Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tacit knowledge collected without text

from acm tech news
CyberTrackers of the Kalahari (07/11/07) Hulm, Peter

South African conservation scientist Louis Liebenberg and former University of Cape Town computer scientist Justin Steventon have developed software that turns a handheld device into a digital wildlife tracker. Liebenberg saw a need for combining technology with the traditional methods of the Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert and Botswana when he learned tracking from the bushmen. Liebenberg knew their skills and knowledge of conservation was undervalued by protection authorities, partially because the Bushmen cannot read or write. The solution was CyberTracker, software that can be downloaded to PDAs. The screen displays a variety of symbols that represent more than 40 animal species, subspecies, and plants, as well as activities such as drinking, feeding, running, fighting, mating, and sleeping. When the Bushmen observe an animal or encounter anything of significance, they can enter the information using the pictures, with each screen recording increasingly detailed information. Using CyberTracker, a single tracker can record up to 300 observations a day. The handheld computers are connected to a satellite navigational system, and automatically record details including time, date, and exact location. All data collection can be done on a PDA and processed on a personal computer. The free software has been downloaded more than 25,000 times inmore than 50 countries. After Liebenberg received a Rolex Award for Enterprise for his work on CyberTracker, the European Union provided funding that allowed him to set up a non-governmental organization to develop and distribute the software, and there are now hundreds of certified trackers.

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