People as Sources of Information

People are the most readily available source of information in a community. They can give us important information about many issues which cannot be found anywhere else (Goosen et al., 1997, p. 8). Community leaders, the elderly, and experts possess knowledge and wisdom gained by experience. Older members of communities can provide information ranging from historical, moral, religious, social, cultural, traditional, environmental and agricultural.

Research shows that the top strategies used in seeking information are to “ask a friend, acquaintance and or the relevant agency” such as a library or information center. Thirteen other sources of information includes other gatekeepers or opinion leaders, telephone directory, newspapers, family member, libraries, acquaintances working at agencies, and politicians (Case, 2002, p. 268). People are very important source of information because, as I discussed in previous articles, they possess tacit knowledge amounting to 80% of the total knowledge.

Information seeking involves verbal and non-verbal communication within a social group or culture. In information seeking mode, the individual usually recognises that the source he approaches has more to tell him or her than he has to tell the source. Thus the sources used to seek information purposefully include professionals, organisations, magazines, government departments, and information agencies. Experts in professions such as medicine, law, and teaching are used as information sources relating to their disciplines.

People have a body of knowledge acquired through generations, and some of it comes from experiments carried out by community members. In most cases, culture is the main concept that allows the medium of information to be shared. There is overwhelming evidence that indigenous knowledge have made crucial contributions in medicine, agriculture, environmental management, and philosophy. A lot of knowledge that people have cannot be taken away of context because it is embedded in the environment they live in. Passing it from generation to generation orally ensures the survival of culture and indigenous knowledge to evolve over time.

Oral communication systems and indigenous knowledge systems have been disrupted or destroyed as a result of deaths of elder experts who have a lot knowledge and information. For example, if this knowledge is not orally transferred, usually through stories, it can never be found anywhere again in the generation to come. According to Santili (2006, p. 1-2), “traditional knowledge is commonly generated and accumulated in a collective manner, based on the broad exchange and circulation of ideas and information…”

It is very important to document indigenous knowledge for other generations to know what the previous generation did and how they survived.

1. Santili, J. (2006). Cultural heritage and collective intellectual property rights. IK Notes, No. 95
2. Case, D. (2002). Looking for information: a survey of research on seeking needs and behavior.
3. Goosen, I., Holmes, M., John, M. and Piek, V. (1997). Adventures into information: a manual of basic information and library science.


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