How to build an Indigenous Digital Library through Community Participation

African Libraries and Information Centres are poorly equipped to make a meaningful contribution to the current global digital knowledge economy. The paucity of African stories and community information on the web predicates the limited role of heritage and information practitioners in Africa. Low local content on the Web retards buy-in from local communities into digital resources, impeding ICT skills development and social transformation. These issues could be addressed successfully through provision of indigenous knowledge resources, sourced from the community, as part of public library services.
This paper describes a concept for the development of user-generated content compiled in an Indigenous digital library, making use of current mobile and web technologies. Informed by empirical practice based on a real African case-study, the innovative use of internet-based mobile applications that permits the exchange of information is explained, highlighting the interaction between the library, the community and the latest technologies. By re-aligning their services thus public libraries in Africa have the potential to reduce the digital divide an promote sustainable development.

More Info: Co-authored with Elizabeth Greyling. SCECSAL 2012 Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Published in the conference proceedings ‘Information for Sustainable Development in a Digital Environment’: 400-411.
Publication Date: 2012
Publication Name: Information for Sustainable Development in a Digital Environment

The number in my pocket: the power of mobile technology for the exchange of indigenous knowledge

Greyling, E. and McNulty, N. 2011. The number in my pocket: the power of mobile technology for the exchange of indigenous knowledge. Knowledge Management for Development Journal. 7 (3): 256 – 273. Available HERE. See a summary in poster form HERE.

The last decade has seen the development of online databases becoming an established norm throughout the world for the preservation of indigenous knowledge. However, in the absence of desktop computers and ubiquitous Internet access, Africa is limping behind in this quest for global information, with the digital divide ever widening and the wealth of indigenous knowledge fast disappearing for the people of this continent. In a bid to address these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Africa is recognizing the potential of the mobile phone to enable the continent to catch up with the global information society. Since 2000 some 316 million new mobile phone subscriptions have emerged on the African continent. For them the cell phone has become an information hub, the primary interface through which to connect to Africa and to the rest of the world. A recent, promising development has been the introduction of browsers on mobile phones. This, combined with the 3G network all cellular providers have migrated to, means that ordinary Africans are accessing the Internet from their phones in ever-increasing numbers. The success of a number of Internet-based mobile applications means that the average cell phone user now associates his phone with more than just the calls he makes or text messages he sends. He can also play music, show video, find out where he is via GPS and access local and global information. This paper describes a concept for the development of user-generated content compiled in an online indigenous knowledge database, making use of current mobile and web technologies. Informed by empirical practice based on a South African case-study, the different tools are discussed, highlighting the interaction between the library, the community and the technologies. The participating role of local communities leading to enrichment of the database is juxtaposed against the library’s anchor role as custodian of the knowledge resource. The preservation of context-related local knowledge creates a digital library of relevance to local communities. Technical functionality enables the social interaction that results from knowledge sharing. Short and long-term benefits that the community stands to gain are discussed and the limitations of the model pointed out.

Niall McNulty presented a poster at the The Third International m-libraries Conference (http://www.usq.edu.au/m-libraries) in Brisbane, Australia in 2011.  The poster outlined the Ulwazi Programme’s plans for developing a system to collect indigenous knowledge via mobiles phones in the eThekwini Municipality.