Knowledge for Development


Knowledge for Development

Presentation to the Planning Commission

August 8, 2000


Garry Jacobs & N. Asokan

The Mother's Service Society




Role of Knowledge in Development 1

India's Knowledge Gap 2

Literacy 3

Education 4

R&D 5

Application of Technology 5

Knowledge Dissemination through the Media 6

Strategies to Accelerate Knowledge Dissemination 7

1. Accelerate the spread of education 8

2. Improve the quality of formal education 9

3. Create Farm Schools in every block 9

4. Establish Vocational Training Institutes for all productive skills 10

5. Build a National Rural Information Delivery System 11

6. Establish a National Knowledge Foundation 11

7. Promote professional associations 13

8. Establish a national network of Centers for Public Debate on development issues 14

9. Compile an Internet-based Development Encyclopedia 15

10. Theory of Development 15

Knowledge for Development

by Garry Jacobs & N. Asokan

The Mother's Service Society


In assessing India's developmental assets and potential, the major emphasis is usually placed on capital, technology, infrastructure and human resources. This paper argues that Knowledge has emerged as one of the most important development resources and that full utilization of Knowledge can dramatically accelerate India's development over the next 20 years. The paper examines the growing gap between knowledge generation and knowledge application in India and presents a range of strategies to close the gap and accelerate progress.

Role of Knowledge in Development

The speed and extent of development depends on the availability of material, technological and financial resources, but in its essence development is a human process that is determined by the response of people to their external environment.

Development is the process by which human beings become aware of opportunities and challenges, formulate responses, make decisions, and initiate organized actions. This process follows the sequence from knowledge to inspiration to action. Human beings acquire knowledge, they become aware of opportunities and challenges. When that knowledge matures, they acquire a motivation or inspiration to translate that knowledge into action. No matter how great the opportunity or how dire the necessity, without that knowledge no adaptive response occurs. Knowledge is fundamental to each step in the development process. It is essential for creating awareness of opportunities and challenges, a proper evaluation of alternatives, formulating responses, effective planning and organization of initiatives, and practical implementation of those initiatives.

Development depends on a very broad range of knowledge-technical knowledge of productive processes, commercial knowledge of markets and business practices, personal knowledge of human health and nutrition, knowledge of laws and legal processes, knowledge of political and administrative processes and public policies, knowledge of organization and management, knowledge of emerging fields of science and, perhaps most important of all, a conceptual knowledge of the nature of the development process itself, so that we may have the wisdom to unleash and harness the energy, resourcefulness and creativity of the people.

The words knowledge, information and data are often used interchangeably, but a true understanding of the role of knowledge in development requires that we make a distinction between its ascending and descending levels or grades. In the ascending phase that leads from experience to knowledge, raw data is distilled into information and ideas. Raw, unprocessed physical facts or data is the lowest grade. At the next higher level, these facts get categorized and organized as information. At a higher level, organized facts are processed and distilled into ideas, concepts, and theoretical propositions that provide a perspective which reveals their significance and interrelationships. In the descending phase that leads from knowledge to action, ideas and theoretical concepts are applied to generate plans, organizational patterns, technological processes and physical skills that express in action.

In discussing the role of knowledge in development, this paper is principally concerned with the dissemination of information and ideas that can inform awareness, motivate decisions and provide an organized basis for skilled action.

Knowledge contributes to development in several different ways: as a productive resource; as an essential input for education, scientific research and industrial technology; as a catalyst for social change and economic development; and as a basis for civilization and cultural values that promote social integrity and harmony, which is the essential foundation for development.

In earlier stages of development, land and minerals constituted the principle resources for development. Technology was rudimentary. Human beings were valued mainly for their physical labor. Today, information and knowledge have become increasingly important inputs to the development process. All economic activities are becoming more knowledge-intensive. By one recent estimate, 50-60% of all industrial output is based on information. Modern manufacturing industries depend as much for their success on the management of information relating to quality, cost and scheduling as they do on the management of production processes. The service sector, which is the greatest source of new jobs and economic growth in the world economy, is essentially knowledge-based. In the USA, the percentage of the workforce engaged in manufacturing is now the same as it was in 1850. The phenomenal growth of employment opportunities in the USA has been driven by the rapid expansion of services. The four most important service sectors-financial services, insurance, health and education-are especially knowledge-intensive.

This shift from material to knowledge-based resources opens up vast opportunities for developing countries to accelerate the pace of development. The characteristics of knowledge differ greatly from those of material and financial resources. Knowledge expands as it is shared rather than being consumed. Knowledge is not lost when it is freely given away. Knowledge is readily transportable at rapid speed and very low cost.

