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UCL Qatar: Introducing Innovation Labs to Zambian Cultural Heritage Institutions

GuestBlogger25 September 2019

By Milena Dobreva-McPherson, Associate Professor, Library and Information Studies, UCL Qatar.

Over the years, UCL academics have contributed in different ways to the six Grand Challenges. One of them is Cultural Understanding, and it looks at the differing, complex, and evolving relationships between people, communities, and culture in the interconnected world of today.

After many years of digitisation in libraries, museums and archives around the globe, there is a vast accumulation of digital content. We are used to it at our fingertips on any digital device. But imagine that you are interested in the diaries and other objects related to the explorations of David Livingstone in Zambia. They have already been digitised, but you must take a trip to consult the digitised collection of the museum on-site because it is not available online.

This is still the case with plenty of cultural and scientific heritage digital content from the Global South, a region which suffers the digital divide.

The digital divide results in many deficits in access to knowledge due to missing, or the very slow adoption of, modern technology. In the cultural heritage domain, the digital divide results in the lack of exposure of digital content which exists but is not made available online. There are various explanations why this is the case – ranging from lack of suitable infrastructure for digital asset management to inadequate or missing policies for user engagement with the digital content.

Led by the desire to explore what this means in the Sub Saharan African context, I submitted a proposal to the most recent call for teaching activities in Africa and the Middle East of the Global Engagement Office at UCL. It aimed to deliver the first workshop in innovation labs in cultural heritage institutions for Sub Saharan Africa in Zambia.

Having two major obstacles in mind – inadequate infrastructures and lack of user engagement policies – we designed a workshop which addressed both areas. In a world where Open Science becomes increasingly popular, the opportunities for digital presence are changing. One solution to the issue of not sharing content online due to inadequate institutional infrastructure is to start using open platforms.

The exciting work started when my proposal received support, and we scheduled our workshop to be delivered on 1 August 2019 at Livingstone Museum, Zambia.

Fig. 1. Zambian digital content is mostly available for consultation in-house – thus world users cannot access it as a consequence of the digital divide

The rationale of the workshop was to spread the innovative knowledge accumulated at UCL Qatar to setting up successful innovation labs in cultural heritage institutions in Zambia. The workshop targeted professionals from Cultural Heritage Institutions who have responsibilities to manage digital collections and those with future intentions of engaging in the curation of a digital collection in Zambia. The workshop aimed to:

  • Equip museum and library professionals in Zambia with knowledge on the approaches to setting innovation labs and discussing how local institutions can work towards creating such labs.
  • Raise awareness on the role cultural institutions offering digital content play in boosting the digital skills of scholars, educators, learners, and creatives.

UCL Qatar worked with several institutions in Zambia to prepare and deliver the workshop, including the National Museums Board of Zambia – an umbrella institution for national museums, the National Archives of Zambia, and the Department of Library and Information Science from the University of Zambia (UNZA). It also included online interventions from the British Library.

We focused the content of the workshop on state-of-the-art digitisation, examples of digitisation projects from Zambia, and setting up innovation labs in libraries, museums, and archives. There was also plenty of discussions and a practical exercise on understanding better the needs of users of digital collections.

Participants

Initially designed for 15 participants, the workshop was delivered to a total of 27 participants (see Fig. 2)

Fig. 2.  Profiles of participants
Figure 3: Workshop participants

Feedback and impact

Eighteen out of the 27 participants provided feedback and it was overwhelmingly positive. The participants were asked to rate the content of the workshop and also to comment on the value of the knowledge for themselves and their institutions.

One participant said:

“The programme should be repeated for other professionals in Zambia and if it comes I will recommend it to others.”

There were also opinions on how to take forward the knowledge shared at the workshop:

“Put the knowledge acquired in the workshop to use ASAP, conduct a follow up workshop to determine progress in created innovation labs, and massive awareness creation of the existence of the innovation labs created to potential users”

“Embrace new trends and technologies relating to digital platforms and information sharing through innovation labs”

“I’m suggesting that maybe if its possible to continue having such workshops every year so that we learn more new techniques on how to improve our libraries. Also, the workshop should have taken at least three days to allow participants learn more”.

