Prayag – Special Interest Group on Knowledge Informatics for Sustainable Development

Posted on January 18, 2011


Author:  Sanjay Goel,



Contribute towards enhanced understanding of diverse human activities with an emphasis on sustainable development through an informatics inclusive cross-disciplinary approach.


Evolution of Informatics

The field of informatics is concerned with the understanding of information transfer and transformation with a focus on efficiency enhancement [1]. It is an outgrowth of cross-disciplinary integrations of ideas, approaches, tools and practices of several disciplines like mathematics, logic, electronics and communication, systems design/systems engineering, and computer science.

Shneiderman posits that while old computing was about what computers can do, new computing is about what people can do.

The basic conception, form, and nature of ‘information’ differ across domains. People deal with ‘information’ differently in different professions and disciplines. Hence, all disciplines do play a very significant role in shaping and enriching the field of informatics.  Several application domains, e.g., science, engineering, defense, business, government, media, etc., have already made significant contributions in this direction. Many insights were developed during the process of solving informatics related problems in these domains.

Many new specialized subfields have emerged at the edges of informatics and other disciplines. These include fields like bio-informatics, computational finance, computational linguistics, computational psychology, health-informatics, geo-informatics, chem-informatics, cultural heritage informatics, digital media,  computational sciences, social informatics, learning technology, etc.

Dimensions of Sustainable Development

According to World Commission on Environment and Development (1987), Sustainable development means – development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is concerned about environmental, economic, social, and cultural aspects. Sustainability has following dimensions:

1.  Conservation and enrichment of physical environment and cultural heritage

2.  Enhancement of the accessibility and quality of basic facilities

  • Nutrition, water supply, housing, sanitation, health care, energy, transport, and safety

3.  Advancement of the support system for enhancing human’s happiness by focusing on intrinsic psychological needs – social, cognitive, aesthetics, and self actualization.

  • Competence – quality of education
  • Empowerment and autonomy
  • Relatedness, cooperation, and collaboration
  • Creativity

Sustainability problems are complex, hence they are beyond the realm of any single discipline. Sometimes they are also beyond the realm of documented knowledge and even awareness. Creations of sustainable systems require holistic thinking, cross-disciplinary approach, multi-perspective integration, and innovation.

Informatics and Sustainable Development

The field of informatics is increasingly engaging with above mentioned three dimensions of sustainability in the solution as well as in the problem space.  We seek to enhance our understanding about such engagements through multiple perspectives as well as approaches.


  1. Incubate informatics inclusive cross-disciplinary R&D in newer, relatively unexplored, and divergent application domains with a special focus on sustainability
    • Create prototypes
    • Incubate startup business/social ventures
  2. Enrich theoretical and empirical grounds for creation of new paradigms with a special focus on sustainability
    • To enrich theory and practice (professional, research, and pedagogical) of informatics through infusion of theory and practice of divergent disciplines and professions
  3. Identify, document, and analyze
    • Informatics inclusive innovations and sustainable approaches in various domains.
    • Cross-disciplinary practices and approaches in IT industry and academia.
    • Inhibiting and facilitating factors for promoting innovation and inter-disciplinary R&D work.
  4. Develop models and methods for informatics inclusive cross-disciplinary work and education
    • Enriching pedagogy and content of existing courses through cross-disciplinary approaches
    • Design new cross-disciplinary educational programs [2] 

A Presentation on Prayag:


Prayag’s concept  has been reviewed and critiqued by eminent academicians like Prof. SK. Khanna and Prof. MN Faruqui.

Several professionals and students are gradually joining the activities and projects.

Prayag Initiatives:

1.    Using IT for (i) creating a digital repository for enhancing access to heritage resources and (ii) creating an exploratorium with  novel IT enabled possibilities for engaging a wide spectrum of people ranging from researchers to common citizens and students with digitised heritage resources.  

Status:  Collaboration with INTACH Delhi Chapter has started.  At JIIT, Sangeeta Malik and few BTech students have started working for this project.

2.   Using IT for crowd sourcing heritage resources of selected districts of north India.  The heritage resources include largely ignored proverbs, recipies,  built heritage, folk music, and professional skills. 

Status:  At JIIT, 30 second year MTech students have started working for this project. 



2.  Do we not need to urgently make the base broader and interdisciplinary? – A Concept Note for starting 4 year BS (Interdisciplinary Informatics) in India

3.   Multimedia For Cultural Documentation and Learning,,    (Presentation made at Indo-US S&T Forum Workshop on Computer Applications in Archaelogy, 2002).

4.   Virtual Archaeo-heritage Exploratorium,
     (Presentation made at Indo-US S&T Forum Workshop on Digital Archaelogy, 2005).
5.  Archaeo Heritage Informatics- Master’s Program,
    (Presentation made at Indo-US S&T Forum Workshop on Digital Archaelogy, 2005).
6.   Computer Vision Aided Classification And Reconstruction Of Indian Pottery,      (Presentation made at Indo-US S&T Forum Workshop on Digital Archaelogy, 2005).
7.   Designing Interactive Systems – Looking beyond Cognitive domain,,  (presentation made at INCITE, 2007, Indo-European workshop)
8.    Sanjay Goel, A Model Design for Computer based Cognition Support Systems, International Conf. on Muktimedia for Humanities, 1998,
9.   Sanjay Goel, Information Technology For Cultural learning, A report on the International Conference on “Information and Communication Technologies for Cultural Learning and Distance Education”, IGNCA, bangalore, March, 2001,
10.   Manuscripts Mission Workshop, IGNCA,
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