Development depends on four knowledge processes:

  • Knowledge generation and acquisition through scientific discovery, R&D and transfer of technology.
  • Knowledge adaptation through innovation to particular fields, needs and operating environments.
  • Knowledge dissemination through formal and informal channels from knowledge developers and adapters to those responsible for applying the knowledge in society.
  • Knowledge application through skilled action in fields, factories, classrooms, hospitals and every other field of activity to achieve practical results.

India's Knowledge Gap

The task of harnessing available knowledge for development is complicated by the fact that the rate of global knowledge generation is growing exponentially and old knowledge is quickly superseded or nullified by new knowledge which generates more and better results, faster and at lower cost. Humanity's knowledge base, which has been accumulating slowly over centuries, is now doubling every 3 to 5 years.

Not only is knowledge much more available, it is also much more essential for survival in an increasingly complex and competitive world. Factory workers, urban citizens and even housewives today require a much broader range of knowledge and practical skills to perform even routine functions such as operating sophisticated machinery and appliances, complying with laws, interacting with government departments, benefiting from modern medical technology, etc. The minimum knowledge required of every Indian citizen is increasing. At the same time, the maximum opportunities for those that acquire the most knowledge in any field are boundless, as the recent surge in the IT industry dramatically illustrates.

The pace of knowledge dissemination in India has also been growing rapidly. The expansion of media coverage through cable TV has multiplied the range of programming. Rising levels of education have fueled a proliferation of specialized journals on a wide range of topics. The spread of information technology, telecommunication facilities and the Internet have created far wider access to a much greater range of knowledge. But, in spite of these significant achievements, there is a growing gap between the rate of knowledge generation and knowledge dissemination in the country as illustrated in figure 1.

Table 1: India's Knowledge Gap

India's knowledge gap is not easily quantified, but we can roughly measure it by examining the country's progress on literacy, education, application of technology, R&D and growth of the media.


Literacy rates in India have doubled over the past four decades. This impressive progress is

Table 2: Growth of Literacy in India


diminished by the fact that the starting rates were extremely low. This still leaves approximately 300 million illiterate adults in the country, 30% of the entire population. For these people, the traditional avenues of knowledge dissemination through education and printed information are ruled out. This is precisely the people in this group that are most vulnerable to the challenge of the knowledge revolution because they are least equipped to rapidly expand their knowledge base. Since many of them are relatively young adults who will still be active in 2020, the country cannot afford to ignore them or leave them behind. Innovative approaches will be needed to increase knowledge dissemination to this group.


A second way of estimating India's knowledge gap is to look at the number of people who do not acquire even a minimum of formal education. Education is the primary and most effective means so far evolved for transmitting practically useful knowledge from one generation to another. Education is the process of passing on to future generations in a concentrated and abridged form the essence of knowledge accumulated by past generations.

India's educational system has expanded exponentially over the past five decades. But, drop-out rates from primary and secondary school remain so high that a very large proportion of children do not acquire even high school education, which must be considered the minimum education required to adapt and succeed economically in modern society.

Table 3: Elementary School Drop-out Rates



In spite of significant progress in reducing school drop-outs, 31% of children still drop out before completing the 5th grade and 70% drop out before completing high school. Therefore, apart from addressing the needs of a large illiterate population, India's knowledge strategy must also develop innovative approaches to enhance knowledge acquisition among the large community of school drop-outs.

Unless something is done to drastically reduce drop-out rates, by the year 2016 there will be approximately 500 million people in the country with less than 5 years of schooling and another 300 million that will have not completed high school. In other words, about two-thirds of the population will lack the minimum level of education needed to keep pace with and take advantage of the social changes occurring within the country and worldwide.


The rate of knowledge generation in the country is another aspect of the knowledge gap. At the global level, science and technology are expanding at unprecedented rates. There are many ways in which this global knowledge permeates into the domestic economy, but the capacity of any country to adapt and fully harness these advances depends to a significant extent on domestic R&D activity.

Estimates of R&D activity can only be taken as crude indices of the knowledge gap, but the figures do suggest that knowledge generation in the country is not keeping pace, even proportionately, with the global knowledge revolution.

Table 4: R&D Expenditure


Exp in US $

Exp as % GNP













Two points are important to note about India's performance. First, atomic energy, space and defense research account for 71% of all Central spending on science and technology, which means that relatively little is left for investment in agriculture, energy, telecommunications and other crucial sectors. Second, R&D expenditure in India's fast growing IT sector is currently 3.1%, suggesting a strong correlation between investment in R&D and economic growth.

There are other indicators that also suggest an increasing knowledge gap resulting from inadequate knowledge generation.

  • India's share of global scientific output in 1998 was only 1.58% of the world's total.
  • India's annual output of science papers has declined from 13,000 in 1981 to 12,000, while world output has risen from 4 lakh to 7.6 lakhs per year.
  • India's share of global scientific citations in 1997 was only 0.7% of the world's total.
  • India's rank on the Science Citation Index has fallen from 8 to 13 since the early 1980s.

