Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Should knowledge be free?

To the best of my knowledge, MIT was the forerunner in making a bold statement that formal knowledge (i.e., university courses) should be free in the Internet age. MIT's Open Course ware project, announced in 2001, was instrumental in catalyzing the collective global academic consciousness in this direction, and was followed by many great Universities following suit with sharing their own courses. A notable example in India is the NPTEL project, a joint initiative of the IITs and the IISc. There are many others.

Now, after a decade, the grand dad of open course ware seems to be reconsidering the prudence of their decision. University World News reported yesterday that MIT is "considering putting lecture notes and other academic content behind a paywall to raise revenue and make up for funding shortfalls stemming from the global recession".

I believe this is an important, globally pertinent, decision point. In the age of Web 2.0, YouTube, social networks, etc it is simply impossible to keep knowledge locked up, especially after people have tasted it for free. Business model innovations are the need of the hour, to keep content available for free while making the initiatives sustainable. But the solution is not  to lock up. In fact, it seems to me that the natural movement should be in the opposite direction - formal knowledge organizations other than Universities, such as noteworthy schools, colleges, training bodies, government and corporate research labs, consultancy companies, etc need to open up their courses, publications and knowledge to the world. This is where both the good of the world and the long-term good of their brands lie.

No comments:

Post a Comment