Tuesday, April 22, 2008

MEDIATIC Project & Competitive Experiences of Bloggers in West Africa

In the framework of the Haayo-Mediatic project, you are kindly invited, for the second time, to produce stories on the following theme: “Blogging in West Africa”. We have the pleasure to invite you to send one or two (not already published) article(s) on this theme. Each of the articles should contain between 5, 000 and 6, 000 letters.
The article can deal with blogging by the media, civil society or political actors, the state of the art, the issues and perspectives. It can be based on interviews, on the analysis of the issues around this subject or on both. The articles will be appreciated by our teams and the articles thus selected will be published on the project’s web site.
At least ten (10) articles will be selected according to their pertinence, the quality of their contents and writing. Each selected article will be granted FCFA 100,000 (about USD 200, the reference currency being F CFA) . The Haayo Mediatic project is sponsored by OSIWA. Other calls will be launched during this project’s first year of implementation.
Selected articles are also designed to be collected in a paperback publication (that will be made available to relevant national and international stakeholders on a non commercial basis). The authors accord PIWA the right to publish the productions received. PIWA reserves the right not to award grants if the articles submitted are not up to an appreciable quality. The decisions made by PIWA are supreme and beyond all possible dispute. All participants in this contest implicitly accept the rules presented in this note.
Francophone West African journalists as well as English speaking ones are eligible – The articles can therefore be sent either in English or in French.
Your articles must be sent by electronic mail to atounkara@panos-ao.org AND to contact@cipaco.org no later than 30th March, 2007. Please join your resume and a note attesting that the article has not been published before.
Send your articles to/For more information: Panos Institute West Africa
Tel: +221 849 16 66


