Knowledge Revolution Through Electronic Networks
the need to bridge the gap between the creation of
innovations in the formal and informal sectors of
Indian society, a consortium of support
organizations led by the Society for Research and
Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and
Institutions (SRISTI) created an international
network to facilitate the sharing of ideas and
innovations throughout the world.
The key focus of the consortium was on
innovations relating to a) technologies used for
survival by knowledge rich and economically poor
individuals, b) collective indigenous institutions for
natural resource management, and c) education at the
primary level in regions that are rich in
biodiversity, but high in illiteracy.
By documenting and disseminating information
about grassroots innovations, SRISTI and its partners
aim to help spur and cultivate creative forces at the
community level, thereby enabling marginalized groups
to participate in India’s social and economic
In the same way that honeybees thrive off of pollen
from flowers, the Honey Bee Network is designed around
the principle of information and knowledge sharing for
the common good.
Just as taking nectar away from flowers does
not make them poorer, the objective of the Honey Bee
Network is meant to enrich the lives of the people who
share their innovations and ideas by helping them
realize the value of their knowledge.
By facilitating the cross-cultural and
multi-linguistic exchange of ideas, the Honey Bee
Network offers artisans, farmers, and marginalized
groups an opportunity to tap into the creative
component of indigenous knowledge systems.
More than fifteen years ago like-minded Indian
visionaries realized that traditional methods for
extracting knowledge at the grassroots level was not
sufficient for fully cultivating the true human
potential of Indian communities.
Thus the founders of Honey Bee set out to
create a network to facilitate knowledge sharing in an
effort to expedite the feedback between innovators and
end users, while providing a sustainable link between
the “golden triangle of creativity” (innovators,
investors and entrepreneurs).
India’s Honey Bee Network seeks to bridge the
gap between the information “haves” and “have
nots” by tapping into and democratizing the wealth
of knowledge at the community level and digitizing
that knowledge in electronic networks.
The Honey Bee Network addresses one of the major
impediments to realizing the innovative potential of
Indian communities: the lack of an efficient feedback
the more developed segments of urban society, the
creativity of knowledge-rich peoples in rural and
isolated areas goes largely unseen because they lack
the necessary channels of sharing their ideas with the
wider polity. By
providing publicly available access points (e.g.
kiosks) in remote villages throughout India, the Honey
Bee Network affords these geographically disadvantaged
peoples an opportunity to share their creations and
ideas with their peers in other parts of the country
and the global community.
The Honey Bee Network comprises a comprehensive
multimedia/multilingual database of information
relating to new innovations and ideas, including, inter
alia, horticulture, biodiversity, and herbal
village meetings and grassroots mobilization, Honey
Bee workers are able assess the information needs of
end users at the community level, while identifying
and documenting the knowledge of innovators and
traditional knowledge holders throughout India.
These village meetings, which also take place
during the biannual “Shodh
yatras,” or journeys of exploration, enable
SRISTI, National Innovation Foundation (NIF),
Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network (GIAN) and
the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA)
to tailor the Network to the unique needs of users in
remote areas of the country. The goal of these village meetings is to share innovations
and encourage villagers to conserve local
biodiversity, trigger local creativity, and organize
friendly competitions to promote knowledge and
information sharing for social and economic
To convey the message effectively, information and
communication technologies (ICTs), specifically
databases and multimedia technologies, are used to
facilitate real-time linkages across social, cultural
and linguistic boundaries.
To date, the Honey Bee pilot kiosks based in
villages have received a positive response from the
user community. For
instance, during the eighth Sohdh Yarta in the village
of Rajasthan, Honey Bee workers began a demonstration
of a multimedia database and abruptly stopped after 15
an effort to encourage the involvement of women in
India’s knowledge revolution, the workers called on
the men to bring the women of the village from their
homes before continuing the demonstration.
This experiment worked in Rajasthan and in
every other village, thus highlighting Indians’
appetite for knowledge and information sharing.
