edge, providing access to information, assimilating the knowledge, diffusing knowledge throughout the economy and society, and using knowledge for social benefit and productive enterprises. The weaknesses of the National Knowledge System are probed through

  1. virtual case studies of “sentinel enterprises,” an exercise for local stakeholders and international experts that is designed to search out opportunities and identify barriers to the creation or expansion of knowledge-based enterprises. The ideas generated through such virtual case studies are elucidated through

  2. limited data compilation and interviews with experts and potential actors or stakeholders. The data comes mainly from local and published sources, and the interviews are with key players in government, academia, and the private sector. The data and interviews will clarify and quantify the problems that may be encountered and help to validate the recommendations that emerge from the process.


The process begins with a national symposium of leaders of the academic community, government, and elements of the private sector concerned with promoting or exploiting knowledge-based activities. It will help create a constituency for the knowledge assessment and receptivity for the recommendations that arise from it. It will familiarize the local knowledge community and the World Bank staff with the elements of knowledge assessment, and provide a forum for Bank-led discussion to identify the elements of the knowledge economy. At this symposium, the outlines of the National Knowledge System will be developed, and the participants will assist in the selection of candidate sentinel enterprises and virtual case study team members, as described below.


The National Knowledge System of a country comprises those institutions that control and regulate the flow and use of knowledge in the economy and society, together with the linkages among them and with the outside world. A map of the knowledge system includes the stocks and flows of knowledge, its sources and uses, and identifies leverage points —those institutions whose creation or strengthening is likely to promote the wider diffusion of knowledge in the population and lower barriers to its assimilation and use.

It must be kept in mind that, while the emphasis here is on national knowledge systems, problems of knowledge assessment are increasingly transnational, sectoral, and regional, rather than being confined within politically defined boundaries. Models of knowledge flow, even within a national knowledge system, must represent a system of interrelated enterprises, institutions, and government agencies, whose reach extends across national boundaries and often is worldwide. Thus knowledge assessment must elucidate how the national system is embedded in and interacts with systems defined by other than political boundaries—national, multinational, and global—of which it is a part.

The organization of the National Knowledge System is based upon six fundamental functions:

  1. motivation for engaging in knowledge-based activities,

  2. creation of knowledge, both fundamental and applied,

  3. access to knowledge, the physical means available within the country for obtaining knowledge from sources inside and outside the country,

  4. the capacity for assimilation of knowledge, its selection and understanding,

  5. the diffusion of knowledge to those who can make use of it, and

  6. the capacity for its productive use for both economic and social benefit.


If elucidation of the National Knowledge System can be considered as exploration of the supply side of the knowledge equation, a complementary element of knowledge assessment arises from the demand side. It is this element that the virtual case study of sentinel enterprises is designed to illuminate.

A virtual case study entails a feasibility study for a hypothetical, “sentinel” enterprise by a team composed of local entrepreneurs and managers, foreign experts drawn from or familiar with global industries, and persons knowledgeable about the government and legal structure of the country. The sentinel enterprise could be one which might be founded in a new knowledge-based industry or a hypothetical existing firm developing a new product or process, or expanding into a new market, domestic or export. The team should be led by an experienced facilitator able to draw from this diverse group of experts the essential information that will reveal the existence of barriers to the flow and use of knowledge within the National Knowledge System and from external sources.

The elements of the sentinel enterprise plan may include information about knowledgeable and experienced entrepreneurs, access to capital, siting, licenses, available equipment and manufacturing processes, importation of equipment, skilled labor, training opportunities, market information, information on best practices and quality management, communications, and transport. For each item or class of items, baseline data would be provided by local participants, and benchmarks would be furnished by the international participants on the team, based in part on standards found in global data bases. The difference between what seems currently achievable in the country and best practice will be considered a gap, and the causes of this gap, as they relate to the knowledge system, will be identified.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement