Knowledge Super Corridors in Southeast Asia: Seeing and Doing from a Critical Lens

Knowledge Super Corridors in Southeast Asia: Seeing and Doing from a Critical Lens

Chun Kwong Han (Faculty of Economics and Management, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/ijpop.2012070101


Developing countries in Asia are in the process of transitioning from a production economy to a knowledge-based economy. Various new knowledge and information communications technology mega-projects are being designed and executed at the international, national, state and industry levels to sustain competitiveness. The structures and processes by which these so-called “knowledge super corridors” are developed and implemented are complex economic-social-political decisions. The author develops an enhanced framework from critical theory, whereby the critical practice lens provides an iterative reflexive process, firstly by developing knowledge for understanding from structuration theory. Secondly, the author provides a critique of underpinning assumptions and presumptions whereby the constraining conditions of the status quo and emancipation become knowable and explicit, that is, knowledge for evaluation. Thirdly, the knowledge for action generated will enable the decision makers to re-create, re-define, re-design, re-imagine, re-invent and re-vision pragmatic, doable and implementable programs to transform a developing country into a k-economy. The author illustrates the value of the enhanced model using two case studies concerned with formulating and implementing a k-economy blueprint and developing a knowledge portal in emerging k-economies in Southeast Asia.
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Introduction: A New World Of Knowledge, Innovation And Dream Economies

An increasing number of countries around the world are embracing the concept and practice of the knowledge-based economy (hereafter refer to as the k-economy). Just before the beginning of the new millennium, the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Finland, France, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore have already articulated national positions and strategies for their k-economies. Although each country defines its k-economy somewhat differently, all of these definitions revolved around the New Growth Theory of an economy based on the production, distribution and utilization of knowledge, which constitutes the primary engine of economic growth and wealth creation. More than 50% of the Gross Domestic Product in the major OECD economies is now based on the production and distribution of knowledge. In the US, more than 60% of workers are classified as knowledge workers, defined as symbolic analysts who manipulate symbols rather than machines, and they include architects, bank workers, fashion designers, pharmaceutical researchers, teachers and policy analysts.

Developing countries, not wanting to be left behind in these developments, are also formulating policies and strategies to transform their production economies (p-economies) based on the conventional inputs of land, labor and capital into the k-economies (Rosenberg, 2002). The strategy documents produced in developing countries, however, are fairly similar to those of the developed economies, giving the impression that k-economy and innovation strategies are readily transferable across different countries (Makishima, 2002; Masuyama & Vandenbrink, 2003; Saperstein & Rouach, 2002). An example is a developing country in Southeast Asia, (hereafter referring the country to “MyCountry” as the pseudonym), with a national developmental strategy, known as the National Development Plan 2006-2010 and 2011-2015, heavily underscored by the concept and practice of the k-economy. First articulated in the 2002 Knowledge-based Economy Master Plan, the country defines its own k-economy and the rationale for the transition as follows:

….k-economy is one in which knowledge, creativity and innovation can play an ever-increasing and important role in generating and sustaining growth. This differs from the conventional production-based or p-economy where economic growth was driven largely by the accumulation of the traditional factors of production, namely, land, labor and capital. The most valuable asset in the k-economy is human capital or the pool of educated and skilled human resources, whose core competency is the ability to create, acquire and exploit knowledge. Why is it imperative that our country makes the transition towards the k-economy? Our international competitiveness has been on the decline, as indicated in the slip in the World Competitiveness Report. Increasing foreign competition from countries such as China, India and Vietnam means that the country has to re-position itself in niches with distinct competitive advantages. Globalization and liberalization make local and world markets indistinguishable, and this requires the country to differentiate its offerings in the marketplace. Furthermore, as costs escalate and profit margins shrink in traditional industries, we would have to seek higher value-added to its products and services, seek new sources of growth, and move into both pre- and post-production stages. The development of the k-economy will enable our country to enhance its international competitiveness and sustain socio-economic development….

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