles (intellectual capital) lead to organizations’ competitive advantage. Intangible investments (R&D, innovation, knowledge creation and fertilization, marketing and advertising expenditures) leads to performance at the corporate level. At the macroeconomic level, new growth and endogenous theories have already demonstrated about the importance of knowledge in the performance of nations. However, the main emphasis of knowledge management and sharing is on application, which requires adequate skill, training and hands-on experience[2].

Knowledge sharing[3] is part of knowledge-management. Through knowledge-sharing among donor agencies, various government agencies, non-governmental organisations, field workers, and other stakeholders, development-related projects can be implemented, evaluated and monitored successfully. But the basic motto of knowledge-sharing is to learn from the past mistakes/ failures pertaining to various business (revenue based) and non-business oriented models, which are project-based, and generate new ideas pertaining to development-related projects (which are funded by the countries of North to the countries of South). Through knowledge sharing, one can come to know what works and what does not work under various contexts (social, economic, political and cultural). Through knowledge sharing one can come to know about good and best practices that can be replicated elsewhere. Although knowledge sharing has been termed as fad by some, but it can be practiced provided there is clear-cut guidelines and methodologies, which does not hamper innovation and flexibility[4]. Technologies including IT, can play a huge role in knowledge-sharing by ensuring and enhancing accuracy, profitability, sustainability, speed, productivity, efficacy, efficiency and various other related gains.

Knowledge management and sharing is practiced by a number of international agencies such as the USAID (United States Agency for International Development), the World Bank, United Nations Solutions Exchange (India) etc.

2. Meaning of e-Governance

The bone of contention amongst development practitioners from various schools of thoughts is on the question—Why should there be such a huge investment and focus on e-Governance? This brief section will provide a background to e-Governance, and may probably answer and address the question.

‘E-governance’ or electronic governance means the delivery of government services and information to the public and the civil society (at large), using electronic means. Such means of delivering information is often referred to as information technology or 'IT' in abbreviated form. Use of IT in government facilitates an efficient, speedy and transparent process for disseminating information to the public and other agencies, and for performing government administration activities. IT can also be used for online monitoring and evaluation of various government and donor agency funded development projects, since IT promotes transparency. E-Governance also promotes better flow of information within the government agencies. However, the biggest challenge before IT is ‘digital-divide’. Digital divide is much more prominent in the countries of the South compared to the countries from the North. Some argue that IT or e-governance can do less benefits to the poor unless they are provided with basic amenities like access to education, housing, opportunities of livelihood, access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation etc, at the first place. However, the importance of e-Governance lies in not only providing services but in promoting better management of financial and non-financial resources in order to reduce transaction as well as transportation costs, which is incurred by the economy. The IT policy of government plays a crucial role in promoting and shaping e-Governance. However, for effective e-Governance, the government agencies can work simultaneously with civil society organizations (CSOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private and business sector, urban and rural local bodies (including panchayats), voluntary organizations (VOs), local communities, local schools etc. It is expected that e-governance help in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)[5] of the United Nations. E-Governance is a part of e-Democracy, so as to enable the transition from passive information access to active citizen participation, thus resulting in participatory governance and decision-making. E-Governance, aims to make the interaction between government and citizens (G2C), government and business enterprises (G2B), and inter-agency relationships (G2G) more friendly, convenient, transparent, and inexpensive[6].

The technological aspects of e-Governance comprise of software, hardware, infrastructure, telecom, skilled people with IT background (both managerial and technical), maintenance of IT infrastructure, safety and security issues related to IT. In the social sector, e-Governance can address issues like: education and literacy levels, employment generation, sources of income and livelihoods, roots of the problem behind digital-divide, regional disparities in income and economic-development[7].

3. How can knowledge management and knowledge sharing help e-Governance?

Some of the problems facing developing country programs include the following:

· USAID and its partners are often not learning from and avoiding past development failures, nor are they building on past successes.
· Useful development knowledge is not always transferred, embedded or learned by developing country beneficiaries, their peers, partners, and USAID Missions.
· USAID staff and partners can strengthen their ability to share and learn from local knowledge to improve the design of development programs.
· As USAID programs expand to include an increasing number of country-based participants and partners, the full range of knowledge generated is not easily available to those who need it.
· Host country institutions, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector need to be made aware of and adopt the principles of a learning organization in order to build their own capacity as knowledge-sharing facilitators.

