Ulwazi: A Model for Public Participation Through Digital Technology & Crosscultural Exchange

Born of political shifts and a changing, post-apartheid policy environment that advanced a participatory approach to heritage, the Ulwazi Program is a South African library initiative set up by the eThekwini Municipality’s Libraries and Heritage Department to “preserve and disseminate indigenous knowledge of local communities in the greater Durban area.”

It creates a collaborative online database of local indigenous knowledge as part of the public library’s digital resources, relying on community participation for delivering
content and posting the content on the web. The project is a collaborative, online, local knowledge resource in English and Zulu (the most commonly used languages in Durban), in the form of a “Wiki,” much like Wikipedia, but localized for the eThekwini Municipality.

The program was established in 2008 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was the brainchild of a former senior librarian for software applications at the eThekwini Municipal Library, Betsie Greyling. Greyling worked with McNulty Consulting to translate her conceptual thinking into a practical project. The Ulwazi Program is the first project of its kind in South Africa because it promotes a “democratized collection policy” through the library with the use of basic digital media tools and community participation.

Publisher: University of Southern California
Publication Name: Public Diplomacy Magazine – Winter 2016 Issue

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