Knowledge generation directly impacts national development when it results in new and improved, patentable industrial processes. Every year more than 500,000 new patent applications are filed globally. Of these, China accounts for 96,000 and Korea accounts for 72,000, while India accounts for only 8000. Korea produces nine times as many patents as India with only twice [GJ1] India's total investment in R&D, suggesting that not only the quantum of investment but the management of R&D activities is a critical determinant of knowledge generation.

Application of Technology

A fourth way to estimate the country's knowledge gap is to examine the extent to which commercially viable technology is being applied in the country. Since agriculture is still the largest source of employment in India, the application of technical knowledge in this field can be a useful index of knowledge dissemination through agricultural education, agricultural extension services and other delivery systems.

Table 5: Agricultural Productivity in USA & India (kg/hectare) [1]













Wheat [2]








Soy beans








Lint Cotton









The table above compares agricultural productivity in the USA and India. There are many reasons for these differences in productivity, including size of land holdings, level of investment and quality of inputs. But in addition to these, there are vast differences in the extent to which available scientific knowledge is applied by farmers in their fields. According to empirical studies and field research conducted in India by California Agricultural Consulting Services, knowledge accounts for more than 50% of the difference in productivity on American and Indian farms. To test this conclusion, CACS has conducted experiments in which the knowledge available to California farmers has been provided to Indian farmers. Without any change in the size of the land holdings or quality of inputs, productivity on the Indian farms rose by 100 to 200%. While this data can only be taken as indicative, it illustrates the enormous potential for accelerating India's development by closing the knowledge gap.

Knowledge Dissemination through the Media

Knowledge dissemination occurs through the system of formal education and through a variety of informal channels, of which the media is the most prominent. Therefore, the development of the media can be taken as another rough index of knowledge dissemination in the country.

The number of publications and growth of readership in India is expanding rapidly, as shown below:

Table 6: Indian Newspapers & Journals







57 million





89 million



The Indian newspaper industry has expanded enormously as the population has expanded and literacy rates have risen. India currently publishes 4719 daily newspapers with a total circulation of 40 million. Still, the percentage of the Indian population reading newspapers remains relatively low.

Table 7: Daily Newspaper Circulation per 1000 Population (1992)















The number of publishers and books published is another index of the capacity for knowledge dissemination. Currently India has about 3000 active publishing firms publishing at least 20,000 books annually.[3] This compares with 49,000 books published annually in the USA, the world's largest publisher.

Cable television coverage has expanded very rapidly in India over the past two decades and currently reaches 37 million people. While little current programming is directed at knowledge dissemination, this medium has enormous potential for closing the knowledge gap.

The Internet is currently the fastest growing media channel in India and around the globe. The table below compares India's current position with that of some other countries.

Table 8: Internet Penetration (1999)



% of Households


2 million




10 million




20 million




4 million




80 million



The following table projects the growth of India's IT infrastructure over the next eight years. Cable TV is included in this list because it will become a important means of delivering internet access to households.

Table 9: India's IT Infrastructure




4.3 million

20 million


Internet subscribers

1.0 million

35 million


Internet users

3.7 million

100 million


Cable TV subscribers

37.0 million

70 million


This various measures indicate that the Knowledge Gap in India is indeed very great and very great will be the benefits of implementing strategies to close that gap. The measures also reveal that India has a substantial media infrastructure that is not being effectively utilized for knowledge dissemination.

Knowledge is only one input to the development process, but it is an absolutely essential one. Without adequate knowledge all the other essential inputs-land, infrastructure, factories, capital, technology, administrative and social organization-cannot yield full results. Enhancing knowledge generation and dissemination is the fastest, most cost-effective means of increasing the productivity of all these other resources and accelerating national development.

Development Knowledge Strategy for India 2020

Given the rapid pace of population growth within the country, coupled with the rapid pace of global knowledge generation, India is presented with a double challenge over the next two decades: first, to accelerate the rate of knowledge generation and acquisition within the country by greater, more cost effective, more productive and more commercially applicable investments in R&D and technology transfer; second, to accelerate the rate of knowledge dissemination both through the formal education system and through non-formal channels. The remainder of this paper will focus on strategies to accelerate knowledge dissemination in India through formal and non-formal channels.

•1. Accelerate the spread of education

In spite of increased efforts to impart literacy, reduce the drop out rates and expand the educational system to accommodate more children, the quantitative expansion of the educational system is still too slow to meet the country's needs, depriving tens of millions of young people of the minimum education required for their development. India rightly prides itself on its adherence to democratic principles, but the effective exercise of those principles depends directly on the education of the electorate. Nothing can have greater impact on the preferences of the nation's voting public, the quality of elected government officials, and the productivity of the workforce. Expanding the educational system to include all children between the ages of 5 and 15 may be the single most important policy initiative of the next two decades.

