Posts Tagged ‘citizen journalism’

Successful panel at IACC

6 November 2008

About 100 participants attended the workshop on social media at the 13th IACC. Saturday, 5 pm, room MC3, one level below the earth. Darius Cuplinskas, Director of the Information Programme at the Open Society Institute moderated the panel made up by Ellen Miller, Sunlight Foundation, Julian Assange, Advisory Board of Wikileaks, Inés Selvood, Clarin newspaper and University of Buenos Aires, Nicolas Hernández, OCASA and Shaazka Beyerle, Senior Advisor of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

It was quite a diverse group that looked from very different viewpoints at the issue of using social media in the fight against corruption.

Ellen Miller gave an overview of the great work the Sunlight Foundation has been doing over the years looking at accountability and transparency via the innovative use of technology and internet (see also her post on this blog).

Julian Assange presented the concept of the website wikileaks.org, an anonymous platform for whistleblowers to expose sensitive documents, and a research tool for journalists.

Inés Selvood looked from a journalist’s perspective at the question of how blogs can and are used for the objectives of civil society organisations, challenging the role of traditional journalism and presenting concepts of alternative and citizen journalism.

With a view at using the interactive concepts of social media such as chat and networking functionalities via facebook Nicolas Hernández presented how OCASA uses them for their youth education programme.

Finally, how user-orientated tools of social media can be used to empower citizen and support civic action was illustrated by Shaazka Beyerle on the example of Egypt’s facebook revolution (see here and here)

Let me just highlight one intriguing question that came from the audience. How does social media not only change the way corruption can be tackled, but also, how do civil society organisations need to change to use these tools and concepts adequately? And indeed it seems that traditionally grown organisations will need to adapt their advocacy approaches to make these concepts work and be able to engage more effectively with the citizens who are able and willing to be join the efforts and do their part.

All in all, it was a great expert panel. Only downside was that there was not enough time for questions and feedback from the audience. But you can do that now right here on the blog. So, with the interest in the workshop and the apparent need to analyse today’s opportunities arising with the social web, I am happy to continue this blog and provide a space for discussion and ideas.

Blogging for change in Africa

20 October 2008
Kelele | The African Bloggers Conference

Kelele | The African Bloggers Conference

I just came across the announcement for the Annual African Bloggers Conference planned to take place in 2009 in Kenya via the blog of the Association of Progressive Communicators. This prompted me to address one of the key questions when looking at social media for development.

The main challenge for using social media concepts, and the internet in general, is that many people, especially in the developing world, still don’t have access to it (see this statistics overview, wikipedia, as well as this nice map).

However, usage rates are growing tremendously, especially in Africa and the Middle East, and initiatives such as the bloggers conference give hope that the internet, as a genuine grassroots media, can reach not only the few. Through the internet and information sources such as blogs, the entrance barrier to join a political dialogue and the public sphere are much easier than through traditional media and TV.

A while ago, this article looked at South Africa and the influence bloggers and “citizen journalism” have on the political dialogue in the country, arguing that, while not yet in a scale as in the US, bloggers are are joining the discourse and start receiving attention by the media.

Of course, radio on the other hand still advantages providing a platform for discussions. Community radio projects keep to be successful around the world. A great initiative addressing how to tie in both media is the Radio 2.0 for development blog. See also a related post presenting the publication: Fighting Poverty: Utilizing Community Media in a Digital Age.

Merging text messaging and social media tools such as twitter provide another opportunity that will be discussed in a following post.

People are starting to make noise. With corruption being one of the main obstacles for development, there is the potential and the need to start engaging into social media tools and not write off the continent, just because of the technical challenges that still need to be overcome.