----USAID, Knowledge for Development Strategy, FY 2004-2008

3.a Knowledge Management of the USAID

Knowledge management is used by the USAID in order to promote educated, healthy children and families, foster stronger economies and grow more food, prevent conflict, support a cleaner environment, and encourages democracy (along with promoting a safe world). The USAID finds that it has limited ability to access and use its knowledge in systematic and efficient ways. The USAID thinks that In order to understand how well USAID is rising to the challenge of optimizing the use of its knowledge, a core Knowledge for Development (KfD) strategy team began conducting background research and interviewing USAID senior staff in Summer 2003[8]. The USAID thinks that knowledge resides in many areas–-with federal partners, international donors, contractors and grantees, recipient countries, development organizations, and even among USAID’s retirees. The USAID, thus tries to imbibe knowledge management and knowledge practice both within and without its organisation by taking the benefit of technology including IT for a number reasons, which have been already discussed..Knowledge sharing and knowledge management has also been promoted by the World Bank.

3.b UN Solutions Exchange Programme, Knowledge Management Partnership (India)

Apart from the USAID, new the UN Solutions Exchange, Knowledge Management Partnership (India)[9] provides platform to the community of development and knowledge practitioners in order to understand the various intricacies of programme (related to HIV/ AIDS, decentralisation, education, environment-water, food and nutrition security, gender, health—maternal and child health, poverty-work and employment, poverty-microfinance, ICT for development, disaster management, health—communicable diseases, health—communication diseases, environment clean technologies and environment-forestry) related to implementation. It is expected that the creation of UN Solution Exchange, Knowledge Management Partnership (India) will unleash an entire gamut of benefits to its members from government agencies, semi government agencies, NGOs, donor agencies, private sector actors, rural and urban elected local bodies.

4. Conclusion

Based upon the above brief literature, there is need for pushing for the agenda of knowledge management in e-governance related projects. However, there is also the need to assess whether knowledge sharing helps or not. The most important thing is which kind of knowledge are we arguing for? Are we talking about mainstream knowledge related to development? Are we considering the adverse impact of modern development projects which leads to environment degradation, plight of the poor? Or, are we talking about sustainable development and people centric development? One should be very much cautious about 'meanings' and connotations.

[1] Note that this section of the article is based upon information from following two source:, USAID, Knowledge for Development Strategy, FY 2004-2008
[2] Source:
[3] Note: 'Knowledge sharing at the World Bank has evolved over time. From an early emphasis on capturing and organizing knowledge, its focus now is on adopting, adapting, and applying knowledge in a way that helps World Bank staff, clients, and partners work more effectively to reduce global poverty'.

[4] Note: 'Rules' or institutions (which rational economic actors follow) are meant to create conducive environment and not for creating hindrances for equitable economic growth.
[5] The Millennium Development Goals are: 1. Eradicate Extreme poverty and hunger; 2. Achieve Universal Primary Education; 3. Promote gender equality and empower women; 4. Reduce child mortality; 5. Improve maternal health; 6. Combat HIV/ AIDS, malaria and other diseases; 7. Ensure environmental sustainability; 8. Develop a global partnership for development.
[6] Note: The World Bank, accessed from:,,contentMDK:20507153~menuPK:702592~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:702586,00.html
[7] E-governance in Developing Countries by Michiel Backus, IICD Research Brief - No 1, March 2001, accessed from:
[8] Interestingly, many of the SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in the Asia-Pacific region have made their organisations IT-enabled, which has given these organisations an extra 'edge. They too being part of the global knowledge economy, have started practicing and learning knowledge management and sharing.
[9] Source:


samflutch said...

Capacity building has emerged as one of the most critical components in the modern project management body of knowledge.The conceptualization of the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) started some time before 2004. In early 2005, while formulating NeGP, states were at different levels of readiness, and e-governance initiatives and computerization of government systems were mainly champion-driven. So for all the states to assume the ownership and participate in the national program, capacity building was considered to be vital at various levels within the government across the country.


Ian smith said...

Knowledge Management News™ is a no cost information repository and occasional newsletter focused on Knowledge, Content, Information, and Identity Management. The purpose is simple; to provide news and insights for and about the Knowledge/Information Management practitioner. Knowledge-sharing networks have become a huge research subject in various fields in management.