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“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. Although over 200 years old, Benjamin Franklin’s quote appears to be more true today than ever before. Many believe the world is currently amidst a transition to a ‘knowledge economy’, replacing previous eras primarily focused upon agricultural or industrial activities. One of the most influential individuals within the online world, Mark Zuckerberg, shares this belief and sheds some light upon his view of why the knowledge economy benefits the world in the following video.

It is undeniable that the internet has been a key catalyst in this societal shift – with over 3 billion users worldwide, many of whom are digital residents contributing to the mass of information online (Internet Stats, 2016). But the question I would like to explore is whether the knowledge distributed online should be paid for?

Often, the resources used to create online content hold significant value and therefore the creator surely has the right to implement charges. In this article Alexander Brown comments upon how academic publishers still add value and justify their fees.

Open access, which focuses upon a common goal of freely distributing scholarly knowledge at minimal cost, while letting authors keep rights and allowing other researchers to build on their work in new ways, has been highly debated as a solution to the problem of highly priced journals. This method can cause a snowball effect and generate further great ideas across the world – driving innovation forward.

The ‘hole-in-the-wall’ experiment, implemented in India – proved that with free access to information in underdeveloped countries people can use the internet to educate themselves (Dunn, 2013). If this content is paid for, then less economically developed countries would not be able to access it, denying valuable knowledge to those who need it the most. After all, look at what a difference the knowledge economy has made for the following countries.

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Open Educational Resources, which aim to deliver free teaching online – explained in this video – are another means of boosting the knowledge economy through free web based material. However, with much success this paradigm poses the threat of replacing the ‘physical teaching’ industry, potentially endangering millions of jobs and institutions (Annone, 2013).

Although industries such as publishing certainly have a strong case to justify their costly online resources, I feel that hiding information behind paywalls can hinder the chances of overall world development. If the digital divide begins to close and more developing countries are exposed to the internet, having free access to the information they need will increase innovation and ultimately boost the knowledge economy – making the world a better place.


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References:

Brown, A. (2012). Open access: why academic publishers still add value. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2012/nov/22/open-access-research-publishing-academics?fb=optOut. Last accessed 11/12/2016.

Dunn, D. (2013). Education Finally Ripe For Radical Innovation By Social Entrepreneurs. Available: http://www.forbes.com/sites/skollworldforum/2013/04/07/education-finally-ripe-for-radical-innovation-by-social-entrepreneurs/#5f2639c57a55. Last accessed 11/12/2016.

Internet Live Stats. (2016). Number of Internet Users. Available: http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/. Last accessed 11/12/2016.

Annone, J. (2013). OER Benefits and Disadvantages. Available: http://www.slideshare.net/jiannone/oer-26348899. Last accessed 11/12/2016.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=L5rVH1KGBCY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFeyCc6we-s

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUWmyGBEfVc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBC7bA-PeSI

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