Collecting structured indigenous knowledge for enhanced exploration: the National Recordal System (NRS), South Africa


  • Ronell Alberts
  • Gugu Khalala
  • Onkgopotse Molefe


indigenous knowledge, research, knowledge management, value, South Africa


Indigenous Knowledge (IK) is recognised as a valuable, often untapped resource. It is increasingly important to record un-captured IK for the purposes of protection, preservation and promotion. The potential of IK for the use of scientific research and development is known and can be financially beneficial to the holders of IK in communities when managed properly. The need to be able to effectively explore recorded IK for the purposes of scientific investigation and to prove prior knowledge is increasing. The exploration of IK recorded as free-form stories is found to be less effective for these purposes. In order to increase the effectiveness of exploration of recorded IK, an approach was defined to enrich the processes of IK collection by defining structured metadata to be collected in addition to the IK story itself. The National Recordal System (NRS) initiative in South Africa has been used as a case study for this approach. The approach, implementation, evaluation and results in terms of the effectiveness of the process, the effect of the introduction of structured metadata in the process and the resulting effectiveness of exploration are described in this paper.


Agrawal, A., 1995. Dismantling the divide between indigenous and scientific knowledge. Development and Change, 26, 413?439.
Bidwell, N.J., Reitmaier, T., Marsden, G., and Hansen, S., 2010. Designing with mobile digital storytelling in rural Africa. CHI 2010: Storytelling.
Cooper, J., Lewis, R., and Urquhart, C., 2004. Using participant or non-participant observation to explain information behaviour. Information Research, 9 (4), paper 184. Available from:
Department of Science and Technology, 2004. Indigenous knowledge systems policy [online]. Available from:
[Accessed 30 May 2011]., n.d. Story [online]. Available from:
browse/story [Accessed 30 May 2011].
Feng, Y.,Wu, Z., Zhou, X., Zhou, Z., and Fan,W., 2006. Knowledge discovery in traditional Chinese medicine: state of the art and perspectives. Artificial Intelligence in Medicine, 38, 219?236.
Global Exchange, 2001. Biopiracy a new threat to indigenous rights and culture in Mexico. Global Exchange [online]. Available from: [Accessed 30 May 2011].
Halpin, T. and Morgan, T., 2008. Information modeling and relational databases. 2nd ed. Morgan Kaufman.
Hillmann, D.I., 2005 (November). Using Dublin Core. Available from: [Accessed 30 May 2011].
Johnson, O., 2002. Venezuelan project establishes indigenous plant database. British Medical Journal, 325(7357), 183.
Liu, Y. and Sun, Y., 2004. China traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) patent database. World Patent Information, 26, 91?96.
Okorafor, C.N., 2010. Challenges confronting libraries in documentation and communication of indigenous knowledge in Nigeria. The International Information & Library Review, 42, 8?13.
Rao, S.S., 2006. Indigenous knowledge organization: an Indian scenario. International Journal of Information Management, 26, 224?233.
Ruiz, M., Lapeña, I., and Clark, S.E., 2004. The protection of traditional knowledge in Peru: a comparative perspective. Washington University Global Studies Law Review, 3, 755?797.
Sen, B., 2005. Indigenous knowledge for development: bringing research and practice together. The International Information & Library Review, 37, 375?382.
Sillitoe, M., 2009. Future of indigenous knowledge research in development. Futures, 41, 13?23.
Telfer, W.R. and Garde, M.J., 2006. Indigenous knowledge of rock kangaroo ecology in Western Arnhem land, Australia. Human Ecology, 24, 379?406.
Tella, R.D., 2007. Towards promotion and dissemination of indigenous knowledge: a case of NIRD. The International Information and Library Review, 39, 185?193.
Traditional knowledge digital library, n.d. About TKDL [online]. Available from: http://www.tkdl. [Accessed 30 May 2011].
UCEL, 2004. Universities collaboration in eLearning glossary of key terms [online]. Available from: [Accessed 30 May 2011].
Walsham, G., 1995. Interpretive case studies in research: nature and method. European Journal of Information Systems, 4(2), 74?81.
Weibel, S.L. and Koch, T., 2000. The Dublin Core metadata initiative. D -Lib Magazine, 6(12), 1082.
WHO, 1994. International classification of diseases (ICD) [online]. Available from: http://www.who.
int/classifications/icd/en/index.html [Accessed 30 May 2011].
WIPO, 1971. International patent classification (IPC) [online]. Available from: [Accessed 30 May 2011].