The workshop received media coverage from three newspapers and some local radio stations.

Another innovative outcome from this event was that UCL Qatar added the first-ever dataset of the potential for Innovation labs in Africa on the UCL repository: Dobreva, M., and Phiri, F.. (2019, August 20). Cultural Heritage Innovation Labs in Africa (Version 1). figshare. https://doi.org/10.5522/04/9685127.v1

A Google folder with all the presentations, press coverage, and photos of the event is also openly available: Innovation Labs Workshop – Zambia

Conclusion

The Funding from GEO made it possible for UCL Qatar to host this first-of-its-kind workshop in Sub Saharan Africa.

This has resulted in a beneficial collaboration with local institutions in Zambia such as the National Museum Board of Zambia, University of Zambia and National Archives of Zambia to deliver of the first-ever workshop on Innovation Labs in Sub Saharan Africa.

The workshop also inspired a new sense of enthusiasm in participants to make their digital collection accessible online.

Acknowledgment

I would like to thank Dania Jalees for the infographics, Fred Nuyambe for the photograph and Fidelity Phiri who collaborated on this project.

Hola Colombia!

AbdulElmi17 August 2017

abdul-elmi_testAbdul is a fourth-year UCL medical student and President of the UCLU Somali Society

I’m sitting here writing my first ever blog thinking about where should I start. I suppose the logical place to start is the point at when this opportunity became a reality.

A few weeks ago, I was in Saudi, trying to withstand the blazing heat, feeling tired, fasting and doing all of this without Wi-Fi. I returned to my hotel room from the Great Holy Mosque of Saudi to an email notifying me that I had been selected to represent UCL at the One Young World (OYW) Summit in Bogotá, Colombia in October.

One Young World

Attending the summit has been a burning desire of mine this past year. One Young World brings together young leaders from around the world, empowering them to make lasting connections to create positive change. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and with this in mind I would like to take this opportunity to thank UCL for making this possible.

February Fundraiser

My desire to effect positive change in the world really took flight earlier this year when I became heavily involved in a range of fundraising initiatives and events to raise money for the Somali Drought Appeal. Through the February Fundraiser, a student-led initiative organised by Somali Youth for Integrity (SYFI) bringing together Somali societies from different institutions, including UCL, we managed to raise £120,000 for the Somali drought. The organisations united under a common goal, to provide aid to those suffering at the hands of the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two.

UCLU Somali Society, in particular, organised a series of successful fundraising initiatives for the February Fundraiser. The highlight was Inspire, where we managed to raise £40,000, in collaboration with Elays Network and Bright Education Centre. After this event, I was surprised to see how many UCL students got involved with the cause.

The UCL BME (Black & Minority Ethnic) Students’ Network allowed the Somali Society to fundraise at the end of the Black Lives Matter events. As a result of this opportunity, we managed to raise an extra £2,000. This was an eye-opening experience as it allowed me to see first-hand the potential we possess as students and that if we work together we can achieve anything.

Copyright Human Appeal, which ran the provided emergency food relief to drought affected internally displaced people
The outcome

The money raised during the February Fundraiser, in collaboration with UK charity Human Appeal, provided emergency food relief to drought affected internally displaced people and host communities. It also provided clean and safe water to vulnerable households in Dolow and Luuq districts. The project will rehabilitate community owned water infrastructure to improve suitability and ownership as well as improve hygiene awareness and enhance the food security of vulnerable households.

One thing that is clear from all the amazing work done by students on campus is that more and more young people are discussing important global issues. Not only with regards to humanitarian affairs, but also political matters such as the current debacle regarding university tuition fees and the NHS.

The future

My hope is that I will return from the summit with a clear vision of how I would like to use my newly elected position, as the next President of the UCLU Somali Society as well as the Vice-President of SYFI, to start discussions regarding some of the world’s most pressing issues. I would also work to provide plenty of opportunities for individuals to make a difference.

I feel that it is of utmost importance to involve students in these discussions so they can provide a unique insight into potential solutions. I want to inspire students to do more for those in need. I would like more people to become motivated and involved. We are the generation that should solve a lot of the world’s issues so it is really important for us to work together effectively to make strides to overcome them.

