African heritage is at risk due to lack of funding for conservation, unregulated development, conflicts and natural disasters. While there are countless examples of positive initiatives and innovative administrators fighting against the odds to conserve heritage in Africa, we need a much broader, long term vision to record our invaluable heritage resources on the continent in order to protect them and disseminate their value to society.
We want to conserve heritage and at the same time unlock its potential to make a positive difference in people’s lives. To achieve this, we are developing and implementing digital national heritage management systems for use by heritage managers, researchers, museums, property developers and the public alike. These systems are unique in that they integrate the documentation of heritage with the management thereof.
The use of free and open source software such as Drupal, GeoServer and OpenDataKit allows us to cost-effectively develop highly efficient and powerful systems. Our mobile apps for site and objects are revolutionising the way people record heritage data. We work closely with national heritage authorities during the implementation phase to ensure that the systems fulfill national requirements and that heritage managers receive proper training. We also provide ongoing technical support to ensure long-term sustainability.
While our systems provide the safe and secure platforms needed for hosting digital content, they do not solve the issue of digitisation itself. This is an immense task that requires participation and commitment by a wide range of stakeholders. That is why we are taking the leading role in driving the digitisation process. By working from the ground up and digitising heritage resources for dissemination through the Creative Commons license, we are doing everything we can to ensure that the rich content arising from these heritage assets reaches its intended audience.
The key to successful heritage conservation is a society that values its past. Our systems are intended to promote and foster public interest in heritage. Their interactive nature allows users to discover, explore, comment and participate in all matters heritage-related. We see it as an ideal source of information that people can use to discover and engage with their past, their history, their roots.