By ALIN-EA NAIROBI, Kenya, 23 November 2004
Arid Lands Information Network – Eastern Africa (ALIN-EA) has successfully completed a one-year pilot phase of the Open Knowledge Network (OKN) East Africa project.
OKN is a global initiative linking marginalized communities and facilitating information sharing through Information Communications Technologies (ICTs). It aims at promoting the creation and exchange of local content by local people in local languages. The network encourages documentation and dissemination of local knowledge beyond the precincts of community boundaries. The approach acknowledges existence of information at the grassroots and gives weight to a bottomup structure of knowledge sharing.
OKN provides a forum for rural people to network and share ideas on indigenous practices in agriculture, health, nutrition and general development-related information.
The main challenges faced by the pilot were software and technical challenges, inadequate writing skills, and lack of e-mail and internet facilities at the access points. Other challenges were inadequate awareness creation and inadequate dissemination strategies. Most software problems have however been resolved.
The OKN framework was first tested in India in the year 2002. The OKN East Africa project is the first initiative in Africa. The pilot was initiated in July 2003 and extended in March 2004 by one more year. More pilot projects are being initiated in west and southern Africa this year.
Access points (APs) are centres situated in the rural areas. The centres are equipped with a computer and a WorldSpace receiver. Using a specially designed software, APs send raw articles and receive synthesised information for dissemination. APs channel the collected material to the Hubs.
OKN East Africa pilot has two hubs namely ALIN-EA and AfriAfya. At the hub level, the articles are edited and later uploaded to the WorldSpace satellite from where the information is broadcasted back to the APs. The reporters download the information for dissemination within the community.
ALIN-EA has two established APs and will set up three more in Isiolo, Garrisa, and Homa Bay. The existing two APs are in Kajiado and Shinyanga in Tanzania. The implementing partner, AfriAfya, has six APs around Kenya.
Currently, APs have heavily invested in notice boards as the main dissemination technique. Once the information is downloaded, it is printed and pinned on the notice boards situated within the vicinity of the APs. Copies are availed to the members of public on request.
Other dissemination techniques include outreach activities and folk media. Other broader channels, for instance, community newsletters, community radios and video productions are being considered.
The present article is part of the Arid Lands Information Network – Eastern Africa’s Annual Report 2004.