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					 KNOWLEDGE AND VILLAGE INFORMATION KIOSKS:
BRIDGING THE CONCEPTUAL DIVIDE IN RURAL KENYA
                AND AFRICA.

Lazarus NOLASCO, KUBASU
Mwafrika Institute of Development, P.O BOX 340 – KABARNET (KENYA)
Tel: +254 724 881380, E-mail: kubasuln@gmail.com

Lily MSAE, NYARIKI
Manager, Moi University Bookshop
P.O. BOX 3900 ELDORET
Tel: +254733712117 E-mail: lmnyariki@gmail.com

Abstract:
Information entails an understanding of the relations between data, it does not provide a foundation
for what the data is nor an indication as to how the data is likely to change over time. However,
when a pattern relation exists amidst the data and information, the pattern has a potential to
represent knowledge. It only becomes knowledge, nevertheless, when one is able to realize and
understand the pattern and their implications. This pattern representing knowledge has a tendency to
be self-actualizing. Empowering development in rural areas can only take place when knowledge is
managed in such a way that it empowers the recipient to conceptualize the pattern and exploit it to
her or his advantage.Many rural communities in Africa live in abject poverty and have limited access
to basic infrastructure essential for economic growth, a number of researches document linkages
between this widespread poverty and information poverty – the lack of information and knowledge
that could improve earnings. This paper strongly argues that unless actors in development make
differences between data, information and knowledge to the recipient and design information or
knowledge projects that are geared towards ensuring that both information and knowledge is availed
rural communities, then development in rural area is unlikely to be achieved. Many information
programs have failed in rural areas because they only provide data and information that cannot be
utilized by rural folks. The paper also presents in details the project Village Information Kiosk
project in Western Kenya, a pilot information and knowledge program among rural communities that
uses ICT technologies, both digital and non-digital to avail information and knowledge in the field of
agriculture, health, enterprise, banking, micro-credit, environment, energy and governance among
others to both literate and illiterate rural consumers. The information is repackaged in
understandable formats for the rural consumers. The paper observes that through Village Information
Kiosks repackaging information in understandable formats using both digital and non-digital
instruments transform data to practical knowledge thereby ensuring usage by the rural users, who are
able to understand critical conceptual patterns of varied subjects that could gear them to
development and out of poverty. In deed, after sometimes, there was reported change by the users
because of the practicality of the information.



1.0    Introduction
Many of Kenya’s rural areas exist below subsistence levels and remain impoverished
because they have no access to basic information, knowledge and infrastructure
essential for economic growth and development. As a consequence the youth are
leaving their rural homes in pursuit of employment opportunity in the cities 1. Basic



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information and knowledge infrastructure, which are essential pillars for economic
growth, has not even been planned for many deep rural communities in Kenya.
Geographic location have placed limitations on access to information and the use of the
Internet, which are considered vital to the promotion of learning, training and business
development in developing rural communities2.

While at the same time, information for its sake means little to a farmer, a craftwoman
in a small isolated rural communities or a pupil in a rural primary school. The most
important strategy is that information and communication must be presented in a way
that stimulate participation of the rural citizenry, generate learning resources and
promote interpersonal exchange within the context of the rural beneficiary. In Africa,
information and communication technologies (ICT) certainly mean more than internet
and e-mail. It is in Africa, where more than half the population has yet to make first
telephone call and most rural communities are illiterate mostly in English language,
which is the biggest medium of communication in the modern ICTs. As such, digital
divide, in the sense of a gap between individuals, households, businesses and
geographic areas at different socio-economic levels against opportunities to access to
the internet3 as described for the developed world need special exception to apply in
Africa.

Many researches 4 stress the convergence of information technology and
communication technology to form the new field of information and communication
technology (ICT) has had a revolutionary impact on the way we do business, live and
learn. This convergence has brought about the Information Age, the Knowledge Era, the
New Economy and the Information Society - popular concepts in use today.
Unfortunately it has trickled down to rural areas very dawdlingly. We are living through
this revolution, which brings together people from different environments. In these
circumstances, people may learn one another, but they also need basic access to and
understanding of ICT. Not only do people need to understand the rapid evolution of
new information and communication technologies, they also need to keep pace with
the rapid changes imposed on the social structure at work, at home, in the classroom
and in the entertainment field.

