Mr Niall McNulty provides training for a volunteer as
part of the Umlazi Programme.
Mr Niall McNulty, Resource Officer for UKZN’s Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity (ccrri), was part of a team which won the runner-up prize in the Innovative Use of Technology for Community Engagement category at the recent Telkom-Highway Africa New Media Awards.
These unique and prestigious awards were hosted by the 16th Highway Africa Conference which took place at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. Aimed at rewarding innovative use of Information Communication technologies (ICTs) in journalism which serve Africa and its citizens, the awards were pioneered to highlight the role ICTs play to enhance journalism and the media, and in the process, to uplift communities.
McNulty was recognised for his work with the Umlazi Programme, an innovative initiative of the eThekwini Municipality which uses Web 2.0 technology, the local community and the public library infrastructure to collect and disseminate indigenous knowledge.
This is achieved by training citizen journalists in digital media production and oral history skills, who then return to their communities and collect stories, which are entered onto the Community Memory website (developed as a wiki) through computers at any of the municipality’s 90 public libraries.
According to McNulty, the project has been in operation for four years and has made a real difference to the community it serves, through the preservation and dissemination of culturally-specific local knowledge and the development of useful and transferable ICT skills.
Local knowledge and ways of doing things in Africa have historically been transmitted orally from one generation to the next. In South Africa, various factors such as urban migration and the AIDS pandemic in younger generations have contributed to a disruption of these chains of cultural transmission.
‘Digital technologies, in particular, mobile phones, offer some ways in which this information can be recorded and circulated. These technologies can facilitate the preservation and dissemination of local knowledge through audio recordings, photographs and articles. The technology allows for multiple contributions from a variety of perspectives - male, female, young and old,’ said McNulty.
A focus of the project is to record the knowledge of the older generation and make it available to the younger generation. This includes the history of local areas, details of traditional practices and ceremonies, and the ways in which things were done in the past.
‘The project has been a great success, receiving up to a thousand visitors a day. Most of these visitors are interested in Zulu-language content (the local vernacular) and information on traditional ceremonies and practices - such as umemelo, a traditional 21st birthday celebration for girls - which suggests a need for local content online,’ said McNulty.