What are tacit and explicit knowledge and their role in the field of information and communications technology (ICT)?

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Tacit knowledge is any type of knowledge which it is difficult to formally codify and transfer. It includes such complex processes as learning a language, learning to cook, or learning to play a musical instrument. One example often used is that of recognizing faces. It would probably be very easy for you to pick your mother or father out of a large crowd. However, if you tried to explain to someone else how to recognize them, the task would be very difficult.

Explicit knowledge is the type of knowledge that can be formally codified and transferred precisely. Mathematical rules are a good example of explicit knowledge, as are chemical formulas or place names and geographical coordinates.

Information and communications technology (ICT) is clearly ideal for the storage and transmission of explicit knowledge. ICT systems can retain and use vastly greater amounts of explicit knowledge than any person.

The difficulty lies in the way that increased use of ICT can diminish the role of tacit knowledge in an organization, leading to the loss of vital skills and the accompanying competitive advantage. Organizations need to ensure that ICT is fully integrated with the human workforce, so that their tacit knowledge remains accessible. Intelligent use of ICT enables computers to perform all the tasks requiring only explicit knowledge, leaving people free to concentrate on the application and transfer of tacit knowledge.

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