Blogging in West Africa
Now, evidence abound in the West African Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) that shows it has taken a new dimension with the evolution and advent of blogging.
The web call blogs
Now, evidence abound in the West African Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) that shows it has taken a new dimension with the evolution and advent of blogging.
This was boosted with the acceptance of ICT and strengthened by the massive roll-out of the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), which has pushed up the need to improve on value added services such as the Internet in the country, as the subscriber-base rises.
Blogging, an ICT industry term is daily increasing reception among various upcoming professionals since the web advancement caught up with the region and in Nigeria and Ghana precisely, Hence, the need to examine blogging by parts of media, civil society and political class in West African region at large.
Primarily defined as act of keeping a dairy on the web, weblog often referred to as a web-log, weblog or blogging, while those involve in carrying out this mission of pushing more information through the ‘community journalism’ module are known as bloggers. Also, blogs have since grown into what some experts categorized as push-button-publishing, a concept that has simplified its module of ownership and publication, which actually takes the push of a button to accomplish.
So, to own a weblog, a potential blogger requires, a computer system connected to the Internet and then make a choice out of the several Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) templates. This entails that programmers; those who coded the initial formula for weblog made it free for users to have access to the programmable codes and change same at will, without hiccups of proprietary.
This is unlike proprietary software being propagated by the likes of Microsoft and Adobe, were simply paid for; align to FOSS activists believe that this attitude contributed to the widening of digital divide between several stratums in the society.
Creating blog …
Creating a weblog lasts for less than 10 minutes, depending on the skilfulness of the potential-blogger and the speed of the Internet access.
And by simply logging on to any weblog-inspired sites such as UserLand.com, ScriptNews.com, TypePad.com and Blogspot.com to name a few, borders on issues of paramount importance to an individual and content generation could be consistently raised among peers both locally and globally, and given the ‘global village’ epistle, with the choice of making it FOSS affair or private like in http://donaldduke.blogspot.com.
Typically, weblogs are initiated on non-profit basis though dated with logs as in diary, which could be updated daily, weekly or as frequently as possible. It’s also published in reverse chronological order, making it handy on a specific subject with sub-themes. Name it and there is a blog for it and could contain recorded ideas too.
13 blind men?
Ten online media websites examined during the course of our investigations across seven acclaimed national dailies in Nigeria and three magazines, additional to three Ghanaian media websites. Outcome showed that only one media website reflected a weblog column in its home page, which is an intension to tap into the future and benefits of weblog through engaging its readership and obviously getting some newsworthy materials as feedbacks. Incidentally this column found in Daily Champion, was not active.
Others consist of Nigerian Tribune, The Guardian Nigeria, The Nation, The Sun, The Punch, Vanguard, The News, NewsWatch and Weekly Trust.
Ordinarily weblogs afford people with the ICT-power to write, share experiences by posting them online, and through a new global diary format called ’a web in our log’ by some industry analysts. As for neighbouring Ghana, our investigations showed that media organisations in this domain are not distanced to ICT but the effect of blogs and consequent usage or propagation is totally absent. Study also revealed that an Accra-based Ghanaian Chronicle, styled to be independent and published thrice weekly, does not have weblog column, while Daily Guide also based in Accra was very difficult to access and Ghanaian Times was not different either.
Nigerian Journalists blog!
Today, blogs in Nigeria and Ghana are visible on Technorati.com and search would unveil estimated 289 blogs on Nigeria sorted out by relevance, cutting across arts, blogs, books, business, design, entertainment, humour, life, media, movies, ICT, music, news, personal, politics, sports and travel among others.
As-such there is a Nigeria Official blog-DTI with 60 blogs linked to it that definitely have to do with Nigeria, even as specific events could be sourced through and positive focus on Nigeria. Equally, Nigerian ICT-media has explicitly risen to the occasion with weblogs dedicated to the sector, including ITRealms Online and ICTNewsNow to name a few.
Research also informed that very few journalists actually have access to the Internet, while very little have access at homes; even at offices journalists find it difficult to blog because supervisors could be watching which would amount to abandonment of duty.
Mr. President’s blog!
Significantly one of the April Presidential election in Nigeria, Prof. Pat Utomi, has been severally described as the new face of Nigerian technocrats, mostly as he has a blog called UtomiNotes.com; where he share his thoughts and actions towards the new Nigerian dream hinged on WordPress, an FOSS component. Apart from being the first Nigerian presidential aspirant to take such a step, it goes to show Prof. Utomi’s passion for ICT-entrenched growth and need to engender this factor in every facets of the economy. In so doing, its seen by stakeholders as an alternative to reaching out to millions of Nigerians in diaspora and specifically the youth, whose embrace to blogging is on the rise. Experience is said to be the best teacher, especially if shared the Utomi way and expected to boost ICT penetration in the country.
Blogger’s Voice
Speaking on impression of blogs in the region, Nigerian blogger cum ICT Consultant, Mr. Gbenga Sesan, said that there are a number of blogs and bloggers in West Africa both in terms of citizenship and location, but this does not compare favourably with the high volume of blog traffic that exist in some other regions of the global.
“In West Africa, Nigeria commands a high number of blogs and bloggers. Blogs on Nigeria and by Nigerians cut across various discussion topics are a number of platforms through which some of these blogs can be seen as a group; the Nigerian Weblog Ring, Nigerian Blog Aggregator and Global Voices,” he said, calling for more collaboration among bloggers, especially with the much-needed task of popularising blogs as a tool of local content propagation, citizen participation and tool for development.
He said that blogs impact positively in Nigeria, especially this election year, even as he blogs about the elections among other topics and judging from the comments, people are reading politics a lot these days. _ He noted that some candidates are going online, citing Prof. Utomi’s Notes, where he shares stories from the field, campaign pictures and response to questions raised thereof.
On way forward, he advocated for collaboration among bloggers to sharpen each other, learn more and jointly to take advantage of blogging, declaring, “Let’s drop guns and pick up keyboards. It’s time for West Africans to blog!” Even as improved Internet access would naturally facilitate increased number of bloggers from this region.
Efforts by media practitioners could boost blogging in the region, if various stakeholders group like the JACITAD set up in 2003 with 75% membership drawn from the media, key into available options in partnership with local, international and service provision entities to make this dream a realty through workshops narrowed down to webloging, Internet-ready Personal Computer ownership structure for media practitioners and annual prizes for best-of-blogs in West Africa.
Author : Remmy Nweke

