Just this week I came across a great example of using technology to harness and save local African knowledge and content. It’s called WikiforÃªts, and it’s a living dictionary and encyclopedia, bringing together French speaking Africans who can share their knowledge of the indigenous forests in West and Central Africa.
The homepage looks promising, especially after I run it through a translator, since I don’t speak French. It looks like there is information on everything from tree species, to pygmies to animals found in the Congo Basin. That could be a great wealth of knowledge, especially if it’s coming from the locals.
However, I’ve found the site has a lot of dead links, with areas that need someone to fill in some (any) information. That’s too bad really, as this is a really good example of how we can use technology to keep some of Africa’s indigenous knowledge alive.
What I’d love to see is sites like this getting even more traction and contributors.
Another lesson… there is an invisible language curtain that splits Francophone, Anglophone and Arabic-speaking Africa. What other types of work are being duplicated, or where are they not being contributed to, because of this barrier?
December 3, 2008 at 8:18 am
merci bien, “Africain Blanc”. c’est un post magnifique! 🙂 i love it. i love the way they connect their work to the Amazon (can incorporate what has worked) and also the animals in the habitat. it’s tres exciting.
you’ve touched on valuable core issues: (1) the tensions and frankly overt prejudices that pervade communities based on their colonial heritage – incredible to see how we absorb and enact the same rivalry as our previous colonial masters (e.g. UK vs France), whilst claiming “superiority” and (2) the resultant waste of resources. the latter is reminiscent of NGOs in similar lines of work competing with each other rather than supporting each other as they are in competition for funds from the same pot.
but without digressing too much, i wonder if the patchy collaboration &/or contributors is simply because of a remediable disconnection to the bigger picture e.g. environmental organisations not knowing of WikiforÃªts existence? you mention some teething problems and i wonder if it is potentially down to their fantastic, well-meaning idea not getting enough coverage in the ether and beyond?
that said, i’m looking forward to the multilingual roll out. my indigenous tree farm dream is only a hop, skip and a jump away from becoming a reality 🙂
December 3, 2008 at 8:30 am
Sorry – forgot to say in my excitement – what I also love about this initiative is that saving the forests is also about protecting marginalised indigenous people, who are invaluable. Not just for their sake, but also for ours. I could go on and on…