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Prospectus for National Knowledge Assessment
participants get a clear idea of the purpose and process of the knowledge assessment. The participants will include those most knowledgeable in the country of the workings of the institutions that make up the National Knowledge System, and their contribution will be essential.
HOW TO CHART THE NATIONAL KNOWLEDGE SYSTEM
Preparation for elaboration of the National Knowledge System will begin at the national symposium. The starting point will be a template of the functions normally associated with a national knowledge system. This template, upon which the map will be based, must have been already developed from the pilot project described below and the accumulated experience of earlier knowledge assessments in other countries. A few examples of the type of functions that appear in the template, organized according to motivation, creation, access, assimilation, diffusion, and use, are given in table 1 . It will be the first task of the national symposium to organize and label these functions according to the agency, ministry, or private organizations that have responsibilities to perform them in the country. These will include the universities, government agencies, professional and industrial associations, private firms, non-government organizations, and others. The labeling can be carried out by the symposium participants in working groups, and the discussion and analysis of which agencies have which responsibilities will have a fruitful impact on later discussions of barriers.
Once the labels have been put in place, the flow of knowledge will be charted. Beginning with the flow of knowledge into the countries, it will include the sources of knowledge within the country and the knowledge users, and it will show the links among the agencies mapped into the National Knowledge System.
HOW TO DO THE VIRTUAL CASE STUDIES
A virtual case study is similar to preparing a feasibility study for a new enterprise or the expansion into a new process, product, or service by an existing one. All the considerations that pertain to a real enterprise are reviewed step by step for the hypothetical enterprise. However the objective is not to plan a real investment but to identify barriers that prevent such enterprises from coming into existence or that make them unattractive, or to identify new mechanisms that might facilitate them.
The success of the virtual case study depends greatly on the selection of the participants, their knowledge of the country and of the industry or sector that embraces the sentinel enterprise, their familiarity with economic, cultural, and intellectual conditions in the country, and the skill of the facilitators. An unknown in each country is the cultural factor that may or may not make it comfortable for participants to join in this kind of “game.” (An experiment in structured group brainstorming carried out at the Organization of American States some years ago was pronounced by some unhappy participants “very gringo.”) In some countries local participants may gladly volunteer for this service, realizing that it is in their best interest or the best interest of their country. In others, they may demand to be paid as consultants. Many businessmen and women may see it as a risky activity from which they may personally lose or gain face or advantage. In many countries, it will be best to carry out the virtual case studies in English; in others the local language will facilitate discussion. Experience, beginning with the pilot project, will determine how to maximize the yield from this exercise in each culture.
Selection of Sentinel Enterprises
The selection of the sentinel enterprises will normally take place at the national symposium, where local stakeholders and World Bank staff will take an active role. Two issues are most important. The aim is not to “pick winners” in economic competition, it is to eliminate barriers so that winners will be able to flourish. Therefore it is essential that the sentinel enterprises be selected with due regard to the national economic reality and for the priorities set forth in national development plans.
With this in mind, the sentinel enterprises are intended to expose the weaknesses of the National Knowledge System and the barriers to productive use of knowledge. Not all the barriers will be directly related to knowledge and information; high fees or other impediments to establishing enterprises of any sort, high import or export duties, or poor airport facilities would be detrimental to a knowledge-based enterprise as it would be to any other. Yet a judicious selection of sentinel enterprises will point a finger at the same key set of barriers from different perspectives, and provide both the rationale and the basis for evaluation of recommendations for removing such barriers.
If the industrial sector is the target of the knowledge assessment, then a sample of sentinel enterprises might include a sophisticated financial service company, a venture capital company, a computer software company, an engineering consulting company, a precision foundry, a plant to process a natural product, a food product company based on a local formula, and a company to publish technical books and journals. It must be stressed again that the aim is not to lay the groundwork for establishing such companies nor to encourage others to compete with existing companies. The only market research that will be done is to determine whether market research can be done, given the available knowledge resources. Similarly, the recruitment of staff and managers will be limited to determining whether appropriate staff and managers might be recruited in the country or from abroad. Any participant who is encouraged by the proceedings to start such an enterprise will be entirely on his or her own. A participant who sees the threat of competition from analysis