Preservation & promotion of culture and indigenous knowledge- Use of Regional Language in ICT
“A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” -Mahatma Gandhi
- Indigenous Knowledge (IK) refers to the knowledge, innovations, and practices of indigenous groups in matters related to agriculture and environmental management, medicine and health, and art and language.
- Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs) are also part of IK. Like IK, TCEs have also been passed from one generation to the next (orally or by tradition) and are an integral part of a culture’s identity and heritage.
- These expressions include, but are not limited to, music and song, stories, symbols, dances, rituals, architecture, arts and crafts.
- Indigenous knowledge has been noted to make a significant contribution to sustainable development of local communities, as it is seen as a set of perceptions, information, and behaviour that guide local community members to use the land and natural resources.
- The goal of managing indigenous knowledge is to provide the right information to the right people at the right time.
- Traditions represent a critical piece of our culture. They remind us that we are part of a history that defines our past, shapes who we are today and who we are likely to become. It brings families together and enables people to reconnect with friends and functions to strengthen a sense of community.
- Tradition reinforces values such as freedom, faith, integrity, a good education, personal responsibility, a strong work ethic, and the value of being selfless.
- Traditional Knowledge includes Cultural Knowledge, Artistic Knowledge, Medicinal Knowledge, Biodiversity/ Natural Resources Knowledge, Agricultural Knowledge, Sacred Knowledge
- The word, ‘indigenous’ ordinarily means ‘belonging to’, or ‘specific to’, or ‘a particular place’. Dictionaries define the term indigenous as “originating or occurring naturally in a country or region. In this sense, the terms “traditional knowledge” and “indigenous knowledge” may be interchangeable.
- WIPO also states that TK and IK would be interchangeable if we consider the term indigenous to mean, ‘belonging to’, or ‘specific to’, or ‘a particular place’
Some important characteristics of TK can be identified as follows:
- it is transmitted from generations to generations
- in many cases, it is transmitted orally for generations from person to person
- it is being considered by the communities as gift of God and not as a private property
- such knowledge typically distinguishes one community from another
- it is usually impossible to identify the original creator of the information
- it is learned through continuous observation, experience and practice
- it is inseparable part of communal and cultural life of its holders, and
- it is usually associated with the biological resources
Indigenous Knowledge (IK):
- The indigenous groups all over the world have peculiar cultural belief systems which demonstrate their immense knowledge and respect for the earth.
- These systems contain rules that define how the environment should be treated.
- Their various rituals, ceremonies and prohibitions regulate the use of natural resources and resource management aiming at a balanced ecosystem. Indigenous people are the custodians of the invaluable biological and genetic wealth on the earth.
- To entitle certain knowledge as indigenous, it must posses certain characteristics, namely,
- communal ownership and attribution of knowledge
- sharing of knowledge through specific consent of the relevant group
- right to use and deal with knowledge
- collective rights and interests held by indigenous people in their knowledge
- close interdependence between knowledge, land, and other aspects of culture in indigenous societies
- oral transmission of knowledge in accordance with well understood cultural principles, and management of knowledge through specific rules including rules regarding maintaining secrecy and sacredness of knowledge.
Methods to preserve and promote cultural traditions are
- Heritage preservation is the visual and tangible conservation of cultural identity. Heritage is the reflection of the identity of the people and is a mirror of our national unity. It represents our history and our identity; our bond to the past, to our present, and the future.
- Heritage sites need to actively be preserved so that they do not fall into disrepair, and funds need to be allocated.
- History is important because it brings us all together and this is a cornerstone of nationhood that should be protected by every state and culture.
- The preservation of cultural heritage in times of conflict is very essential. Theft, war, civil disorder, terrorism, neglect and vandalism are human factors in the accidental or willful destruction of our heritage.
- Disasters need to be managed in order to control them, or at least to mitigate the effects.
- Improving our environment for preserving our heritage is a must. Cultural heritage is under attack – from environmental degradation and climate change, from socioeconomic pressures and the accelerating pace of urbanization and from the strains of global tourism.
Some methods adopted for better heritage preservation are:
- Chemical Preservation-Chemical preservation of excavated objects and structures are done to increase their longetivity.
- Structural Conservation-Structures are improved, stabilized, additionally strengthened and reinforced to undo the harms done by pollution, acid rains, and other chemicals and made natural-disasters resistant, by maintaining their pristine look.
