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BLOG: Tales from Timbuktu

Zafar Anjum | Feb. 5, 2013
Given the kind of turmoil the Middle East and Africa are going through, won’t it be wise to get all ancient manuscripts scanned and digitally saved?

Now, let us come back to the present.

While peace has returned to Timbuktu, new stories about the burning of manuscripts are coming out into the public. I read in today's newspaper that all has not been lost.

According to a report in the IHT, the imam of a mosque in Timbuktu was able to save 8,000 volumes of ancient manuscripts by moving them into a bunker in an undisclosed location-that was before the attack. "These manuscripts, they are not just for us in Timbuktu," said Ali Imam Ben Essayouti. "They belong to all of humanity. It is our duty to save them."

And that's the point I want to make here: it is our duty to save them. So what can be done?

While the act of this saviour Imam is laudable, something more needs to be done by the international community, and organisations like UNESCO and Google can really help in this matter.

Given the kind of turmoil the Middle East and Africa are going through, won't it be wise to get all ancient manuscripts scanned and digitally saved? UNESCO knows where all these treasure troves are. Google already has a global book scanning project on. If we do this, we need not fear the extremists torching ancient libraries anywhere in the world anymore. Not that we want it to happen, but better safe than sorry.

Zafar Anjum is the online editor of MIS Asia, CIO Asia, Computerworld Singapore and Computerworld Malaysia.

 

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