Posted to the Ethnos Project by on February 10th, 2013


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.

Keywords: indigenous knowledge, community indigenous knowledge, digitization requirements, indigenous knowledge systems, cultural heritage, preservation of indigenous knowledge, and strategies for digitization


Therefore, if it is seen good to the king, let a search be made in the royal Archives there in Babylon, to see whether a decree was issued by Cyrus the king for rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem … Then Darius the king made a decree, and a search was made in Babylonia, in the house of the Archives where the documents were stored. And in Ecbat’na, the Capital which is in the province of Media, a scroll was found on which this was written (Ezera, 5:17 – 6:1).

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.

A Framework for Digitisation of Community IK

A community is associated with a quality relationship that involves the sharing of more than just physical space. At the micro level, community includes households, individuals and gender roles. Community values, principles, norms, and unwritten rules and procedures comprise the cultural knowledge resource of a community (Holsapple and Joshi, 2002:53). Indigenous knowledge is unique to a given culture or society and communities (Roseroka, 2002:1). In fact, UNESCO (1995) provides guidelines for safeguarding documentary heritage: its aim is to safeguard the world’s documentary heritage, democratise access to it, and raise awareness about its significance and the need to preserve it. In Uganda, there is hardly any system of recording, documenting and preserving indigenous information, let alone a mechanism for capturing IK to cope with dynamic world needs. Digitisation is ideal for sharing, exchanging, educating, and preserving indigenous knowledge and cultures. This requires a clear design for metadata and standards procedures, multimedia technologies, and appropriate structures for access and use.

The Metadata and Standards

Various indigenous groups have been able to record and preserve significant aspects of IK (Hunter, Koopman & Sledge, 2002:1). A number of systems exist, ranging from the traditional cataloguing approaches of Machine Readable Cataloguing (MARC), Anglo American Cataloguing Rules, 2nd (AACR2), and WorldCat (Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC on-line Union catalogue). The other approaches include the United States MARC (USMARC), Online Public Access Catalogues (OPACs), Web OPAC, Matchbox, and Dublin Core that facilitate network resource information retrieval (Weibel, 1997:6). Recently, a team of metadata researchers visiting Quinkan rock art in Cape York, Australia, proposed a collaboration with Quinkan Culture elders (Nevile, 2003:1). The team developed Matchbox – a cataloguing system, using qualified Dublin Core (DC) Metadata – to describe, collect, and represent Quinkan culture. The description that is produced for items in Matchbox can be represented completely in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), written in plain text with tags; and the content, in the Resource Description Framework (RDF) (Nevile, 2003:6). Weibel (1997:9) defines the Dublin Core elements as title, creator, subject, description, publisher, contributor, date, type (category), format, identifier, source, language, relationship to other resources, coverage, and rights. Hunter classifies metadata requirements for multimedia as bibliographic metadata and formatting metadata that include structural, content, events and rights (Hunter, 2002:6). At the National Library of Education in the USA, Sutton and Oh (1997:21) identified the variables of a gateway to educational materials to include systematic metadata profile, syntax and well-specified practices (standards), prototype interfaces, harvesting tools for retrieving (multimedia), and organisational structure and use. On the Web, recording the Unique Resource Identifier (URI), Universal Resource Locator (URL), Universal Resource Names, (URN), and Universal Resource Characteristics (URC) is a fundamental requirement for the bibliographic description of networked resources (Schwartz, 1997:12). The URI, for instance, is the primary work of the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set (DCMES). Domain-specific ontologies have been developed by two different International Organisations for Standards (ISO) working groups to standardise the semantics associated with the description of museum objects and multi-media content (Hunter, 2002:1). However, no single ontology or metadata model exists for describing IK multimedia content.

Multimedia Technologies

Hunter (2003:3) has observed that technologies in a digitisation environment are multimedia in nature. These technologies include images, audio, video, and multimedia. Images technologies consist of photographs, prints, manuscripts, documents, drawings, paintings, movie stills, and posters. Audio technologies include songs, music, plays, interviews, oral histories, radio programs, speeches, lectures, performances, language recordings. Video/film technologies include full features, documentaries, news clips, anthropological/expedition footage, home movies, animation; whereas multimedia include presentations and slide shows (Hunter, 2002:3).

