I: Rural empowerment: Bridging rural–urban knowledge and information divide

Knowledge, knowledge divide and knowledge capability: A conceptual framework


There have been multiple strands within academia that treat knowledge and define the resource in terms of respective disciplinarian ideologies. The quest for knowledge and to understand the same started in the philosophical tradition, with the pioneers being classical Greek theorists such as Aristotle and Plato. While the philosophical tradition dedicated itself to exploring the foundations of knowledge, it provided little account of how knowledge and knowledge exchange between different entities enable society to function on a daily basis. This chapter traces the multiple origins of knowledge within the formal parameters of study. In doing so the chapter eventually advocates for a sociological conception of knowledge, which focuses on the functionality of the asset in the context of social action, by considering knowledge to be a social product, constructed, shaped and transformed by social interactions.

This chapter is divided into four sections:

  • • The first part conceptualizes knowledge along sociological terms. Articulating knowledge as a social construct, the section bears reference to how social factors shape the acquisition and distribution of knowledge resource across society.
  • • The second part expands on the distribution ethics of knowledge resource and highlights how discriminatory social forces grant the privileged few with relevant knowledge and knowledge-operating capacities, while denying the marginalized the avenue to actively participate in knowledge transaction.
  • • The third part introduces and builds on the concept of knowledge capability, as furthered by capability theorists. In doing so the section fleshes out how enhancing knowledge capability (which accounts to be possession of knowledge asset along with knowledge-operating capacities) is crucial in the process of overcoming knowledge divide existing in society. The section concludes with the connecting spirit of contemporary information and communications technology (ICT) and its indispensability in enhancing knowledge capability of social members.

• The final section highlights the urgency of managing knowledge as a social strategy to sustainably enhance knowledge capability of social actors. Hinting at the importance of managing knowledge in ushering in efficient and effective distribution of knowledge resource throughout society, the section spells out the indispensability of the practice in enhancing knowledge capability of social actors, both at the individual and collective level.

Defining knowledge

Any effort dedicated to demystifying what knowledge is must, at the very beginning, chart the differences between knowledge, information and data. Davenport and Prusak (1998) define data to be a set of discrete, objective facts about an event. Following a similar thread, we can conceptualize data to be a collection of numbers and characters denoting values of qualitative or quantitative variables belonging to a set of items. Data becomes information when it is presented as a message that makes a difference to the receiver of the message. Data transforms into information when some meaning is added to it. Methods of adding meaning can be contextualizing, categorizing, calculation, correction and condensation (Dave et ah, 2012). Information, therefore, refers to a sequence of symbols that can be recorded as a message (utterance or expression).

Knowledge, in contrast to information, refers to a holistic concept, which includes within its purview facts, information, description or skills acquired through experience and education. Knowledge refers to the theoretical and/or practical understanding of a subject. Brooking (1999) refers to knowledge as organized information, together with the understanding of what it means. The holistic notion of knowledge also gets reflected in Davenport and Prusak’s (1998) definition of knowledge as a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information and expert insights that provide a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information (Dave et ah, 2012). In order to conceptualize knowledge in an organizational context, the authors formulated knowledge as being embedded not only in documents and repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices and norms. This marks the organic element of knowledge and further contributes in highlighting its difference in regard to the factual nature of information.

Knowledge is thought to derive its strength and application utility from its humane elements, which makes the same a curious compilation of information, coupled with skills, experiences and attitude (Dellemijn, 2012). The human elements (skills, experience and attitude) mark the supremacy of knowledge over information. Eminent classical sociologist Claude Levi-Strauss insightfully distinguished knowledge from information, where he identified the latter as raw and the former as cooked and processed (Burke, 2000). Knowledge attains its processing flavour over information through verification, criticism, measurement, comparison and systemization, all of which result from human interpretation of raw information.

Several scholars have conceptualized knowledge along dichotomous lines, with it comprised of two elements — explicit and tacit knowledge (Dave et ah, 2012). Explicit knowledge refers to that element of knowledge which can be expressed in words and numbers. Explicit knowledge therefore refers to codified knowledge, which is well-defined, thereby making it easy to communicate via formal language. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is primarily expressed as insights, intuitions and hunches. It is highly personal and hard to formalize and imitate (Brie &C Thomasberger, 2018). It is personal because it depends on individual actions, commitment and involvement, making it hard to formally communicate. Since it cannot be mechanically transferred, tacit knowledge needs to be accomplished (Dellemijn, 2012). Knowledge, in its holistic sense, is a curious compilation of both explicit and tacit elements.

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