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Community Information Resource Centre
South Africa

Keywords: Community Participation & Urban Governance
Social Exclusion/Integration

Background

In partnership with ASRO, the civic organisation representing the township of Atteridgeville-Saulsville in Gauteng Province, South Africa, the HSRC is sponsoring the Legae la Kitso (Home of Information) project which involves the establishment of a community information resource centre in Atteridgeville. The project is owned by the community and enables unfettered access to information relevant to survival and for community-building. The project is attempting to redress systemic inequalities which are the lasting legacy of the apartheid regime.


Narrative

Key to the empowerment of marginalised communities is unfettered access to relevant information within an integrated regional and national network, coupled with the development of skills and capacity that would equip these communities to utilise such information for community building purposes. While hypothesising that the establishment of community information resource centres can be the most effective way to ensure the free flow and access to information and empowerment of disadvantaged communities by providing relevant information in a user-friendly system, the HSRC has been involved in three pilot projects in Gauteng Province, South Africa, aimed at assisting such processes. The communities are Alexandra, Ivory Park and Atteridgeville-Saulsville. Of the three initiatives, the community information resource centre in Atteridgeville (Legae la Kitso - Home of Information) is the most progressive. Building on lessons learned in the other two projects, the Legae la Kitso project represents an attempt to implement and study the optimum way in which to enable a systemically disadvantaged community to own, manage and use information for community-building and survival purposes. Following testing of the model as established in Atteridgeville-Saulsville, it is hoped the concept could be taken up and applied in other communities.

The role of the HSRC has been to work in close partnership with the community representatives (the civic organisation ASRO) and to support the project by sponsoring the training of information counsellors who form a user-friendly interface between the community and the electronic media. The HSRC has also supported the community in enabling an information needs assessment. A survey was done to determine the exact and specific information needs. It was found that a full range of information services would be required. Greatest need is for survival type information (jobs, housing, health services) but the community also needs sophisticated access to databases and national information. Access to the Internet and information software is shus crucial.

What makes this project especially relevant is three key features:

i. Legae la Kitso has developed a database containing information about and for Atteridgeville-Saulsville. This is unique in that such information has never before been compiled and made accessible to this community.

ii. By providing trained information counsellors to provide an interface between the enquirer and the medium, Legae la Kitso ensures that information is delivered in the way which best meets the need of the enquirer.

iii. The project is owned by the community and accountable to the community. There is a high level of community participation.

The HSRC supports and enables when asked to do so, but we anticipate that this project will soon be self-sufficient and sustain itself.


Impact

This project has two objectives

1. to empower a systemically disadvantaged community through unfettered access to relevant information, and

2. to develop a model for future use in other communities.

The community of Atteridgeville can be described by the following qualitative indicators:

i. marginalised
ii. under-serviced
iii. high rates of illiteracy
iv. severely proscribed access to information

The project aims for the following impacts:

i. three community information resource centres located where broad access is possible, service the full range of information needs of this community.

ii. the community-specific database is used for planning and development activities (this impact is already evident).

iii. by focusing on the specific needs of the community (jobs, bursaries, housing, crime fighting, health and nutrition) the entire community benefits from the spread-effects.

iv. Legae la Kitso creates an information culture which promotes literacy, education, the reduction of urban poverty and improvement of the quality of life.


Sustainability

Ultimately, this project will need to be taken over by the local government, which has expressed some interest in doing so. In the interim the project is relying heavily on sponsorship by the HSRC (which will soon cease) and on private sector funding and donations.

Because of the high degree of community participation, the implementing partner is the civic organisation and each of the three community information resource centres has a steering committee with members from the local community, the vested interest of the people in the project promotes momentum and sustainability.


Indicators

1) The Legae la Kitso (Home of Information) project in Atteridgeville is currently being evaluated. Information is being gathered to determine the impact of the project.

For each information request received, the following data are collected:

a) type of request

b) whether the information councellor could satisfy the request

c) action taken

d) age, gender and employment status

e) address

The geographic and social data will be combined to provide a profile of users and to assess the spread and impact of the project on the community.

2) The best measure for sustainability is the commitment of the community to spend time and effort towards this project. Because the community asked for this project and because it was closely tailored to specific community needs, commitment is very high. Local government has expressed an interest in taking over the service, but in the interim, the project relies on HSRC sponsorship and private donations.

3) This project is an undeniable success - even while it is not as yet fully implemented and realised - it is already servicing upwards of 30 information requests per day. the councellors (recruited from the community ) have been trained and are enthusiastically and independently working to serve the community.


Contact

    Legae la Kitso
    Mlambo Street
    Atteridgeville
    Pretoria, Gauteng
    South Africa
    0008
    +27(12) 375-8694
    MAO@socdyn.hsrc.ac.za

Sponsor

    Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
    Human Sciences Research Council
    134 Pretorius Street
    Pretoria
    Gauteng
    South Africa
    0001
    +27(12) 202-2229
    MAO@socdyn.hsrc.ac.za

Partners

    Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
    Masuku, Oupa
    Mlambo Street
    Atteridgeville, Pretoria
    Gauteng
    South Africa
    0008
    +27(12)375-8694
    MAO@socdyn.hsrc.ac.za

    Atteridgeville-Saulsville Resident's Organisation (ASRO)
    O'Donovan, Michael, HSRC,
    134 Pretorius Street
    Pretoria
    Gauteng
    South Africa
    0001
    +27(12) 202-2229
    MAO@socdyn.hsrc.ac.za

    Legae la Kitso (Home of Information) (Community Trust)
    Jooste, Annalie, HSRC
    134 Pretorius Street
    Pretoria
    Gauteng
    South Africa
    0001
    +27(12) 202-3015
    AHJ@legii.hsrc.ac.za


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