The Cultural Centre of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, USA, has developed a set of inexpensive, simple, and robust software tools designed to enable description, annotation and rights management of collections of mixed media digital and physical objects in various IK categories (Hunter, Koopman & Sledge, 2002:2). This institution has also developed a search, retrieval, and presentation interface which retrieves different result sets, and aggregates the results automatically into coherent multimedia Synchronised Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) (synchronised) presentations. The developers recommend that design requirements for software include a security mechanism, a simple user interface, robustness, low cost, interoperability, portability, flexibility, and scalability (ibid:6). According to them, software tools should be built on international standards such as Dublin Core, in order to ensure maximum interoperability between disparate databases. They also recommend an additional security mechanism such as XML Encryption, XML Digital Signatures (XML Digital), Security Assertion Mark-up Language (SAML), Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), and watermarking techniques (Hunter, Koopman & Sledge, 2002: 18).

Structures for Access and Use

One way of ensuring IK developments in African Countries is to establish documentation units and networks where recorded information is stored and made available for use by all those who wish to access IK (Chisenga, 2002:98). For example, in Australia, various networks, including the Australian Cultural Network (CAN), Government Information Locator Services (GILS), Environmental Resources Information Network (ERIN), The Education Network of Australia (EdNA), Australian and New Zealand Land Information Council (AZLIC), and the Australian Geological Survey Organisation (AGSO), have attempted digitisation of community IK (Maguire, 1997:18). Similarly, the Land Data Bank System in Sweden and the New York Computerised Criminal History System in the USA facilitate the sharing of information among various systems (Gavrel, 1990:23). That is why it is important to define distributed digital access strategy, search/discovery services, interfaces, and user and information systems or gateways (e.g. African Digital Library) to create the environment in which the user is in control of the use of information (Maguire, 1997:18). In fact, Andemichael, Magara and Nyumba (2003:79) suggest a system to register, index, search, and make reports. Although technology has made more information more available to more people, at the same time it has made access to it more difficult (Feather, 1994:35). The major concern is how to adapt these technologies to meet the needs of the developing world (Magara, 2002b:146). In fact Ngulube (2002:64) believes that proper marketing of IK systems, products and services will promote the accessibility and usage of IK information in developing countries. Magara (2002c:254) suggests the integration of ICT into curriculum, to ensure information literacy skills and change attitudes among communities. This, however, requires that when formulating a digitisation strategy, the needs of users be considered for sustaining the usage of a system. This paper provides the guidelines for sustainable digitisation of IK information in Uganda.


A qualitative research design was adopted, and the IK institutions and organisations from which to collect data were purposely selected. Interviews, observations and document analysis were the main data collection methods. The respondents of the study were IK information managers, skilled personnel, government officials, and community and institutional leaders, among others. Interviews were conducted with the Heads of programmes on culture, library and archives in both UTV and Radio Uganda. The officials in charge of Culture and Tradition in Buganda Kingdom, and the Secretary to ultimo Court on the Origins of Norms of Clans of Buganda at Kasubi Tombs were interviewed to represent traditional and cultural foundations and Sites. The librarians of the National Library of Uganda, Parliamentary Library, Uganda National Council of Science and Technology, Uganda Society, a Deputy Librarian in charge of the Africana Section, Makerere University, and 2 Librarians concerned with information and reference in Makerere University were interviewed. The Ag.. Government Archivist of the National Archives, Entebbe; 2 Conservators, African Creation of the Art Gallery, and the Public Relations Officer, Uganda National Cultural Centre (The National Theatre) formed part of the interviewees. The study also interviewed one Lecturer in the Department of Music, Dance and Drama; the Principal Conservator of the Uganda Museum and the Librarian Uganda Society;. a desk officer at National Council of Sports, and one proprietor of a traditional sport (Mr. Kagongi). Physical visits were made to observe how information on IK is documented in the Uganda Museum, National Archives, and historical and traditional sites. Analysis of documents of the institutions’ brochures, strategic plans, finding aids, Web sites, and company files was done. Data was analyzed and presented according to the main theme of the study, including the institutions that keep IK information, the content of IK, the records kept about IK, and the digitization requirements for IK.


The study identified places that manage IK information, that information’s content, the records kept about it, and requirements for digitising it.

Institutions that Keep IK Information in Uganda

A number of efforts have been made in the promotion of community IK in Uganda, with varying degrees of success. The institutions that have made efforts include the Uganda Museum, National Council of Science and Technology, National Art Gallery, National Council of Sports, National Archives, various cultural centres, the National Library of Uganda, the Deposit Library and Documentation Centres, among others.