Importantly, rural initiatives for use of ICTs need to demonstrate the value of
information and knowledge to rural development and assist rural communities use the
information they need and get to foster their own development. This is because ICT is
regarded as both a driver and an enabler by influencing how things are done - but this
focus area of rural communities considers the aspects of ICT as the driving force for
current or future change. Kenyans need to be part of the information society to be
globally competitive, play their rightful role in the region and benefit as individuals.
Access to information and awareness of the possibilities of the effective use of ICT form
part of this initiative. Broader online literacy is required, as ICT is becoming a popular
service delivery channel increasingly used by the government, business and financial
sectors. It is important to address the growing functional illiteracy that disempowers



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people from living effectively in a modern society especially those in villages and rural
areas, by taking away people's fears of ICT innovatively.

ICTs can give a ‘voice’ to the disadvantaged rural communities. A ‘voice’ of knowledge
that enables them to use information communication technologies to escape poverty
traps; specifically reduce unemployment, deforestation, avail new business
opportunities, improve health care delivery, public safety and security and bring
government services to the people. This is what village information kiosks (VIKs) project
aims to do. VIKs does this by facing the challenges of rural poverty reduction through
innovatively establishing and providing information, knowledge and communication
services for practical knowledge acquisition through repackaging. This arrangement
enables rural people access information and communication technologies at relatively
cheaper and affordable costs for their development.


2.0    Conceptual Analysis of Information and Knowledge

Before attempting to address the question of knowledge management in rural areas, it's
probably appropriate to develop some perspective regarding this stuff called knowledge
and information, which there seems to be such a desire to manage, really is. We begin
with data, which is just a meaningless point in space and time, without reference to
either space or time. It is like an event out of context, a letter out of context, a word out
of context. And, since it is out of context, it is without a meaningful relation to anything
else. Most information is brought to rural community without regard to their context.

That a collection of data is not information5, as Neil Fleming indicated, implies that a
collection of data for which there is no relation between the pieces of data is not
information. The pieces of data may represent information, yet whether or not it is
information depends on the understanding of the one perceiving the data. I would also
tend to say that it depends on the knowledge of the interpreter, but I'm probably getting
ahead of myself, since I haven't defined knowledge. What I will say at this point is that
the extent of my understanding of the collection of data is dependent on the
associations I am able to discern within the collection. And, the associations I am able
to discern are dependent on all the associations I have ever been able to realize in the
past. Information is quite simply an understanding of the relationships between pieces
of data, or between pieces of data and other information.

While information entails an understanding of the relations between data, it generally
does not provide a foundation for why the data is what it is, nor an indication as to how
the data is likely to change over time. Information has a tendency to be relatively static
in time and linear in nature. Information is a relationship between data and, quite
simply, is what it is, with great dependence on context for its meaning and with little
implication for the future.




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Beyond relation there is pattern 6 where pattern is more than simply a relation of
relations. Pattern embodies both a consistency and completeness of relations which, to
an extent, creates its own context. Pattern also serves as an Archetype 7with both an
implied repeatability and predictability. When a pattern relation exists amidst the data
and information, the pattern has the potential to represent knowledge. It only becomes
knowledge, however, when one is able to realize and understand the patterns and their
implications. The patterns representing knowledge have a tendency to be more self-
contextualizing. That is, the pattern tends, to a great extent, to create its own context
rather than being context dependent to the same extent that information is. A pattern
which represents knowledge also provides, when the pattern is understood, a high level
of reliability or predictability as to how the pattern will evolve over time, for patterns
are seldom static. Patterns which represent knowledge have a completeness to them
that information simply does not contain.

Wisdom arises when one understands the foundational principles responsible for the
patterns representing knowledge being what they are. And wisdom, even more so than
knowledge, tends to create its own context. These foundational principles are universal
and completely context independent. This is the theoretical basis for the establishment
of Village Information Kiosks that people or have the capacity to understand the
patterns that exist between knowledge for the personal and community development.