Beyond Honey Bee
Although SRISTI continues to provide institutional
support, the Honey Been Network’s strength lies in
its network of volunteers from over 77 countries
around the world.
Using newsletters based on local language and
cultural inputs, volunteers throughout the world help
to cultivate the knowledge and creativity of
By 2000, the Honey Bee database contained over
12,000 entries of innovations.
Since the NIF and Honey Bee workers began
organizing national competitions for innovations, the
database has grown significantly and now contains over
20,000 examples of grassroots innovations and
traditional knowledge in NIF and SRISTI database.
Supported with the help of the World Bank’s
Information for Development (InfoDev) programme, and
other volunteers of
Honey Bee network, the Knowledge Network for
Augmenting Grassroots Innovations (KnowNet-Grin) was
designed to utilize the power of ICTs to expedite the
feedback process throughout the Honey Bee Network,
while making information more easily accessible to
remote villages via the Internet.
KnowNet-Grin comprises multimedia nodes
connected through a wide area network (WAN), initially
encompassing the Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka
are currently underway to expand the network to other
regions of the country.
Intended to operationalize the electronic
exchange of information among grassroots innovators,
KnowNet-Grin helps to create opportunities for
entrepreneurship and socio-economic advancement for
It seeks to help would-be innovators overcome
caste, gender and literacy barriers by democratizing
knowledge among all members of society, thereby
spawning grassroots innovations throughout the
is still in the beta stage at the IIMA.
Goals and challenges
While the project designers, which include, inter
alia, SRISTI, GIAN, NIF and IIMA, have laid out a
variety of goals for KnowNet-Grin, of which the
following warrant specific mention:
creation of an electronic network of innovators
linked by village-based kiosks;
innovators to share ideas;
the feedback loop between users and innovators;
the gap between formal and informal innovation;
a virtual platform for building a value chain of
research and development support.
Despite its vision, the project faces many
identifying ways to make the Network relevant to the
largely illiterate rural population to the lack of
incentives to participate in new knowledge creation
and the inadequate number of women and other
marginalized groups involved in grassroots innovation,
KnowNet-Grin faces an uphill battle as it seeks to
establish close contacts between innovators, investors
However, continued research in the areas of
local language standardization, universal interfaces
for village kiosks and multimedia-based education
promises to strengthen the sustainability of KnowNet-Grin.
In phase two, the project hopes to expand the
Network to Africa and South America, eventually
seeding all markets of the world with Honey Bee
As one of the
country’s most innovative grassroots programmes,
Honey Bee, and its KnowNet-Grin electronic network,
promises to cultivate and nurture the creative and
entrepreneurial sprit of grassroots innovation at the
Moreover, the creation of an electronic
knowledge network that effectively addresses the
cultural, societal and linguistic issues, while
providing a link to the global information network via
kiosks, ensures the cross cultural exchange of
innovations and traditional knowledge towards
solutions for sustainable development.
By tapping into the innovative potential of
society, this grassroots programme provides a
sustainable mechanism for helping India become a
knowledge producer in the global information society.
Additionally, “scouting” for innovative
ideas at the community level allows Honey Bee workers
to capture extraordinary work done by ordinary people
throughout India and other parts of the world.
SRISTI, the Shodhyatras are eight to ten day
treks to remote villages to tap into the
innovative spirit of local experts.
The objective of these village-level
meetings is to gain a better understanding of
the many ways that isolated community members
have contributed social and economic
development, while honoring outstanding people
for their creativity.
they have proved to be an invaluable
mechanism for the creation of sustainable
social networks and innovation.
For instance, in one village some elderly
women organized a friendly competition to
identify women who could cook the best using
In another contest, children competed for
prizes and certificates for innovative ways to
address the issue of biodiversity.
The Shodhyatras serve as a way to
showcase and cultivate indigenous human capital,
while also engaging remote communities in a
participatory development process.
For additional information visit the following
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WSIS Outcome Documents