Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Skip The Medium - Do it for yourself

Few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to talk about citizen journalism at the 4th Gender and Media summit in Johannesburg. That was an interesting opportunity to interact with Southern African journalists and media organisations attending the event.

Gender violence and women abuse are among big issues affecting women in Africa. Cultural background and socio-economic policies have not made it easy for women to raise their voices. In most of the cases, politically bias and socially unprogressive, traditional media in the southern region keeps its doors closed to claims and stories on gender activism.

Having experienced the impact with the Citizen Journalism in Africa, project I had coordinated, my presence at the summit aimed at emphasising on the need for women rights activist to use alternative media. In other words, ‘report what you have seen - say it yourself – write it yourself’ using free tools with modern technology.

Citizen journalism is among the current buzzwords in the media industry. The advent of the internet and its byproducts like blogs and similar channels provided for this phenomenon – the public serving as news sources.

It is important that human rights activists in the region and citizens in general catch the train of new media revolution. National broadcasters in southern Africa do no more own the news or shouldn’t. Websites, mobile phones and online podcasting can serve efficiently freedom of expression and lead the region to a long term democracy and stop human rights violations.

Here what Sandra Mandizvidza wrote about my presentation:

The rise of citizen journalism

Gone are the days when reporting news was the preserve of an elite circle of journalists: they have been replaced by a new animal, the citizen journalist.

The latter has the advantage of being at the right place at the right time and is able to cover news that would otherwise go unreported.

These untrained journalists are taking photographs and filing reports on events which once would have been the sole preserve of our media outlets.

They help online news sites deliver news faster by submitting text, pictures or even videos of events as they happen. The product of such news gathering and reporting is then called user-generated content (UGC).

The idea behind the introduction of it was to encourage people without professional journalism training to use modern technology like cell phones and internet to help traditional journalists. These reporters are expected to report first-hand information of the situation on the ground.

Large organisations such as the BBC and CNN have decided to embrace rather than fight the rise of citizen journalism. CNN has even launched "iReport", where anyone can blog or post videos about news.

Adam Mukendi, the project coordinator for Citizen Journalism Africa (CJA), said citizen journalists are an important tool in the journalism fraternity as they write stories and take pictures which the traditional journalist would have missed.

Mukendi, who runs a website for citizen journalists, said six countries came together to form a website for these untrained reporters. The objective of the website is to increase the outreach in local media of balanced, objective and informative reporting on the situation of targeted marginalised groups, including women.

Mukendi said in order for citizen journalists to express themselves and to report on events happening in their community, they are provided with cameras and videos to do their work. They are also trained how to use equipment.

"A number of people have benefited from the website especially on the use of social media and mobile technology," said Mukendi. "Despite a few challenges participants have been able to pass on and sustain the acquired knowledge back into their local organisation and today the CJA community is a vibrant group of proactive citizens and practitioners in Digital media."

The website has a platform for people to write blogs, tout events, post pictures and videos. It is put out in both English and Portuguese.

Though citizen journalism is quickly gaining popularity there are both advantages and dangers of using content from citizen journalists.

Some of the advantages include having a chance for newspapers to find out issues about the people in the area. Journalists don't have eyes everywhere so having citizen reporters will give a chance to find out what's happening. Members of the public can witness police brutality and may snap a digital photo and post to for broadcasting.

Arthur Mwansa, a journalist from Zambia, said: "Editors need to be careful they should check and recheck again the content from Citizen Journalists as they might give false information."

And careful they will have to be, because as technology becomes easier to use and less expensive, it seems the citizen journalist is here to stay.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Technology for Africa

Tech4Africa is a web and emerging technology conference, committed to bringing global perspective to the African context. This platform would like to play a role in igniting the talent and skill of a generation of Africans in reach of mobile phone and global market. Founder of Tech4Africa, Gareth Knight, maintains that, “Africans can help themselves and they are just as smart and motivated as anyone else.”

Participants at the 2010 tech4Africa conference, which was held from 12-13 August 2010 in Johannesburg, had the privilege to listen to a lineup of experienced speakers, including Andy Budd from Clearleft, Apple’s Alex Hunter and Erin Caton, Joe Stump from SimpleGeo, Jonathan Snook from Yahoo! and Dustin Diaz from Twitter, who have been working on digital projects and online platforms in the past decades.

