Monday, 29 October 2007

Voices of Africa

One of the latest buzzwords in media and journalism circles is 'citizen journalism', describing the increasingly blurred lines between consumers and producers of media - leading to another buzzword, 'prosumers'. This increased interactivity is said to be changing the definition of journalism as we know it. This is certainly true of media-saturated societies like the US and Europe (the shooting at Virginia Tech in the US was seen as a typical example of 'CitJ'). But much of this debate, as with so many other debates in journalism and media studies, has been taking place in splendid oblivion to circumstances in Africa (and other parts of the global South), where access to new media technologies, especially the internet, are not as prevalent. However, the growth of cellphone use in Africa has been 'explosive' (in fact, a summit in Rwanda today and tomorrow will seek ways to replicate this boom for the internet). A Dutch foundation called Africa Interactive Media Foundation has embarked on a project to harness this cellphone boom to stimulate citizen journalism on the continent. Called 'Voices of Africa', the project aims to promote citizen journalism in Africa. In partnership with a Dutch citizen journalism website called, the project provides high-tech mobile phones to African journalists, who then upload stories to the Skoeps server. It is a small beginning, and one should remain realistic about the limitations of new media technologies in Africa, but if these journalists are given free rein, the project can go some way in providing African journalists with the tools to tell their own stories to a larger audience - a welcome departure from parachute journalism.

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