Ugandans aspire for positive cultural values for the promotion of socio-economic development and equal opportunities for all – a heritage that is free of negative cultural values, practices and traditions. However, the major constraint of developing countries has been the absence of community-based information systems to enable local people to contribute to decision-making, planning and management. While technological advancement constitutes a vital component of economic development, there is a conspicuous and persistent lack of indigenous knowledge (IK) technological advancement and a greater dependency on exogenous technologies.
A qualitative research design team collected data from various IK communities and institutions that were selected purposively. Interviews, observations, and document analysis were the main forms of data collection. IK experts, knowledgeable and skilled personnel, and community leaders, among others, were selected. Data was analyzed and presented according to the main objectives and themes of the study.
It was observed that there is hardly any system of recording, documenting, preserving and safeguarding documentary heritage, or of democratizing access and raising awareness of its significance to the achievement of community objectives. This paper attempts to establish the documented IK, the content, form and attributes of records kept about IK; assesses the digitization requirements; and propose strategies for its digitization in Uganda. This strategy would provide direction to various stakeholders towards the digitization process. A co-ordinating unit in the country, with appropriate management structures in place to set guidelines and carry out marketing and awareness strategy, is a priority for the appropriate digitization of IK in Uganda.
Indigenous Knowledge (IK) is highly valued in traditional African societies for its practical results and implications for life (Gyeke, 1996:137). IK and cultural heritage and tradition can be historically traced – not only in Uganda, but also in developing countries and the world at large. In preliterate society, man depended on live memory and the spoken word. We have collections of palaeographic writings found in very early civilisations that are believed to have begun around 4000 BC in the river valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates (Mesopotamia), in the Nile valley, and a thousand years later in the Indus valley (Harley & Hampden, 1964:9). In fact, like all archaeological disciplines, palaeography shows writing as a heritage of man’s entry into historical time. By 2700 BC, Sumerians had established private and government libraries for preserving their varied hieroglyphic writings, that were adapted by the Babylonians to cuneiform, scripted on wet clay (Sengupta & Chakraborty, 1981:13). Similarly, the Egyptians’ hieroglyphics on papyrus sheets were adopted by the Mediterranean world: Assyrians, Hittites, Canaanites, and others, up to late 1022 AD. For many years world wide, IK has been preserved and maintained by various institutions such as governments, university libraries, church libraries, museums, public libraries, private libraries, historical and research institutions, literary societies, and national archives (Sengupta and Chakraborty, 1981:29-76).
In Africa, colonial administration was determined by the dominance which agencies of foreign control were able to assert over our (African) Indigenous structures (Brett, 1973:19) to transfer skills and resources to the indigenous population (Brett, 1973:21). Many derogatory labels such as primitive, pagan, and ungodly were given to IK in the past. Christianity took a similar approach to African culture. As a result, many Africans who converted to Christianity started to look down on their cultural heritage, and the IK of their dances and music, let alone forms of worship, was practically obliterated. The incorporation of Christian religious education into school syllabi served to prejudice the students against their traditional culture and increasingly to neglect African culture. This led to a decline in the use of IK.
Uganda is a multi-ethnic nation forged through a colonial approach where territorial boundaries were drawn out of political or administrative expediency rather than ethnic or cultural considerations. The country is well endowed with cultural, historical, and natural sites of great archaeological and tourist importance (Gakwandi, 1999:96). Ugandans aspire to positive cultural values for the promotion of socio-economic development and equal opportunities in cultural heritage. This strategy aims at tapping Uganda’s diverse cultural heritage through mobilisation of people and resources in the social and economic environment.
To provide socio-economic transformation in Uganda, the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) promises to deliver substantial improvement to Uganda and its poorest people by the year 2017. Under the Uganda Poverty Reduction Strategy, PEAP is hoping to transform Uganda into a modern economy. It envisages the creation of an enabling environment for rapid and sustainable economic growth and structural transformation (Government of Uganda, 2000). Despite progress made by the government on PEAP, there is still no co-ordinated strategy for disseminating information to the community for national development. While technological advancement constitutes a vital component of economic development, there is a conspicuous and persistent lack of IT application to IK, and consequently a greater dependence on exogenous technologies. Much has yet to be done to create the appropriate climate for the infusion and integration of IK innovations into the mainstream of industrial, technological and economic growth and development. This requires a co-ordinated network of information sources, systems and services to ensure sustainability, conservation and regeneration of IK resources, and the exchange and sharing of information and experience among communities.
This paper provides a mechanism through which relevant information on community IK can be electronically documented and made available to other communities, and shows how to create linkages between Ugandans and the rest of the global community.