The National Library of Uganda (NLU), formally Public Libraries Board, 1964, participates in the promoting of a reading culture. It acts as a depository of national and foreign government documents, and compiles and publishes a national bibliography. This new NLU role was formerly a responsibility of Makerere University Library (Africana Section) from1958 and the Documentation Centre at Uganda Management Institute from 1969. Currently, Makerere University Library keeps general literature on Africa: books, papers, letters, notices, reports, diaries of events, church memoranda, registers, and manuscripts that are important to Uganda’s heritage. Its materials date back to the late nineteenth Century. The National Archives offers research service and enriches the cultural heritage of the country. It preserves and disposes of records and archives, and makes records available for consultation.

The Department of Antiquities and Museums is responsible for historical, archaeological, and palaenotological sites within Uganda. These include traditional sites, buildings, signposts, and tombs. It is concerned with conservation, research and preservation of sites. This role derives from the Historical Monuments Act of 1967, which provides for the legal protection of sites of historical, archaeological and palaeontological importance. The over-all aim of this department is to develop such sites into educational centers for the people of Uganda as well as for interested foreign visitors. The specific objectives include preserving, conserving, promoting, and presenting the national cultural heritage.

Uganda Museum was established in 1902 and became a part of the Ministry of Culture and Community Development in 1954. The other two museums are in the towns Kabale and Soroti, which provide homes for limited ethnographic collections. The Uganda Museum portrays the lands of Uganda and activities of its people, collects and keeps document information as well as artifacts about the culture, history and natural history of Uganda, and offers rich ethnographic displays of a wide range of traditional life of the peoples of Uganda. Uganda’s cultural, historical and natural sites and monuments preserve a wide range of documentary heritage of Ugandan culture, including royal burial sites, traditional dances, traditional scriptures, drums, etc.

Radio Uganda and Uganda Television (UTV), which started in 1962 and 1963 respectively, are mandated to educate, entertain, inform and mobilize people. They both offer programmes related to culture and religion, entertainment, gender issues, education, and sports. They play different kinds of music, ranging from local to international. They have been instrumental in mobilizing and sensitizing people to the dynamics of community development and cultural heritage.

The National Theatre was established by Ordinance of the Legislative Council in 1959 as the main centre for developing performing arts in Uganda. The Theatre facilitates the presentation of cultural songs and cultural dances, drama and poetry. It aims at preserving culture by educating the masses through music, dance and drama. It has a resource centre about art and culture, and a crafts village. Besides the National Theatre, the National Cultural Center (the Nommo Galley) was established in 1964 to promote fine art. Its major areas are textile designs, ceramics, and scripture. The National Council of Sports is mandated to organise games and sports in the country. They have introduced African traditional games and sports to preserve African culture. For example, schools are now encouraged to organise indigenous sports and games like Omweso (a local indoor sport that helps in memorizing and counting) and Amahiri (a traditional field sport with rich language and logic components). In fact, the Amahiri Sport Association in Uganda was established in 2004 to promote and encourage Amahiri sports in Uganda.

Educational institutions in Uganda are attempting to transfer indigenous knowledge to the students in a number of fields. At Makerere University, the Departments of History, and Music, Dance and Drama are involved. The others are the East Africa School of Library and Information Science, the School of Fine and Industrial Art, and the Faculty of Technology. For example, the Department of Music, Dance and Drama trains specialist teachers to be performers, composers, choreographers, and playwrights using traditional dances. On its part, the East African School of Library and Information Science has introduced palaeography, oral history and tradition, museum, preservation and conservation, and archives management to its curriculum.

The Uganda National Council of Science and Technology (UNCST) with the assistance of UNESCO and the International Development Research Council (IDRC), is promoting the use of community Tele-centres in Uganda (eg, Nakaseke, Buwama and Nabweru) to enable communities in remote places to access information on the global network. UNCST is also currently promoting the adoption of the African Traditional Healing System to involve the people in health care delivery and the fight against HIV/Aids. Emphasis is in areas of traditional medicines, pure herbalists, herbalists/spiritualists, divines and magicians, mixed activity practitioners, bone settlers, and traditional midwives.

