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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Namibia: Biodiversity Insect@thon

Namibia: Biodiversity Insect@thon
Date distributed (ymd): 990828
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +economy/development+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains excerpts from e-mail and web reports on a successful project by the National Museum of Namibia, "an unprecedented and innovative example of how essential biodiversity information associated with these huge collections [of paper records of natural history specimens] can be rapidly computerized through community-based education initiatives." More information is available on the web site of the musem (http://www.natmus.cul.na).

The announcement and the results were also posted in the African Development Forum pre-conference discussion currently under way as preparation for the Economic Commission for Africa's August 25-29 conference in Addis Ababa. For more information on the conference and discussion archives, see: http://www.un.org/depts/eca/adf or
http://www.bellanet.org/adf
To subscribe to the ADF on-line discussion, which began in June and will continue until the conference, send an e-mail message to lyris@lyris.bellanet.org. In the body of the message, type:
SUBSCRIBE AISI-HITD-L Firstname Lastname

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

National Museum of Namibia
National Biodiversity Inventory Programme

Contact Persons: Joris Komen (joris@natmus.cul.na) and Eugene Marais (eugene@natmus.cul.na)

Introduction

Museums' responsibilities need to be asserted, and, importantly, the roles of their collections and associated inventories need to be clarified to the community at large. Museums should be unanimously committed to popularizing the usefulness of their collections. Although the increased awareness of biodiversity preservation has highlighted the crucial role of biological collections in museums, seemingly little attention has been given to the urgency of inventory work by most museums. Essentials are simply not being computerized fast enough.

The National Museum of Namibia is the custodian of natural history collections consisting of some 1 - 1.5 million specimens, most of which are insects. The National Biodiversity Inventory Programme, a Millennium Project of the National Museum of Namibia, is intended to set an unprecedented and innovative example of how essential biodiversity information associated with these huge collections can be rapidly computerized through community-based education initiatives. The National Museum of Namibia was one of the first African museums to develop a web site (http://www.natmus.cul.na) making its cultural and educational resources available on the World Wide Web in 1997. It is currently the only African museum with searchable online collection databases.

INSECT@THON The National Museum's Biodiversity Inventory Programme is intended as a unique community self-help exercise by creating opportunities for Namibian schools to gain computer equipment, skills and Internet access in exchange for community services at the National Museum of Namibia. On 14-15 August 1999, the National Museum, in collaboration with leading local corporations in Namibia, hosted an INSECT@THON for students from 15 schools in Namibia. It was the intention of the INSECT@THON to computerize 70,000 hand-written insect inventory records in two days using an innovative computer inventory application developed by staff of the National Museum.


Additional Background

[from http://www.natmus.cul.na/insectathon.html]

The National Museum of Namibia is the custodian of natural history collections consisting of some 1 - 1.5 million specimens, most of which are insects. The National Museum's Biodiversity Inventory Programme is intended as a unique community self-help exercise by creating opportunities for Namibian schools to gain computer equipment, skills and Internet access in exchange for community services at the National Ministry of Museum of Namibia.

On 14-15 August 1999, the National Museum of Namibia, in collaboration with leading corporations in Namibia, hosted the first INSECT@THON for students from 15 schools in Namibia.

It was the intention of the INSECT@THON to computerize 70,000 hand-written insect inventory records in two days using an innovative computer inventory application developed by staff of the National Museum.

The INSECT@THON is particularly aimed at Namibian schools which do not have Internet access for their students and teachers.

