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Building Digitisation Capacity in developing countries: the case of Uganda. By Gertrude Kayaga Mulindwa Director – National Library of Uganda. Presented to the WDL Partners Meeting, Washington, D.C, 22-23 June, 2010 . Outline. Digitisation and preservation situation in Uganda

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building digitisation capacity in developing countries the case of uganda

Building Digitisation Capacity in developing countries: the case of Uganda


Gertrude Kayaga Mulindwa

Director – National Library of Uganda

Presented to the WDL Partners Meeting, Washington, D.C, 22-23 June, 2010


Digitisation and preservation situation in Uganda

Why digitise?

Project highlights


The ‘Good News’

Lessons learnt


digitisation and preservation situation in uganda
Digitisation andPreservation situation in Uganda

Cultural heritage institutions:

The National Library of Uganda (NLU) (2003)

The Uganda National Documentation Centre (1969)

Makerere University deposit library (1958)

Uganda National Museum

Uganda National Archives

digitisation and preservation cont
Digitisation and Preservation (Cont…)

In summary

The ‘national’ collection is a scattering of collections in various institutions and private hands.

In addition:

Conservation and preservation policies are almost non-existent in some institutions.

Most collections are not easily accessible to the general Ugandan public

digitisation and preservation cont5
Digitisation and Preservation (Cont…)

Also in existence are:

Archives in various religious institutions.

Private collections especially on cultural matters

eg.Genealogical records of clans in some Ugandan communities.

digitisation and preservation cont6
Digitisation and preservation (Cont…)

Several digitisation projects of different scales in Uganda include:

Digitisation of land records at the Ministry of Lands

Digitisation of university dissertations/theses at Makerere University (abstracts).

Digitisation of Church archives by Uganda Christian University

Uncoordinated efforts leading to duplication and under-usage of acquired capabilities.

is digitisation really a priority
Is digitisation really a priority?

Questions to think about:

Does it make sense to digitise?

Shouldn’t we be concentrating on more basic things to improve quality of life?

How about the levels of literacy

Has the Internet penetrated all sections of society?

eg.Uganda Bureau of Statistics: Literacy rate is about 68%

Uganda Communications Commission: Internet penetration less than 0.1%

the answer is yes
The answer is “Yes”

We would like to ensure that the collections are preserved, well-maintained and easily accessible for now, for the future, for Ugandans and for the world.

nlu s strengths
NLU’s strengths

The National Library is by law mandated to ensure preservation of Uganda’s documented heritage.

Ready and willing staff.

Funding from Carnegie

Support from the Library of Congress

wdl uganda project highlights
WDL Uganda Project highlights

Dec 2008– April 2009 - NLU approached Library of Congress about possible support.

March 2009 - Funding secured and preparations for the project commenced

March 2009 – Initial meeting with other stakeholders in the country.

April 2009- WDL launched in Paris

highlights cont
Highlights (cont…)

May 2009 - LC staff visited Uganda and met with NLU and other institutions

Aug 2009 - Partner agreement signed with LC

Sept – Dec 2009 - Site prepared and staff recruited.

Visit made to Egypt (Bibliotheca Alexandrina and National Library of Egypt)

highlights cont12
Highlights (Cont…)

January 2010 - Equipment delivered

- LC staff arrived in Uganda to carry out training

February 2010 - Initial training completed

- Scanning commenced

March 2010 - Official launch done

June 2010 - Over 60 items (Mostly in book form) from various institutions have so far been scanned and preservation and conservation work carried out on them.


Young national library - Limited number of WDL qualifying items from NLU collections

Poor environment for documents - Tropics climate and paper documents do not go together – humidity, mould, insects, water and dust

challenges cont
Challenges (Cont…)

Documents scattered in various institutions.

People not being aware of the ‘treasures’ they have and having thrown them away because they have photocopies.

Suspicion by holding institutions as to the project’s intentions

challenges cont15
Challenges (Cont…)

Poor handling of documents leading to their destruction. Some of those that qualify for the project are in a very brittle state.

challenges cont16
Challenges (Cont…)

Intangible heritage

Most of what we can show to the world that is unique to us and inherent within us is passed on to the next generation orally.

Most of our uniqueness is therefore undocumented


Competing national priorities.

Lack of Internet access by most ordinary Ugandans.

the good news
The ‘Good News’

Rising interest among the general public to preserve our documented heritage.

Communities getting involved in creating their own digital content

the good news cont
The ‘Good News’ (cont…)

Raised profile of the NLU and the project

the good news cont20
The ‘Good News’ (Cont…)

Discovering those “gems” where they are least expected

Some items have been discovered in private homes and owners are willing to pass them on to the NLU

the good news cont21
The ‘Good News’ (Cont…)

Inclusion of digitization as a way of preservation in the next five year national development plan

the good news cont22
The ‘Good News’ (Cont…)

Building our conservation and other capabilities

This is the start of what we believe will be a conservation department that can be used by other institutions.

The meta data skills we are building on are now being used in other work of the institution

the good news cont23
The ‘Good News’ (Cont…)

Getting other institutions sensitive about conservation

Many have requested to come and train in both conservation and digitisation at NLU

the good news cont24
The ‘Good News’ (Cont…)

With like-minded individuals and institutions, the NLU is steadily getting a national collection together:

Documents in the public domain held in different institutions are now being put in one space.

lessons learnt
Lessons learnt

The need to work closely with other stakeholders in the country.

The need to borrow experience from those already involved in digitisation work.

The need to fully integrate digitisation into the mainstream work of the institution


It is important to maintain the momentum and interest that the project has generated in the country. We hope to continue with what we have done so far and to get even institutions in the region involved as was the initial intention.

For those many endangered items especially where the climate and other conditions are not friendly to paper and other library items, digitisation provides a viable alternative to preserving them for future generations.