Knowledge Networking for Sustainable Development
Sustainable Development Networking Programme (India)

Vikas Nath, Programme Officer, SDNP India.
April 2000

Knowledge once gained casts a light beyond its own immediate boundaries.
John Tyndall (1820-1893), Physicist.

The paper aims to stimulate discussion on knowledge-based networking approach to sustainable development. Knowledge is and will continue to be critical to the social and economic activities that comprise the development process. The cornerstone of this approach is global access to information and human resources, enrichment of information during different steps and an efficient mechanism for collective learning and sharing of knowledge between nations, communities and individuals through bridging of gap between users and sources of information. The paper advocates that pursuit of knowledge networking when supported by vision, leadership and right value framework can secure considerable gains towards sustainable development.

At the eve of the new millennium, people living in developing countries face unprecedented challenges to their growth and overall development brought on by the changing global economy, political changes, environment degradation and demographic pressures. The task of operationalising and sustaining development processes that are rooted on the principles of equity and economic growth that benefit and empower the common man and the disadvantaged, continues to be daunting. Nations and people are however starting to realize that paths of development centered around mere economic growth paradigms are unsustainable and there is a need to play a more pro-active role in the development process. The focus is shifting towards growth with equity, preserving the integrity and the natural resource base of the environment for present and future generations, and generating conditions for everyone to benefit in the overall growth cycle- laying the foundation of the sustainable development process.

Sustainable Development: the concept of information
Information more than ever is becoming a priceless commodity whose value ever increasing with time and is becoming a critical resource for development. Comparative advantages of Nations are now expressed as the ability of countries to acquire, organize, retrieve, disseminate information through communication, information processing technologies and complex information networks to support policy making and development process. It is no irony, that the growing gap between the world's have and have-nots is today more appropriately reflected in the gap between people with access to information and those without. Way back in 1987, the Brundtland Report emphasized upon early access to and deliberate sharing of information and expertise between all nations and actors as a key component to ensuring a sustainable future for the planet. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Earth Summit) in 1992 re-instated the role of information exchange and diffusion in the sustainable development process and as a tool for poverty reduction. Management of information, encompassing the function of information collection, compilation, organizing and dissemination provides the skeletal framework for focusing on sustainable development concerns.

On the other hand, the definition of sustainable development in itself, embodies a belief that people are the foremost, knowledgeable force and should be able to alter and improve their lives in accordance with criteria that take accounts of the needs of others and which protects the planet and future generations. Information exchange is therefore an essential component to sustainable development. Approaching development from an information exchange perspective can improve the quality of people's lives. Information about nutritional values of foodgrains can mean better health, even with those with little to spend on food. Public disclosure of information about industrial pollution can lead to a cleaner and more healthful environments. And microcredit programme can make it possible for poor people to invest in a better future for themselves and their children. In a broad sense, information access gives people greater control over their destinies. The explosion of internet and other interactive technologies have led to a paradigm shift in storage, retrieval, handling and dissemination of information. The decreasing cost of hardware and software elements associated with these technologies and their growing acceptance by wider segments of society as an integral mechanism through which they communicate, collaborate and conduct their business further paves the way for an innovative, yet challenging and far-reaching development process.

Information and Knowledge
Today, information has become a factor sui generis in the societal and economic development. Throughout the world, the information revolution is generating a new industrial revolution already as significant and far-reaching as those of the past. Information now represents the lifeline of the emerging society and constitute the principle resource of a growing economy. The diffusion of information technologies in all areas of souci-economic development may lead to information traveling faster and reaching to the remotest corners of earth but may not necessarily result in creation of a knowledgeable society. Availability of information in itself does not culminate into knowledge but is the essential ingredient to the creation of knowledge.

Information about how to treat a simple disease such as diarrhea has existed for centuries, yet millions of children continue to die from it because information does not get translated into knowledge for the local communities- due to lack of access to information at the right time, inability to customize or adapt the available information to suit local requirements, or the simple lack of capacity to absorb information. Information is a sort of magnitude and it is only when it attains a direction and helps people communicate, participate in decision-making and allows them to make informed choices does the information become knowledge - paving the way for knowledge based networking. Creation of knowledge through step-wise processing, customization and assimilation of available information is akin to creation of an intellectual property - the ultimate value of which is determined by the end users and its producers has little control on its value.

