Paul Hector 

Doctoral Researcher, Institute for Knowledge and Innovation South East Asia (IKI-SEA), Bangkok University, Thailand

Knowledge is a key resource that enables transformation. Through knowledge-based development we can create solutions to contemporary challenges and prepare for and invent new futures and possibilities. People, individually and collectively, are the sources and transmitters of knowledge. With their varied worldviews, differing experiential influences, unique insights and skills – individuals bring myriad ways of assessing, validating, preserving, adapting, sharing and creating knowledge. By designing conditions that allow people to collaborate effectively we can combine their knowledge and catalyze creativity. These interactions can be extremely powerful, provide outcomes greater than the sum of their parts facilitating the development of new solutions and spurring paradigm shifts. Communication networks and platforms, such as the Internet, are powerful mediators in the knowledge-based development processes with tremendous potential to bring people into proximity across vast distances. Urbanization is also playing a similar role by concentrating people and with them a range of tangible and intangible resources in cities.

Communication networks and platforms are driving down costs, reducing barriers to entry across many sectors and creating new forms of social organization that generate tangible and intangible value. Various studies have shown that compared to their populations, cities contribute disproportionately more to their national and regional economies, enabling them to attract more talent and investment. In turn cities also offer greater opportunities for economic, social, political and other forms of participation. Despite the exciting prospects that digital networks and cities offer, there are challenges we must tackle. Almost half of the world’s population is not yet on-line. Not every city dweller has equal access to the benefits of urban living. If left unchecked deep-seated inequalities may lead to a break-down in social cohesion, unrest and various forms of insecurity.

So if we want to build inclusive and sustainable knowledge cities and societies here are some questions that we should ask: What visions and values are shaping our uses and pursuit of knowledge-based development? Who is included and who is excluded? What can we do to bring the excluded into the mainstream? Who decides what kinds of knowledge is valuable? How do we manage and distribute the benefits as well as the costs – short-term or long-term – that result from knowledge-based development? Finally, how do we transition from societies organized around ideas and rules developed to manage tangible resources to societies where intangible resources are the primary means of value creation?