With the burgeoning mobile market, the impact of social media, cheaper hardware and improved bandwidth, Africa has the opportunity now to participate on the global stage. Initiatives usch as Mini-Seedcamp at 2010 Tech4Africa gives opportunities to a new generation of African developers and entrepreneurs to connect with international networks of company builders, investors and product experts.

Attendants at this year's conference had a choice between business classes (panel discussions with a strategic approach on subjects like mobile market, Internet connectivity, social media and cloud computing) and technical class where presentations were purely technical. They showcased and shared experience in relation to their products - iPhone applications, Java scripts, Crowdmapping, Js interfaces and mobile payments.

Overall, my highlight of the conference was an inspirational presentation by Leila Janah, the founder and CEO of Samasource, a social business that connect over 800 women, youth and refugees living in poverty to digital work. As the audience stood and applauded Janah’s emotional speech taking us through her life and the past ten years, we all realised how skills and experience could be applied to great effect in the African context.

Basically, this organisation leverage technology to create jobs for millions in poverty. They outsource major international companies research with cheaper field work services and also do the tagging of millions of pictures for Flickr, Web Picassa and Google images.

Taking us through her stories during her presentation, Janah’s (@leila_c) had a life changing experience when she got involved in volunteer work within one poor community in Ghana. She saw the need and provided what she calls ‘virtual factory, online jobs for poor Ghanaian teenagers who were asking her for money’. “Internet is a platform for global meritocracy. The biggest thread to poverty alleviation is lack of opportunity”, she maintains.

Other moments:

* Joe Stump (@joestump), He talked about the benefit of partitioning, server catching and Mytown on iPhone. But more interesting was is experience as Digg’s Lead Architect. I understood that an idea can be genius but the execution matters.
* Arthur Goldstuck (@art2gee); Impressive facilitation and roundup of the panel discussion entitled ’ What you need to know about the mobile market’. To recall the moment, one pessimist panelists became arrogant in the discussion that the audience may have started to lose the point. Weighting in debate with his experience on Internet, mobile and business, Goldstuck was able to give the audience an outlook on the future with mobile market in Africa. Putting things into perspective, I do believe that such division in views demonstrates just how complex the adaptation of adequate technology in Africa is if, Africans overlook themselves.
* Generally, a fair debate on social web was held. I should say that having attended the SANGONeT ‘Social media for NGOs’in 2009 (#Sango09), Tech4africa’s discussions on what this means for business and consumers was nothing new for me. The conclusion still: No one size fits all. And knowing your audience is key for success in social networking.
* Panel Discussion: Are we fundable? I attended this session and learnt that South African funding organisations receive hundred of online applications per day. However, only a dozen can be shortlist because 80 percent of the business plans lack consistency and clear vision. Twitting on the subject I recommend the 2010 SANGONeT’s ’Fundraising in the Digital world‘Conference (#SANGO10) . Register now and join hundreds of organisations willing to learn everything about online fundraising.

The 2010 tech4Africa conference was a very good initiative. Thanks to Tech4Africa, I have no doubt that it is through exposure to the collective ’global' experience that Africa will gain and contribute in the digital world.

Click here for more information about the 2010 Tech4Africa.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Feel it - Unsatisfied!

Now that millions of people and news agencies are focused on the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, I took time to reflect on what this world cup means for me and how I should see opportunities in years to come.

Nowadays in my thirties, I do recall how we use to watch World Cup matches at home. Mum and my two sisters were fairly summoned by my dad to stay in the kitchen while the boys will be watching television. I remember how many times my mum use to rush to the living room and tell my dad that he was screaming and that we may inconvenience the neighbour. Of cause, my dad will send her back to the kitchen before she comeback again with love. The fact is that the flair and passion for football were in the house. The boys were having nice time.

Having left my country six years ago, I have never dreamed that I would be witness of this tournament in the country of my destination, South Africa. At time the country won the BID until all stadium completed; that was a lesson. We heard hard comments about the lack of ability of Africa and South Africa especially to hold such mega tournament until resilience took over and today, wherever you are in this country you can feel and see the soccer vibe – amazing.

