From mule trails to the electronic highway

A revolutionary decade for south-south knowledge sharing

Sharing implies having something to share and not being afraid to share it, a give and take.
Often the word “sharing” is substituted by “management”, becoming knowledge management and which implies a power relationship. This relationship is usually just another step on the continuum of north-south power.

By Kathryn Pozak

De caminos de mulas a la autopista de la información

 

The EcoSouth Network seeks something else. It is a South-South knowledge sharing effort initiated around a particular technology and on a particular continent, but that has evolved  far beyond. The process has led to EcoSouth becoming a quite independent and sustainable entity.

While there has been project financing that allowed some of the developments, it has been the thirst to share information among people in Latin America, and a growing thirst of people on other continents, that has contributed to EcoSouth being on the waves today.

The impact of modern media upon the way that information is transmitted cannot be ignored, and for  EcoSouth the last decade of the twentieth century brought about revolutionary changes in the way it deals with information. It has learned to ride the electronic waves without neglecting the bumpy roads that still abound. This delicate balancing act is what guides knowledge sharing.

Perhaps there is no “best” way in which knowledge can be shared. But, there are paths that lead to a continuous process of sharing, among people, countries, organizations, etc. Our path is called “networking”. It has to do with communication, and communication has several faces among which are attitudes, media and information itself, even language plays its role.

ATTITUDES
Sharing has much to do with attitudes. All the financial, human and technical resources in the world do not guarantee sharing. There must be a desire and interest in sharing, in communication. When this is lacking, forget it.

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Examples abound where people hinder the process through their own inefficiency or laziness, or an inability to set priorities or see the forest for the trees.

Although a civil war may be over in a country, often the citizens and organizations continue the guerrilla warfare in a “non-sharing” of information. They limit their own possibilities of growth. This “non-sharing” has an economic face called competition, where some people tend to hide things from the perceived competition.
Time and again in the dissemination of MCR (MicroConcrete Roofing) throughout Latin America, some producers immediately sought a monopoly, others “spied” on their competition to enhance their own position, and others tried to copy or reinvent what they saw, but in a manner that does not lead to success.

Nonetheless, throughout the years the great majority have wanted to know what others do and how they do it, and letting others know how they themselves do things. They are open to a give and take. Where there is an opening, that is the place in which the various media of communication come into play.
Different target groups require different media of communication. One cannot expect tile producers in outlying villages of Guatemala or Zambia to access a website, but they can read periodicals written in an understandable language. Sometimes scientific language must be modified into words understood by the “masses”. EcoSouth engages its talents and interest to communicate the essence in an understandable and human manner, taking advantage of the entire spectrum of modern media.

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