Last but not least, I’ve enrolled myself onto a Spanish language course and have already started to practise my salsa dancing with ‘Despacito’ on loud. Hola Colombia, I’m ready for you!

Images © Human Appeal

UCL in Africa: strengthening collaborations

ClareBurke24 May 2017

Drummers welcome delegates at the first conference of the African Universities Research AllianceIn line with the Global Engagement Strategy (GES), UCL is intensifying its engagement in Africa. In April 2017, UCL colleagues conducted visits to Ghana and South Africa to strengthen existing partnerships and to facilitate the development of further avenues for collaboration with current and potential partners.

Africa Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) launch

The Pro-Vice-Provost (Africa and Middle East), Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu, travelled to Ghana to attend the inaugural African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) conference held at the University of Ghana.

ARUA was inaugurated in Dakar in March 2015, bringing together sixteen of the continent’s top institutions with a common vision to leverage their resources for greater impact, similar to the Russell Group in the UK. Under the theme ‘Research in Africa Rising’, the conference was attended by over 100 delegates and marked the official launch of ARUA.

The event also served as a platform to announce ARUA’s strategic objectives which will focus on increasing Africa’s contribution to global cutting edge research output, the number of PhD graduates working on the continent and increasing the number of African universities in the top 200 universities globally over a ten year period.

UCL was one of two non-African institutions invited to speak at the event, and Professor Uchegbu joined a panel to present on: “New Trends and Developments in Global Scientific Research and the Role of Universities.” She gave an overview of UCL’s multidisciplinary approach, particularly in light of the Global Challenges Research Fund as well as the importance of translational research.

In the margins of presentations Professor Uchegbu met with key colleagues at ARUA institutions to discuss strengths within their institutions and identify possible areas for future collaboration with UCL.

The synergies between the key challenges that ARUA seeks to address and the GES strategic drivers allow for potential bilateral collaboration between UCL and ARUA. Current priority areas for ARUA will focus on collaborative research, training and support for PhDs, capacity building for research management and research advocacy.

In terms of next steps, ARUA will pursue a number of large multi-institutional projects in both the natural sciences and social sciences/humanities under the thirteen themes they have identified to take forward collaborative research.

University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) visit

Led by Dame Nicola Brewer, Vice-Provost (International), a UCL delegation carried out a two-day visit of UKZN. The visit served as an opportunity to strengthen the partnership between the two institutions, and to evaluate potential channels for wider-collaboration and increased impact.

The delegation outlined UCL’s support for collaborating with UKZN beyond existing health-related collaborations, such as the African Health Research Institute (AHRI), and highlighted how AHRI’s aims and vision align to the GES. The inclusion of the Vice-Dean (External Relations and International) Population Health Sciences and the Director of UCL Institute of Advanced Studies enabled colleagues to explore academic collaborations within disciplines that were not previously discussed, such as Arts and Humanities and Laws.

During the visit both institutions agreed to hold a data sharing day, which would be hosted in London at UCL. This would enable UKZN colleagues to meet with UCL colleagues and to build on the initial discussions in South Africa. Held on 18 May, the event enabled UKZN colleagues to meet with UCL colleagues and facilitate discussions on potential collaborations and possible fundable research topics, accessible through funding such as GCRF.

Ask GEO: Clare Burke, Partnership Manager (Africa and Middle East)

JasonLewis24 May 2017

Clare_5901_SquareClare is GEO’s Partnership Manager for Africa and Middle East. She gives us an update on her work and recent visit to Ghana and South Africa.

Tell us more about your role in GEO and activity in your regions.

Since GEO was established in November 2015, I have spent time developing links with UCL colleagues who are working across Africa and the Middle East and have learned (and still continue to learn) about the type of collaborations that colleagues are engaged with. I have been amazed with the breadth of collaboration taking place across both the institution and the number of UCL Faculties and Departments who are working across these regions.

To date, I have information on almost 200 collaborations taking place on the African continent and around 45 collaborations taking place across the Middle East but I have just scratched the surface of this work and I plan to build on this data over the summer.