Knowledge- based Networking
Knowledge based networking rest on the strong belief that communities have knowledge and expertise which needs to be synergized with the existing information, in the context of decision-making and initiating judicious action. Just as knowledge gap needs to be bridged between developing and industrial countries, so too there are gaps within the country. Knowledge based bridges the gap between the communities and between development professionals and rural people through initiating interaction and dialogue, new alliances, inter-personal networks, and cross-sectoral links between organizations so that "useful knowledge" is shared and channeled to develop "best management practices" and provide practical decision support.

Knowledge based networking implies that knowledge is acquired not just by creation but also by transfer of knowledge existing elsewhere. Knowledge Networking holds the prospect of an accelerated introduction of state-of-art technologies superseding the step-by-step process of transferring know-how and technologies among users and possesors of information. With the plummeting costs, the transfer of knowledge is becoming cheaper than ever. Networking for knowledge -sharing caters to the global thirst for information, builds up awareness among the change agents or those who can exert external pressure, and encourages informed and active participation of communities and individuals. Further it creates a mechanism which enables articulation and sharing of local knowledge with potential for further enrichment of this information as it passes through the network users. Benefits include more efficient and targeted development intervention, less duplication of activities, low communication costs and global access to information and human resources.

Knowledge- Networking for Sustainable Development
Information is critical to the social and economic activities that comprise the development process. The ability to quickly locate timely and relevant information also holds importance as environmental issues are rapidly transforming into economic issues in a world of increasing awareness and decreasing tolerance to the environment. Often pertinent information is available on issues concerning sustainable development but access to such conventional and non-conventional information is limited. This is due to lack of Organisation of information services which can give appropriate and timely support. Knowledge-networking in such cases enables millions of people to become better informed about decision-making processes in their countries, cities, villages and has helped local communities to improve their standard of living and the environment around them.

Knowledge networking creates both the challenge and the to attack vexing problems of poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation with the potential to achieve unprecedented gains in economic and human development. Such forms of networking gives a voice to the people transforming them from mere information recipients to information providers and decision-makers. Over a period, knowledge based networking strengthens the inherent link between information access, democracy, human rights, environmental protection and sustainable development by providing useful information for problem-solving, for enhancing community participation, for better organization of developmental interventions and for improving the relationships between the various stakeholders in development. Further, it breaks the boundary, which confines the availability of information to a few by bringing together governmental and non-governmental organizations, researchers, business and industrial establishments in a network for information exchange.

Knowledge-networking however need not be confined within the closed boundaries of information flows but has the potential to evolve as an alternative institutional model for development promotion. Networking for influencing decision-making provides strength to the democracy as it enables the decision-making mechanism to perpetuate right below till the roots of the society without being confined by the bureaucratic straitjacket of more formal institutions. Simultaneously, it builds upon institutional memory of past successes and failures to guide towards a more targeted and pragmatic approach to current and emerging challenges concerning sustainable development. Alternative mechanisms to carry out these tasks would take a lot more time, resources and efforts.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
The world is in the midst of an information revolution, complemented by opening up of entirely new vistas in communication technologies. Hundreds of billion of dollars are spent on Information and Communication technologies, reflecting a powerful global belief in the transformatory potential of these technologies. By definition, Information and Communication Technologies are a diverse set of technological tools and resources to create, disseminate, store, and manage information. The Information and Communication Technologies sector is a gamut of industries and service sector- internet services provision, telecommunications equipment and services, media and broadcasting, libraries and document centres, commercial information providers, network-based information services and other related information and communication activities.

Information and Communication Technologies holds the prospect of an accelerated introduction of state-of-art technologies superseding the step-by-step process of transferring know-how and technologies among users and possesors of information. Information and communication technologies are having a profound impact on global economic relationships, social patterns in both developed and developing countries. The explosion of internet and other interactive technologies have led to a paradigm shift in storage, retrieval, handling and dissemination of information. The decreasing cost of hardware and software elements associated with these technologies and their growing acceptance by wider segments of society as an integral mechanism through which they communicate, collaborate and conduct their business further paves the way for an innovative, yet challenging and far-reaching development process.