Two days before the kick-off, football lover, I am supposed to be in the vibe. Instead, seating in my office reflecting on the FIFA event, I feel unsatisfied. Unsatisfied of where I am in life, how much I have achieved and how much I am capable but still struggling to find my way.

It is a fact that living in a foreign country is never easy. Naturally, sometimes you get to feel reminded that you don’t belong here and intellectually discounted when you’re apparently originated from Africa’s worst French speaking mismanaged and stateless countries. Nevertheless, alike the story behind South Africa’s FIFA 2010, determination and resilience should overcome challenges and prove ones’ cynic wrong.
So, where - to from here?

I don’t really know. May be it is because I love action, exciting projects and challenges, things that my work load these days do not allow me. I love people and interaction - “street Smart”.

I never lose hope. Life has cycles; I might be entering a new one. It is just a bad feeling to be unsatisfied and can’t seem to know where to looking up to. Almost like living without a goal. I suppose in your thirties one should have goals and strategies clearly defined…Isn’t it? - C’est la vie; Even God prefers to leave unanswered questions on our ways no matter hard we can pray.

Nonetheless, to feel how I feel is one thing I am happy with. The conscience to asking questions to myself about what I want and how much I want to achieve. The conscience to taking lessons behind this African first World Cup and transpose them onto my personal life.

Africa is seen as the poorest of all continents with the worst of geopolitics. Yet, Africa – South Africa will deliver the best of FIFA World Cup ever.

Let our hard work silences negative facts, and our resilience lead us to our best

Feel it…it is here

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Les linges sales se lavent en famille (Family affairs are solved under closed-doors)

This is a preferred “say” used in French speaking countries as to maintain that; it is wise to solve family differences in secret.

It is a natural instinct that human strives to give a better impression to outsiders. African culture common sense leads us to arranging our space, wearing clean clothes and portraying at best our social belonging whenever we are receiving guests.

With the FIFA 2010 World Cup, South Africa has the opportunity to show case to the world what it has to offer from its touristic attractions to economic and infrastructural achievements. This is a golden change to write off pessimistic comments about this country readiness to stand among first class countries, world best destination says experts.

While I do understand that people in this country have right to a decent live and fair income, with the FIFA 2010 World Cup billions of Rand have been invested in infrastructure that the South African government is under huge pressure to deliver. Unfortunately, since last year on a national level, almost every month, public servants exercise tremendous pressure on the ANC government asking between 7 and 16% percent salary raise despite a recovering economy due to the global economic meltdown.

Taking in consideration the time frame before the kick off of the world biggest event, I have the impression that the government has no choice than taking memorandum, accept trade unions demand and give unrealistic promises just to avoid tumults during the World cup.

Indeed, It seems for me that ministries are giving up to pressure from trade unions. After municipal workers get what they wanted after splashing bin in many cities, now train commuters, petrol station owner and motorists may pay high price due to another national strike by transporters and public office workers. Still, many other strikes are looming such as that of taxi associations.

I wonder who bluffs who?

Once the world cup is over, we will all realise that many of these promises are just unrealisable.

The truth is, if successfully organised, the country will be better off for years to come and public servants (South Africans) at first place.

So, let’s wake up! Is this really the time to toy-toy when guests start arriving in the country? Which impression will South Africans give to the world? Do we really want to see the South African police charging dancing mobs on television worldwide?

At this time, I would call for more patriotism than self interest

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bad Charisma

Last year, Libyan President Muammar Ghadaffi called for Switzerland to be abolished and for its land to be divided between Italy, Germany and France...Funny.

Yesterday he said:Divide Nigeria in two nations to end Muslim and Christian killings. I am concerned with his diplomacy for the Africa Union...is this the way to go???

My reading of the situation

Girls less likely than boys to be freed from DR Congo’s ranks of child soldiers – UN

12 February 2010 –Despite efforts to end the use of child soldiers in the war-torn east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), youngsters are still being recruited within the ranks of both the rebels and the national army, with girls at particular risk of becoming sex slaves and less likely to be released, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.

Well, this is a sad reality. However, as a Congolese, I am always chocked but such allegations which never include the Rwandan army as lead by Kagame. Since the genocide, the Tutsi army and it secret militia as always been considered clean of any allegation. Why Tutsi are always considered as victims?