So, in summary the following associations can reasonably be made:
           Information relates to description, definition, or perspective (what, who,
             when, where).
           Knowledge comprises strategy, practice, method, or approach (how).
           Wisdom embodies principle, insight, moral, or archetype (why).

2.1   An illustration of the information knowledge relation
This example uses a rural bank savings account to show how data, information,
knowledge, and wisdom relate to principal, interest rate, and interest.

       Data: The numbers 100 or 5%, completely out of context, are just pieces of data.
       Interest, principal, and interest rate, out of context, are not much more than data
       as each has multiple meanings which are context dependent.

       Information: If I establish a bank savings account as the basis for context, then
       interest, principal, and interest rate become meaningful in that context with
       specific interpretations. Principal is the amount of money, $100, in the savings
       account. Interest rate, 5%, is the factor used by the bank to compute interest on
       the principal.

       Knowledge: If I put $100 in my savings account, and the bank pays 5% interest
       yearly, then at the end of one year the bank will compute the interest of $5 and
       add it to my principal and I will have $105 in the bank. This pattern represents
       knowledge, which, when I understand it, allows me to understand how the

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       pattern will evolve over time and the results it will produce. In understanding
       the pattern, I know, and what I know is knowledge. If I deposit more money in
       my account, I will earn more interest, while if I withdraw money from my
       account, I will earn less interest.

If one studied all the individual components of this pattern, which represents
knowledge, they would never discover the emergent characteristic of growth. Only
when the pattern connects, interacts, and evolves over time, does the principle exhibit
the characteristic of growth.

We learn by connecting new information to patterns that we already understand. In
doing so, we extend the patterns. Csikszentmihalyi provides a definition of complexity
based on the degree to which something is simultaneously differentiated and
integrated8. His point is that complexity evolves along a corridor and he provides some
very interesting examples as to why complexity evolves. The diagram below indicates
that what is more highly differentiated and integrated is more complex. While high
levels of differentiation without integration promote the complicated, that which is
highly integrated, without differentiation, produces mundane. And, it should be rather
obvious from personal experience that we tend to avoid the complicated and are
uninterested in the mundane. The complexity that exists between these two alternatives
is the path we generally find most attractive.


                                In an organizational context, data represents facts or
                                values of results, and relations between data and other
                                relations have the capacity to represent information.
                                Patterns of relations of data and information and other
                                patterns have the capacity to represent knowledge. For
                                the representation to be of any utility it must be
                                understood, and when understood the representation is
                                information or knowledge to the one that understands.
                                Yet, what is the real value of information and
                                knowledge, and what does it mean to manage it?

The value of Knowledge Management relates directly to the effectiveness 9 with which
the managed knowledge enables the members of the organization or community to
deal with today's situations and challenges and effectively envision and create their
future. Without on-demand access to managed knowledge, every situation is addressed
based on what the individual or group brings to the situation with them. With on-
demand access to managed knowledge, every situation is addressed with the sum total
of everything anyone in the organization has ever learned about a situation of a similar
nature.

3.0  Case of Village Information Kiosk Project in Busia and Knowledge
Management


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The key objective of this paper is to present a model of Village Information Kiosk
project for rural communities that was/is designed to develop information
communication strategies that enhance knowledge management capacity and capability
of rural locals thereby help reduce rural poverty. The specific objectives of this pilot
project were /are:
    a. Establish and coordinate village information kiosks in rural Kenya.
    b. Collect, synthesize and re-package important development information such as
       agricultural, health, entrepreneurship, water, environment, for local
       consumption and use.
    c. Provide pertinent information that promotes sustainable utilization of existing
       natural resource base in rural areas.
    d. Help equip the rural youth and women groups with IT and entrepreneurship
       skills by organizing training sessions and providing information on existing
       opportunities.
    e. Promote e-governance/commerce/learning at the rural grassroots’ level.
    f. Foster information sharing in the community.


