About the programme
The Ulwazi Programme is an online media project whose aim is to to collect and disseminate local content, in English and Zulu. It is run from the eThekwini Municipality’s Libraries and Heritage Department, based in Durban.
Durban is the second largest city in South Africa, situated on the eastern seaboard of Southern Africa. Within the population of around 3,5 million various cultures are represented, the largest group undoubtedly is the Zulu community, with smaller communities of Indians, Coloureds and Europeans. Each of these cultures has their own local histories but it is certainly the Zulu culture of which the least is recorded. In broader perspective, the mix and interaction of the different cultures in the Durban area puts another angle on the programme. In the sharing of different cultures lies the richer experience and better understanding of one’s neighbours and the nurturing of greater tolerance between cultures.
The Ulwazi programme strives to preserve and disseminate local knowledge of communities in the greater Durban area. It creates a collaborative online database as part of the Public Library’s digital resources, relying on community participation for delivering content and posting the content on the Web. Existing library infrastructure in the eThekwini Municipal area, comprising 89 public libraries of which most have Internet access, is used to carry the programme to local communities. Community workers collect oral and visual material while members from the community are taught at their local library how to add local content to the website. People of all social and age groups are employed to steer the programme at ground level while volunteer contributions to the database is encouraged.
Web 2.0 technology enables collaboration at all levels in the building up of the database, which is in the form of an online encyclopaedia such a Wikipedia, but with Durban’s own branding. This provides the potential for collaboration from the whole community. The library acts as moderator and custodian of the online knowledge resource. The virtual resource that is created will be in step with the global information society and will provide universal access to local indigenous knowledge. At the same time the programme will empower citizens through digital skills development, through preservation of their indigenous knowledge and through fostering of a knowledge sharing culture. Ultimately a sustainable people-centered, Afro-centric library service will be established using modern ICT technologies.
It is the vision of the programme not only to preserve and disseminate local knowledge, but to encourage local communities to take ownership of the website and to become actively involved in the developing of a resource of local knowledge. The sharing of knowledge will strengthen social coherence within communities and enhance tolerance between cultures. A local informed society will become part of the global information highway.