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friends and i from the small NGO ‘laafi’ sat together the other day and talked about ideas about using IT in development projects (like walkie talkies or mobile phones for communication between remote / rural health institutions). we realized that it would be very useful to share know-how with other NGOs who most probably have been facing similar challenges.

however, hardly any NGOs of our size has decent project descriptions on its website (if they have one). the discussion went on that night and the idea evolved to launch a knowledge management portal covering the topic area “development work in burkina faso”.

we only found two KM examples within the development aid sphere, both of them using a top-down approach, with rather high inhibition tresholds for participation, poor visibility in search engines and both aren’t in german: (fuelled by the world bank) and (run by the world resources institute). in contrast to them we want to achieve a bottom-up know-how repository that is supposed to live from the general public: people engaged in development, students, journalists and simple website visitors. a dynamic resource anyone can contribute to. with good findability and in german.

everyone familiar with web technologies will already have guessed what solution we came up with to achieve the bottom-up approach: a wiki. it is supposed to cover the following areas: NGOs working in burkina, general information such as health care and education systems in burkina, project examples, discussions, etc. the plan is to add all the information laafi has about burkina and our projects and those of others, then to motivate other NGOs to contribute themselves and finally to hope that visitors referred by search engines will fill the site up with relevant content. all in german at first but it might be extended to english (and/or to the subject of other sahel countries) at some point.

the biggest challenge will be usability. folks interested in devoplement aid usually are everthing but geeks and won’t be familiar with concepts such as wiki. therefor contribution, information retrieval and context (“what is this?”) must reach unknown levels of simplicity. it needs to be intuitive, easy and with just as few advanced options as needed.

as i’ve never set up a wiki or a knowlede management portal, i’d be happy if you could point me to resources and articles that could be of interest, or if you could share your experiences in this field, and about tips on which wiki software to use! let’s see where this idea gets us.

ps. regarding findability: i expect this blog entry to be in the top three google results on “knowledge management” “development aid” within days. fancy a bet? ;-)

update july 11th: bet won (a pity nobody took the challenge;-), the entry is #1 on google now. however, martin pointed me to a more interesting and competitive keyword: ict4dev, which stands for “information technology for development”. he also pointed me to the NGO geekcorps and tomas krag and his blog multiplicity. thank you martin, that gives a lot of material for further investigations.

update 2007: the resulting platform has been launched in 2005: (German)


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