In terms of intensifying our engagement, UCL is exploring how we can strengthen our existing partnerships with a number of institutions including the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) , the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), and the African Health Research Institute (AHRI).

You recently returned from a visit to Africa. Could you tell us what countries you visited and how the trip went?

I recently visited Ghana and South Africa as part of a larger UCL delegation to meet with universities and to learn about their research strengths and to identify potential areas of collaboration.

In Ghana, together with the Pro-Vice-Provost (Africa and Middle East), Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu, I attended the inaugural ARUA Conference. The African Research Universities Alliance or ARUA , as it is more commonly known, comprises of 16 of the top research intensive universities from 9 countries across the African continent. Led by Professor Ernest Aryeetey, ARUA’s Secretary General, this ‘Russell-Group type’ alliance will boost higher education across the continent and encourage more Western collaborations with African universities outside South Africa.

In South Africa, the delegation led by the Vice-Provost (International) visited the University of KwaZulu-Natal to strengthen the existing partnership with the university in relation to the wider African Health Research Institute (AHRI) collaboration and to explore collaborations within other disciplines (beyond health) including Arts and Humanities and Laws.

What’re you working on at the moment?

At the moment, I am following up on post-visit actions. For example, the UCL delegation met with over 40 UKZN colleagues in South Africa so I am identifying possible areas of synergy and facilitating introductions between UCL and UKZN colleagues to see if there is scope for future collaboration.

Similarly, we held a data-sharing day with UZKN colleagues here in London to build on some of the initial conversations held in Durban so that UCL and UKZN colleagues could meet each other face to face.

I am also working with SLMS colleagues on the AHRI collaboration, while we explore if this type 2 partnership could become one of future strategic partnerships given its close alignment to a number of the Strategic Drivers of the Global Engagement Strategy (GES).

Finally, over the summer, I will continue to build on the regional data mapping exercise and will capture more information on UCL’s activities and collaborations across the region so that we can share this across the institution. If your work is not included, let me know!

How can people keep up to date with UCL’s activity in Africa and Middle East?

I regularly circulate details of upcoming regionally-focussed events and funding calls as well as our termly newsletter which includes regional highlights and success stories. Together with the Pro-Vice-Provost (Africa and Middle East), I also coordinate termly meetings which all network members are invited to. We hold region specific events each year; our successful Knowledge Africa 2017 – Africa Unheard event took place in February and the next event, UCL in the Middle East 2017: The Middle East re-mapped will take place on 5 June. Network membership has increased significantly in the last 12 months and I would encourage colleagues with an interest in the region to sign up to our mailing list.

 

Contact Clare on:

clare.burke@ucl.ac.uk
+44 (0)20 3108 7776 / internal 57776

Knowledge Africa 2017 – Africa Unheard

SophieVinter13 January 2017

This year’s Knowledge Africa Day will showcase UCL research that is informed by Africa, representing a cognisant shift in position from sharing knowledge about the continent.

The half-day Africa Unheard event on Wednesday 15 February is the second of its kind, open to staff and students from across UCL including members of the Africa & Middle East Network.

Diverse speakers will explore the ideas of African thinkers, research and research methodologies informed by African perspectives and context, and research that engages with Africa and Africans (including African Diaspora) to create knowledge about places outside of Africa and about non-Africans.

Keynote speaker will be Professor Graham Harrison, Director of Postgraduate Research, Department of Politics at the University of Sheffield, who will explore the variegated ways in which discourses and imagery of Africa are transposed through acts of mediation into the milieux of British national identity.

Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu, Pro-Vice-Provost (Africa & Middle East) said: “Africa Unheard will explore the idea that ‘Africa’ or ‘Africans’ are often framed as the subject of research and the point of enquiry, potentially silencing the multiple ways in which Africa informs research. It will help to build a platform for staff and students to listen, learn and engage with other ways of knowing Africa.”

Knowledge Africa presents…

ClareBurke22 June 2016

Guests network at the inaugural Knowledge Africa eventThe inaugural Knowledge Africa event was held at UCL on 16 June, marking the International Day of the African Child and the 40th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising.

