Research Theme 6 - Knowledge Management and Social Innovation

Overtime managers have been overwhelmed by the amount of information or data that flows in their way. This overload of information is what makes Knowledge Management (KM) and Social Innovation increasingly more important. There are three major reasons why actively managing knowledge is important to success of an organization. These are: KM facilitates decision making; it builds capacities of learning organizations by making learning routine; and it stimulates cultural change and innovations.

Among the challenges facing the world of Knowledge Management (KM) and Social Innovation (SI) today is the stress of mainstreaming several overlapping dimensions of KM features into one complex subject covering knowledge creation, acquisition, sharing, storing, application, updating, and even knowledge destruction (or annihilation - often done unintentionally). In its treatment, one has to cover a range of aspects including organizational aspects of learning, the sense of knowledge as an intellectual capital to build and take advantage of, and even what is called knowledge economics pertaining to knowledge demand and supply with its implication in its cost and value.

The ESRF-MTSP will seek to demystify these concepts by providing practical approaches to Knowledge Management and Social Innovation in the process of economic and social development in Tanzania. This can be done through policy research and case studies of Knowledge Management and Social Innovations especially at micro-levels that provide lessons for scaling up knowledge application in other locations and areas. ESRF has accumulated some research experience in the past that it can build on to support the government and other stakeholders that pursue Knowledge Management and Social Innovations in mainstream programmes of production and social advancement in different sectors. The aspect of Data Management (as a sub-set of KM) interfaces with almost all research areas cited in this MTSP.

More precisely, the research subjects of KM will be regrouped into the following three research sub-themes, namely: Innovation and Knowledge Transfer, Support of ICT Development, Social Innovation as well as Data and Knowledge Management.

Sub-Theme 1: Social Innovation and Knowledge Transfer

Social Innovation is a process of translating an idea, solution or invention into a good or service that creates social value. Social Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources, and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products. For any organization to thrive, innovation is key. Whereas, data management is the process of controlling the information generated during a research project. Any research will require some level of data management, and funding agencies are increasingly requiring scholars to plan and execute good data management practices and, knowledge transfer is the practical challenge of transferring knowledge from one part of the organization to another. Like knowledge management, social innovation, knowledge transfer seeks to organize, create, capture or distribute knowledge and ensure its availability for future users.

Social Innovation and knowledge transfer are therefore fundamental if an organization or a country is to bring up changes and develop. In recent years ICT has made a breakthrough in the research industry. ICT is a critical instrument which research cannot afford to go without. ICT facilitates research and surveys in terms of simplifying the research approaches, lowering costs and better data management.

ESRF has identified three research issues related to knowledge management and social innovation:

    (a) Social Innovation and Sector Transformation: innovation can be found practically in any sector development, since it is embedded in infrastructures and facilities;

    (b) Technological Uptake in Sector Development; and

    (c) What kind of KM innovations are required to improve the government operations and public service delivery in the sectors that have distinct impact to poor people’s productivity and social welfare?

Sub-Theme 2: Support of ICT for Development

The fast changing ICT in Tanzania is a highly welcome development that can facilitate increased productivity and improved social services. Among the latest government initiatives to tap the ICT potentials is the installation of e-government to facilitate intra-government communication and delivery of services with more speed and efficiency. This research focus was included in MTSP-V and will be continued obviously by working closely with the government MDAs that are promoting the use of different ICT facilities to manage and deliver services. The following specific research studies will be targeted:

    (a) How to take advantage of new ICT facilities in the country, particularly the mobile phones and mobile money transfers to transform rural livelihoods, and to enhance effectiveness of government services and community development;

    (b) How to promote application of ICT to meet communities’ demands; and

    (c) Prospects for efficient E-Government application and management in MDAs and LGAs.

Sub-Theme 3: Data and Knowledge Management

In the past MTSP, data and knowledge management was treated simply as a facility for ESRF to function efficiently in research, administration, financial management or any other area. In the current MTSP data and knowledge management is reconstituted to curve out its own fullfledged research. The impulse for research in Data and Knowledge Management is a result of the fact that data analysts have come to participate in evolvement of researches that go beyond the narrow confines of computer application or data processing as they now interact with other experts in non-ITC sectors. Here one would consider the following questions as examples:

    (a) How to improve data availability in Tanzania through Open Data concept;

    (b) Building the institutional capacity in data management, attributed to the problem of getting readily available good data;

    (c) How can knowledge management enhance services delivery and increase productivity and competitiveness; and

    (d) The use of IT for the purpose of cost effectiveness by MDAs in Tanzania without compromising on policy process inclusiveness.

ESRFs activities are supported by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) and International Development Research Centre (IDRC)