The Information and Communication Technologies include the Internet multi-media capabilities, electronic mails, or using a combination of CD-ROM and the Internet, depending on the specific situations. The Internet's multi-media capabilities facilitate the development, sharing, storage, retrieval and dissemination of a range of information and supports communication in many forms such as discussion lists, chat forums, online databases, streaming news etc.

ICT: As a tool for Knowledge Networking
The emergence and convergence of information and communication technologies remain at the centre of global social and economic development and are becoming indispensable to realize the global information and the global knowledge society. Information and Communication Technologies are becoming indispensable to realize the global information and the global knowledge society. As UNDP's 1999 Human Development Report points out "The past decade has proven the tremendous potential of global communications to provide information, enable empowerment and raise productivity.

Information and Communication Technologies holds the prospect of an accelerated introduction of state-of-art technologies superseding the step-by-step process of transferring know-how and technologies among users and possesors of information. It allows faster delivery and a more adapted content of technical assistance in sectors ranging from long-distance education, telemedicine, environmental management to strengthening of participatory approaches and the creation of new livelihoods. In the process they affect all areas of economic, social, cultural and political process." Thus, Information and Communication Technologies are not only a significant factor in the performance and growth of economies - the importance of which is continuously growing, but they also represent a novel and effective tool to help advance sustainable human development.

Information and Communication Technologies allows faster delivery and a more adapted content of technical assistance in sectors ranging from long-distance education, telemedicine, environmental management to strengthening of participatory approaches and the creation of new livelihoods. It allows access to information worldwide, promote networking transcended borders, languages and cultures, foster empowerment of communities and help spread knowledge about "best practices" and experiences. As generic technologies, Information and Communication Technologies permeate and cut across all social institutions, perceptions and thought processes. Further, the new technology greatly facilitates the acquisition and absorption of knowledge, offering developing countries unprecedented opportunities to enhance educational systems, improve policy formation and execution, and widen the range of opportunities for business and the poor (World Bank 1998).

ICT and Developing Nations
The information revolution has progressed much from the time the Maitland Commission (1984) published its much-cited findings of the shocking discrepnacy in accessibility and equality of telecommunications between developed and developing nations summing up the void between many nations with the now ubiquitous and outdated phrase, "Tokyo has more telephone lines than Africa". The last decade and a half has seen the explosion of a number of new information technologies - some of which have perpetuated to a large extent in the developing nations. Yet, the global information gap is still widening.

Developing nations are one of the last frontiers for the spread and application of information technology. Nowhere is the power of knowledge as relevant today at it is for the two-thirds of the world's people who live in the countries of the South. The knowledge gap has to be bridged urgently if the developing nations are to "leap-frog" on the fast path to development because capital and other resources are increasingly flowing into countries which have a wider knowledge base. Developing nations are however still not fully equipped to benefit from Information and Communication Technologies. Developing country governments need greater guidance on how to deal with the potentials of information and communication technologies - infrastructure development and policy modifications are required to harness the fullest potential of Information and Communication Technologies in bringing about a sustained change in improving the qualilty of life of people

The IT situation vis-a-vis developing nations not only revolves around questions of how to apply information technology to their concerns, but also around the mere existence of information technologies in these countries at all. Comparative advantages of nations are now expressed as the ability of countries to acquire, organise, retrieve, disseminate information through communication, information processing technologies and complex information networks to support policy making and development process.

Developing countries, especially the Least Developing Countries (LDCs) are unable to reap equal benefits in the information revolution, as they lack:

  1. Technologies and infrastructure to access information resources
  2. Capacity to build, operate, manage and service the technologies involved.
  3. Trained workforce to develop, maintain and provide the value added products and services.
  4. Conducive policies that promote equitable public participation in the information society as both producers an consumers of information and knowledge.
  5. Absence of a replicable precedence of a successful ICT project.

    Role of Intermediary Organizations
    The starting point for any successful networking approach is the development of relationships that make it easy for people to talk about their needs, share information, and work together. This entails an initial scooping process to define the nature of the system under consideration, the needs and opportunities facing the different interest groups that may be involved, who should be involved, what can or should be changed, etc. This is where the intermediary organizations can provide a platform for people to voice their issues and concerns, and foster the active involvement of the right people within the process.