Blogging: The Ghanaian journalist’s experience
There are few bloggers in Ghana, including some few committed journalists who are proud to flaunt their newly acquired competence in Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) publicly.
They comprise Emmanuel Bensah, a web journalist with the Third World Network, Isaac Tetteh of Radio Gold, Enoch Darfoh Frimpong of the Daily Graphic and Rayborn Bulley of Radio Ghana.
Mr Bensah is currently the acting President of the Ghana Association of Journalists in ICT who seizes every opportunity to promote blogging.
His blogs, which goes by the addresses: http://ekbensahinghana.blogspot.com and http://ekbensah.blogspot.com.
The first blog seeks to chronicle his trials and tribulations (perspectives, queries, worries) of living and working in Ghana, with a very critical and irreverent analysis of life in Ghana whilst the other looks at general issues affecting his life, but which cuts across EVERY INDIVIDUAL, with some slant that goes for someone who’s come back to his home country after years, and is both reflecting and reminiscing about the trajectory of his life. He also has links and side issues on WSIS and ICTs in general and has five other blogs to his credit.
Mr Bensah is among just about 10 journalists in Ghana with knowledge about blogging.
Some veteran journalists have attributed the lack of interest in blogging to the fact that bloggers in certain countries have been arrested sanctioned or sacked from their work places for publishing articles deemed to be unethical or harmful for public consumption.
Such incidents abound in some Arab countries but experts dismiss it as too remote to take away the benefits and uses of blogging.
An executive of penplusbytes, an international institute for ICT journalism based in Ghana, Kwame Ahiabenu II, has blamed the lacklustre attitude of Ghanaian journalists to blogging on what he called practical challenges such as the lack of skills, access to ICT facilities and time constraint.
All the 10 regional capitals and some districts have Internet facilities, yet a number of journalists lack the basic skills to take advantage of the service.
A recent survey undertaken by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) with membership of more than 500 revealed that less than 20 per cent of Ghanaian journalists have ICT skills. The skill to blog is therefore a remote venture.
Steadfastly penplusbytes has carried on with its objective to create awareness on ICTs among journalists and had on several occasions published articles on blogs to educate journalists in Ghana and in the West African sub-region.
Despite these efforts, journalists in Ghana still find it difficult to create and manage blogs. Interestingly most of the journalists who go through training on blogging end up forgetting the processes involved. One of such training sessions was organised in April 2006 for 20 journalists.
Only three of the journalists who benefited from the training session including Mr Bensah are active bloggers.
The French Embassy in collaboration with the GJA also organised a workshop for journalists in 2005 but the tutorials for blogging was in French which made it difficult for the participants in the Anglophone West African country to grab the techniques.
In the face of the numerous challenges inhibiting the Ghanaian journalist from blogging, Ahiabenu believes there can be a way out.
He is of the view that journalists can seek dialogue with their workplace management to facilitate access for blogging.
Ahiabenu says the local Ghana Association of Journalists on ICT (GHAJICT) can collaborate with the umbrella association-the GJA, to design guidelines that would protect journalists from interferences that could occur when they seek to give their opinion through blogs.
Journalists in most countries already have certain privileges that protect them in the performance of their duties and to Ahiabenu Ghana could emulate the example. There is a test case of a group by the name ‘media bloggers’ who are seeking to be granted the same privileges and protection as journalists in the United States.
Ahiabenu says the benefits of blogging far outweigh the reasons for non-blogging.
According to a web definition, a blog in simple terms is a web site, where one can write on an ongoing basis. New stuff shows up at the top, to enable visitors to read what is new for their comment through e-mail.
Since blogging was launched almost five years ago, it has helped to reshape the web, impacted on politics, shaken up journalism, and enabled millions of people to have a voice and connect with others.
Blogs are easy to create and have been identified as the convenient way to publish anything at all for a wider public through the Internet. In most cases, search engines give results on topics from blogs.
Journalists in Nigeria are reported to be far ahead in blogging within the West African sub-region even though Ghana is more advanced in the establishment of ICT infrastructure with teledensity penetration of both rural and urban communities reaching 25 per cent at the end of 2006.
Ghanaian journalists have been slow in catching up with the use of blogs and according to Ahiabenu the percentage of bloggers is at about one to two per cent.
Penplusbytes is inculcating the culture of blogging among Ghanaian journalists and to Ahiabenu journalists can allow the process to thrive by asking their editors to edit their stories in order to ensure that there are no excesses that would bring about sanctions from higher authorities.
In addition there should be guidelines on blogging and the engagement of managers to facilitate the acquisition of ICT facilities.
Author : Emily Nyarko

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