Digital inclusion for children in the social context of HIV/AIDS awareness

Authors


Abstract

Digital technology brings a new opportunity to develop education, culture, and knowledge in less-developed communities. Researchers deal with issues related to digital inclusion for indigenous communities since it can provide people with the chance of better communication and faster access to information in all formats. A research team with the International Visual Methodology for Social Change Project initiated the AIDS prevention and awareness program and aimed to effectively serve as a form of social and digital inclusion in underprivileged communities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The significance of this project is highlighted by adopting digital technology and the engagement of children, youth, and students in playing active roles in addressing HIV and AIDS through the photovoice research method. This method teaches children and youth how to document their lives and activities in schools and within the community through photography. They are then asked to describe what they see on the photos and to share their thoughts and feelings relating to issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. In this way, more than 3000 photos have been collected from the rural areas, taken by the children and youth of this region. To build a digital archive, the project went through the followings: photo selection, a scanning protocol, a database protocol in Greenstone software program, metadata protocol, and web site development. We described the entire visual data set based on Dublin Core. Two additional elements for captions were added, one for comments by librarians or metadata managers and the other for users' personal comments related to a specific picture to further enhance their participation in the project. Rural communities face challenges in HIV/AIDS health care and education, and access to HIV/AIDS information is essential for the disease caregivers. Working together and understanding the social effects of digital inclusion is a key area of our research.

Background

Digital technology brings a new opportunity to develop education, culture, and knowledge in less-developed communities. It also enables individual users to be involved in several ways and become active users as well as autonomous producers of information. Researchers deal with issues related to digital inclusion for indigenous communities since it can provide people with the chance of better communication and faster access to information in all formats. This would improve learning opportunities and bridge the digital divide between people with or without digital technology, and eventually lead to further digital and social inclusion (Jaxa-Chamiec & Fuller, 2007).

A research team with the International Visual Methodology for Social Change Project initiated the AIDS prevention and awareness program in South Africa (http://www.disa.ukzn.ac.za/cvm/). The project aims to effectively serve as a form of social and digital inclusion in underprivileged communities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Through considering the way in which it strengthens the awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS, the community creates digital archives of the lives of its members through photo-taking and photo-interpretation.

The significance of this project is highlighted by the engagement of children, youth, and students in playing active roles in addressing HIV and AIDS through the photovoice research method. This method teaches children and youth how to document their lives and activities in schools and within the community through photography. They are then asked to describe what they see on the photos and to share their thoughts and feelings relating to issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. In this way, more than 3000 photos have been collected from the rural areas of KwaZulu-Natal over the last five years, taken by the children and youth of this region. While engaging in daily activities, the children captured their emotions, thoughts, and stories in the context of HIV and AIDS through these photos.

Digital Technology Methods

To effectively manage the huge amount of photo data on HIV/AIDS and to build a digital archive, the project went through the following procedures. We selected photos and developed a scanning protocol for the entire photo collection, along with a database protocol for storing digital images, as the preliminary data was presented (Park, Mitchell, & de Lange, 2008). We developed details on technical specifications and based on that, we scanned all of the photos into digital images.

Then we developed a metadata protocol based on Dublin Core and based on the protocol, we described the entire visual data set with detailed information. To enhance its usefulness and usability, the coding scheme was kept simple, including the elements creator, date, date of creation of digital image, historical information, holding information, material, physical size, type, color, copyright, restriction on use and access, subject headings and keywords. Subject elements were refined into gender, age, figure, cultural group, location, geography, themes, subject, and stance. Two additional elements for captions were added, one for comments by librarians or metadata managers and the other for users' personal comments related to a specific picture to further enhance their participation in the project. These children often have a personal connection with an HIV/AIDS related event around them, e.g. when one student's sister died and he attended the funeral, the picture was very sad to him. This element functions as social tagging, allowing the children to add personal comments to the photo and describe what the photo means to him/her in his or her own words rather than what the image indicates. This was used in the interpretative process in relation to issues surrounding HIV and AIDS and enables a deeper understanding of the issue at hand.

We stored the photo collection, along with the metadata, in a Greenstone software program. It is open-source and multilingual software that provides a new way of organizing and sharing information on the Internet. Since the sharing of best practices should be achieved through an online portal, a dedicated website was designed for the project. The website serves as a hub for information access and sharing from and to the community it serves, where users can search for and retrieve the photos they produced.

Rural communities face challenges in HIV/AIDS health care and education, and we understand that access to HIV/AIDS information is essential for the disease caregivers who are an essential part of the information society. This information is used for awareness, providing care, support, treatment, and education for various community members (Veinot et al., 2006).

Conclusion

Working together and understanding the social effects of digital inclusion is a key area of our research. This project highlights the adoption of digital archives as a means to improve public education and address social issues about HIV/AIDS. It encourages the process of knowledge creation and dissemination, and supports the use of technology by people themselves in underserved communities by employing digital technology tools in the areas of healthcare and education.

For further research, the usability of the website will be tested, including the search function, interface design, and access to collections. This will allow refinement of the metadata scheme to optimize its usefulness to the various users working with all of the data sets. In addition, the project continues to conduct further research in exploring legal, technical, ethical, pedagogical, and social concerns related to maintaining digital image archives.

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