Knowledge Management in Government
In 1994, IT giant Accenture launched a global knowledge database with an internal knowledge management system at its core.
Called the Knowledge Xchange (KX), the database to this date enables consultants from across Accenture’s many offices across the world to capture knowledge from the projects they are working on. This includes tangible collateral such as presentations, reports, syntheses, best practices as well as the documentation of the overall methodology used for a project. Anyone in the Accenture network can learn from this captured knowledge and build their work on top of what has already been done. Overtime, this has resulted in an efficient system with thousands of human hours saved by avoiding duplication of work, and a sense of community and shared purpose among members spread across different countries and time zones.
As the number of users has grown, Accenture’s system has become richer and more valuable. New consultants have brought in new ideas as well as new experiences with technology and in varied socio-political environments. With more inputs, the system has grown both in depth, through sharper, more nuanced insights on existing topics; and breadth by covering a wider range of issues. Over the years, Accenture’s knowledge management system has helped it carve a niche for itself in the consulting world by helping solve problems with fewer resources. This has resulted in increased efficiency without compromising on effectiveness.
In many ways, attributes of work done by government officials spread across various states, sectors and departments of the Indian government are comparable to that of Accenture’s consultants. In particular, there are three common attributes that stand out:
- Shared identity: The existence of a single, central entity to which all the consultants/officials are connected. Officials across the country are representatives of the Indian government and therefore have a shared identity
- Shared challenges: The similarity of challenges faced by consultants/officials across offices. Officials from across the country face similar challenges across issues such as public healthcare, water management, poverty alleviation etc.
- Shared vocabulary: The ability of consultants/officials to capture and disseminate information in a manner that is useful across contexts. The government has a shared vocabulary using which it carries out its day-to-day operations for example revenue, expenditure etc. (with some room for variation based on state and type of government)
As officials get transferred from one position to another across sectors, departments and geographies, they may feel challenged by the problems assigned to them in their new role. The ability to access information on similar problems faced by their colleagues in other parts of the country might help save precious time and resources. Instead of solving a problem from scratch, officials may be able to use or refine existing ideas, and craft precise solutions to the problems at hand.
In addition to being useful in solving new problems, a knowledge management system within the government might also help reduce duplication of effort by allowing officials to, wherever possible, access existing documentation. For example while procuring goods/services, officials may benefit from accessing and learning from similar RFPs that already exist within the government eco-system.
An integrated knowledge management system will also help the government build institutional memory by documenting government operations in an efficient manner. It will help further the government’s goal of desiloisation by knocking down sectoral, departmental and geographical boundaries across government. In a country struggling to address wide-ranging developmental and socio-political challenges, it will help bring government officials closer through a shared sense of purpose and community.