Thursday, February 12, 2009

Knowledge Sharing ..... hey, whats that ??????

It never ceases to amaze me how often education does not translate into awareness and cognizance. Irrespective of the degrees accumulated, newspapers consumed and social elevation, 'awareness' is an unknown word for the average individual.

I recall how a friend said "Food Crisis? Whats that? Is there something like that around?" to my A to her Q what was I writing?

I was glad I was within the hallowed privacy of my house, as my mouth dropped an ungainly open.

Of course, priding myself to be a conscientious citizen, I just could not let go at that.......which meant an hour long discussion........complete with pointers and real-life examples of how one has to go on a leisurely treasure hunt to find that 'long-grained rice' and pay double what you paid barely six months ago..... Needless to say, my friend must have been chucking that soggy sandwich into the bin and putting her initials on superflous food vouchers, while all-ears to my monologue !

And the less said about our skimpy approach to knowledge and data sharing....... the better !

Only the other week, I was stunned to know that our very own Indian Metereological Department (IMD) does not share its data, but sells it ...........and has been doing so since its very inception.

Its amazing that a Govt. organisation, funded by the people, of the people, for the people ..... for the express purpose of research, analysis, and forecast of data related to weather, rainfall pattern, seismology and climate related stuff .....DOES NOT share its data. And worse still, so far, no department, corporate, organisation or NGO (a definitely favoured sector) has ever protested this out-dated ridiculously elitist practice of the IMD!

Am glad though, that finally it has taken the initiatives of organisations like India Water Portal (IWP) and South Asia Network for Dams, Rivers and People (SANDARP)...... and the latters' recently filed RTI to make the Govt. sit up and take action. Do look this up http://www.indiawaterportal.org/blog/2009/01/21/should-imd-give-away-meteorological-data-for-free/

This centuries-old close-fistedness is unique to our ethos. As a nation bouncing ahead in every field, a change of mind-set to making available data in public domain is just not happenning.

On an aside, delving into the whys and whereofs of this quaint typically Indian stingy attitude about knowledge sharing ..... one must not forget it was the fear of foreign incursions and rampant destruction of knowledge-based material by Muslim invaders ..... that set-off this paranoia of knowledge hoarding. The upshot ..... India does not have in possession the kind of ancient written records that are the pride of Greeks today.

Whatever, its high time those in possession of society-benefitting knowledge ...... and in particular, organisations engaged in research and analysis ....... begin the practice of sharing data.

Otherwise, we will continue banking upon foreign sources for our domestic needs ! Neither can we ably defend ourselves or counterpunch allegations, as is happenning in the arena of global climate change politics.

Just a note : The 100 yrs district-wise rainfall data for India on the IWP meteorological data tool (http://www.indiawaterportal.org/data/metdata) is procured from a research dataset put out by the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research in the University of East Anglia, UK ....... BECAUSE the same data had to be bought from our very own IMD !

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