UNESCO has put in place the Preservation and Revitalisation of Uganda’s Oral and Intangible Heritage Programme. It includes on its list of World Heritage Sites two Ugandan heritage sites, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Rwenzori National Park. The General Information Programme (PGI) of UNESCO, co-ordinated by NLU, has undertaken a CD-ROM project that targets collection of locally published books.

However, although all the above institutions and initiatives are focused on the preservation of culture heritage, there is no central strategy in place to collect, store, preserve, co-ordinate and enable access to IK information in Uganda.

Records kept about IK

Content of Community IK Kept

The study attempted to establish the content of the community IK kept in most of the institutions. The majority of institutions keep information relating to the history of people and their institutions, customs and cultures. These include marriages, sports, crafts, medicine, indigenous technology of Uganda’s Tribal groupings, traditional dances, traditional foods, chiefdoms. Other information relates to norms and values, cultural beliefs, dress codes, drama, traditional medicine/herbs, child naming and funeral rites.

For example, in UTV, the information kept ranges over all subjects and is in different formats. They classify the IK into 2 categories: “hard” and “soft” programming. The “hard” includes documentaries, features, talk shows, discussions, and infomercials, while the “soft” is basically entertainment and drama. On the other hand, Radio Uganda keeps information on how traditions, cultures, tribes rate on certain issues concerned with beliefs and health, and with indigenous agricultural methods.

Format of Records

The majority of the institutions keep information in the form of a catalogue or use other finding aids manually. For example, the majority of Libraries record their holdings in the form of Card catalogues, book catalogues, Accession lists, and bibliographies. In the National Archives, there are a number of finding aids, including catalogues, index cards, accession registers, repository lists, storage lists. Although the majority of institutions had access to on-line services and the Internet, there was little information on IK kept there. Makerere University Library and NLU had access to CD-ROMs, OPAC and the Internet for keeping information about Uganda culture. In Radio Uganda, tapes, compact cassettes or digital audio-tapes are used to record information on IK. In Kasubi Tombs, people who live in the palace orally store and disseminate information. In the Art Gallery, information is kept on index cards, register books, and notice boards. The Art Gallery has a ledger to register what objects have been bought, and records each item using index cards. UTV has a catalogue where all materials in the library are registered, and they use simple numbering and dates to access materials. At Radio Uganda, a catalogue is used as the access point for IK.

Attributes of the Records

Information recorded about IK varies with institutions. In the majority of the institutions, codes have been used to enable easy access and reference. The Uganda Museum lists the name of the object, date on which it was discovered, its use, the researcher, the place where it was collected, and its condition. Staff at Kasubi Tombs record titles of the kings, wives of the kings, songs. Libraries record authors, title, call numbers. The Art gallery records the origin of the object, when it was made, and its use. The price of some art pieces is also recorded, and the number in stock. Theatres record information on sounds, actors and actresses, rhymes. The information kept in UTV and Radio Uganda includes titles of the songs, duration, producer, number or volume of the tape, number of songs on the tape.

There is really no one system of recording, documenting and preserving IK, nor is there a mechanism to develop the culture of safeguarding documentary heritage, democratising access and raising awareness of its significance in the achievement of community objectives.

Requirements for the Digitisation of IK in Uganda

The major aim of this study was to establish the strategies for digitisation of community IK in Uganda.

The Need for Digitisation

The majority of respondents agreed with a proposition for digitisation although most of them had not computerised their own records and IKs. In libraries, digitisation was envisaged to facilitate retrieval, indexing, and cataloguing of information materials. In UTV, digitisation of information helps locate information since it is kept in files. Some of the institutions have Web sites. For example, Radio Uganda uses the Internet when accessing news and current affairs from other organisations and countries. According to Radio Uganda, digitisation would help to access and co-ordinate information to ease locating and retrieving information. On the other hand, UTV wants to have a networked database of all libraries (audio-Visual or book materials) that keep IK information. According to them, the organisations would build a library management system to facilitate easy access to information on IK. Digitisation would facilitate research, and information would be centred in one place. It was suggested that for proper sharing of information, organisations should put in place Web sites to facilitate the co-ordination and free flow of information. The following strategies were found to be the prerequisites for the digitisation of IK in Uganda.

