Tracking African AgKnowledge and Local Content

Kapiti ranch is an ILRI research station near Machakos, Kenya. In July 2010 a planning group met to prepare for the IKM working group 2 activities this year, which centre on knowledge and local content on African Agriculture. Escapng from detailed conversations about agendas and processes to make sure we kept raising our eyes to the horizon we met the  giraffes that run wild on the ranch, mingling with the cattle. Were the giraffe prints in the sand, we wondered, like posts on the Giraffe blog, indicators of activity lost quickly in the traffic along the tracks (unless archived and tagged) ? Were the giraffe droppings like project reports, enriching the terrain but ephemeral and quick-to-decay?  Giraffes are more numerous on the ranch than around about, where people displace the animals. Was there a metaphor somewhere, we wondered, about development projects and controlled environments, artificially sustaining the unsustainable, or was the sun getting to us? Most of the time we planned for the three strands of activity which make up the core of this year’s programme:

  • Two overlapping workshops, one continuing the series of IKM Interactive Labs and the other continuing the Local Content research programme.
  • Continued experiments in co-creating an online reflection of the intense Local Content activity taking place on the ground
  • A larger AgKnowledge ShareFair to be held in Addis in October 2010

IKM Interactive Labs are exploring the intersection of knowledge, technology and media. The first was held in Dakar last year, organised by Olivier Sagne of CODESRIA and reported in the Giraffe by Hugo Besemer.  We have also reported here on the Digital Diving sessions that were organised in November 09 as part of Diplo Foundation’s Internet Governance programme at IGF 09 in Sharm el Sheikh. In Sharm we explored these issues from the perspective  of different digital generations,  This was followed, in May 2010 by the Metropolib workshop organised with the EADI Information Management Working Group in Delft. The aims and reports from that workshop are on the workshop wikiIn Nairobi we organised a Research Communication workshop, building on elements of the Dakar experience but focusing especially on the role of Social Media for engaging audiences in the range of perspectives – facets of IKME’s multiple knowledges – represented by African research  material . The event was organised at the ILRI campus in Nairobi with 23 participants from agricultural research oriented organisations in Eastern and Southern Africa. In the best of Social Media practice, the proceedings and reports from the workshop were built up on the workshop wiki by the participants, as we went along, and on Flickr by Oliver Sagne.

The Local Content workshop, also extensively documented on the wiki,  continued the IKME programme that started with research in East Africa during 2009 (reported on the IKM process blog) and followed in December by a workshop in Brussels alongside KM4Dev 09 (the report is on the IKME wiki).  Also at the ILRI campus,  the July 2010 workshop was part of the process at heart of this IKME strand, the promotion of participatory local content-focused approaches in the wider development community, We shared and documented examples of how communities and intermediary NGOs create, capture and share Local Content.

Reflecting multiple knowledges online

We also looked at tools which could reflect and extend the reach of the digital and online output of the participants organisations.  Netvibes is an aggregator tool we experimented with at the Sharm event. This example from IDS illustrates how it can be used to showcase the different outputs from organisations and projects. We plan to use Netvibes, or something similar, as a way to present some of the richness and diversity in the work of the participating organisations.  In that we are clearly leaving behind the model of data and content aggregation represented by the Open Knowledge Network (OKN )and others of its generation.  The OKN software platform was built to support multiple sets of data, from different organisations. That architecture  was an advance on the original imperial model of the World Bank’s Development Gateway which foresaw key development content being centralised into one database. However, OKN still required participant organisations to enter their content into the platform and follow prescribed data entry processes and formats. Web 2.0 has introduced tools which we can use to represent more equitably a plural online world. Netvibes and other similar tools take feeds from and link back to the online spaces of contributing organisations, only requiring them to publish and syndicate their content using open standards such as RSS.

In the same vein, we also explored adding items to Google Maps, starting with the continually innovating FADECO from Tanzania. Contributing organisations aim to plot their work on a co-created map as one part of a push to promote Local Content but also as preparation for the AgKnowledge Fair .

The AgKnowledge ShareFair is planned for October 18th to 21st, 2010. We will report on plans and proposals in a later posting.

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