Using the internet as a knowledge tool

March 30th, 2008 - 9:33 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, March 30 (IANS) India’s National Knowledge Commission is laying special emphasis on the internet to act as a “powerful and democratic source of information and knowledge” and is planning to open a series of web portals for the purpose. “These portals should become a decisive tool in the popular movements in support of the right to information, decentralisation, transparency, accountability and people’s participation,” commission chairman Sam Pitroda has said.

To initiate this process, the commission has announced plans to hold a daylong workshop and deliberate on designing and developing an environmental portal.

The workshop will be held April 10, along with the city-based non-profit organisation Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

So far, the commission has envisaged creating national level portals dealing with “certain key sectors” like water, energy, environment, education, food, health, agriculture, employment and citizens.

These are intended to serve as a single point of access for consolidated information, applications and resources on the sector and will cater to a wide spectrum of users from citizens, entrepreneurs, small-scale industries, students, professionals, researchers and local practitioners.

The portals would be managed by a consortium with adequate representation from a wide range of stakeholders from NGOs, research and scientific groups, academic institutions, advocacy groups, government agencies and departments, international bodies, other funding agencies, the private sector, technology experts, educators, eLearning experts and others.

According to the Knowledge Commission, this will ensure that the portal remains “a dynamic repository of information from multiple sources to aggregate content”.

A collaborative model is adopted so that all stakeholders can participate in the creation, collaboration, sharing and discussions “in a rich and meaningful way so that information cannot be monopolised by any one group,” it added.

The commission has also raised the issue of the need to “reform” India’s mapping policy.

It noted that the advance in computer-based Geographic Information Systems (GIS) has given mapping and the use of maps a huge impetus in various fields. This helps in visual decision-making in various areas such as agriculture, transport and disaster management.

“An unambiguous mapping policy coupled with clear guidelines for use of spatial data are necessary to share GIS data and thereby maximise the use of cutting edge technology and applications,” the commission said.

“Under the new mapping policy announced in May 2005, there is still some ambiguity about publishing of GIS maps on the internet by NGOs, government and other development oriented agencies,” it noted.

An India Water Portal is now being developed by Arghyam Trust, a public charitable trust. The India Energy Portal is being developed with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

“We also hope that various ministries in the government will initiate and encourage public-private partnerships to launch relevant portals to spread information and knowledge to the public at large and at the same time improve transparency, access, democratisation and utility,” Pitroda said in an earlier letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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