The event, organised by Regional Pro-Vice-Provost (Africa & Middle East) Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu and the Global Engagement Office, brought together key academics from UCL working on Africa-relevant research with a view to fostering interdisciplinary work.

A series of lectures focused on healthcare, infrastructure and social questions relevant to a number of African countries. Highlights included:

  • Deenan Pillay, Director of the Africa Centre for Population Health, presenting his vision to build the world’s leading global human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and tuberculosis research centre
  • How healthcare budgets may be prioritised to achieve the best outcomes for their HIV patients, demonstrated by Jolene Skordis-Worrall of the Institute for Global Health
  • Using data from the iSense programme, presented by Rachel McKendry of the London Centre for Nanotechnology, to improve disease diagnosis in rural South African communities
  • Yacob Mulugetta of the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) describing innovative methods of bringing energy to households
  • Richard Taylor of the Geography department presenting work on improving rural access to water supplies
  • Governance issues being highlighted by Michael Walls of the Development Planning Unit, who outlined the electoral challenges facing Somaliland
  • Kamna Patel defining the notion of inclusive citizenship; a concept that focuses on the most disadvantaged individuals in any society
  • Hélène Neveu Kringelbach giving an insightful presentation on the use of dance as a form of protest
  • Details of funding streams available for work in the region from Carlos Huggins of UCL Consultancy.

Dr Kamna Patel looking at the poster boardsA panel discussion raised interesting questions on the role of Western institutions in setting and delivering the African research agenda.

Attendees networked during a poster session and photographic exhibition that showcased research projects across the university.

Naomi Britton, Professional and Executive Education Coordinator at UCL STEaPP, said: “I found the event really helpful and enlightening, seeing all the different activities underway in the Africa region. It’s definitely highlighted research in different departments that we could look at partnering with in STEaPP.”

Knowledge Africa: Join us to celebrate UCL’s work in the region

SophieVinter3 June 2016

Audience members pose questions to the panel at the African Voices 'Question Time' eventThe Africa & Middle East Regional Network is excited to be hosting its first “Knowledge Africa” event, to celebrate UCL’s work in the area.

Taking place on Thursday 16 June, the event will cover topics ranging from UCL’s frontline stance in the fight against HIV to connecting East African households to electricity supplies.

There will be the opportunity to find out more about different initiatives and opportunities through a series of presentations and a photo exhibition. Students are also encouraged to take part by submitting a poster illustrating their work for display on the day.

Find out more about speakers due to take part here.

Knowledge Africa was established following feedback from members of the Africa & Middle East Regional Network, which meets once a term, who wanted to find a new way to engage colleagues from across the university in the latest initiatives.

Ijeoma Uchegbu, Pro-Vice-Provost for Africa & the Middle East, said: “UCL has a great range of collaborations underway with partners across the continent and we’re really looking forward to bringing together academics and students to showcase these and celebrate their work.”

Knowledge Africa will take place from 9.00 – 13.00 in Roberts 110. Register to attend on Eventbrite here.

UCL Professor conferred Honorary Doctorate recognising partnership work

SophieVinter27 April 2016

Professor Alimuddin ZumlaUCL Professor Alimuddin Zumla has been awarded the title of Honorary Doctor of Medicine (MDhc) by Sweden’s prestigious Karolinska Institutet (KI), in recognition of his partnership work and research into infectious disease.

The professor in Infectious Diseases and International Health at UCL’s Faculty of Medical Sciences has made seminal contributions to the understanding and advancement of knowledge of the epidemiology, transmission, pathogenesis, rapid diagnosis and treatment of respiratory tract infections, particularly tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

He was distinguished by the KI Board of Research for establishing equitable research partnerships between Europe, USA, Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as effectively aligning these to capacity development and training activities.

Tackling global emergencies

Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS were declared global emergencies by the World Health Organization in 1992 and Prof Zumla’s data have been used for developing new global diagnostic, prevention and treatment guidelines.

Working closely with KI researchers on numerous high impact publications, including Professor Markus Maeurer with whom he has collaborated over the past seven years, Professor Zumla co-established the Host-Directed Therapies network consortium of 64 international partners.

