Challenges and problems of library and information education in India: an emerging knowledge society and the developing nations of Asia.



In the 21stcentury, several professions are adapting with changes and pacing with new useful technologies for their survival and advancement. In this century creation of new knowledge, capturing of new ideals promptly and their timely application is crucial for success in any endeavor. Integration of ideas to find solutions to complex problems, technological convergence to develop better and cheaper products, and progression towards greater interface between policy, strategy, research, practice and service to clientele is taking place. A new kind of competitive work environment, is emerging where cutting edge knowledge, ingenuity and new ideas make a big difference in advancement and hence there remains a constant hunt for talent and hiring people having agility, requisite skills and competencies, inclination for updating, penchant for learning and doing work in a better way through constant innovative approach. The mantra for development in this century is thus to pick up the people most suitable for jobs at hand, effective management of knowledge resources and ideas for finding most appropriate knowledge applications in work processes and operations.

The ongoing processes of globalization and liberalization have led to intense competition in every sphere of life and set forth the need for immense search for ideas and application of knowledge for outperforming others, cutting costs and finding knowledge based solutions to problems. Institutions and organizations having adequate and efficient knowledge support systems performing knowledge intensive work and leveraging success from knowledge and expertise are thriving in this era. Successful Institutions and organizations around the world have embraced formal knowledge management initiatives as a way to create value from their intangible assets. Creation of new knowledge through R&D, accumulation of existing knowledge through constant search and strategic use of this knowledge determine the creation of wealth. According to the World Bank reports, to day almost two third of the world's wealth comes from knowledge. Knowledge is now a key input for an organization's success and the currency of the new millennium and wherever greater intensity of knowledge activities exists, it has the potential to transform those societies into knowledge-based societies.

In the industrial society pen was mightier than the sword. In the knowledge society mouse is more powerful than the pen. Connectivity including connectivity during mobility is very important in knowledge-based societies for just in time information search. From fixed phones people are shifting to mobile phones, from personal computers to personal digital assistants, from place centered Internet connectivity to WIFI and WIMAX networks. Technology enabled constant connectivity has helped in generation and use of more information and production and distribution of knowledge. Knowledge based societies are thus created by the advances in information technologies and are fueled by the Internet. Because of enhanced connectivity, the hierarchal management structures are getting just dismantled and are being replaced by spatial management systems where instead of limited flow of information, we witness free flow of information and knowledge inputs can come from anybody in the system. The information networks provide most democratic access to information resources at any time and any place, thus accessing relevant information and its strategic use at a faster speed has become important. Teddy Roosevelt once said,"Nine-tenths of wisdom consists in being wise in time." Knowledge based societies therefore demand work performance at a speed and agility in decisions and actions. Looking at the global information resources, an individual may have propensity to do many things but finds little time to do the same. As an individual, one has limited time and capacity to acquire and process information and do work. Therefore, individuals and organizations are making investments and finding ways to save time. Strategic alliances, collaboration on mutually beneficial areas and agreeable terms are taking place to achieve quick success and big targets.

In the knowledge based societies organizations are metamorphosing to learning organizations, creating knowledge infrastructure for churning new ideas to ensure enhanced earning by creating economic value out of new ideas. Learning organizations encourage their employees to continuously upgrade their skills and competencies and have knowledge of state of the art technologies that are applicable to their work. "Any large organization to-day has to survive, grow and prosper in a highly competitive, dynamic rapidly changing complex environment, where human obsolescence is as common as that of machines and where survival is only of the fittest." (Bhatia & Singh, 2000) The present networked information environment has facilitated increased awareness of learning opportunities through greater flow of information and helped the people to realize their true potentialities. It has ensured more information to greater number of people, offered more choices for decision-making and problem solving, led to diffusion of cultures and converted the world into a global village. It has also created an information chaos, problem of digital divide, division of information haves and have nots and challenges of imparting information literacy to millions of people in a country like India.

India and the Knowledge Society

India is becoming the knowledge capital of the world and more than 300 Multinational Corporations have already set up their R&D facilities here and several more are in the process of doing so because of availability of world class intellectual workers at low salaries. Further a number of Indian and western companies are co-developing products especially in the areas of information technology, biotechnology, and pharmaceutical sciences. "For the western partners, the first objective in these alliances is to cut costs. In the US, specialized research outsourcing firm pay for a drug company $250,000 and up for the full time services of a PhD chemist. With an Indian partner, the same work can be done at one-fifth the cost." ( Enardio & Weintraub, 2008) Indian brainpower in several high tech areas is getting global recognition. Indian scientists and engineers participation in the Big Bang, experiment proves their caliber and capabilities. "For starters they put together crucial components to activate the Large Hedron Collider (LHC) much below the sanctioned costs and CERN spearheading the experiment reacted with a surprise gesture, it left the balance money to finance the visits of Indian scientists to the experiment site. Indian scientists proved their worth to such an extent that all-precision made jacks on which the entire machine rests were made in India. Besides the jacks, nearly 2000 corrector magnets and circuit breakers were made in India in association with CERN scientists." (Sinha, 2008) The problem in India is that even the intellectual assets are not fully utilized to create an economic value. "We are not able to utilize our immense work force which is equal to the value of oil in Saudi Arabia to our advantage" observed an analyst at recent Confederation of Indian Industries (C11) meet" (India Pinning, 2008)

On one hand India has world-class scientists and engineers and on the other hand million of people have no access to higher education. As a result knowledge gaps do exist within the country. According to World Bank report entitled, Unleashing India's Innovation, "the output of economy could increase over five fold if all enterprises could achieve national best practices based on knowledge already in use in India." (India must ... 2008) The problem largely in India is not as much as information transforming to cutting edge knowledge assets as the information accessibility for transforming people to look at and act on opportunities that exist in various sectors of her growing economy. Millions of people in India live in poverty because they are illiterate and they do not have capability to access and use information. Many of such people inherit skills from their families and learn lessons at their work places...

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