The following schools participated in the 1999 INSECT@THON:

Ruacana Senior Secondary, Ruacana, Omusati

Tsumeb Junior Secondary, Tsumeb, Oshikoto

Enyana Combined, Enyana, Ohangwena

Moreson School, Windhoek, Khomas

Ekulo Senior Secondary, Ekulo, Oshikoto

Dawid Bezuidenhout, Windhoek, Khomas

Suiderlig Secondary, Keetmanshoop, Karas

AME Community, Gibeon, Hardap

Petrus Ganeb Secondary, Uis, Erongo

Dr Fisher Primary, Aminuis, Omaheke

Wennie du Plessis Secondary, Gobabis, Omaheke

Mokaleng Junior Secondary, Aminuis, Omaheke

ELCIN Nkurenkuru High, Nkurenkuru, Kavango

Cornelius Goreseb High, Khorixas, Kunene

Okakarara Secondary School, Okakarara, Otjozondjupa

Each school nominated a team of six students. Students were 11 - 19 years old, and English literacy was prerequisite. The students did not necessarily have to have any previous computer experience, but such experience was an advantage.

At 08h00 on 14 August, the students assembled at the NIIT training centre where they received instructions and training necessary for the INSECT@THON.

At 09h00, the honourable Minister of Basic Education and Culture, John Mutorwa, opened the two-day INSECT@THON. There were compulsory breaks for tea and lunch. The INSECT@THON continued from 08h30 to 16h45 on 15 August, with compulsory breaks for tea and lunch. From 16h45 to 18h00 insect records were counted and validated. At 18h00 the honourable Deputy Minister of Information and Boadcasting, Ignatius Shixwameni, presented prizes and awards to the winning schools.

Prizes

A number of local corporations have pledged computer training, hardware, software, books and Internet subscriptions as prizes for the competing schools and students. The first school prize will be a Sun Server, Solaris or Linux OS, router, ethernet hub, Digicon modem, one workstation, a two-year 64K leased line Internet subscription, a colour printer, web development software, and system adminstration training courses for two students. Second and third school prizes will comprise standalone PCs (Pentium II/equivalent), 56.6K modems, Inkjet printers, two year dial-up Internet subscriptions, web development software and Internet training courses. The remaining prizes include standalone computers (PC Pentium I), modems, two year Internet subscriptions, web development software and Internet training courses.

All schools and students will receive participation certificates, and a host of individual prizes will be awarded to the participating students, including safaris, books, software, CDROMS and CDs.

Sponsors: Bock Jewellers, ADVANTAGE McCANN, AFRINATURE Films, ARCANA XXII ACORD, BP Namibia, Design Laboratories, Disability Resource Centre, ET's Liquor Store, GODINHO, HASSELT OPTICS, INTV, John Muafangejo Art Centre, Kirky's Agencies, KPMG Chartered Accountants, LOGICAL Networks, MAKALANI SUGAR, MEGABITE Productions, Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Namib Pharmacy, Namibia Systems & Programming Services, Namibia Beverages, NAMIBIA POST, Namibian Vision Care, Namibian Broadcasting Corporation, NAMIDEF, NAMPOWER, National Museum of Namibia, NewDeal, Inc, NIIT, Pieter Esterhuizen Barbeques, Polytechnic of Namibia, PQ NAMIBIA, Radical Re-ell Rox, Radiowave 96.7 FM, SAMP, Sardinia Pizzeria, SCHOEMANS Office Systems, SHELL Namibia, Solar Age Namibia, Standard Bank, TELECOM Namibia, The PC Centre, The Namibian Ministry of Basic Education & Culture, TotalSPORT, UUNET Namibia


Insecta@thon Results

[from http://www.natmus.cul.na/biodive/biodinvent.html]

We have good news for you:-). The Insect@thon worked brilliantly! In spite of the fact that we had a number of Wintel glitches:-) to deal with prior to event, resulting in a delayed start - the kids only finished the training process at 12h00 on Saturday - the results were quite astounding!

From 12h30 to 18h30 on Saturday, and from 08h30 to 16h30 on Sunday, including half-hour breaks for teas and lunch, (6 + 8 - 2.5 hrs = 12.5 hours), 92 kids from 16 schools (we had a last minute gate-crashing school ( 3 kids ) that we simply couldn't turn away - they were so incredibly keen!:-)) managed to computerize 20, 897 insect inventory records comprising 11 data fields (catalogue number, order, family, genus, species, collection locality, collector, no. of specimens and day, month year) representing 97, 696 specimens in the National Museum's insect collection.

