Field Stories

Knowledge repositories – building blocks for learning


A knowledge repository is an online database that organises, displays and categorises information. It can be used to provide support and management for many services, including encouraging open access to scholarly research, preserving digital materials for the long term and showcasing academic research. But whilst repositories are becoming increasingly commonplace in Africa and around the world as houses of shared institutional memory, information on and experience of how best to implement and manage them is limited. An upcoming eLearning Africa session will focus on sharing this valuable knowledge.

In the short term, knowledge repositories are important for the management and documentation of findings and research in academic institutions. Immediate benefits aside, it is clear that they also offer an invaluable resource for humanity in the future. Long-term knowledge preservation will allow future academics to build upon studies conducted before their time, help universities to preserve their rich archives, and ensure the lasting legacy of their research tradition.

In a specifically African context, it has been suggested that knowledge repositories, as flexible, technological information stores for the future, could be perfect for preserving and transmitting Africa’s oral culture and its languages. “It is incumbent on us”, writes Sarala Krishnamurthy, “to examine the preservation of indigenous language in order to safeguard the wisdom of ages. One of the ways of doing this is to record social practices such as literature, narratives, customary laws and tradition for future reference through the use of modern technology.” Far beyond their practical, institutional use, knowledge repositories could well become the collective consciousness of African societies in millennia past and future.

In response to the growing need for a repository with which students and researchers can gather and deposit information, the University of Namibia (UNAM) launched a complex repository project  in January 2013. The UNAM Institutional Repository is currently in its pilot phase and plans are in place to roll it out to the rest of the institution. A number of challenges exist in order to successfully develop this pilot programme into a sustainable institutional resource, but the University is on its way to achieving a powerful research database.

Several other academic institutions worldwide (notably MIT, UCLA and Oxford) have implemented knowledge repositories to capture, store, index, preserve and redistribute their scholarly research in digital formats. These Scholarly materials include both digitally-born and non-digitally born research material. Once it has been officially launched, UNAM’s knowledge repository will stand alongside those of such august institutions in quality and breadth: serving as a single portal for access to all content, linked to the learning management system to which students and staff have full access and following global institutional knowledge repository standards. University staff are certain that it will exceed the expectations of users.

The upcoming eLearning Africa conference will offer its audience a demonstration of how the planning and implementation of an institutional knowledge repository was carried out at UNAM, with the involvement of University Librarian Ellen Namhila, who will be on hand to share her experiences. The session will also be of benefit to participants who are in the process of implementing a repository, as well as to those interested in creating one in the future or simply benefiting from the advantages they offer.

For more information on the upcoming eLearning Africa 2013 session or to view the programme see here.




  1. Kyalo Taylor

    These repositories and digitisation will be the saviour of academic publishing. When academics can share their work with without the expense of printing books, they will reach much wider audiences all over the world, and still be able to profit.

  2. Knowledge is contextual and meaningful to the context where it emerges and develops. We, African, try to copy the knowledge from west without contextualizing to our problems. As a result we can not bring signficant change in our life. This initiative to create African repisitory is really a good intitiative to store our knoweldge base that is meaningful to our context – our problems and needs.

    To say things is easy. But we need to have some clear vision how this repository is used to solve problems. It requires collaborative efforts.

  3. Knowledge repositories are a much needed resource to combat the absurd price science journals charge. In time it is my hope that knowledge repositories around the world can combine their databases and the acess the the pooled knowledge will be a human right.

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