    Later in the process, these organizations play a significant role in managing the rapidly growing body of knowledge about development, and in building capacities of the local communities to transform information and knowledge into ingredients of empowerment and equitable development through outreach and training of direct beneficiaries.

    Significantly, in the developing countries where the penetration of ICT is low or may not reach to individual end users, the intermediary organizations can facilitate in bridging the "last mile" of connectivity by providing community based technological interface for the networking process. This is an area where there is a maximum potential for intermediary organizations- to act as iknowledge nodes at the village or community levels.

    Strengths of Knowledge Networks
    The need for collaborative environmental approaches supported by well-managed information is especially important in communities, where human and financial resources are often limited. By focussing on the improved use of information within a collaborative approach, people can broaden the scope of their actions and address issues previously beyond their capacity.

    Knowledge Networks based on information and communication technologies can involve more people, hitherto unreached or underserviced, and accomplish a deeper geographic penetration, especially to rural areas, than in the case with traditional means and modalities. It allows access to usable and intelligent information worldwide, promotes networking which transcends borders, languages and cultures, fosters empowerment of communities and helps spread knowledge about "best practices" and experiences. Further, knowledge networks are instrumental in helping communities break from the narrow national and local outlooks and from the hegemony of governments and the large corporations.

    • Greater Access and Control over Information
      There is no worse form of human rights violation than to be deprived of the ability to think, create and communicate in freedom. In this era of information revolution, people are having relatively easier access to vast store houses of information but it is tragic that the delivery mechanisms for knowledge are today in the hands of fewer and fewer people. People have very little control over what information is being communicated to them. Globalisation has perpetuated in the information content being transmitted, often leaving more and more people out of the information loop which forms the roots of their culture and identity. They have lost the knowledge they had, and what has replaced it is not relevant. Ultimately the impact sublimely expands and erodes the traditional knowledge bases and indigenous processes best adapted to deal with local conditions. The end result is nothing short of loss of knowledge diversity.

      Knowledge networking helps communities to take appropriate steps to document what they possess and in reflecting this knowledge in a wider social domain through information technologies. They should propagate knowledge diversity and would curb the myth that what is most visible is the best and the only option. Further knowledge networks often puts the control of what is to be transmitted and the delivery mechanism through which it is to be transmitted in the hands of its stakeholders and the users groups.

    • Better Governance
      "Public administration is, by its very nature, highly information intensive. Government business can be considered as a series of systems, such as education, health, defense, public revenue and expenditures, natural resources management, social security, etc. Public administration relies heavily on the use of information and communication technologies to gather, process, and diffuse information within both public and private domains. " (Moussa 1995).

      Citizens and consumers of government services now demand that the government be more open in their dealings. On the face of it, the core principles of a democratic set up are violated when people are excluded from the decision-making process and have little control over the process of their own development. People have the power in democracy and in this age where information is power, access to information by the people becomes the root to a thriving democracy. If all the information is stored digitally, it could easily be put into public domain enabling easier access by a cross-section of users.

      Indeed, a key element to better governance is to "democratize" people's knowledge and understanding of complex social, economic and welfare mechanisms and processes, and to "demystify" the political choices available to their elected representatives. The Andhra Pradesh cyber model in India has proved that good policies and clear vision need to be shared with people and their support cultivated for effective governance and Information and Communication Technologies has an important role in the knowledge sharing. Further, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations has in the recent years opened the debates of Commission of Sustainable Development, "to experts and the main actors of the civil society so as to enhance the exchange of information and understanding of social development."

    • Empowered civil society
      Civil society has a crucial role, as they can be the agents of social change by encouraging democracy through greater participation in decision-making processes. They are the force which can make politicians and elected representatives more accountable to the electoral democracy. Powerful NGOs like the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad have forced the government to decentralize the use of state funds for their effective utilization.. Strategic information empowers the civil society to influence decision making at the local levels through a variety of initiatives and activities. The opinion polls conducted over the multi-media have the potential to make known the decisions favored by a large section of the society to the policy-planners and decision makers.