- In an era of globalization, cultural heritage helps us to remember our cultural diversity, and its understanding develops mutual respect and renewed dialogue amongst different cultures.
- 37% of the global tourism has a cultural motivation. When tourism is identified as part of an overall development strategy, the identification, protection, and enhancement of historic resources is vital for any sustainable effort.
- Worldwide, heritage has a significantly greater economic impact per trip. In some places cultural heritage tourism is one of the main economic contributors.
- The tourism sector is the ‘industry’ that uses cultural heritage to the greatest extent as support for its backbone activities like hotel accommodation, transport and catering. Due to the exploitation of heritage, many new jobs were generated in the tourism sector.
- When heritage tourism is developed or done right, the biggest beneficiaries are not the visitors but the local residents who experience a renewed appreciation and pride in their local city and its history.
Influence of Media:
- Films, television and radio broadcasts are other powerful means that can influence culture. Media can travel into the most remote villages and unearth the traditional practices, celebrations, martial arts and present them forcefully and creatively to the entire people.
- Promotion of people as cultural brand ambassadors, building influence through the local vernacular media, an improved media strategy that promotes cultural content and supports cultural projects with less or no commercial value can also help preserve and promote culture. In addition, for any community to be able to preserve its culture, its people must have pride in their culture.
- However, if western culture is appreciated more than the indigenous ones, the cultural heritage of the country would undoubtedly go into oblivion. Hence, it is important that, the press and opinion leaders in the country intensify the drive to project the country’s rich cultural heritage, in order for the public to accept them.
Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage:
- Arts strengthen cultural values. Formal theatrical performances, sculptures, paintings, music and food festivals, paintings, folk tales, songs, novels, poems, martial arts and crafts groups, all these should be encouraged.
- To be kept alive, intangible cultural heritage must remain relevant to a culture and be regularly practiced and learned within communities and between generations. The issue of festivals attracts people from far and near and during such occasion, each tribe celebrates a festival to portray the culture of their people.
- Traditional music and dance project the cultural identity and heritage. Indigenous musical instruments, such as dhol, pepa etc. are used on such festivals. The importance of cultural celebrations is that they help to imprint the Assamese culture in the minds of both the present and future generation.
- Campaigns amongst the masses should be done to honor revolution and national resistance wars, commemorate national heroes and martyrs, appreciate our cultural well-known men, pay gratitude to revolutionarily credited people etc.
Development in Education:
- The national and state government needs to encourage historians to document the history and indigenous culture of the state. The education on the cultural heritage of Assam must go hand in hand with excursions.
- Youths should be encouraged to learn the community’s indigenous culture and visit historical places of interest in order to acquaint themselves with the rich culture of the state.
- The youth in the various educational institutions can also organize cultural festivals and displays during anniversaries, entertainment and on important occasions.
- Libraries and museums disseminate information and cultural heritage resources. The upkeep and maintenance of museums and archaeological sites will considerably improve with the introduction of modern technology.
- At least one museum should be set up in each district with different chambers for visual and other forms of art, architecture, science, history and geography with regional flavor
Digitalization converts materials from formats that can be read by people (analog) to a format that can be read only by machines (digital). Benefits of digital preservation are as follows:
- Easy to be viewed from anywhere, at any time of the day
- Can be readily printed from the web
- Viewers can find what they are looking for quickly and independently
- Save staff reference time by answering frequently asked questions on the web
- Electronically enhanced images can be viewed with greater legibility
- Increased use of collections and facilitated learning and scholarship
The preservation benefits for collections include:
- Objects do not have to be reshelved or located by staff
- Objects are not handled frequently thereby reducing wear and tear.
Both the national and state government should implement the following steps and measures-
- Tapping of the Public-Private Partnership models should be done for sustenance of Arts and Crafts. Publication through private sector should be encouraged as they have all the modern technology and know-how to produce the best from the worst.
- Greater involvement of universities in schemes promoting arts and culture as well as inclusion of Fine Arts as a subject in universities
- Preserving and properly promoting India’s rich intangible cultural heritage by inventorizing and documenting oral traditions, indigenous knowledge systems, folklores and tribal and oral traditions and dance forms like Bihu and other folk dances besides classical forms.
- Enhancing assimilative capabilities in order to adapt to emergent challenges of globalization and technological innovations.
- Promoting regional languages
- Making cultural and creative industries work in tandem for growth and employment.