4.0    Project Methodology

To achieve this, in a small rural town in Busia district, an entrepreneur was identified.
We named his project ZachTech Village Information Kiosk. Mwafrika Institute of
Development, through funding from a private American donor, assisted the
entrepreneur to connect on a wireless and landline internet connection. The
entrepreneur was also given and equipped with several PCs with multimedia
equipments, a radio, a T.V screen, a video, web-camera, printer, power-back up, low-
cost diesel generator and a suite of local swahili language application. It was made
available to the village information kiosk operator at a total cost of USD$4,500, which
included training and maintenance for a year. Bank loans were also available to the
operator to pool in business investment.

The Village Information Kiosks (VIK) project Management through Mwafrika Institute of
Development (MID) installed the wireless exchange and ensured that it was working.
The wireless service served the village information kiosk at Nambale town and the
surrounding areas. The information kiosk provided other services such as telephone call,
mobile repairs, photocopying services, government documents download, daily
newspapers, television news service, varied education material, computer training and
other repackaged agricultural materials. Besides ensuring wireless telephony service,
the VIK operator provided several stand-alone computer services. The first usage of
computer started on the day of its installation and these were usually stand-alone
services like learning typing, word-processing, games. The computer was also used for
a variety of educational services including several on-line courses for school and
college youths, complementary to their school learning, and courses ‘open’ for all like
Spoken English Course using both audio and visual techniques. The internet was

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making a huge impact as youthful villagers and women were encouraged to open up e-
mail addresses, trained to e-mail as means to communicate with their kin in the urban
areas such as Nairobi and Kisumu.

Importantly, through the Village Information Kiosks, the villagers were also encouraged
to access repackaged information developed by VIK Project Management committees.
Every simple challenge was video-taped, recorded, experts consulted and solutions
developed for rural local consumption by the rural communities. The repackaged
information was on agricultural, health, financial, political, governance, and
employment opportunities through CD-ROMS, audio tapes, easy-to-read handout.
They could run them on our video player or rent to carry home for viewing at a fee.The
villagers also took their agricultural and veterinary problems to experts in the respective
fields through recorded video CD-ROMs at the facility and got the feedback on-line or
through recorded CD-ROMS. Similarly even doctors made consultations using digital
media or on-line for medical checkups and advice. Government officers and extension
workers too simultaneously met people from several villages through this multi-purpose
information kiosks.

VIK project management committee also attempted linkages with micro-finance banks
to extend financial and insurance advisory services on the internet to villages. It also
worked with rural development department of the government to provide a variety of
online training course toward entrepreneurship develop. This ensured that data was
transformed to information, information to knowledge, knowledge to wisdom.

The persons who learnt from the centres took the knowledge acquired to villages, local
community civic dialogues for further learning and dissemination of information and
insights. We created value of the data that defined past results, the data and information
associated with the development, local challenges, aspirations of people, market, it's
customers, and it's competition, and the patterns which relate all these items to enable
a reliable level of predictability of the future by the locals. What I would refer to as
knowledge management in rural areas. This would be the capture, retention, and reuse
of the foundation for imparting an understanding of how all these pieces fit together
and how to convey them meaningfully to illiterate rural person through media format.

5.0    Project Service Strategies

Village Information Kiosk was designed in a such a way to offer services with the
dimension of sustainability in mind. Essentially, sustainability was to be achieved
through relevancy of appropriate information given to the clients. Secondly, the
infrastructure is agreeably the core of Zacktech village information kiosk project. It was
the nerve of its services and therefore had be reliable and effective at all time. Services
and relevancy were complementary to infrastructure and equipment. The relevancy of
services was a context specific matter that included expert (normative) prescription in
exceptional cases but also primarily a pre-occupation of the users (clients). The
relevancy of Village Information kiosk was relevancy of the services it offered to its

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community where community referred to a specific group of people with definite
interests and located in specific geographical area. Zacktech village information kiosk
was primarily involved in creation of content or repackaging of information in the field
of agriculture, health, indigenous knowledge (IK) and a lot of experience has been
generated in the area.

Village Information Kiosks (VIK) was also designed to offers value added services, a
comprehensive and attractive range of bundled services for users needed to be made
available. Connectivity related services included web-browsing, e-mail and other
related public access internet services such as instant messaging and VoIP. The latter
service was of high importance for many reasons, in particular, due to the familiarity of
the average person with telephony, the unmet demand for voice services, the potential
for reducing the cost of voice communication and because of the revenue generating
possibilities for the providers. Aside from basic internet access and voice
communications, services also included television news and market information, trade
matching/ e-procurement, fund transfer such as through Safaricom money transfer
service M-PESA. Also demand for SMS and WAP-based market price information and
other transaction-oriented facilities were provided.

