The Ulwazi Programme is an initiative of the eThekwini Municipal Library to preserve the indigenous knowledge of local communities in the greater Durban area. This innovation, developed and implemented by the Software Applications Section of the Libraries, is based on a bottom-up model through which online indigenous knowledge resources are established as an integral part of local Public Library and Information Services.  Web 2.0 technologies are used to create a collaborative online local indigenous knowledge database. 

The main objective of the programme is the provision of a sustainable environment to enable ordinary members of Durban communities to preserve the knowledge about their culture, history and environment.  The programme relies on community participation for the collection of local information and makes use of volunteer fieldworkers to drive the programme at ground level.  Local indigenous knowledge is captured through the full spectrum of media and made available online through the Ulwazi website www.ulwaziprogramme.org.

Existing library infrastructure in the eThekwini Municipal area is used to carry the programme to local communities.  The library acts as moderator and custodian of the online resource which forms the platform for a digital library of local indigenous knowledge.

A second objective of the programme focuses on transferring IT technologies and skills to local citizens.  This allows the people of eThekwini to become part of the global information society, it benefits them through economic advantage and contributes to the building of a caring and empowering city. Sharing of knowledge strengthens social coherence within communities and enhances intercultural tolerance.

The programme celebrates our cultural diversity, arts and heritage and aims to promote Durban as an international tourist destination by profiling places of interest, local culture and history of the area and its people.  The model can be replicated elsewhere, adapting to different contexts, such as education, health and the environment. 

Outcomes of a delivered online, interactive database of indigenous knowledge, digital skills transfer, free internet access and community ownership are attracting local communities to the concept.   The programme has grown exponentially since its inception three years ago and currently boasts more than 20 000 page visits per month from 90 countries around the world. High profile local knowledge projects of historical and social interest raises national interest and the programme, acknowledged by the eThekwini Municipality as a sustainable innovation, has been nominated for a City Star award.

The initiative also received international interest, from North America to Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia and it was showcased at the 75th Conference of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) in Milan, Italy in 2009. Latest development on the programme sees the establishment of a mobile interface for easy access to the website by means of the omnipresent mobile phone, which is widely used in local communities.

For more information on the Ulwazi programme see www.ulwaziprogramme.org