- Generating demand for cultural goods and services as a matter of sustenance rather than patronage, thus bringing out the art and culture sector in the public domain.
- The promotion of export of cultural goods and services.
- Recognizing ‘cultural heritage tourism’ as an upcoming industry by building cultural resources with an adaptation of scientific and technological knowledge to local circumstances as well as forming partnerships between local and global bodies.
- Making possible the infusion of knowledge capital in cultural institutions by flexible engagements.
- Accelerating propaganda and promoting the awareness of people to participate in cultural activities. Timely discovering and commending typical exemplary individuals and entities that have made a significant contribution to the cultural life.
- Great efforts should be spent on the collection and exploitation of material and immaterial cultural values. Organizing cultural festivals of some minority ethnic groups who have typical cultural characters. Protecting, preserving, and improving the quality of art and literature, cultural works. Training artistic talents. Organizing contests of art and literature to select the best pieces of works which have a high educational and aesthetic nature.
- Expanding international cultural exchange. Actively introducing the Assamese cultural quintessence and character in order to improve the prestige and position of our state and country in international arena and making the best use of technological assistance from advanced countries for the development of culture.
- Strengthening the examination and control and the State management of cultural activities, publication, newspapers and preservation of cultural values, art performances, copyrights, advertisement and cultural services. Preventing anti-cultural and non-cultural phenomena
- Enhancing the training of managerial and professional staff of cultural branch, especially ethnic minority staff. Cultural staff at grassroots level should be continually and further trained to satisfy the demands of preserving and promoting the cultural traditions of our state.
- Culture, as a force, has both its own economic and political consequences in the life of any state.
- Without culture, a nation is as good as extinct, erased from the surface of the earth, blotted out and, an existence without dignity or recognition.
- The only way to wipe out a people from the face of the earth is to take away their culture.
- The blending of one culture with another also has the potential of killing off cultures. We must make an effort to sustain our cultures.
- The challenge is to preserve our cultures by practicing and making them part of our lives.
THE NEED FOR PROTECTING TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE
- Protection of indigenous knowledge is essential in many aspects. Lack of proper legal and policy frameworks for the protection of TK in the developing countries provides a vacuum for the developed and industrialized nations to exploit the traditional knowledge and resources of indigenous communities.
- Protection of indigenous knowledge will stop the multi-national pharmaceutical companies from the North, who purport to discover herbal medicines owned and used by the indigenous communities for thousands of years, from patenting the medicinal plants and its derivatives at the expense of the indigenous communities.
- Since, TK incorporates information and know-how on a variety of matters, including resources management, traditional medicines, crafts, artistic designs and cultural assets, its adequate protection is essential to preserve the cultural values of aboriginal communities.
- It is a cultural heritage property right which must be protected and shared equitably in the interest of all humankind. The need to protect indigenous knowledge is more relevant now than ever before in the IP global market.
- It has been revealed that commercial interests very often violate indigenous intellectual property rights. Although such violations do not formally constitute a breach of written legal standards, as neither national legislations nor international standards acknowledge the rights of indigenous people, these violations are still accountable to indigenous customary law.
- The underlying principles for granting protection to TK, inter alia, are equity considerations, conservation concerns, preservation of traditional practices and culture, promotion of its use in modern developments, prevention of appropriation of components of TK by unauthorized parties, facilitating access to TK, etc.
- The argument for protection of TK is principally based on equity considerations. TK generates value for new industries especially in the field of pharmaceuticals, plant breeding, food preservation etc.
- The current system of appropriation of TK for the new lines of modern industries neither recognizes TK adequately nor does it compensate satisfactorily the TK holders. For example, the farmers are not being compensated for the germplasm they create and the value they contribute for the new industry.
- Similarly, the traditional medicinal practitioners and healers are not being compensated for the information they impart to the bioprospectors regarding the use of medicinal plants found in their surroundings. The holders of TK usually do not charge for the herbs, seeds etc
For Stimulating Conservation
- Another factor underlying the claim for protection of traditional knowledge is based on the importance of such knowledge for conservation purposes.
- It is an undisputed fact that TK involves vital information highly useful to modern science and health care. However, protection of TK against loss and misappropriation and adequate compensation to traditional knowledge holders are core elements to stimulate the broader use of TK.
- Since the indigenous population inhabit the world’s most useful biological diversity, the preservation of the same would be important for the future use.
