As part of the Darwin Initiative project ‘Integrating traditional knowledge into national policy and practice‘, local Indigenous communities are making videos on their traditional knowledge and their relationship with protected areas. However, it is difficult to share and discuss these videos because of the lack of or unreliable internet access within some of these remote locations. Currently, the initial enthusiasm and momentum resulting from Darwin project video screenings is lost as the participating communities do not have the means for accessing the videos once the Darwin team leaves each community. There is also no means for visitors to these communities, including politicians, government offices and development practitioners, to be directly shown these videos when they are in the communities.
In this context, we have been installing low-cost autonomous wifi zones (called MAZI) to create freely accessible video and document repositories so people can permanently share and access traditional knowledge resources in communities where the Darwin project is working. The MAZIs run entirely from solar power and are independent from the Internet, but act as local servers that look exactly like the Internet to a user accessing them through their mobile phone, tablet or laptop. We are building on an autonomous wifi zone has already been successfully installed in an Indigenous community in Guyana as part of the Mental Health Resilience project, and has been proven to be highly resilient to both the social and physical environment, while significantly boosting community participation: in just the first three days of installation, this wifi zone was accessed 532 times by a community comprising just 100 households. Assets uploaded on this wifi zone are now being used by the village council, teachers, tourism operators, conservation officers and health workers.
The Darwin MAZIs will host traditional knowledge videos, but also a message board and a blogging facility so that people can comment on and discuss the videos, as well as add other important traditional knowledge information, thus ensuring continuing engagement with project outputs, and sustaining momentum and impact. The use of the wifi zones will be monitored by community researchers already working on the project in the communities.
We hope the MAZIs can contribute towards the project’s aims to increase the capacity of Indigenous communities to access and share information on traditional knowledge, understand issues and solutions, the means to act collectively to influence decision-making, and feel empowered to have greater voice and representation within the management of the protected areas system in Guyana.