Since 2008 we have co-designed technologies in rural Namibia for the purpose of Indigenous Knowledge (IK) collection, representation and transfer across generations with rural ovaHerero community members in Eastern Namibia. We deconstruct the tensions that occur between Western imprinted technology and the digital representation of Indigenous Knowledge in theory and practice. Assumptions regarding methods considered appropriate, as well as concepts and techniques are revised. Design decisions need to be determined and negotiated within local contexts and an indigenous epistemology. We pursue a community-based co-design (CBCD) approach, which is fundamentally rooted in a dialogical and participatory action research paradigm. We have developed a number of prototypes and mobile applications to support IK collection, classification, representation and curation. Since 2014 we have expanded our research sites to the Kunene region, where we have established a long-term collaboration with an ovaHimba community, exploring technology adaptations and crowdsourcing technologies.
Our aim is to co-design technologies for the purpose of indigenous knowledge collection, representation and transfer to be used by the rural knowledge bearers. We deconstruct the tensions that occur between western imprinted technology and the digital representation of Indigenous Knowledge in theory and practice. Assumptions regarding considered appropriate methods, concepts and techniques are revised. Design decisions need to be determined and negotiated within local contexts and an indigenous epistemology. We pursue a community-based co-design approach, which is fundamentally rooted in a dialogical and participatory action research paradigm. We contextualise our work within an afro-centric paradigm thereby challenging current mainstream research methodologies.
We are following a number of reasearch leads simultaneously:
- We are further improving the current prototype for independent deployment.
- We are investigating rural communities’ Crowdsourcing of local adaptations as an affordable solution.
- We are working with a number of rural pilot schools to create local content based on indigenous knowledge by teachers using local language wikipedias.
- We continue to explore an afroc-centric approach to such a R&D project and derive implications for ICT4D and HCI4D.
- We involve undergraduate and post graduate students to support capacity-building in the field of community-based co-design.
- We collaborate with international partners on related projects.
The HomeSteadCreator (HSC) is a prototype which has been developed iteratively with a Herero community in Namibia. The original goal was to enable community members to digitally recreate their physical context to later embed locally recorded IK video, audio or physically tagged places. The videos comprise of recordings of local practices, customs and rituals. At the core of the HSC is the ideas of adding information about the context by having community elders reconstruct scenes of any IK recording as a 3D scene. The rationale is that video recordings in general only show one perspective of the scene, thus missing information which is crucial for an optimal local knowledge collection. Some of these missing details can be generated by using a game engine. For instance by adding weather systems, allow elders to share stories that are not recorded, adding animations to virtual characters portraying local practices etc. The HSC is envisioned as a tool where local elders can record IK and recreate the digital context for themselves. The cardinal point is that they can record/manage their own IK locally without assistance. Naturally, they have been doing so for centuries, but the reason for the tool is to transfer parts of this body of IK to youths from the community and region that are unable to assimilate the IK due to being de-situated at remote schools, and to preserve some of the IK for the future in digital format.
One of the initiative ideas to preserve indigenous knowledge of the rural communities in Namibia is to find affordable ways on how to develop ICT solutions. The rural communities do not have sufficient funds to afford to pay ICT experts to develop software applications. Moreover, there is not a large of Software Engineers in Namibia that would develop software application for free or at a low cost. Our research team is therefore looking at how the rural communities could outsource their software request needs to the crowd on the Internet that are willing to develop free software applications for the rural communities in Namibia.
In order to overcome this obstacle, we are in the process of developing a community crowdsourcing platform (CCSP). The CCSP takes into account the technical diversity of the technical people on the Internet and rural community communicating. Most rural community members in Namibia are not familiar with the usage of web based applications while technically versed people use web applications on a daily basis. However our usability evaluations have shown that rural community members of all ages are skilled to use tablets with minimal exploration time. It is therefore, that the CCSP prototype is portable to work on tablets with minimal instructions and reading as most rural community members in Namibia are semi-literate only.
CCSP platform is being developed to have the following functionalities listed below:
- To allow a community member to upload a request of any format e.g. text, audio, image, video, etc.
- The request could be a 3D graphical design that the community member will use to portray their knowledge to the youth.
- The uploaded request should be published to the Open Source Developers to design the graphics (crowdsourcing).
- Once the open source graphic designers are done with their proposed solution/s they should be able to upload it to the CSSP.
- Finally the community member should be able to download the preferable graphic to their tablet.
The CCSP application flow is depicted in the figure above.
The following design features are being considered in the development of CCSP:
- Validation of uploading requests – CCSP platform should not allow irrelevant or offensive uploads from both community members and open source developers.
- The platform should synergise the communication between community members and open source developers. A Strategy on how to attract and keep the open source developers interested in contributing to the community member’s requests should be well thought off and implemented.
- A Sound selection strategy of selecting the best proposed graphic should be implemented.
- The CCSP platform above all quality attributes it should be easy to use and portable to cater for community members who are more familiar with the usage of mobile than ordinary web applications.
- Appropriate design pattern should be well thought off and implemented.