“Untold tales remain imprisoned, denying Lesotho’s citizens the winds of enlightenment.”

By: Lesira Rampa

A nation’s vitality lies in the pursuit of knowledge. In a world increasingly driven by information, the deficiency in documentation continues to pose alarming implications for advancement—for not only this country but its citizens. Lesotho’s archival culture is attributed to myriad historical aspects that have moulded its development, such as the pre-colonial oral tradition to pass down laws, history, and customs. Be that as it may, fast forward to British rule—its administration invested efforts that introduced different methods of record-keeping. However, the longstanding deficiency of competent  documentation holds proof that those efforts were never effectively integrated with the existing oral traditions and practices of Basotho. Today, the lack of archieval infrastructure can be traced in citizens’ hazy understanding of their organisational landscape, including fragmented remembrances of their very history.

The evolution of information keeping has transitioned from the musty achieves on shelves to the utilisation of digital technology for record keeping. Despite this technological advancement, there exists a notable gap in information on Lesotho’s digital space in various aspects. A strong record-keeping culture boosts transparency and accountability within society, and so the lack of it consequently creates a loophole for falsification. It is then not surprising that Lesotho has long been recognised for its prevailing issue of corruption, which serves as a major obstacle to the country’s development. Within organisations in the public and private sectors, there is a significant yet overlooked outcry from citizens struggling to find timely data on quality educational resources, business opportunities, and up-to-date contact details. This has created frustration and inconvenience for individuals that rely on these organisations’ services.

According to a pair of respondents, they highlighted the hurdles they encountered, comprising an online representation gap where the online search results for Lesotho do not authentically or accurately reflect the reality of the country and a lack of updated and reliable information for students using secondary data for research purposes within the borders of Lesotho. Another interviewee expressed a concern about the shortage of crucial details about local NGOs on websites that are not readily accessible online, posing a challenge to accessing the services offered by these organizations. This hinders the opportunity for partnerships towards shared goals with other NGOs, and there is not enough information to convince potential donors by way of substational, up-to-date success stories of local NGOs.

Despite the effects that a lack of digitalized information has on education and the corporate space, one of the elements badly affected by this challenge is the agriculture sector, where updated agricultural information is crucial for farmers’ success. Lesotho has for a long time now relied heavily on traditional crops like maize and sorghum, and while there has been a sudden shift in farmers’ exploration of other crops, many still lack the knowledge for effectively cultivating alternative crops, including the innovative practices in farming such crops. Due to unpredictable weather conditions and prolonged periods of drought, it is crucial that information be made available on online platforms for everyone to benefit from the techniques of climate-smart farming.

Isn’t it high time that we pivot away from the narrative suggesting that information is best hidden from us if stored in a book ?Suggesting we are people that do not value information so long as it is written? A rather unsettling narrative that I believe would subside with proper digital literacy, prioritising updating information on organisations’ websites, and fostering a culture of digital archiving by those with a wealth of knowledge. Great is the talent that resides in the Mountain Kingdom; therefore, it is our collective responsibility to promote the development of local content creators, filmmakers, writers, and artists, who will in turn contribute to the digital representation of Lesotho with utmost accuracy.

On evaluating ways to fill this void, it is important to prioritise establishing a structured system for information gathering, storage, and distribution. Perhaps this could be made possible with collaboration between the government, the public sector, and the private sector in order to create a culture of information sharing in its abundance. Technology should further be used to create several platforms that easily provide access to information in different sectors. The agricultural sector, for instance, would thrive on possessing dedicated online platforms that provide farmers with relevant climate-smart farming techniques that contribute significantly to food security in a rapidly changing world. Needlesstosay, other sectors that can benefit from digital platforms are the tourism industry by promoting local tourism effectively, e-commerce, and healthcare by promoting telemedicine, which is an excellent way to bridge the gap of rural areas geographical distance  from their health care providers, including the arts and culture sector, which is often overlooked.

Lesotho’s information shortage is slowing down the development of various sectors of the country. But there is hope that the gap can be filled with appropriate collaboration and investment in digital literacy and technology. This is a shared responsibility for all Basotho to have our country’s information terrain improve since only then can we harness the winds of enlightenment.