The Ulwazi Programme: Sharing Histories and Culture in Communities in South Africa

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Digital information and ICTs have transformed how knowledge is dispersed in Africa. A digital library project called the Ulwazi Programme is helping to ensure that, through social technologies, everyone has equal access to aspects of their history and culture through technology.

libraries-as-community-memory-the-ulwazi-programme-11-638Inveneo recently spoke with Grant McNulty, a Partner at McNulty Consulting, a digital media consultancy led by two brothers. They use digital media to foster cultural projects with technology, and McNulty Consulting has helped to create the Ulwazi Programme online library.

Sharing Histories Online

Many communities in South Africa do not have equal access to computer labs or other ICTs. The Ulwazi Programme is working to reverse that trend and ensure that those living in urban, peri-urban and rural settings can access online materials like never before. Ulwazi creates content like shared histories and local knowledge in local languages such as Zulu. McNulty Consulting, together with the eThekwini Municipal Libraries in Durban, is making this possible by “using open-source software, in collaboration with the public library and local communities”.

The Ulwazi Programme is not only being managed by the brothers at McNulty Consulting but instead is very much a community effort. Volunteer fieldworkers are recording personal histories which are saved digitally to be used in the online library. Local schools and formal researchers are also getting involved, and the project is quickly becoming quite successful!

Tips for Other ICT4D Practitioners

libraries-as-community-memory-the-ulwazi-programme-13-638Those working in ICT projects around the world can learn from the Ulwazi model. Grant McNulty  explained that the online library’s software will be kept open source and free to the entire community, meaning members won’t need to pay fees to license or access the resources.

The Ulwazi Programme is not only available online within the local library’s computer network, but it is also accessible on tablets and mobile phones. Almost 90% of Internet usage  in South Africa is through a mobile device. McNulty Consulting concentrated on making the Ulwazi Programme mobile-friendly in order to engage communities and provide access to the resource on devices that they already use.

The Ulwazi Programme has seen incredible growth online through its website analytics, and the two brothers are very excited. To learn how you can get involved in this special ICT project in South Africa visit the website or Facebook page. Best of luck to the continued growth for this well-deserving South African community!

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  1. Posted by Inveneo on December 15, 2014 in the categories: Economic Development, Education, News
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