- Principle 3 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 1992 also states that the right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations. An encouragement to preserve and conserve the biological diversity through adequate means is necessary to stimulate the activities of indigenous and local communities.
- The recognition of rights would encourage them to conserve the natural resources. If fairly compensated, they would have more incentives to conserve and preserve the same not only for the existing generation, but for the generations to come.
Preservation of Traditional Practices and Cultures
- The preservation of TK is not only a key component of the right to selfidentification and a condition for the continuous existence of indigenous and traditional peoples; it is also a central element of the cultural heritage of humanity.
- The crisis affecting the world’s diverse cultures and languages is, according to some estimates, far greater than the biodiversity crisis. The recognition of their culture would raise the profile of that knowledge and encourage respect for it, both inside as well as outside the knowledge holding communities.
- This will make the learning and development of such knowledge a more attractive prospect for the younger members of such communities, thus perpetuating its existence and continuing its traditional lifestyles and cultures.
- The possibilities of economic returns for the use of that knowledge by third parties acts as a further incentive for community members to respect their knowledge and continue to engage in practices in which that knowledge is used and generated.
- Lack of motivation in the younger generation to learn the tradition is another reason cited for the protection of TK. There is a fear that TK will suffer extinction with the death of the elders of the community.
- TK is generally viewed with disdain and as being inferior since it does not confirm to the accepted scientific methods of learning in the context of the modern reductionist approach of science.
- Only by concerned efforts to protect it and accord it due respect can this trend be stopped
Regional language internet usage is where the real growth will be in India
- In the mid 1990s, 80% of the world wide web had English language content. By 2011, that share had fallen to roughly 27% as other languages – French, German, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese – spread online. India’s many languages, though, have lagged behind others.
- Second only to the US, India has over 125 million English speakers. Online, English is still India’s lingua franca, but more of its 1.3 billion people can turn into netizens only if the online use of its 22 other official languages is encouraged.
- A recent study of 4,612 urban citizens and 2,448 rural Indians by management consultancy KPMG India and search giant Google found that nearly 70% of Indians consider local language digital content more reliable than English content.
- Of all the internet-using native speakers of an Indian language, most prefer Hindi, the co-official language of the Indian union along with English. By 2021, an expected 201 million Hindi users – 38% of the Indian internet user base – will be online, according to the KPMG-Google study.
- Marathi, Bengali, and Tamil follow, capturing 9%, 8%, and 6% of the user base respectively.
- So, native language apps and sites proliferate to make it easier for people to grasp online information.
- Moreover, increasing the use of native languages could help chat applications and digital platforms deepen their user base
- The KPMG/Google report identifies a number of apps and web categories that currently have relatively low penetration rates in India but could see rapid growth if local-language integration picks up.
- Payments, government services, news, and classifieds all could grow at a compound annual growth rate between 26% and 34% from 2016 to 2021 if there is local-language expansion. For example, among those who traditionally shop offline, 50% were willing to shift online if provided with an end-to-end Indian language experience
- Similarly, over 60% of rural users consider language a barrier to accessing online government services, the report says. Increased use of Indian languages on the internet will come as a relief to them. It could also help better dissemination of regional news as almost 60% of Indian-language internet users prefer such news.
- Also, nearly 90% of them are more likely to respond to a digital advertisement in their local language as compared to English ads.
- “Almost every new user that is coming online – roughly nine out of 10 – is not proficient in English, So, it is fair to say that almost all the growth of usage is coming from non-English users
- Indian language users already far exceed the number of English language users in the country and will continue to do so–their user base grew from 42 million in 2011 to 234 million in 2016.
- In the five-year period after that, Indian-language users are expected to grow at an additional rate of 18% to 536 million. In the same period, English-language users are likely to grow by a mere 3% to reach 199 million.
- Meanwhile, technological advancement could aid and encourage the increased use of local languages.
- “Advance voice translation and recognition technology could help Indian language internet users, who find and search navigation using text inputs in their regional language a challenge.
- Other factors that will likely contribute to bringing India’s next billion online are reduced data charges, rising disposable income, growth in overall internet penetration and smartphone production, and improvements in digital literacy in rural India, as well as more Indian language-friendly devices and websites.
- While Reliance Jio’s low prices and freebies are already moving in that direction, companies like Google are increasingly providing Indian language interface and content.
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