Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Future of the African Blogosphere

To those that don't know about the Digital Citizens Indaba, the first blogging conference in Africa, too bad, it is already over. Though I wasn't there - I didn't know about the conference until two days before its commencement! But not that it would have mattered because I doubt if I would have attended anyway. Well, the event is over, just as the controversy it generated before and during its commencement.

These questions have been lurking in my mind since the beginning of the conference:

  • What would the post-conference initiatives be?
  • How can African bloggers leverage their knowledge and (web 2.0) expertise to a greater good?
  • What initiatives can bloggers undertake that will impact positively on the continent, particularly the mainstream media coverage Africans and the continent?
  • What direction is the African blogosphere heading; is there a future for African and Afrocentric blogs?

  • I believe it's is safe to state that no immediate changes or impacts will be apparent. However, if the post-conference post by Mike Stopforth on his blog and the numerous synopses offered by Ethan, Ory, Mental acrobatics and the official conference blog are anything to go by, it appeared the conference did bring about the dawn of a new beginning for some: more eyes have been opened, and the newly sowed seeds of fresh ideas have started sprouting. Decent returns for a two-day conference it seems.

    There are some things the conference wouldn't change in a hurry though. For instance, the impact of infrastructure lack, particularly irregular power supply in the continent will forever have a negative effect on blogging trend. I was privileged to view Ethan Zukerman's slides of his talk at the Indaba conference before their miraculous disappearance on his blog. One striking revelation I got from those slides is the paucity of blogs on Africa compared to other continents. But what should be expected from a 'dark continent' that has remained literally dark because of limited electricity supply?

    Back to the questions raised earlier. The future of African blogosphere looks promising. For example, the synergy and energy the East Africans have demonstrated has yielded tremendous payoffs. Aside from the sheer size of blogs from the sector, the development of the Swahili wikipedia shearheaded by Ndesanjo Macha - a blogger - is one huge achievement that has strengthened the eastern African blogosphere. And just as the Mzelendo project initiated by two East African bloggers - Kenya Pundit and The Thinkers' Room? Excellent example of journalistic activism by non- professionals.

    As the East/South African blogosphere waxes stronger and works in greater unison, the reminder of the African blogosphere is largely fragmented and Diasporian - with the writers operating from offshore. But this shouldn't be seen as a disadvantage by any means; the overseas locale of these blogs does offer some clear but overlooked benefits.

    Blogs located in the Diaspora can offer insights into the lives of African immigrants: the happenings, travails and events in many communities are hardly discussed on the blogosphere, or anywhere for that matter, and can ignite some interesting debates. Some good anchors for this are the various community newspapers and other media outlets in the Diaspora whose contents have remained grossly underutilized by both the African bloggers and the continental media outlets.

    If you are wondering if there is any good in seeking out ways these various and divergent contents can be put to a better use; sure there is.

    As the conversations diversify into these ignored areas, a more balanced perspective start to efface. The misinformation and sensational coverage Africa has suffered from media sectors who don't know any better may even start to reverse as newer perspectives become more common and 'linkable'. And who can best drive this initiative than African bloggers, particularly those in the Diaspora who have the opportunity to see the two sides of the coin?