Relevancy of services at Zacktech Information kiosk included availing opportunities for
assisted access and use of services for those who needed help or had never used the
service before. It was incumbent upon Village Information kiosk staff at Zaktech to
assist users seeking their services and make them interested in using such services again
or even interest them in other products they have never thought about.

A vital step in establishing public access services was to develop Village Information
Kiosks link with the local community- by re-inventing themselves so as to remain at the
center of the knowledge needs of the community they serve. This means making the
community aware of the facility and obtaining their feedback to define what sort of
information services were required. The service providers called public meetings and
invited as many different sectors as possible. The target groups normally included a
number of the following target groups:
     Local community member
     Tourist visiting the locality
     Small businesses in the localities
     Schools
     Youth
     Disabled people
     Farmers
     Women Groups
     Churches
     Police
     NGOs
     Trade Unions
     Civic Organizations

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         Political parties
         Government departments

Small and informal businesses were key user group and were often concentrated in
small geographic area where we could obtain a wide range of resources. In this respect,
operators providing integrated business support services and facilities provision helped
to foster business incubators in these locations, by leveraging their infrastructure to
improve processes for the support of small businesses.


6.0       Limitations of the Project

There were several limitations for the successful implementation of the Village
Information Kiosk project. These are:
 Low income levels of the rural community gave the information kiosk sustainability
    challenge because this could not sustain the re-packaging.
 Getting quality and skilled staff and their remuneration was quite a sustainability
    issue.
 Lack of local content on most development information in local languages, made
    repackaging and dissemination of information a very expensive venture.
 Most rural people did not appreciate the long-term role of information and its
    impact in their lives.
 Unreliability of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and power supply problem in rural
    Kenya was likely to hamper efficient service delivery of Information Kiosk.
 Consultancy services proposed were likely to be expensive.
 ICT illiteracy levels among the rural community lead most people to shy away the
    information kiosks.

9.0     Outputs of the Village Information Kiosk Project and Knowledge Management
 Provision of important agricultural information for development; information on
    improved seeds, fertilizer, pest control, harvesting, storage, transportation,
    marketing, credit facilities, irrigation, soil, crop care, animal husbandry, weather
    forecasting and subsequent training and capacity building ensured that knowledge
    patterns and wisdoms were left in rural communities.
 Provision of crucial health information and knowledge; disease prevention
    information, indigenous medicine, nutrition message, public health disease
    prevention, remote consultation, child care, HIV/AID exercise all empowered the
    local communities to grow and develop.
 Built capacity among the youth, women and vulnerable groups in entrepreneurship
    skills enable them to start enterprises and avoid or limit rural/urban migration.
 Through repackaged simple financial audits, there was enhanced political
    participation and governance at the grassroots’ levels, enabling transparency and
    accountability in the utilization of devolved funds; CDF, Road Levy Fund, LATF,
    primary and secondary school support fund.


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   Through repackaged formats of environmental information, there was sustainable
    environmental and natural resource utilization thereby reduced high risk of
    environmental vulnerability of the rural local people.
   Reduced youth unemployment, rural poverty and illiteracy through enhanced youth
    creativity, self confidence, esteem, discipline in Village Information Kiosk.
   Empowered grassroots’ communities were able to participate in socio-economic
    activities of the country.
   Use of IT as an important tool for education, thereby an enabling environment for
    quicker adoption of e-learning initiatives among the rural communities.
   Promote cultural dialogue among communities and thereby encourage peace and
    limit ethnic clashes.10