But a mere expansion of the educational system will do little to help the hundreds of millions of people who have already missed or dropped out of the formal educational system. Innovative alterative methods are needed to extend basic education to these people as well.

  • Utilize flash card method for early childhood learning, adult literacy and school drop outs: Applied research in India based on methods developed in the USA has demonstrated that flash cards can be very effective for both early childhood and adult learning. These methods, which can be applied at home, in school, on television or over the Internet, involve very rapid flashing of words or general information on large cards at the rate of one card per second with simultaneous oral pronunciation of the words or explanation of related facts. Research indicates that the rate of learning achieved by these methods can be at least double those achieved through conventional classroom techniques.
  • Develop video versions of the entire school curriculum for delivery over cable TV: Television can be a very effective means for educating both school going and non-school children and adults. It can deliver teaching material in a more dynamic, entertaining, and interesting manner, utilizing the nation's best teachers and multimedia teaching materials on each subject. A TV based curriculum can be utilized by slow learners to supplement classroom teaching, by fast learners to learn at much faster rates than the rest of the class, by drop outs to acquire knowledge they missed in school and by adults to expand their level of education without returning to school.
  • Develop multimedia forms of the entire school & college curriculum for delivery over the Internet: The advent of the Internet offers an exciting new learning medium that can literally transform our concept of school and classroom from physical into virtual realities. Future studies in the USA project a radical reshaping of higher education over the next two decades as a result of the digital revolution. Many traditional colleges will close as more course work is delivered at a distance through alternative channels. The traditional boundaries between education and other sectors will fade as publishers, for-profit and non-profit organizations offer accredited, multimedia-enhanced courses directly to students by-passing the university. The traditional classroom type of education, which is most useful for students that require personal attention and assistance and for subjects that involve hands-on experimentation, will no longer be the predominant model. For all other purposes, it is very costly and not very efficient in the way it uses the time of both teachers and students. Given the huge numbers of young Indians that will quest for higher education in the coming decades and given India's outstanding expertise in the IT industry, the country should embark on a massive program to convert the entire higher educational curriculum into a multi-media, web-based format and to establish accrediting standards for recognition of distance education courseware.

2. Improve the quality of formal education

A quantitative expansion of the educational system will provide access to more young people, but it will not ensure that the education provided is of adequate quality to keep them enrolled or dramatically improve their capacity for social adaptation and achievement. Many of the methods commonly adopted in the nation's schools are based on practices developed in the distant past that have outlived their value and utility.

Simultaneous with the quantitative expansion of the educational system, there should be an effort to experiment with new approaches to education that will increase the quality and speed of knowledge acquisition. The qualitative change needed should include -

  • Shift from teaching to learning: The traditional emphasis on the teacher as the active source of knowledge and the student as the passive recipient who simply receives what is taught needs to be replaced by a pedagogical system in which the student is taught to actively seek knowledge through a variety of means from a variety of sources and the role of the teacher is as facilitator and guide for that process.
  • Shift from traditional academic to life-based curriculum: The current curriculum is a product of many different influences. Most of it was developed in countries with very different values and social conditions, some of it in earlier centuries when life was altogether different than it is today. The high drop out rates in India reflect that fact that the school curriculum is only distantly related to the knowledge and skills needed by most Indians for adaptation and achievement in life. The dawn of a new millennium is an appropriate time to begin formulation of an entirely new educational curriculum, one which will relate to the cultural, social, political and economic life of the country and the skills, attitudes and values needed for individual initiative, personal achievement and nation-building.
  • Value-based education: The word ‘values' is normally employed with reference to ethical and moral concepts. But it can also be used in a much wider sense to connote principles that are essential for national development. Values are those attitudes which society has come to value as a product of its long experience that are most essential for individual and collective achievement. Values represent the quintessence of life wisdom about what is necessary for continued social progress. It is possible to identify a list of 20 or 30 work values that will be critical for the future growth and development of Indian society and its greater participation in the emerging global economy, values such as punctuality, self-reliance, self-respect, honesty in trade, entrepreneurship, systematic functioning, etc. As practical skills can be trained, psychological values can be trained too. Rather than merely imitating the West, a study of India's most successful individuals, organizations and communities will reveal the core values that form the inner foundation for their outer accomplishments. Efforts should be initiated to identify those values that are most critical to India's future development and to evolve a curriculum to effectively impart them to students of all ages.
  • Model schools: Even while the effort is still underway to expand the school system to cover the entire population, a simultaneous effort is needed to introduce and experiment with new philosophies and methods of education more in tune with the needs and possibilities of the 21st Century. As a modest beginning, experimental schools can be established in every district to test and demonstrate new methods and serve as models for other schools to emulate.