      Today, a prime focus of a growing number of NGOs, civil society campaigning and advocacy coalitions is to address the loss of democratic control over the governments' economic, social and welfare policies. The movement is directed at giving individuals, local communities and regional groupings the chance to advocate policies which protect their welfare interests and promote better governance at all levels. The thrust is on creating spaces for decision-making within the existing governance mechanism that would be democratically informed by welfare and human rights principles, sustainability and social development objectives.

    • Mobilization and Policy Advocacy
      Often there is a need for people to build alliances and develop issue based solidarity over an issue. Knowledge networking brings together people with similar identities and values, thereby aiding mobilization of grassroots communities for concerned action. A community raising a voice against environmental degradation caused by unethical practices of the government or a trans-national company no longer finds itself waging a lone battle but strikes an ally in groups located across the continents raising their voices against similar unethical practices. In a way, knowledge networking becomes a mechanism to bridge the gap between micro-level activism and macro-level policy discourse.

    • Promoting fair practices
      Knowledge mobilizes and strengthens civil society, and helps in the task of emancipating societies by providing them with capacity and autonomy for exercising their role in urging government to take the pathway ahead. They are instrumental in helping communities break from the narrow national and local outlooks and from the hegemony of governments, large corporations and financial capital. Concerted pressure from civil society over the past few years has made the WTO a relatively more transparent place, with greatly expanded opportunities for sections of civil society to participate in WTO deliberations.

    • Effective Environmental Monitoring Environmental monitoring is often a data-intensive activity, which relies heavily on cross-geographical, baseline and real-time data. Knowledge networking in such cases can provide data from the common pool- reducing the risk of duplication of efforts. Combined with other tools and technology transfer processes, knowledge networking can then be effectively used for regional planning and framing of more effective environmental policies. For example, the forest survey maps produced by Forest Survey of India through remote-sensing are very useful tool for monitoring the impact of current forest policies on forest degradation. Such survey maps are useful information in the public domain and provides common pool material for researchers and academicians to independently monitor the health of the forests.

    • Better Valuation of Resources/ Services
      In many parts of the developing world, farmers are solely dependent on farm income for their livelihoods. The farm gate prices for the crops are rarely constant and keep on fluctuating across different trade markets. In such cases, knowledge networks could supply information about farm gate prices for a particular crop prevailing across different agricultural markets to enable farmers to sell their produce in markets which fetch them the best returns- thereby eliminating the need of a middlemen and reducing the risk of panic selling.

    • Employment Creation
      Knowledge networking has the potential to create enormous job opportunities. Knowledge networking requires skilled and trained knowledge workers- such as web-designers, web-searchers, information scientists, researchers, etc. who can perform specific tasks of understanding, compiling, analyzing, providing value-addition and disseminating information. Personnel for low -level white collared jobs would be sourced from places very there are skilled knowledge workers available at competitive rates. Labor intensive jobs such as back office management, medical transcriptions etc. could be performed by knowledge workers from anywhere in the world by making use of information and communication technologies. For example, Ford Motors is setting up its back office in India to handle its global administrative works relating to sale of automobiles. Thousands of knowledge workers in India who have the ability to understand and process information in English would be employed to undertake this job and it speaks volumes of the direction in which employment rate would increase.

    • Integration into Mainstream Economy
      Integrating into the mainstream economy calls for producing goods and services to be globally competitive in terms of quality, prices and availability. Knowledge networking provides a platform for producers to assess the market demand for goods, its technical specifications and the prevailing prices in the market. This would enable them to tap export markets, produce competitive goods and carve a niche for themselves in the global markets.

    • Knowledge Networking as an Industry in itself
      Markets for information goods and services are young, growing and exceptionally mobile. In this dynamic situation, there are many opportunities and some successful models of creating knowledge based industries in developing countries. These industries can provide products such as components and equipments, custom software or exported provision of services. Further, they can also help improve the information components of traditional products, a fast growing aspects of many industries. For example, the skilled industry in India has been able to take advantage of its low-cost, highly skilled work force and with the benefit of international communication links has become a major producer of software.

    Genesis of Sustainable Development Networks
    How are countries going to participate in the task of attaining sustainable development when basic information on the condition of the world's environment and natural resources is out of reach of the many? How can a consensus be build up and be used as a tool for influencing decision-making when civil society does not have access to essential information.

