Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Role of Ghana Public Libraries in the Digitization of Indigenous Knowledge: Issues and Prospects

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

The Role of Ghana Public Libraries in the Digitization of Indigenous Knowledge: Issues and Prospects

Article excerpt


African nations are going through many changes with the hope of advancing their development initiatives to provide better living condition to its inhabitants. And simultaneously, many traditional, cultural and customary resources are being lost due to a lack of a preservation and general access to indigenous knowledge causing cultural gaps between many generations, and therefore denying the continent of the power and knowledge that it has developed for centuries. Thus, knowledge is the key to sustainable, social and economic development (Lodhi, Mikulecky, 2010), and in building on local knowledge, the basic component of any national knowledge system, is the first step in mobilizing capital for knowledge development initiatives. Localization thus provides an exchange within a community where providers and recipients speak the same language and share in an underlying cultural context making it much more easy to transfer tacit knowledge across cultures.

While technological advancement constitutes a vital component of sustainable development, there is a conspicuous and persistent lack of African indigenous knowledge (AIK) technological advancement in Africa and thus a greater dependency on 'western scientific' technologies. Yet, a digital AIK library with appropriate subject matter would be ideal for study and in giving insight into or presenting potential information for preserving AIK and conserving them for posterity. The concepts of sustainability and sustainable development have become powerful themes that continue to provide the foundation for a number of local, national, and international initiatives. For example, the Brundtland Report (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987) has recognized the role if indigenous people in sustainable development, and has recommended that they be given a "decisive voice" in resource management decisions that may affect them (Higgins, 2007:1).

Indigenous knowledge is thus considered the basis for self-sufficiency and self- determination, providing effective alternatives to western technologies. However, because this knowledge is overlooked, there has been influx of foreign knowledge, especially on the web wide web which has little relevancy most people in the developing world, especially Africa where the majority live in rural areas without access to electricity and computers... This assertion is buttressed by Ballantyne (2002:1) when he stated that:

"One of the strengths of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as the Internet is the way they can help unlock distant expertise, knowledge and markets. However, this access - usually to 'foreign' content with foreign perspectives - has its limitations. Easier access to globalized knowledge is fast turning us into 'consumers' of distant and potentially irrelevant information. More worrying perhaps, developing countries are being 'invaded' by foreign ideas and values that may undermine or overwhelm local cultural heritage and economic livelihoods".

Also, most of the information on the Internet and other databases, according to Moahi (2003), are from the western world. Therefore librarians and information professionals in Africa in general and Ghana in particular should be reminding themselves that we live in a world that is saturated with myriads of information, and therefore in preserving AIK and looking forward to its wider availability it has never been more important than it is today for the information society as information system research that recognizes, supports and enables access and presence of a diverse knowledge communities online become a major concern. Hence, these issues are especially important for indigenous groups who are creating or intend to create digital resources which support and preserve their local identities and attempt to invoke grassroots involvement in sustainable development (Boast, Bravo, and Srinivansan, 2005). AIK is one example of a more user-centred approach to development, stressing that 'communication is not just about delivering information to the poor and oppressed; it can also be about transmitting information and knowledge from these groups to a wider audience' (Heeks, 2002:3). …

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