3. Create Farm Schools in every block

Knowledge leads to development when it is expressed in skilled action. That action requires practical skills for knowledge application. A primary reason for the phenomenal success of India's IT industry is the fact that India operates the world's largest system of computer training institutions. Over the past decade thousands of training institutions have sprung up around the country to provide knowledge and practical skills relating to every aspect and level of the IT industry.

Earlier we stated that the gap in India's agricultural productivity depicted in Table 5 is primarily the result of a knowledge gap, rather than to the small size of land holdings or a shortage of sunlight and water essential for plant growth. In spite of the fact that agriculture is the primary occupation for two-thirds of the population, the agricultural education system primarily caters to those who seek employment in government or research rather than application of agricultural knowledge on the farm.

The highest priority should be given to establishing a national system of farm-based training institutions to impart advanced knowledge and farming skills to the nation's farmers. Farm schools should be established in every block of the country with the following characteristic:

  • Each farm school should consist of 10-20 acres of irrigated farm lands equipped with a sophisticated computer program for analyzing soil types and recommending best practices to achieve maximum yield and profitability and supported by access to a high quality, soil testing lab capable of accurately analyzing the complete spectrum of plant nutrients.
  • Cultivation on the farm schools should be carried out on lands leased from local farmers by student farmers enrolled at the school and drawn from the local population, so that the demonstrations will have maximum impact.
  • The farm schools should be self-sustaining, profit-making educational organizations. Each farm school should demonstrate multiple cropping patterns that generate a minimum of Rs.25,000 to 50,000 per acre annual income. In this way, each farm school can achieve a minimum annual revenue of Rs. 5 to 10 lakhs and minimum annual profit of Rs. 2.5 to 5 lakhs from ten acres.
  • Farm school instructors should be offered profit-sharing incentives to achieve maximum yields. After demonstrating high yields for three consecutive years, they should become eligible for special loan programs to enable them to establish their own private farm schools.

4. Establish Vocational Training Institutes for al l productive skills

There was a time when development was mainly thought of in terms of industry. The Government has created a national infrastructure of industrial training institutes that has been taken down to the block level. There are now more than 3500 ITIs in the country, of which 60% are in the private sector.

National development involves upgrading the skills of the workforce on a much wider range of activities relating to every occupation. In addition to carpenters, metal workers, machinists and computer programmers, the country needs to produce large numbers of qualified journalists to meet the needs of newspapers, television stations, and internet companies. It needs trained entrepreneurs, managers and supervisors to start and operate new and existing businesses. It needs more qualified lawyers' clerks, inventors, mechanics, marketers, trainers, physiotherapists, dental and medical technicians, teaching assistants and hundreds of other skilled workers for which there is no training or insufficient training presently available.

The existing institutions for imparting basic technical and vocational skills are limited in number, enrollment and the variety of skills they offer. There is already a shortage of basic skills in the country, which is why carpenters, masons and electricians are scarce and command such high wages. Craftsmen and vocational training institutes can be estab­lished in every block to impart a wide variety of ba­sic technical skills includ­ing ve­hicle and pump repair, house and building con­struction, furniture making, printing and book binding, lathe operation, etc.

A comparison of India with countries at higher levels of development will reveal that the workforce in these countries have acquired a greater range and higher level of skills in every field of activity. A comprehensive list should be prepared of those skills needed to support development of the country over the next two decades and a plan prepared to expand both public and private training institutions to offer these skills to the population. The farm school model can be adapted and applied to many other fields of activity such as school management, hospital management and small enterprise management.

5. Build a National Rural Information Delivery System

Knowledge is a catalyst for the development process. The gaps in practical knowledge that retard development can be identified and filled by creating new systems and institutions to transmit information that is not being adequately conveyed by traditional means.

Several efforts are already underway in the country to utilize the Internet as a medium for delivering practically useful information to the rural population. Within five years, every revenue village in the country should be equipped with a web-based computer system providing timely information, including prices for agricultural commodities in local and regional markets, technical advice on issues such as pest alerts for local crops, advice on health and nutrition, announcements of government programs, credit schemes, school and college scholarship applications, and self-employment opportunities. Such a system can form the backbone of a national development information system that caters to a wide range of practical needs.

6. Establish a National Knowledge Foundation

In earlier centuries, develop­ment has been an unconscious process of the society that occurred gradually over decades by trial and error exploration and experimentation. Only in the 20th century did government take upon itself primary responsibility for directing and achieving the development of society in order to accelerate and abridge the process. But experi­ence has proven time and again that government cannot develop a nation. Development is a process that involves awakening and releasing the energies of the whole population and propelling them into action. At most, government or any institution can only guide, support and facilitate that process.

