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

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Conference paper presented at the Indigenous Knowledge Technology Conference this November 2011 in Windhoek, Namibia.

Conference paper presented at the Indigenous Knowledge Technology Conference this November 2011 in Windhoek, Namibia.

Published in: Technology

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  • 1. The Number in my Pocket: the Power of Mobile Technology for the Exchange of Indigenous Knowledge
 Elizabeth Greyling and Niall McNulty
  • 2. Introduction/Background • The global information economy is driven by the Internet • The African information community has limited access to ICTs for reasons of cost, accessibility, etc. • Local African content on the web is low due to capacity to record, transfer and disseminate information • Limited role of heritage and information practitioners as providers and gate-keepers of African information • Limited buy-in to digital resources by local communities, retarding of digital skills development and socio-economic transformation
  • 3. Introduction/Background - continued • Increase in the use of mobile devices in urban, peri-urban and rural areas along city boundaries • Mobile technologies are currently being developed for a wide range of applications, with functionalities to allow potential users to interact • Libraries moved focus towards patron-focused services, in particular the provision of digital information material • Ulwazi Programme - a micro-level intervention that combines IKS and appropriate technology to address the digital divide on the communities’ terms, prompted by their own experience of their reality
  • 4. Goals/Objectives • To enable local communities to become part of the global information society • To make African stories part of the global information economy • To build capacity in digital communication skills • To make Libraries and Information services relevant in the quest for social transformation • To promote community participation in local government structures
  • 5. The Ulwazi model • Three cornerstones on which the programme rests: • Community - who is the most important member in the partnership • Library - who is the anchor partner providing security, support and continuity • Technology in use – the most dynamic aspect of the programme, using open source software and social media
  • 6. The Community • We regard the community as the most important member in the partnership because: • Through volunteer field-workers, the community records their own knowledge in a community-specific way, adding an inalienable, imprescriptible value to it • Participants communicate with each other in a community-specific way, enriching social interaction processes and thereby building social capital • Social networks thus established promote the attainment of economic outcomes • Community participation - contributes to the protection of local knowledge
  • 7. Community participation
  • 8. The Library • Anchor partner – stability of position, both within the community and within the government structure through which it is established; providing infrastructure • Providing training, supporting technology and data collection • By virtue of the profession, the library provides content management and information skills • Cultural and historical data is curated in a socially distributed fashion, as a ‘living document’, a ‘work in progress’ • The library is responsible for programme review and re-direction • Outreach function is in step with UN Millennium Development Goals and the WSIS Action Plans that speak to access, capacity-building and development of local content in the vernacular
  • 9. Training
  • 10. Technologies used • We use a combination of open-source and social media applications for archival and heritage purposes • A conscious decision was made to use open source software based on availability, licensing fees and a common philosophy of sharing. These include: • LAMP server hosts our website • MediaWiki used to manage the Community Memory database • WordPress used for blogging (main programme blog and project specific blogs) • Creative Commons Share and Share Alike Licence • Social media applications are used to create new entry points for the programme. These include: • Facebook, Twitter & Flickr
  • 11. How it works • Potential volunteers are identified through consultation with local community leaders • Training is then provided to volunteer field-workers in digital media, oral history and ICT skills • They go back to their communities and collect stories, adding them to a collaborative website hosted by the Ulwazi Programme • Field-workers also transfer skills to interested community members • The system is open - anyone can access the information and add or edit a story
  • 12. Going mobile – the number in my pocket • Access to the internet via mobile phones is more common in South Africa than via desktop connections and most new phones come with a basic browser installed • We felt we needed to develop a way to make the information in the Community Memory available on mobile phones and also to explore ways of collecting heritage resources through mobile phones • As phase one, the Community Memory database was adapted to work on mobile phones • A scaled down version of the interface was created, with limited graphics and functionality; a script was installed on the server which automatically detects when a mobile phone accesses it and which then serves the scaled down version to the user • Currently , eight percent of visitors access the website through a mobile device
  • 13. Analytics report: Mobile
  • 14. The mobile field-worker • As an extension of the already successful field-worker programme, we are thinking of implementing a mobile field-worker programme • Interested members of the community would register with the Ulwazi Programme, and would receive training and clear instructions on how to conduct a mobile submission • Using a free Gmail address, field-workers could submit an article, audio-recording or image via email from their mobile phone • By setting up a unique email address on our server, post@ulwazi.org, and assigning it publishing rights in the database, all emails sent to this address could be converted into entries in the database • The subject of the email becomes the title of the page, the content of the email becomes the copy of the page and any attached media inserted into the page • For users without a browser on their phone an SMS gateway could potentially be developed, which converts the text message to an email
  • 15. Technology in use
  • 16. Analytics report: Visitors
  • 17. Analytics: Global
  • 18. Analytics report: Location
  • 19. Analytics report: Search Terms • Umemelo - traditional 21st birthday celebration • Umbembesco - a Zulu traditional ceremony that forms part of ilobola negotiations • Izaga - Zulu proverbs • Zulu houses - information on traditional building practices • Izinganekwane - traditional Zulu children’s stories • Indigenous games - a category devoted to South African indigenous games • Umbondo - Umbondo is one of the stages of lobola
  • 20. Results • We have proven that specific technologies for recording and uploading of Indigenous Knowledge in an ordered, structured and controlled manner can be done • Currently around 700 articles, half of them in Zulu (the local vernacular), provide online access to local Indigenous Knowledge • Web analytics show a steady increase in visitors - from Durban, the rest of South Africa and internationally • Most of our visitors arrive through search engines such as Google which suggests that people are searching for local information online • At a recent pilot project run at township and rural schools, the mobile fieldworker concept was met with great enthusiasm and easily mastered • Over the past year, we have seen a steady increase in access via mobile devices
  • 21. Lessons learnt • High turnover of fieldworkers • Incentives sustain interest • Communication with fieldworkers problematic • Training is a slow process • The programme is labour intensive • Community people are keen to participate
  • 22. Limitations • We are practitioners providing a service in a public library environment, relying on available research which leads to assumptions about ICT understanding and usage patterns • Low levels of ICT literacy and understanding of the Internet in communities make it difficult to explain the objectives of the programme fully • Despite efforts from the fieldworkers, participants have a poor grasp of intellectual property rights (Creative Commons) which limits their understanding of the implications of their participation in the programme
  • 23. Potential outcomes • Preservation and management of local Indigenous Knowledge • Economic empowerment through skills development • Enhancement of self-esteem and self-confidence impacting on advancement of social capital • Knowledge provision carries the seed to behaviour changes and informed decision-making leading to social transformation • Collaboration and knowledge sharing bring about cross-cultural understanding and tolerance • Public libraries in Africa re-affirm their relevance in a digital era that threatens to render them redundant.
  • 24. 
 
 Ulwazi Programme 
 
 Thank you for your attention!
 ! ! www.ulwazi.org