    The onus lies on the intermediary institutions to provide the crucial link between information and its users, and encourage nations to invest in information and communication technologies infrastructure so that they can reap the expected social and economic benefits. Often information is available on issues concerning sustainable development but access to such conventional and non-conventional information is limited due to lack of organization of information services which can give appropriate and timely support. With the future pointing towards accelerating spread of information and communications technologies, the management of knowledge encompassing the function of information collection, compilation, organizing and dissemination assumes significance and this forms the genesis of Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP).

    Origin and Objectives
    The genesis of Sustainable Development Networks (SDN) was in 1992 - a reference was made to the UNCED Conference and the universal conclusion that a critical element in attaining sustainable development was the implementation of Agenda 21. The governments agreed to avoid past failures in reconciling economic growth and sustainable development by deliberately engaging all sectors of the civil society in the development planning processes. Providing access to information so that all stakeholders could be empowered to participate more actively and constructively in the dialogue was a critical issue that the SDN was intended to address.

    The principle objective of SDN was envisaged as facilitating and promoting connectivity between the users and suppliers of information of direct relevance to sustainable development and in particular with the purpose of supporting the preparation and implementation of Agenda 21. The UNDP Capacity 21 programme addresses this need by encouraging developing countries to devote human and organizational resources to sustainable development efforts. An autonomous initiative, SDNP enhances Capacity 21 programme by enabling developing countries to share vital information and expertise. SDNP has already linked together government organizations, the private sector, universities, non-governmental organizations and individuals in over 90 countries spread over Asia, Africa and Latin America through electronic and other networking vehicles for the express purpose of exchanging critical information on sustainable development. The broad benefits of SDN are increased efficiency in the use of development resources, less duplication of activities, reduced communication costs and global access to information and human resources.

    Sustainable Development Networking Programme: India
    In India, striving for sustainable development calls for a dynamic balance between actions and policies which promote sustainable livelihoods, human development and better management of the natural and physical environment. The success lies in an effective and responsive governance, and an empowered civil society which acts as a watchdog on issues concerning sustainable development at local and global levels. Access to information and its strategic use holds the key to achieve both these conditions.

    Sustainable Development Networking Programme, India (SDNP India) exists to facilitate the process of sustainable development by disseminating solutions, promoting good practices and strengthening democratic practices through a mechanism of information exchange between NGOs, government and research organizations, business establishments and civil society at large.

    SDNP -India aims to emerge as a one-stop access point for information and resources on a gamut of issues ranging from agriculture to health to climatic changes and third world debt. It provides a platform for fostering debates and discussions, and highlighting developmental issues and advocating concerned environmental actions at all levels. The programme is jointly funded by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada while the project is being hosted by Ministry of Environment and Forests (India).

    In this context, the role which emerges of Sustainable Development Networking Programme, India (SDNP-India) goes beyond simply linking sources and users of information on sustainable development. The niche areas envisioned for SDNP- India are three-fold:

    • SDNP -India as a centralized, exhaustive electronic repository of information on issues, events, government policies, resource organizations and resource people related to sustainable development.
    • SDNP -India as an active mechanism for communication, coordination and networking among NGOs, community groups, business enterprises, academic and research institutions, and government bodies on issues relating to sustainable development.
    • SDNP- India as a multi-form, pro-active, value-driven force which continuously monitors policies and events, and facilitates partner organizations, collaborative networks and resource persons in advocacy of policy-level changes to create a conducive environment that promotes sustainable development.

    Services provided by SDNP India
    SDNP (India) possesses the state-of-art information and communication technologies which include HP 9000 servers, dedicated internet connectivity, Pentium II computers, Multimedia equipment, scanners and digital cameras. Extensive use of these technologies is made in the everyday functioning of the SDNP India. The services currently provided by Sustainable Development Networking Programme (India) to users worldwide are :

    • Gateway to Information on Sustainable Development
      SDNP -India has created a portal website which is extensively cross-referenced with other resources on the internet on a gamut of subject areas relating to sustainable development. The website hosted from the web-server at SDNP India Hub is an information highway which provides news updates on latest sustainable development relating events, insights on national and international debates, changes in government policies and access to on-line databases, publications, news-clippings and e-mail discussion groups. Each of the subject section has relevant information in the Indian and international context. Subject specific databases, search engines, links to worldwide web libraries and other sources of information have been added into each of these sections to facilitate availability of exhaustive information to the users. A database of national and international organizations working in the development sector is being maintained on the website and has been classified according to the subject areas. The links section in the SDNP India website provides links to the websites of other developmental organizations working on diverse issues.

