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Rwandapedia: Their Story, Their Way

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, November 7 2013

Rwandan Flag (Wikipedia)

Last week at the Transform Africa Summit, a conference centered on development and ICT, Rwanda launched a digital archive called Rwandapedia, a collection of cultural and historical information about the country. The site as it is now focuses on the past 20 years, after the genocide in 1994. However, much like the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, Rwandapedia is a platform through which anyone can submit stories and material, and will eventually encompass a much deeper history.

The platform is supported by the Rwandan government and the African Development Bank.

"Critically it is Rwanda-developed, Rwanda-owned and Rwanda-managed,” Rwanda Minister for Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo said at the Rwandapedia launch in Kigali. “In the past information would come from non-Africans ... all written and produced by non-Rwandans. Rwandapedia allows us, Rwandans, to tell our own story, our own way."

Although the digital archive is a shift away from the tradition of oral storytelling, the crowdsourcing aspect will ensure that many different voices are included.

A quick visit to the site this morning reveals that it currently has 323 documents, 794 images, 83 videos and three audio files.

A short YouTube video introducing the platform focuses on a section of their site called "Home Grown Solutions," which includes information on local development programs like One Cow per Poor Family, inspired by traditional culture and practices. One Cow per Poor Family has roots in a tradition call Girinka, in which cows were gifted as either marriage dowry or as a sign of respect and gratitude.

The Catalan people, located mostly in Northern Spain, are also striving to preserve their culture and language in a digital archive, although they have not gone so far as to create a new platform. Instead, many Catalans have contributed to Viquipèdia, the Catalan Wikipedia, which has more than 400,000 articles. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales praised their efforts last month at the Open Science conference.

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