a) Co-ordination

According to the study, there is a need for a central co-ordinating body – having one central place where people can look for IK. There was a demonstrable need to co-ordinate IK in record centres, archives and libraries, museum, art galleries, and traditional institutions in Uganda. In fact, Makerere University Library recommended the establishment of a consortium of IK institutions to enable the sharing of textbooks, journals and theses on information about IK. Radio Uganda suggested putting in place an organisation to facilitate access of IK information. Generally, a need for establishing a National Cultural Heritage or IK Centre that should fall under the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Socio Development was expressed.

b) Facilities and Resources

It was observed that a strategy to obtain funds from government and non-governmental organisations should be devised. Government should be urged to increase its funding commitment to the development and management of cultural and IK information. It was felt crucial that institutions and organisations establish registries and Archival centres with proper access and finding aids. Establishing IK resource centres at different communities with modern information and communication services would facilitate the digitisation of IK.

c) Preservation of IK

There was an expressed need for promotion and preservation of Ugandan culture. The need for promoting cultural heritage, encouraging living cultures and creativity, and ensuring standards to monitor and to safeguard the documentary heritage was expressed. In fact, the School of Fine Art pledged to establish ethnic galleries at district levels. The materials collected would include photographs and videotape. The legal and ethical, intellectual property rights, and cultural restrictions would be invested in a government policy-making body. UTV suggested a maintenance policy or law protecting IK.

d) National IK Secretariat and Committees

Uganda Museum recommended the establishment of a secretariat based at the Museum. Buganda Kingdom suggested working committees constituted by cultural institutions, whose role would be co-ordinating IK. This and similar observations support the UNCST’s initiative of an Indigenous Knowledge National Committee. The secretariat should be able to co-ordinate the establishment of a national committee and a community at tribal group and ethnic levels as well as institutional levels. Findings suggest that community and national committees should be able to steer the information gathering process about IK at the community level and the establishment of national policies regarding processing and dissemination of IK. The committees should liaise with the Secretariat in various matters such as establishing information systems for IK, carrying out research, and generating, processing, storing, and disseminating information on IK. Accordingly, findings suggested co-ordination between district offices, local committees and the secretariat. Membership to such committees would include prominent cultural leaders within tribal groupings and institutions. Institutions also proposed that a general assembly and a general meeting work as a medium of discussion and communication among the national and community committees. Village and community committees were proposed to enable data collection at the grass roots. The national committee would be responsible for ensuring communication channels and easy access to transport and storage facilities.

e) Marketing and Sensitisation about IK

From the study, it became clear that educating and sensitising the public as well as information professionals on the importance of preserving IK is the way to go for the digitisation of IK in Uganda. This requires an intensive marketing campaign and government support. It was suggested that government put in place demonstration centres about the restoration of culture. Accordingly, a need was expressed to integrate IK into the school and university curricula in related disciplines and programmes. The National Council of Sports suggested that indigenous people be trained on how to give information to the public. Likewise, the public should be enabled to access the provisions defined in the Access to Information Bill, 2004. Outreach programmes and public lectures to capture and record oral history and oral tradition should be designed and implemented. Publications about IK and its accessibility in Uganda should be made available to make people aware of their art and culture. Publishing most of the information on IK through magazines and newspapers is crucial.


The digitisation of community IK in developing countries is a vital strategy in preserving culture identities, bridging the past and the present, and transferring information required by various users within and between community networks. This requires a strategy to address community values, principles and norms.

There is no institution responsible for co-ordinating the collection, management, use and proper utilisation of IK, but there is an unco-ordinated mechanism available among the IK institutions to share community IK. The semblance of partnership available lacks guidelines/policy for the proper utilisation and preservation of IK. The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has attempted setting standards and making guidelines for the preservation of IK. A number of policies to guide IK in Uganda include the Copyrights Act, 1964, the Patents Act (cap 216), the Trademarks Act (cap 217). A number of proposals have been made, including the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights bill, the Trade Mark bill, the Industrial Property bill, and the Traditional Medicine Practice bill (Ikoja-Odongo, 2004:186). In addition, the Ministry for Disaster Preparedness under the Prime Minister’s office is responsible for preparing for such unfortunate events and planning necessary prevention, preparation and recovery arrangements (Ikoja-Odongo, 2002:324). Although the government has proposed legislation on Freedom of Access to Information and a National Information and Communication Policy, none of these guidelines provides a strategy for digitisation of IK in Uganda.

