[iDC] Collective Action

Martin Lucas mlucas at igc.org
Tue Jun 20 23:06:33 EDT 2006

Dear IDCers

  Peter Armstrong, E-media Director at OneWorld UK gave a  
presentation at the Beyond Broadcast Conference at the Berkman  
Center,  (www.beyondbroadcast.net/blog) at Harvard last month.  He  
looked at some of the initiatives his organization is undertaking in  
Africa.  As you suggest, they are focusing on projects using SMS and  
cell phones, such as a job bank with postings for temp workers.


In addition, Ethan's group Global Voices has a strong presence  
throughout Africa.


Bloggers are still among the small number of people who have what it  
takes to get online in Africa, nonetheless, they do create an  
important countervailing presence  and are worth checking out.


Marty Lucas

On Jun 20, 2006, at 7:55 PM, Trebor Scholz wrote:

>> America is the world's richest country; it's not surprising that  
>> there
>> are a lot of Internet users there.  Do you have statistics for any
>> poor countries?
> Ben, thanks for your respons.
> Can blogs, wikis, and other participatory web architectures change the
> world for the better; does the sociable web reach developing  
> countries?
> Currently, not even a quarter of the world's population has Internet
> access. 70% of North Americans are able to go online-- Europe 36%,  
> Asia
> roughly 10%, and Africa 2%. Willinsky's arguments for Open Access to
> research don't apply to those who don't have net access in the first
> place. But -- imagine-- what would a broad movement of bloggers/ 
> citizen
> journalists in Africa, bring to the attention of the rest of the  
> world?
> This would be a personal reporting with an affect that you would not
> find on CNN.
> Already now, South Africa, for a start, has an active Indymedia.
> Resources of the sociable web including Wikipedia are still of little
> use to those without a computer and command of English. Most African
> languages have only about a thousand articles in Wikipedia. The  
> problems
> encountered are ranging from keyboards supporting a particular  
> language
> to computer manuals in a local language.
> The current explosion of the cellphone industry in Africa is a widely
> known fact. Africans may not have ready access to the Internet but  
> more
> than half of them own mobile phones with SMS capability but without  
> the
> ability to run the Internet. In South Africa, net access is still  
> sparse
> but alternatively banks are looking into low cost banking options via
> cellphones. Notably, also the world's first feature-length movie was
> shot on a cellphone in SouthAfrica. The film titled ³SMS Sugar Man²  
> was
> directed by Aryan Kaganof and the story, not far as interesting as the
> technology, is about a pimp and two high class prostitutes.
> Currently there are several initiatives that are focusing on educating
> African youth via cellphone. Tomi Ahonen reports that "There are more
> radios than mobile phones, but those radios are in North America and
> Western Europe, built into our cars etc. In Asia, Africa and Latin
> America many more mobile phones exist than radios. ...  30% of the  
> total
> population on the planet carries a mobile phone. Every one of them can
> do basic texting, basic mobile commerce, receive basic news, etc. "
> The future of the sociable web in developing countries is the bridging
> between simple mobile phones and the resources available online. The
> project MobilED is a good example:
> In March 2006 the pilot of MobilED was launched with teachers of  
> Corwall
> Hill College in Preotoria (South Africa). The project focuses on
> HIV/AIDS and is for 15-16 year-olds. "The platform will offer  
> access to
> Wikipedia content with SMS, so that students can search the  
> Wikipedia by
> sending a query term to the server.  The server will then call back  
> and
> a speech synthesizer will read the article for them."
> The 2004 blog explosion did not make it to the sub-Saharan Africa with
> the exception of South Africa. For most Africans the Internet is as  
> far
> away as a semi-soy latte at a Starbucks. With little net access and  
> all
> of the action happening in North America and Europe, so far  
> blogging was
> limited to Western ex-pats. But this is changing: the Ethiopian  
> blogging
> scene is up and coming with blogs like Nazret.com. And, outside of
> Africa, in South Korea, OhmyNews is a strong and successful example of
> the sociable web.
> Ethan Zuckerman points out that through citizen journalism and the
> sociable web the world will have more access to what is going on in
> places that are not sufficiently covered by news agencies.
> Zuckerman: "None but the largest news agencies are able to pay the
> travel costs and insurance for reporters to cover these stories. Most
> choose not to cover a conflict that's bloody, dangerous, difficult to
> summarize in a soundbite and unknown to most of their readers or
> viewers. The net result - we simply don't have information about many
> parts of the globe relevant to world debate. ... Even when we do have
> some information about under-covered parts of the world, we have  
> another
> problem, what Ito terms "the caring problem". People pay attention to
> subjects they care about. They tend to ignore subjects they know  
> little
> about. Media, trying to serve its customers in a free market, responds
> by giving them more information on subjects they've demonstrated an
> interest in and ignoring other subjects."
> Mark Warschauer's work on Technology and Social Inclusion is also
> definitely worth considering in this context.
> Citizen journalism that cares about local topics in Congo, for  
> example,
> will produce a decisively different media sphere than that currently
> shaped by CNN and others. Initiatives like MIT's $100 laptop  
> contribute
> to better computer access in Africa. But cellphones, not the Internet,
> dominate Africa and cater to cultures that are shaped by oral
> traditions.
> The future of the sociable web in Africa is mobile.
> -Trebor
> Links, Charts and References:
> http://collectivate.net/journalisms/
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