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 Thursday, January 17, 2013
Public libraries in South Africa engage with local communities to preserve indigenous knowledge. This involves teaching them to use ICT tools.

Nowadays, ICTs can help to document and disseminate indigenous knowledge. In South Africa, it is mainly libraries that have accepted the challenge of preserving indigenous knowledge systems. For example, the consortium of eThekwini Municipal Libraries, which serves 89 local public libraries in the Durban area (Durban is the second-largest city of South Africa), started a crowdsourcing experiment to collect local indigenous knowledge.

This Ulwazi programme mainly records Zulu culture, but it has the broader aim of capturing the mix and interaction of different cultures in the Durban area. Examples of indigenous knowledge collected through the Ulwazi programme are traditional celebrations, traditional clothing, Zulu proverbs, traditional folk tales, the use of spiritual herbs and traditional agricultural methods.

The Ulwazi programme has a collaborative online community memory database of local indigenous knowledge. It relies on the community to deliver content and post it on the web. The community assumes ownership of the database, while the library focuses on custodianship of the information resource. Community participation ensures that local knowledge is collected, recorded and preserved, and in the process it therefore shares knowledge, develops people’s skills, creates job opportunities and empowers local communities.

The Ulwazi Community Memory website has been developed in the form of a wiki, an open-source webpage designed to enable contributions and modifications from multiple users. It also runs a blog and other social software applications, such as Facebook and Twitter.

At the moment Ulwazi does not have a process for collecting indigenous knowledge via mobile phones, but this has been under discussion and should be rolled out in the next year or so.

Indigenous knowledge is collected from local communities through community journalists, members of the public who can register an account and submit a story on a more ad-hoc basis, and through direct engagement with local residents often through community groups. Community journalists are actively recruited. They are generally younger people from the communities with some ICT skills, an interest in heritage and culture, and a desire to acquire new skills and gain work experience. The community journalists collect stories through personal interviews, in the form of audio recordings and video interviews.

(Source: ICT Update)