Monday, 30 November 2020

Knowledge Management Strategy at a regional political level - guidance from the WHO

In 2006, the World Health Organisation published a regional KM strategy for Health in Africa. This suggested approach for developing a regional KM strategy could potentially be used in other political contexts.

Image under CC licence from pxhere
created by Mohamed Hasan


Knowledge Management is not just for industry or for individual organisations; it is also of value politically and regionally. The concept of the Knowledge Economy, for example, is recognition that knowledge is an asset to countries and to regions.

To date, there seems to be no consistent view for how KM can be applied at a country economy level, and many governments focus less on KM and more on promoting research in order to support a knowledge economy. Even the World Bank seems to miss KM as a pillar for a knowledge economy

However if we move away from finance and into the realm of Health, there is a much clearer view of how KM can help governments and regions perform better. 

The WHO strategy linked in the header does just that, and sets out a set of steps whereby KM can be improved in countries and regions. The result should be better performance in knowledge-based work; including health, but also including other knowledge work - the sort of work that supports a knowledge economy. 

The steps proposed by the WHO are as follows. My commentary is provided in bold. 

Priority interventions 
Advocacy. Knowledge Management for health should be promoted by policy-makers at the highest level of government and by international and regional development partners. This should apply to other contexts as well. Eg in a knowledge economy, economic KM should be promoted by policy makers. In a safety context - safety KM. etc,
Data and evidence generation. A situation analysis of KM at regional and country levels through surveys and special studies should be performed and regularly updated. Such analyses should generate evidence; identify best practices; consider explicit, tacit, community-based and traditional knowledge; and locate available expertise. This can also be done in other contexts. 
Development of policies and plans. Country-specific policies and plans should be developed for further progress in KM and to ensure that KM is embedded across the health system, including all programmes and projects.  This can also be done in other contexts. If a country or a region has plans to develop a knowledge economy, then this needs to be set into policy. We see this to some extent in the Science, Technology and Innovation policy in the UAE, and similar innovation policies in the Middle East. 
Setting of standards and norms. Appropriate norms, standards and regulations are the key for sustainable progress in KM, especially in e-Health and telemedicine. They should be based on the best international practices and adapted to the national context. Now we have ISO 30401:2018, the setting of standards and norms for KM will be much easier.  
Capacity-building. Capacity concerns three main components of KM: people’s skills and behaviour, managerial processes and technologies. The key approaches to be implemented include training and continuing education, staff incentives, institutional mechanisms and effective use of ICT infrastructure. This is definitely needed.
Fostering partnerships and mobilizing appropriate resources. The global momentum in favour of Knowledge Management and Information Technology development created by the WSIS and other international and regional initiatives should be actively used for building strong partnerships at country and regional levels, and for mobilizing adequate resources for KM. 
Effective knowledge generation, sharing and application. Countries and all stakeholders should foster Knowledge Management across health systems for health development and equitable health outcomes. KM, including learning, sharing and application, should be an integral part of the managerial culture in health sectors and systems. Special attention should be given to health and health-related tacit, traditional and oral knowledge, particularly in rural areas. This includes extensive use of mechanisms such as communities of practice and ICT-assisted tools. KM should be strongly associated with health information systems, health research and human resources development. And of course all of this is true of other contexts, not just health. 


In previous blog posts on the knowledge economy I have already suggested training and the application of standards, and also suggest that knowledge-related tax breaks and government advisors would be useful as well. 

If countries and regions are serious about knowledge as a resource to drive a knowledge economy, then then the 7 suggestions above from the WHO can be used as a blueprint for policy makers.

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