50m bloggers, 6bn people — but who gets to speak?

Ethan Zuckerman, the founder of Tripod and activist site Global Voices Online, emphasised just how difficult it is to get news about Africa, especially online. If there is news, its the usual fare of famine and disaster. I blogged about this in a rather depressing post called “Africa: Giraffes, war, famine, blah blah blah”, and the South Africa deputy president did a recent speech about just this here.

Zuckerman, who says he treats his blog like his livingroom, asks if citizen media via weblogs could be a solution to the general dearth of African news?

This, ofcourse, is all utopian unless there are changes in the vast socio-economic inequities that exist between the developing and developed word. There isn’t just isnt much  connectivity in Africa, except in the major African urban centres and to some extent in South Africa and North Africa. So in a way, there is a bigger task and bigger questions… Hate to be the sceptic but I am not entirely sure how blogs will be the solution to famine and poverty in Africa… or maybe its one of the solutions? For example, with better information flows (via collective blogpower?) could we have avoided the Rwandan Genoicide?

But it’s not all doom and gloom because we know that cellphone penetration by far outstrips landline penetration in Africa specifically… so could Africa blog via cellphones? Well, I hear this punted all the time and I have myself preached this… It’s entirely feasible, but it some way off from becoming a reality. First of all you need a pretty highend cellphone, which is an expense.

But Zucks, did showed us this great example of a site that promotes and aids moblogging. So could this be a reality sooner than we think? Or are we dreaming here?

Matthew Buckland: Publisher


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