Millennium Post

Challenge of digital brain drain

Not too far in the pages of history, we had witnessed massive shifting of brainy manpower across continents and getting polarised at a place that had the infrastructure, the money and the respect for knowledge, a new paradigm of shifting the brain and not the manpower is in the offing. One of the major constituents of a knowledge driven society is the quality of human resource that ultimately becomes responsible for creating knowledge. Nations compete to take control of such resources and use ‘Money and Means’ as the weapon for control.     

As the water finds its own level, such human resources also find their way towards a more congenial and remunerative plains of wisdom. Brain Drain – a menace for developing nations haunted such nations in the mid seventies and the eighties with many of their talents migrating abroad for greener pastures and better working conditions. Once again the same menace in a completely different but deadly form is knocking our doors – a digital brain drain.

India has a history of best brains in the world. However, it is hardly accredited for development of the global knowledge. We gave zero to the world but the so called fathers of modern computers never acknowledge us for having done so. If one talks about patenting and royalty accruing out of the use of zero the world over, our entire population can be fed with the royalty money alone.

While the hunters of knowledge have begun to realise that the differentials in the levels of ‘money and means’ among nations have got marginalised over time across borders, innovative methods of ‘Additional Tax Free bounties’ continue to lure such professionals. Digital Brain Drain is the movement of knowledge and learning across borders wherein high value stuffs are being traded in an unaccounted free trade regime and the remuneration one gets for this transfer is a petty sum or at times just a free travel to a foreign country.

If one dives deep into the issues of digital brain drain, one gets more and more convinced that this menace would haunt many developing nations who intend to  capitalise on the development of their strengths in the asymmetric domain of information and disable them from reaping benefits of such asymmetry. While space missions, nuclear abilities and similar such initiatives are symmetric and the high level of entry barriers act as a deterrence for new players to enter the fray, asymmetric domains of cyber and the information world render it an easy realisable targets for many new players. The way to raise the entry barriers in this asymmetric domain is through control of the pilots of this asymmetric domain – the right human resource.

Over the past few years with the communication costs getting cheaper yet more reliable, transfer of knowledge and learning is being seen at an all time high across national boundaries. Web sites, forums and many such virtual places have provided platforms for sharing and transfer of such technologies and knowledge. I am not propagating an idea of controlled knowledgebase but am just trying to enunciate a point against plagiarism of ideas. Generation of ideas are very asymmetric in nature and have no dependence on long drawn investments. An innovative thought process is a commodity for sale and there are many buyers of this commodity globally. Afterall, who doesnot like an extra buck for himself for the good ideas that he has. To facilitate the trade of knowledge a very stable financial systems has developed and WebMoney, Liberty Reserve and many such mechanisms have become suo moto currencies of the web world. A systematic, trust worthy chain of money exchangers also exist in this domain so that one can convert the web currency into usable commodity.

The larger question is whether coercive policies and knee jerk reactions can put an end to such issues or some innovative thoughts need to go into it to protect our knowledge base so as to create a leverage point for the nation as a whole.

To my mind the solution to this issue is through creation of an ambient ecosystem wherein brains could be nurtured, respected and developed for knowledge creation. Every innovative thoughts and ideas must be carefully evaluated and the generator appreciated. Every sector of the government needs to put in place such mechanism. Innovative and realisable thought processes of one and every citizen must be carefully analysed as weird ideas seldom lead to radical achievements.

A retainership model should be put in place wherein a retainer ship fee is paid to the generator of the knowledge on the basis of the quality of the revelation. Thereafter, all such knowledge and revelations should be put before the National Innovation Council which should define the future course of actions for harnessing the knowledge base for the national strategic gains. Such mechanisms would instill a sense of research not only in research institutions but every citizen of the country. After all each brain is unique and has at least one innovative thought hidden into it. The challenge is to get that thought out and convert it into value, both for the individual as well as for a greater cause – the cause of the nation.

Rinku Sharma is an associate professor at Delhi Technological University.
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