Rethinking import substitution in the knowledge age

Import substitution is a trade and economic policy which advocates replacing foreign imports with domestic production.

Over the past few years, considerable amount of my time and attention have been directed towards board games. Over the past year or so, fair amount of my time has also gone into dabbling with code — mostly Dialogflow, Telegram bots, Apps Scripts & most recently Jekyll (in that order). To pursue & advance on both these interests of mine, I have relied on the internet a lot.

Videos, blogs and websites have been my primary sources for learning. Almost all the board game titles, I learned to play not by reading up the manuals but by viewing gameplay videos on YouTube by independent creators. Reviews and strategies for advanced game play were picked up by reading through several websites. Even when I had to refer to the manual, I have mostly googled it up on a need basis as against locating it from my cupboard or storing a digital copy locally on my machine.

Similar has been the experience with coding also. While all the platforms I have listed above have fairly good official documentations, I have seen me use them as reference resources. What I used for learning was by and large tutorial videos and blogs / articles by independent creators. Beyond doubt, this is a better way to learn than official manuals. The statement in no way invalidates the need for official manuals. They aren’t mutually exclusive. They coexist and complement each other.

What I wish to bring the attention however is to another point. Almost exclusively, all these videos and articles were of foreign origin and their creators foreign nationals (Amit Agarwal might have been the only exception). In all these instances, reputation and value is flowing out of our local economy and to another country. Each time I direct people to these resources as part of any guidance efforts, it is adding on to the value drain.

This got me thinking about the need to advocate for local production of such knowledge resources. In the information & knowledge age that is the 21st century, the concept of import substitution has to be consciously extended to such digital resources. This is also one category of goods that can be created through cognitive contributions alone.

In summary, start publishing tutorials. You will be helping yourself and also contributing to the development of your country. Your learning retention will be better, reputation will be enhanced and you will also doing your bit towards nation building.

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