Its objectives include evaluating new clinical trials, developing high quality laboratory infrastructure at African partner sites and empowering a high calibre cadre of African researchers to lead future investigations.

Driving force for training

Alimuddin Zumla, Honorary Doctor of Medicine with members of the Host-Directed Therapies networkA statement on KI website reads: “Alimuddin Zumla has been awarded numerous honors, medals and prizes not only for his scientific excellence, but also for his contributions to international policy development and advancement of public health agenda on infectious diseases with epidemic potential.

“He has also been a major driving force for training of young developing country physicians, scientists and laboratory personnel.”

Each year KI confers honorary doctorates to individuals for their “vital scientific achievements or significant contributions to the university or humanity at large.”

Professor Zumla will have his doctorate formally conferred at a ceremony in the Stockholm City Hall on 13 May 2016.

UCL academics supporting developing countries to tackle corruption

SophieVinter19 February 2016

UCL academics helping developing countries to combat corruption have secured British Academy funding to support their research.

Professor Alena Ledeneva (School of Slavonic and East European Studies) and Dr Christian Schuster (Department of Political Science) are part of teams that recently secured grants from the Academy’s £4 million global anti-corruption research scheme.

Run in partnership with the Department for International Development (DFID), the scheme funds projects that will identify new initiatives that can help developing countries tackle corruption and the negative impact it has on millions of people’s lives.

Professor Ledeneva is working with academics at the Basel Institute on Governance (Switzerland) and SOAS on a project proposing to emphasise the role that informality plays in fuelling corruption and stifling anti-corruption policies in East Africa.

Drawing on a global network of scholars, Dr Schuster is co-investigator on a project researching civil service reform and anti-corruption in developing countries. The initiative will obtain tools and evidence from eight countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, investigating the impact of civil service practices in key areas such as recruitment, dismissal and integrity management.

Their research will provide new evidence for use by DFID and its partners.

Lord Stern, President of the British Academy said: “Endemic corruption is an enormous international challenge that blights far too many countries and research such as this is one of the most worthwhile ways that the UK can offer practical support.”

School pupils give entrepreneurship a global squeeze with Citrus Saturday

KerryMilton3 July 2015

School pupils around the world will be starting their first enterprises on Saturday 4 July as part of Citrus Saturday, a UCL initiative to get young people thinking about entrepreneurship. The programme gives teams of young people aged 11 to 15 years a taste of running their own businesses through setting up and managing lemonade stands for the day.

Over 200 young people are due to take part in this year’s event, with participating countries including the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Poland, Armenia, Swaziland, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Niger, Kenya and Tanzania.

Media are invited to attend the formal launch at the British Library where Timothy Barnes and Jack Wratten will be available for interview from 11:30am, while local and international media can also attend local stands – for a full list of where Citrus Saturday is happening please visit the website

Citrus Saturday, which is in its fifth year in the UK and second internationally, is a hands-on education programme developed by UCL to provide an introduction to entrepreneurship for young people.

Each team will run their stand as closely to that of a small business as possible, having been provided with seed funding from UCL to buy fruit and materials for the day. Any profits made are kept by the teams to reinforce the link between hard work and earning money.

Jack Wratten, Citrus Saturday Manager, said: “Our mission is to ensure that every young person in the world who wants to learn about business and experience entrepreneurship first-hand gets the opportunity to do just that.

“Citrus Saturday helps to fulfil the need for enterprise education in a fun and easy way, students directly learn skills not only valuable for entrepreneurs but for the entire workforce of tomorrow.”

Participation in the programme, which was established in 2011 by Timothy Barnes, Director of UCL Enterprise Operations, has tripled since last year and aims to engage with 1 million young people by 2020.

The programme is designed for small teams of pupils, with the Citrus Saturday Toolkit available to any organisation that works with young people. The Toolkit includes all materials needed to run workshops covering the basics of being an entrepreneur.

The teams will be supervised by volunteers from UCL and the wider community, who will provide support on the day and at introductory workshops, teaching the teams everything from business planning to food hygiene.

The stands have been generously supported by partners including The British Library, Spitalfields Market and Network Rail, with supplies provided by Booker.