A new possibility exists today, drawing upon the experience of this country and other nations, to convert the unconscious process of development into a conscious social movement. Indian development is taking place as an unconscious process. What now occurs in 10 or 25 years can be abridged to 3 or 5 years by making the process fully conscious. Making it conscious means that the society as a whole becomes aware of the process of development taking place in the country and endeavors to support it. Objective, factual information and rejection of superstitions--both traditional and modern--are essential conditions for making it conscious.

The leader of this movement can be any in­stitution that understands the process, identifies the stage of society's current devel­opment and recognizes what is needed to propel it to the next stage. An insti­tution of this type can accomplish in many fields what until now government has sought to accomplish through huge investments and comprehensive programs. The creation of a National Knowledge Foundation can accelerate the gradual pro­cess of social development in the country and convert it into a National Prosperity Movement. A National Knowledge Foundation can play a central and unique role in the development of the country and evolve a new type of social institution as a model for India and for other nations to emulate.

In India today there are many areas where considerable progress has been made and many in which neither the goals or right methods and steps are very clear. The creation of a National Knowledge Foundation can help make Indian society conscious of its direction and goals and offer it the intellectual clar­ity and practical guidance needed to achieve those goals. This can speed up the process, avoid lapses and pitfalls, inspire the elite with hope and give the masses material support to progress.

Activities of the Foundation

  • 1. Disseminate information about opportunities, technologies, programs, ac­com­plishments, achievements, etc.
  • 2. Conduct and commission studies and surveys to obtain quantifiable statis­tical data in support of important issues and then publicize the data to ed­ucate policy and decision-makers.
  • 3. Prepare documentaries presenting effective strategies to achieve the re­sults.
  • 4. Compile directories of best practices in each field.
  • 5. Publish reports on the suitability and profitability of more productive technologies.
  • 6. Study and publicize successful systems and organizational innovations in agriculture, industry, administration, police, courts, hospitals and educational institutions.
  • 7. Publish newspapers, journals and syndicated columns in other journals to disseminate in­formation on success stories and best practices, publicize research findings, challenge superstitions and out-moded beliefs, and report on successful initiatives that should be imitated.
  • 8. Establish models and demonstrations of new development potentials and solu­tions to problems.
  • 9. Provide assistance to pioneers who agree to take up a new activity as an ex­ample to others.
  • 10. Establish programs to support those who want to imitate the pioneer.
  • 11. Institute national and local awards to encourage and recognize innova­tion.
  • 12. Commission short stories and novels portraying the development poten­tials and achievements in dramatic and interesting fashion.

Master strategy for the Foundation

The Foundation would have the option of supporting constructive programs in a wide va­ri­ety of fields without being guided by any overall master plan or strategy to ac­com­plish any specific development goals. This is, in fact, the normal mode of func­tion­ing for institutions of this type. However, it would also have the option of trying to be­come an institution of a new type, which assumes for itself certain overall na­tional objec­tives and develops an agenda of programs designed to achieve them.

It is in this sense that The Foundation can play a role in promoting Indian prosper­ity akin to that which the Indian National Congress played in Indian freedom. As the Congress awak­ened the nation to its political potentials and generated a mass movement in sup­port of specific political goals, The Foundation can awaken the nation to its vast economic and social potentials and unleash a mass movement of the popu­lation for national prosperity.

Rightly conceived and properly executed, The Foundation's programs can high­light literally hundreds of "next steps" which Indian society can take to fur­ther its de­vel­opment. By studying the process of development in more advanced nations and more advanced parts of the country or sections of the population, these steps can be readily identified, appropriately modified to suit present con­ditions, and then pre­sented to the population in a form that the people will read­ily understand and act upon.

The Foundation can generate a national register of possibilities and potentialities of the country covering all fields of the national life and make it available to the public so that it can be made more comprehensive by their further contributions. When the initiative for development is taken up by the people, then development ceases to be a program of the government and becomes a movement of the whole society. Once created, The Foundation can achieve in a brief period and with token investment developmental results comparable to those achieved by the five year plans.

A comprehensive strategy covering major sectors such as agriculture, industry, commerce, education, environment, health, management and public administra­tion can be developed and executed over a five year period. The strategy could be im­plemented with an investment ranging from Rs 100 to 500 crores, much of which could be funded on a project basis rather than from the Foundation's endow­ment.