      The subject areas currently covered in the portal website are agriculture, bio-diversity, biotechnology, forestry, energy, marine ecosystem, climate change, pollution, waste management, water resources, employment, environmental education, gender in development, trade, health and human resources. The list is exhaustive and addition of many more sections is a continuous task. A mirror site of the website exists at

    • Building Bridges Service (BBS)
      Building Bridges is an initiative of SDNP INDIA to keep track of some of the contemporary issues concerning sustainable development. Building bridges is more than a sustainable development monitor and aims to foster greater linkages between communities and support groups. To get the latest updates on development news, upcoming events and development opportunities, users may subscribe to the Building Bridges service of SDNP India by sending an email at

    • Query Desk Service (QDS)
      Query Desk is a customized service of SDNP India to serve individuals and development organizations worldwide in their efforts towards sustainable development by answering their specific queries on subject areas on which SDNP India holds information. SDNP India makes use of its in-house resources and the support of partner organizations and the Environmental Information Services (ENVIS) focal point to provide answer to the queries posed. ENVIS is a network of organizations, funded by Ministry of Environment and Forests (India), working on 25 specialized issues concerning to the environment.

    • Event Reporting Service (ERS)
      SDNP India has initiated for hire reporting service "Development Watch" for events pertainining to the environment and sustainable development, such as conferences, workshops, symposia or regional meetings. SDNP India would highlight the outcomes of these important initiatives and makes them widely available through professional, objective and immediate coverage as well as dissemination of reports to both conference participants and target groups worldwide through electronic mails and via the SDNP India portal website.

    • Dev-Online
      Dev-Online is a pioneering concept to let organizations and individuals put research papers, publications, conference proceedings, databases, etc. on-line on the SDNP website. The material to be hosted can be sent over the e-mail, fax or through postal mail. Once it is hosted it can be accessed by anyone from anywhere in the world.

    • Web-Space to Developmental Organizations and Networks
      SDNP India, in its endeavor to create an information highway on developmental issues provides web - space on its servers to give a catalytic start to organizations and networks working in the area of sustainable development to have their own website to for a wider presence in the development arena. Technical help and expertise on content development and website management is provided as a part of this package.

    • Training on Information and Communication Technologies
      SDNP-India provides training to government, non-government, research and academic organizations on harnessing the potential of Information and Communication Technologies to take forward issues concerning sustainable development at a more macro level. This include training on setting up communication infrastructure and protocols, efficient sourcing and handling of information and creating interactive processes to enrich the information content.

    End Note
    In developing nations, where access to simple technologies is terribly skewed in favor of the economically privileged, harnessing and spreading the potential of Information and Communication Technologies for knowledge based networking will continue to be a daunting challenge. Participation of the private sector, the creation, management and dissemination of strategic information and data pertaining to the various dimensions of development- globally, regionally and nationally and at community level is essential.

    Ultimately, information and communication technologies by itself cannot be an answer and elixir to problems facing sustainable development, but it does bring new information resources and can open new communication channels for the marginalised communities. It offers a means for bridging the information gaps through initiating interaction and dialogue, new alliances, inter-personal networks, and cross-sectoral links between organizations. It can create mechanisms that enable the bottom-up articulation and sharing of local knowledge. The benefits include increased efficiency in allocation of resources for development work, less duplication of activities, reduced communication costs and global access to information and human resources.

    SDNP-India through its functioning can effectively facilitate knowledge based networking but the degree to which people in developing countries can benefit from the networking potential to spread knowledge, bring about good governance and lead to sustainable development will depend on how much support the information-poor get to have access to the networking process and the strength of the complimentary human network. Further, focusing on training, organizational development and capacity building is often more important than investing in the technology itself. Communities must not underestimate the critical importance of building and maintain local capacity. It needs to be recognized that capacity building is a vital element of any Information and Communication Technologies-enabled development effort. Thus building up of national human, technical and economic capacities to facilitate access to and utilization of Information and Communication Technologies should be central and continuous element of community based development efforts


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