6.0     Conclusion
Village Information Kiosk project was and is based on the premise that rural poverty
can be alleviated if the majority of the population is informed, uplifted and
empowered by relevant information and knowledge strategies that enable the grasp
of grasped patterns and principles to be disseminated. The majority rural population
in Africa is illiterate and poor. People living in the cities have it all, be it access to
latest news/information, access to clean water and sanitation, access to electricity,
better education (schools & teachers), better health, better houses, fresh food etc.
These inequalities can be leveled out by people living in the cities through
supporting projects of this nature, which are earmarked for rural development. A
number of African countries have launched ICT for development ((ICT4D) initiatives,
and the focus of some of these initiatives have been aimed at poor people (ICT4P),
to create awareness, provide access, and use ICT in several creative ways to reduce
poverty. However, we wish to note that can only succeed if we build vast amount of
data into usable form, both digitized and non-digitized information for rural client
consumption. Two, if we avoid overloading users with unnecessary data that is
irrelevant to their development. Three, by ensuring that information we give is
current and lastly, by determining appropriate infrastructure requirement and new
technologies.

Village Information Kiosk Project is an ICT for development project and an ICT for
the poor project that is exposing the rural poor to information and development
insight (knowledge). So that persons grasps patterns and principles that help them
out of poverty. In deed, exposing rural poor people to information and knowledge,
provides them with a powerful weapon to deal with their poor situation and better
their lives. The phenomenal growth of small teleshops, telekiosks or telecentres,
which are now mushrooming in many parts of Kenya, affirm the important role that
ICT can play to alleviate the plight of poor people living in rural Africa. These are
centres providing a range of community-based activities and services that include
access to information and communications technology for individual, social, and
economic development.




                                                                                             10
The case study of Zacktech Village Information Kiosk in Nambale town of Busia
district, Kenya, shares lessons learnt, management styles, sustainability measures,
design of village information kiosks and outcomes of the project. The uniqueness of
this project is that it endeavors to reach rural and other poor communities through
enabling patterns and principles of knowledge to be known that would not have
traditionally been included in similar or ICT related projects. Having access to
information through the Internet and re-packaged information can help rural
individuals and their communities better their lives.

In designing ICT systems for rural communities, it is critical to implement measures
that will address the power problem confronting most rural communities. As has
been well documented, national electrical grid in most African countries covers a
percentage of the population, mostly urban populations. In Kenya, for example, the
grid system reaches 40 per cent of homes. This means about 60 per cent of Kenyan
households lack access to any means of conventional power. Even in the urban
areas where there is national grid, the quality of the service is an issue due to,
incessant power outage and at times no power for a considerable length of time. It is
difficult to provide Internet access and other communication services to areas not
connected to the electrical grid. This is a major limitation to development and the
spread of ICT in rural Africa. One solution to this problem is to develop an Off-Grid,
Digital, Electronic Network (OGDEN) as an initial communication and computing
network for off-grid users in rural Africa. This network could be based on solar
energy solutions to the power problem. Solar energy uses and array of photovoltaic
cells and its use is becoming widespread in several African countries. They are not
unduly expensive if no more than a few kilowatts of power is required.

The paper concludes by noting that ICT is a powerful enabler and its judicious
application to the plight of the poor could help move poverty to the dustbin of
history. Africa should do all it can to provide access to ICT for the poor. The current
digital disconnect isolates a sizable proportion of African people. At same income
levels, those in urban areas are 50% more likely to have internet access than those
earning the same income in rural area. That why Village Information Kiosk is a
critical project that can bridge the digital divide of rural communities. However,
this can only be made possible if the following factors are present – a) access to
telecommunication, b) electricity, c) finance and d) skills.




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  Costello, J.B 2000: Education. The fuel for Tech Golden Age. Electronic Business.
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mag/index.asp?layoutarticle&articled
3
  Wilson, E and Rodrigues, F.1999: “Are Poor Countries Losing the Internet
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4
  Pyramid Research 1999: “Will the Internet Close the Gap?” Report prepared for
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  Fleming, Neil. 2001: Coping with a Revolution: Will the Internet Change
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    Bateson, Gregory 1988: Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity. Bantam.
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 Senge, Peter 1990: The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning
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 Csikszentmihalyi, Miahly 1994: The Evolving-Self: A Psychology for the Third
Millennium, Harperperennial Library.
9
 Bellinger, Gene. Systems Thinking 2001: An Operational Perspective of the
Universe, New York.




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