There is a lack of institutional registers in most institutions and communities. Such registers are necessary to record such information as African traditions, customs and cultures, legal documents governing cultures, institutions, indigenous technology and medicine. No standard scheme is available to define the content, format and attributes of records about IK. In addition, there is a need for a national register of all information concerning various cultures; this is a perquisite to any machinery/policy to monitor its implementation.

A co-ordinating body with a management structure in place would facilitate the deposition of IK at the centre selected for purposes of preservation. However, availability of facilities and resources, with a marketing and sensitisation strategy, is crucial for such co-ordination.


The digitisation of IK answers two questions: What is that? and Where is that? This eases reference to the location of and the time trends of the required information. It helps in finding trends in various IK and investigating social, economic, political and cultural relationships as well as relationships between IK record attributes. The digitisation of community IK may be linked to driving a vehicle that requires an engine and wheels (ICTs), the body (Community), passengers (Content), the driver (information Professionals, experts, IK Managers, etc), and driving and traffic policies (standards, ICT policies). Digitisation requires the metadata showing locations for content (e.g. communities, sites, traditions, medicines, and subjects). A policy guideline for the digitisation of IK is a priority. A requirement analysis needs to be done for the overall feasibility of the project in Uganda.

Strategies For The Digitisation Of Community IK

  1. A secretariat for IK should be established for the administration of IK management and preservation in Uganda. This will be responsible for setting standards, registration of IK, acquisition of funds for projects in IK, and provision of reports on IK on behalf of the Government.
  2. National and Community or Institutional committees responsible for capturing IK in Uganda should be established to bring together the stakeholders in a particular IK. A national register of all IK should be compiled by the secretariat. This will require a nomination form of what should be included in the Register. UNCST and the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development should take the lead.
  3. Preservation should be given a priority in IK management. Policy guidelines on the preservation and conservation of IK in Uganda should be drafted and presented by the responsible ministry. . Institutions need to be aware of preservation techniques and approaches. Preventive measure, reformatting or reproduction techniques including photocopying, microfilming, recording, and digitising have to be enhanced
  4. A bibliographic control that requires all partners to participate needs to be maintained by the National committee. This will require a database of both national, and community or institutional registers that have controlled access to users. Conservators and archivists should come out and join hands with Uganda Library Association to produce a code of ethics which should establish limits on cost of access, form of access and relationship between owners and custodians of the IK. Policies on copyrights, cultural restrictions, and public investment in private IK management need to be clearly stated. Forms of distribution and product identification and control need to be observed in the policy. When digitising, there is a need to put in place technical and usage standards for various functions like scanning or data compressions/reduction.
  5. The digitisation of community IK needs a marketing and awareness strategy as a priority approach. Promoting the programme to target groups, raising funds, making copies of IK in various formats: micro images, audio tapes, films, videos and digital representations in various languages; is important. Promotional materials need to be developed. Exhibitors and displays of IK, articles in news papers, and the formation of strategic alliances with other partners, including museums, galleries, park sectors, tourism, etc., need to be encouraged. Promotion and publicity for stakeholders, together with education and training for staff and implementers, are prerequisites to the success of the project.
  6. There is a need for curriculum review and development at all levels of the educational system in Uganda. Schools should introduce simple preservation techniques of IK at various levels. Training institutions in the areas of library and information science should introduce IK curriculum and short courses to cover IK management systems, digitisation of IK, and preservation and conservation of IK. The institutions that keep and store IK should organise sensitisation seminars and workshops to promote its use.

Recommendations for Developing Countries

  • Digitisation of IK suggests not only that the technology is available, but also that it is appropriate for the promotion of IK in Uganda at the moment. There is a need for first developing the culture of preserving IK, together with a thorough awareness campaign and sensitisation programmes for the appropriate adoption and utilisation of IK.
  • Information requirement analysis is necessary for the creation and integration of new technologies in the management and preservation of IK. A cost benefit analysis for application of digitisation is a priority. Financial models and methodologies need to be developed to specify the baseline conditions and requirements, strategic implementation plan, benefits determination, security and risk analysis.
  • At the Organisational level, database management systems technologies are essential before the adoption of digitisation; developmental support must be offered by various organisations.
  • The Traditional Knowledge and ecological functions must be emphasised to create a functional digital IK in the country.


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Cite as: Magara, Elisam. Digitisation of Community Indigenous Knowledge in Developing Countries: A Strategy for Uganda, in J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds.). Museums and the Web 2005: Proceedings, Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, published March 31, 2005 at

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