It is not without a doubt that we are in the 21st century, and fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, digitalisation and the use of digital technology is at the forefront of where we are headed next. So what about our culture and heritage? What about the use of digital technologies to aid in the preservation of Grenada’s history, heritage and culture?
It is quite certain that Grenada’s rich history, culture and heritage needs to be preserved for future generations. The loss of elders or heritage keepers in our communities and villages means that our oral traditions and heritage, folk tales and stories, herbal medicines and practices, and traditional ways of preparing dishes will be lost without some form of intervention.
The death of many seniors especially during the wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in September 2021 to November 2021 has only served to increase the loss of our cultural heritage. Coming out of the pandemic, and into what is more being called the “endemic” season in which waves of differing viruses will come and go as public health threats, it means that more than ever before preservation is of deep concern.
So why technology? Firstly, technology is the present and the future. Transformation in the 21st century involves the adoption of technology or digitalisation of products, services and ways of doing things. If we are looking forward and into the future, then technology must be core in the solution presented to preserve Grenada’s rich history, heritage and culture.
Secondly, the pandemic has significantly increased interest in technology, online services, and the use of technology in everyday life of everyone. Just think about the number of times that a person uses their mobile phone throughout the day.
Think about all the different ways that your mobile phone has become integral into your everyday life. This is evidence of the level of penetration of technology into daily lives.
The third rationale is about where is the best place to store our historical, cultural and heritage information for the long-term or sustainable future. The days of storing information in paper documents, and files, creating a physical footprint is rapidly disappearing to make way for digital footprints. Digital footprints give information through longer life through technology.
So how can this be applied to cultural and heritage information? At the most basic level, it means storing heritage and cultural information using cloud technology. Cloud technology is about storing information in a virtual space that exists on the internet. It is a space where people can place their digital resources that have been made digital or digitalised.
Cloud technology is the future. The major benefit of cloud technology is that it allows 24/7 access to information, allow information to be accessed anytime and anywhere, and on any WIFI enabled device such as a mobile phone or tablet. Cloud technology puts information into the hands of citizens to use when and how they would like to use it.
How can cloud technology help cultural and heritage preservation? Simply, through leveraging technology, cultural and heritage inventory of information can be stored in the cloud in virtual spaces.
Virtual spaces provide easy, quick, and reliable access to cultural and heritage information for those living on the tri-island state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, as well as the Grenadian Diaspora.
For cultural elements most at risk, this would be of great significance, such as folk tales, herbal medicines, food recipes, and even patois language. Examples of virtual spaces include storage on a website, web portal, or through digital channels such as Youtube channel, podcasts, online courses, vlogs, blogs, and to a smaller extent, social media. Therefore, it means taking aspects of our rich history, heritage and culture and putting it into bite size content in the cloud on websites, podcasts, vlogs, blogs, online courses, Youtube channels for consumption by future generations.
One new business entity, Island Learning Grenada, is looking to change the landscape of cultural education and preservation using digital technologies – taking a future forward step in educating the next generation by engaging them with online learning experiences and courses.
Using cloud technology, cultural and heritage learning can be done on a phone or tablet by children at the primary and secondary school level. Transformation is needed in education as well as in culture and heritage, and digitalisation can provide some of the much-needed solutions.
Christell Simeon is Business Owner of Island Learning Grenada