Knowledge Management has an active role in shaping the ongoing ideology that an institution develops.  As the curators of the information that ultimately informs ideology, the Knowledge Management team has a responsibility to be aware of not only their privilege, but also of the historic unequal privilege afforded to marginalized groups found within an organization.

Knowledge is power, and access to knowledge has long been wielded as a weapon by the ruling class.  For many years the Bible was only available in Latin. This was because the ruling class (the clergy) were the only people who could read Latin.  They therefor were the only ones able to interpret the bible, giving them full authority over the working class as the voice of God on earth.

In the middle of the 19th century, literacy tests were given to voters.  As the literacy rates of marginalized groups such as African Americans was low, this effectively disenfranchised large groups of voters. 

These are historic examples, but limited access to information continues to be used to shut out or keep down marginalized groups.   The Freedom of Information act was passed in the USA in 1967, and in theory should have allowed ordinary citizens to request information about the government by which they were being ruled.  In practice this has not been the case, with FOIA requests often being denied or coming back heavily redacted.

At an organizational level, how can Knowledge Management address the presence of inequity at the level of an organization? 

It is important that we reaffirm the mandate of Knowledge Management: the consistent application of an organization’s ideology.   If the ideology of an organization does not support equal access to information, no external force on earth can compel an organization to address those inequalities.

Knowledge Management has a hand in shaping the ongoing ideological influence to which an organization is subjected. That is, Knowledge Management need not be passive; information is a living, dynamic force, and so too is the curation of knowledge an active process.

The argument is not that all groups need access to all data, but rather that access to information by certain groups should not be limited based on representational modalities.  Access to information should solely be a business decision.

Carefully considered access to information has the potential to address some of the cultural shortcomings that pervade all business settings.  It’s not just a good idea; measured access to information is the job of Knowledge Management.

What do you think?

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