Workshop Launches New ICT Partnership in Mali
"We welcome the opportunity to use this research methodology - for the first time in Africa - as we think that it will be an important tool in providing better access to new information and communication technologies," said Monsieur Adama Kansaye, the prefect of Koutiala, during the inauguration of a workshop on ethnographic action research. "We hope in particular that it will improve the access of women to these technologies in the course of fighting poverty."
The workshop, held between May 23 and 26, marks the beginning of a partnership between UNESCO, Open Knowledge Network/Jamana Multimedia Cooperative and local communities in research sites across Mali to use ethnographic action research as part of efforts to use combinations of traditional and new information and communication technologies (ICTs) to empower rural women and youth.
The methodology is based on the use of ethnographic tools, such as participant observation, field notes, diaries and in-depth interviews, as part of a process of action research, in which participatory investigation forms part of a continuous cycle of 'planning', 'observation', 'reflection' and 'doing'.
Researchers from towns and villages in Mali where there are community multimedia centres and access points, sponsored respectively by UNESCO and Open Knowledge Network, will use simple research tools in an effort to better connect the use of radio, computers, internet and other ICTs with the real needs of communities they serve, especially poor women.
The venue for the workshop was the Koutiala Community Multimedia Centre (CMC). Koutiala is an industrial city in southeastern Mali. As the vast majority of Mali's cotton passes through its factories, Koutiala is known as the "capital of white gold". The programme is facilitated by Jamana, a cooperative of nine community radios in different parts of Mali.
Twelve people - representing both the local Koutiala CMC as well as national partners, including the University of Bamako - participated in the workshop, training together in the research skills and tools associated with the research methodology.
"The workshop was a success in that we are now able to use this approach in rethinking goals and activities and refocusing strategies on local needs in dialogue with local communities. Applying the methodology will bring a new dynamism and determination to the efforts of the multimedia centres in Mali," said Kadiatou Toure, the programmes research coordinator.
A second workshop to train local researchers from all seven sites in the network will be run at the end of June 2005. Ethnographic action research will continue in Mali for a period of one year as part of a pilot to introduce and test the methodology.
During discussions following the Koutiala workshop, representatives of UNESCO, Open Knowledge Network, Jamana and the University of Bamako all shared their optimism that the approach will not only improve local community media and applications of new ICT, but also yield important insights into the potential of innovative uses of media like radio and internet to foster local development.
Ethnographic action research was developed by UNESCO, Queensland University of Technology, London School of Economics and a network of researchers and partners to research innovative applications of ICTs to fight poverty in South Asia. The approach is designed to improve local planning and programming as well as feeding a greater understanding of the role of ICTs in local development.
Established in 1993 shortly after the advent of democracy in Mali, Radio Jamana of Koutiala was one of the first community radios in Mali. The station added computers and other ICT facilities in 2002 as part of UNESCO's global community multimedia centre programme.
The Open Knowledge Network, initiated by OneWorld, facilitates the exchange of local knowledge through 'access points' in six countries around the world using a range of technologies, from floppy disks to satellites.
Community multimedia centres combine new technologies like internet and CD-ROM with traditional media like community radio. CMCs have been established in more than twenty countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.