Information and Communication Technologies, Knowledge Management and Indigenous Knowledge

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Information and Communication
Technologies, Knowledge
Management and Indigenous
Knowledge

Implications for Communities
in Ethiopia

Lishan Adam, PhD

Research ICT Africa

19 April 2007

Agenda


Information and communication
technologies and IK


Community structures for promoting
IK systems in Ethiopia


Knowledge Management and
Indigenous Knowledge systems


Best practices around the world



Conclusion

“In Africa, when an old man dies, it is a library that burns down.”

Amadou Hampâté Bâ

What is indigenous
knowledge?


Profound, detailed and shared knowledge,
beliefs and rules with regards to the physical
resource, social norms, health, ecosystem,
culture, livelihood of the people who interact with
environment both in rural and urban settings



Knowledge that forms basis for local level
decision making in agriculture, health care, food
preparation, education, natural resource
management, and a host of other activities

Indigenous knowledge


Dynamic and evolved from
years of experience and
trial
-
and
-
error problem
solving by groups of people
working in their
environments drawing upon
resources they have at hand


Often shunned by modern
scientific knowledge

What are some roles of the
ICTs


include telecommunications technologies such as
telephony, cable, satellite and radio, as well as digital
technologies, such as computers, information networks
and software


ICTs


Enable capturing, storing and sharing of indigenous
knowledge


Support the incorporation of indigenous knowledge with
modern scientific and technical knowledge


Create easily accessible indigenous knowledge information
systems


Promote integration of indigenous knowledge in formal and
non
-
formal training


Provide a platform for advocating for improved benefit of the
poor from their intellectual property rights and indigenous
creators

Characteristics of IK that impact on
ICTs


IK is generated within communities


IK is location and culture specific


IK is part of the local ecosystem


IK covers human and animal life, primary production,
natural resource management (basic needs)


Use of IK is cost
-
effective, sustainable and locally
manageable


IK is dynamic , innovative, adaptive and open for
experimentation


IK is oral and rural in nature


IK is not systematically documented


IK is not integrated into modern scientific and technical
knowledge

Challenges in applying ICTs


All IK does not require ICTs


can be captured on paper,
books


Knowledge holder often do not volunteer their knowledge


IK databases and capturing process is laborious and time
consuming


Significant unresolved intellectual property issues and
challenges especially if the traditional knowledge leads to
corporate gains


People who need IK may not have access to the
technologies to make use of them


Those who read IK or access to databases are biased
towards modern knowledge


Need to put in place and strengthen community structures
that promote the flow of IK

Community Structures for IK
-

interface


Recent practice focuses on the
development of IK databases and
encourage their use by target
groups


The model was not successful
in many cases


Important to encourage the flow and
systematic gathering of IK through
existing community structure such
as “idir”, “iqub”, community
resources centres, community
libraries, etc.


Less high
-
tech approach to IK by
focusing on index of what works,
where to find and whom to contact

Role of Libraries and IRCs


Collecting, preserving and disseminate indigenous and
local traditional knowledge


Publicizing the value, contribution, and importance of
indigenous and local traditional knowledge to both non
-
indigenous and indigenous peoples


Raising awareness on the protection of indigenous
knowledge against exploitation


Involving elders and communities in the production of
resources and teaching children to understand and
appreciate the traditional knowledge


Encouraging the recognition of principles of intellectual
property to ensure the proper protection and use of
indigenous traditional knowledge and products derived
from it.


Role of MPCCs


Venue for ICT introduction to community


Platform for sharing digitized IK


Platform for trying new technologies and
tools out


Community broadcasting can be used for
exchange of IK

Role of Community Based
Structures


Community based social
-
capital structure such
as “idir” and “iqub” have been platforms for
exchange of IK


Can be used to capture and exchange
knowledge or develop indices of IK on “what
works” and “what does not”, who holds relevant
knowledge and how to contact them in electronic
and non
-
electronic formats


Form the basis of IK systems in Ethiopia

Example of Best Practices 1


Honey Bee Network


Gathered over 11,000 IK innovations in India


Provide venture funds to turn ideas and
practices into product


enterprise
development


Establish competition on recipes for women


Protection of intellectual property rights and
rewarding innovators


Annual innovators meeting, market place


Promotion of changes into the educational
systems


Example of Best Practice 2



Policy development in South Africa


IK policy approved by Cabinet in 2004


Covers aspects such as


Institutional and governance arrangement



Gathering and preserving IK



Networks and support mechanism for IK


Research and development


Intellectual property rights

Lesson for KM for Development
1



Tacit knowledge
-

unconscious and intuitive knowledge gained
through experience that allows individuals to make decisions without
referring to rules or principles (e.g. knowing how to perform medical
operations, knowing how to network at a conference);



Explicit knowledge


that is articulated and accessible to anyone
who reads, hears or looks at it (e.g. a training guide on using a
software package or the conclusions of a policy briefing paper);



Implicit knowledge
helps individuals know what is socially and
culturally appropriate in a given circumstance including shared
beliefs, values and expectations (e.g. knowing that it is inappropriate
to undermine colleagues in public, understanding management
attitudes within a given organization)


Indigenous knowledge is mainly tacit/implicit. That makes is hard for
capturing and exchange


Biggest lesson was

understanding the nature of indigenous knowledge

Lesson from Km for
development 2


Sharing knowledge is possible but that does not always translate
into use for taking decisions, making informed actions and modifying
behaviors in order to achieve development goals.


Effective knowledge sharing should not be imposed from outside but
should be organic, learned and has to be embedded into work
processes, local eco systems and livelihoods


Experiences from which most knowledge emerges, have local
particularities like context, actors and processes. This limits the way
local knowledge can be generalized and replicated in other settings


Valuable local knowledge is often not locally known nor socially
recognized. This is partially constrained by myths, old paradigms,
cultural idiosyncrasies and prejudices of professionals and
institutions


The interaction between modern and traditional knowledge is
desired but too complex to realize


Conclusions


Focus on IK would help the poor to build on resources in
which they are rich


knowledge


Ethiopia needs to embark on various steps



Create forums of institutions and networking among
these


Research on mapping IK asset (medicinal plants),
barriers, community and social structures


Strategies for identifying and document IK and
institutional and support initiatives


National register on IK, rewarding innovators, integrating
IK in educational systems


Capacity building in IK and knowledge management


IK policy based on developing country experiences




Rabbit, where are you going?

I am going to kill the Elephant (IK).

Can you do that?

Well, I’ll try, and try again.’


Tanzanian, Proverb…


Thank you