The programs could include--

  • 100 - 500 studies of development potentials and problems to get at the facts
  • 100 - 500 information publicity campaigns to project the opportunities
  • 100 - 500 documentaries to educate and motivate people for action
  • 100 - 500 syndicated columns to disseminate new perspectives and findings
  • 100 - 500 articles to dispel out-dated superstitions and beliefs
  • 100 - 500 short stories to dramatize development potentials
  • 100 - 500 demonstrations of how to tap the potentials
  • 100 - 500 success stories to publicize achievements
  • 100 - 500 seed projects to support pioneers
  • 100 - 500 programs to encourage imitation of the pioneers
  • 100 - 500 awards to recognize pioneers, innovators and high achievers

The Foundation can educate the elite of the country, the framers of public opinion, which means the national mind, and create a Blue Book on Indian Prosperity spelling out actions that are needed for achieving rapid development in all fields. The Foundation can become a model for a new type of institution, not only for India, but for other developing and developed nations and for the international commu­nity.

7. Promote professional associations

Government, business, educational institutions and the media can play crucial roles in national development. But, in addition, there are many types of non-governmental, non-commercial organizations that can make vital contributions to the country's progress. Among these, professional associations are a category whose importance is often overlooked. There are over 16,000 professional associations in the USA covering the entire gamut of human activities from broad general categories such as law, medicine, engineering, agriculture and computer science to highly specialized fields such as tool & die manufacturing, plastic injection mold-making, custom home electronics installation, hybrid seed production, irrigation engineering, mining technology, internet banking and web marketing.

Associations of this type can serve as powerful instruments for the generation, adaptation, dissemination and application of knowledge. They can sponsor research, conduct conferences, encourage pooling of information and exchange of experiences, publish new research findings and best practices, propagate management practices appropriate to each specialized field.

India can benefit enormously by a proliferation of professional associations. Strategies to promote the creation of new professional associations include-

  • Formulation of criteria and standards for professional associations.
  • Establishment of a national, non-governmental agency for accreditation of new associations.
  • Creation of a venture capital fund to provide seed money for the promotion of new associations.

8. Establish a national network of centers for research & public debate on development issues

Public debate is a well-developed institution in India, but too often it focuses on emotionally charged political issues backed by little supporting information, rather than on objective analysis of the nation's development opportunities and challenges-a role which public television very effectively plays in the USA and other Western countries. When properly conceived and executed, public debate can be an effective mechanism for creating awareness, disseminating information and sensitizing the population to development issues.

As the national scientific laboratories were established in the 1950s to create the essential infrastructure for research, we propose the establishment of a national network of centers for research and public debate on development issues. Each center could conduct research on pressing regional and national development issues, host public debates open to specialists and the general public, and arrange coverage of these topics by regional newspapers, radio and television. These debates should focus on issues that can strongly influence the general public and spur people to constructive action. Debate topics could include --

  • Solutions to national and international disputes: such as political, social and economic solutions to the Kashmir problem and to water disputes between states.
  • Educational standards and curriculum: Comparison of educational standards in different types of schools, regions of India and different countries to assess the scope for improving standards and making the school curriculum more relevant to the needs of individual students and the development of the country.
  • Self-employment vs. Salaried jobs: The opportunities and benefits of self-employment for achieving higher income and greater economic security.
  • Management practices: The tremendous importance of management practices in determining the success or failure of business enterprises of any type and size, indices of good practices and ways to acquire greater knowledge and skill.
  • Labor productivity: Differences in labor policies, attitudes and practices in different regions and countries and their impact on the development of business and the prosperity of the working class.
  • New forms of democracy: Examination of practices in different parts of the world designed to make democracy more representative and effective in fulfilling people's needs and national goals.
  • Savings vs. investment: Discussion of strategies to tap India's huge reserve of private gold savings (estimated value is upwards of $200 billion) for investment in national development.

9. Compile an Internet-based Development Encyclopedia

Over the past five decades, the pace of development has accelerated around the world. Changes that used to occur over centuries or decades are now occurring within a few years. Humanity's knowledge of development is accumulating so rapidly that it is difficult to keep track of all that has been learned or to access information on relevant experiences in specific fields.

The advent of the World Wide Web now makes it possible to create a compendium of development knowledge, information and experience, a well documented and continuously updated source of knowledge and practical experience on all fields of national development. This Development Encyclopedia could view every subject from the perspective of social development. It could catalog proven technologies, successful strategies and best practices in different fields, so that the information is readily accessible to people all over the country.

Compilation of the encyclopedia would need to be managed by a central editorial team, but the actual generation of material could be contributed by thousands of experts located around the country. All contributions could be screened and edited, placed in a central repository on the web and updated regularly for a fraction of the cost of printed sources of information. Since publication of new material would be progressive and continuous, the Encyclopedia could be launched and operative very quickly and continue to grow in value as additional material was added.