Our immediate post-event validation process picked up 3,232 invalid records over and above the 20, 987 acceptable inventory records - that's a remarkably low 13% error margin!

Please take note that 66 kids had not had *ANY* previous computer experience prior to the event! We will provide a more detailed breakdown of these results on the Insect@thon website in due course.

Oh, by the way - the three top winning teamsare

Tsumeb Junior Secondary School who managed to computerize a total of 2,363 records (I think they'll do us proud when they go to Stockholm next year). Second and third teams were Wennie Du Plessis High School of Gobabis with 2214 records, and Suiderlig High School of Keetmanshoop with 2205 records.

Now isn't that simply amazing?!!:-)

PS - by 17h00 on Sunday some 650 webcam requests were logged at the PC Centre's website - a lot of people came to see the event "live" over the internet!


Raison d'etre

The Natural History Museum in London has some 65 million insects in its collections - with hand-written records in paper catalogues:-). These *hand-written* records in many first world museums prevent us from obtaining critically important and *urgently-needed* biodiversity information on the natural history specimens collected, historically, in Namibia. We estimate that some 70 % of these collections originate in the third world. Inasmuch, we strongly believe that first-world museums are urgently accountable to us. By pulling off this unprecedented insect@thon stunt with a bunch of kids in Namibia, we want to send a very clear message to first world museums - if we can do it, you can too!

Our message, I think, has been quite simple - we have 1.5 million plus insects in our entomology collection (fifth largest insect collection in Africa), 70,000 hand-written insect catalogue records, and the usual excuses - no staff, no money and no technical resources.

We took it upon ourselves to motivate our local corporate community to support us indirectly by giving them a chance to be socially responsible by subsidizing school internet and computerization in exchange for these schools providing the much needed data-typing pool at our museum, and, hopefully, a near-future recruitement pool of educated and environmentally, socially and IT-aware youngsters. We may even have some budding entomologists in the making!

We think Insect@thon is a brilliant model:-) not only for other museums, libraries and archives in Africa, but also for first world institutions:-) Our winning school team (age group 13 - 16) will travel to Stockholm in April next year to carry out a "mini-insect@thon" at the Riksmuseum - this museum has some 50 -100,000 Namibian insect specimens in their collection. We would also like to send the second, third and fourth winning teams to Academy of Sciences in California, the Natural History Museum in London and the Natural History Museum in Berlin - as far as we know, these museums collectively have some 800,000 Namibian insect specimens in their collections.

Where to next?

We will carry out a detailed assessment of the validity of the kids' data-entries - after all, this is an obligatory task of a museum curator, irrespective of whether the data-typing is done by employees or kids. Insect@thon *will* become an annual event and may change, in due course, into a tree@thon or a mammal@thon, or whatever requires computerization, here in Namibia, but also in Zambia and Zimbabwe, where the natural history museums face similar inventory dilemnas. Continuity will hopefully be assured between events with kids helping with remote data-capture (using their newly acquired internet and our webtop databases), web site development for their own schools and loads of other exciting teenager-oriented internet-related projects.

How many children are involved?

Insect@thon 1999 directly touched 92 children from 16 schools all over Namibia, *none* of which presently have internet-connectivity. Two other schools will receive computers and internet subscriptions as consolation prizes for not having been able to join us in the event. 142 team applications from 32 schools from 11 regions in Namibia applied to enter the insect@thon. We expect that Insect@thon 2000 will start with regional one-day events for 15 schools (sans internet) in each region, followed by a national two-day insect@thon event in Windhoek in August 2000. There are 1600 schools in Namibia of which only 28% presently have telephones, and only a handful have internet access - these schools are our target from now until we've got *all* of them connected to the internet.


This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

URL for this file: http://www.africafocus.org/docs99/bio9908.php