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ABSTRACT

This article argues that measures designed to improve the availability and accessibility of information as a key strategy to facilitate development have become ends in themselves, de-linked from their potential to have an impact on Southern knowledge systems that may lead to improved development outcomes. The production and dissemination of ever-greater volumes of information in response to concerns about the uneven availability of information, particularly for individuals and intermediaries based in the global South, are unable to address the persistent problem of the fragmentation of knowledge systems that result from knowledge for development (K4D) initiatives in which information and knowledge are treated as isolated entities. The article presents the findings of a study into the K4D practices of a network of women/gender information intermediaries. It reveals that attempts to strengthen Southern knowledge systems are forestalled by efforts that merely improve the supply of information rather than engaging with knowledge processes in their entirety, thus limiting their potential to promote improved development outcomes. Proxy measures of success are used that fail to challenge the typically neoliberal underpinnings of the dominant knowledge infrastructure. The author concludes that, if knowledge-based development interventions are to be made more effective, K4D stakeholders need to find ways to engage not just with the supply but with the demand for information, as part of broader efforts to strengthen entire knowledge systems in ways that take account of concerns around hegemony.