Their strong lobby and tight with the US always put things in their favor. If you asked populations at the East of DRC they will tell you that all armies (DRC and Rwanda) as well as militia do commit rape, and recruite child soldiers.

I would urge that task-teams reports on the situations at the East of DRC start pointing finger to the right people. The situation at the East of DRC has move form the quest of power by Congolese rebellion to Tutsi and Hutu militia attack and extermination. I am worried that the international community action is very slow and complaisant with the actual Rwandan regime which uses the force of a law that it has created to punish and jail all Hutu suspected of Genocide. While I will always condemn human killing such as Genocide, at the same time, after all these years of trials and imprisonment of Hutu citizen of Rwanda, I strongly believe that time has come that Rwandan government start moving into a way of reconciliation with Hutu community. Unfortunately, I don't see this happening soon. With the support of the US and lately France, I see Kagame becoming very arrogant.

Anyway, it will happen again. Hutu and Tutsi rivalry started years ago. Now Tutsi are on power, putting in prison as much Hutu as they can. Actually innocent of thousand of Hutu families can't dare going back in their countries, stuck in impoverished life in DRC, Burundi, Central African Republic and Tanzania...etc.

In all of this, the fragile DR Congo with all its mineral resources has become a weak target for all belligerents and multinationals.

I personally believe that if we don't work for reconciliation and inclusion in the region, history will repeat itself again. Soon as Hutu access power in Burundi, Tutsi in Rwanda will be next and the international community won't do much this time again as much as Hutu as well guaranty the safety of certain foreign investments in the region. That is how the story is written in the region....

I am saddened by victims of this forgotten war. Congolese families, raped men and women who live in tents for more then 5 years with nothing for them self then just what to cover their body and international food aid. Surely, some people don't want this war to end and key players may not be those we often point fingers to.

What to say, DR Congo has been a country of hospitality for all immigrant in the region. Those who are living in tent today for generation were sheltering for those who are keeping them in misery. One can ask - why they have never been such refugee camps at East DR Congo even when all neighbors push out millions of refugees. The answer is simple. It because Congolese families showed Ubuntu and took charge.
I grew up studying with Tutsi and Hutu....but today I wonder if there is one Tutsi in Congolese schools. What I want to say is that, for most of Congolese, Tutsi regime in Rwanda is pulling strings at the East. If it doesn't amend itself, in case history repeat itself, I am persuaded that Tutsi won't be welcome again in DR Congo.

Nonetheless, I do agree that all actors in the Eastern DRC war are to be condemned including the Congolese army and government in legitimate-defense which actions are to be condemned.

As I read it from a book title: "c'est notre tour de manger"..meaning "it's our turn to eat", that's how can be qualified the situation in the region. Sadly this behavior is of a short memory. DR Congo will be stable one day but Rwanda will never be until we stop being bias. Commission of truth and reconciliation alike South Africa is the way to go.

We all know which country has always been a problem in the region...today its president is praised for his achievements to the expense of millions deaths consequence of his army support to successive Congolese rebellion while we keep an eye closed on children and mineral exploitation in DRC which apparently feeds the stability of the Rwandan economy. Of cause, no one want to say that loudly....

For the sake of my relatives at the East of the Congo, I want just peace. Enough of these white elephant UN reports. Population need action and willingness to stop those who are pulling strings...

To say the truth...Congolese are peaceful people who want just to have good time in life. They can't do war but some can and like killing. Also shame to our greedy leaders....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

It sounds like another joke!

President Obama wins the Nobel Prize for peace and President Kagame of Rwanda listed by Time Magazine and Financial Times http://tinyurl.com/yb2lhbr among 50’s most influent people in the planet.

Nationally, Yes They Can! But internationally we still wait for results of their pretended actions.

For the fact, President Kagame as well as President Kabila’s army has been implicated by many reports in the ongoing rape of women and men in the Eastern Democratic republic of Congo. And Kagame’s support to rebels especially General Nkunda has destabilised the great lake region causing millions of displaced and casualties. This situation has led to illegal trafficking and exploitation of minerals from the Eastern of the DR Congo by its neighbouring countries.

As Africans, we should all work for a collective peace and prosperity. Peace in one country will still fragile until neighbours are stable…let learn all from history.

So, Citizen of the world…I will disapprove this time again recognition from a global publication