The Encyclopedia could contain both theoretical knowledge and practical information. On the theoretical side, it could examine topics such as the role of agriculture as an engine for employment and industrialization, the global growth of the service sector as the major source of new jobs, the impact of information technology on productivity and economic growth, the role of social and cultural values in development, the relationship between peace and development, the impact of rising levels of education on democracy and economic development, the relationship between education, prosperity and corruption, and the relationship between inflation and development. It could contain articles examining the factors responsible for the development achievements of different countries. It could formulate a series of scales and indices to compare the effectiveness of social organizations in different countries.

On the practical side, the Encyclopedia could document both in text and multimedia format methods to improve agricultural productivity, preserve foodgrains, conserve water, recharge aquifers, improve nutrition and health care, create low-cost housing, introduce complementary local currencies, stimulate entrepreneurship and job creation. It could catalog and evaluate alternative technologies for power generation, agriculture and aquaculture, various industries and environmental protection. It could compare the effectiveness of public policies and administrative systems in different countries and regions.

The Encyclopedia could also become a virtual forum for national and international debate on policies, priorities and strategies for national and international development.

10. Theory of Development

Theoretical knowledge is the highest level in the hierarchy of knowledge that rises from data to information to ideas. Good theory represents the essential knowledge contained in vast quantities of data, information and practical experience. While it is relatively easy to compile a large quantity of data and information about development, when it comes to drawing theoretical conclusions that will be valid over time and space, all the knowledge we have acquired over decades and centuries gets distilled into a few principles.

Looking back on the impressive accomplishments of the 20th Century, a vast multitude of technological inventions, economic activities, political and social organizations, and material riches have emerged from the relatively less complex and accomplished centuries that preceded it. A whole new range of problems and challenges has accompanied these achievements. Looking forward on the century now commencing, we may well wonder what further accomplishments await humanity, what new challenges they will pose, and what ultimate limits there may be to the creative process that drives these changes.

Regardless of whether we look backward or forward, the same questions arise: What is the essential nature of human development? By what process does it occur? What force accomplishes it? What factors propel and retard it? What conditions are essential or detrimental to it? Through what stages or phases does it pass? What is the role of the individual in this process? What is the relative importance of subjective factors such as ideas, attitudes, values and choices, compared with objective factors such as material resources, political systems and technology? What is the source of the problems and failures that it generates? And, most importantly, what is the role of the human being in this process?

The formulation of valid theory possesses enormous power to elevate and accelerate the expansion and development of human capabilities in any field, leading to fresh discoveries, improvement of existing activities and capacity for greater results. Science is replete with examples of theoretical formulations that have led to important breakthroughs, such as the discoveries of Neptune and Pluto, electromagnetic waves, subatomic particles, and new elements on the periodic table. A broad range of technological achievements in this century has been made possible by the emergence of sound theoretical knowledge in fields such as physics, chemistry and biology. As management expert Peter Drucker put it, "There is nothing more practical than a good theory." Valid theory can tell us not only what should be done, but also what can be done and the process by which it can be achieved.

Social development can be summarily described as the process of organizing human energies and activities at higher levels to achieve greater results. Development increases the utilization of human potential. In the absence of valid theory, social development remains largely a process of trial and error experimentation, with a high failure rate and very uneven progress. The dismal consequences of transition strategies in most Eastern Europe countries, the very halting progress of many African and Asian countries, the increasing income gap between the most and least developed societies, and the distressing linkage between rising incomes, environmental depletion, crime and violence reflect the fact that humanity is vigorously pursuing a process without the full knowledge needed to guide and govern it effectively.

Advances in development theory can enhance our social success rate by the same order of magnitude that advances in theoretical physics have multiplied technological achievements in this century. The emergence of a sound theoretical framework for social development would provide the knowledge needed to address these inadequacies. It would also eventually lead us to the most profound and practical discovery of all - the infinite creative potentials of the human being.

Now is an appropriate time to launch a new inquiry into the theoretical basis for human development, drawing upon five decades of rich experience both within India and internationally, in order to fashion a fresh conceptual framework for the development process that will give us a greater theoretical understanding of its essential nature and a greater practical knowledge of how it can best be fostered and accelerated.

[1] Data in this table is from the FAO web database for 1999.

[2] The figure for USA wheat yield is for irrigated wheat which is the best comparison since almost all Indian wheat is irrigated. The overall average yield for irrigated and rainfed wheat in the USA is 2872 kg/ha.

[3] Some sources indicate the number may be as high as 56,000 books, taking into account multiple language editions, but the authors preferred to cite the more conservative figure.


Future Education Conference

We are pleased to invite you to participate in a one-day conference on Future Education in India being organized at Anandha Inn, Pondicherry on January 28, 2018 to consider the changes needed in our schools and to examine successful strategies that are already being applied by schools in India and overseas.