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Why the future of African journalism lies in mobile social networks


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Why the digital divide should not be an excuse for African media leaders to ignore the power of social media particular and the Internet in general. …

Why the digital divide should not be an excuse for African media leaders to ignore the power of social media particular and the Internet in general.
Introduces SMS for Social Networking Systems in Africa.

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  • 1. Jude Mathurine Coordinator New Media Lab Rhodes University [email_address] Why the future of African journalism lies in mobile social networks Presented @ Media140, Sydney Future of Journalism in Social Media age
  • 2.  
  • 3. Are African produsers ready for social media?
    • Internet is still elite medium
    • This affects what is represented, who is represented and how they are represented
    • Africa constitutes about 4-5% of world’s Internet users
    • 10% of South Africans have Internet access
    • 5% in Nigeria
    • 5% in Namibia
    • 8% in Kenya
    • 2,4% in Uganda
  • 4. Not really!
    • But constrained by income, education, literacy, access to bandwidth, electricity and geography and bad regulation among others.
    • This skews WHO is able to use the Internet in general and social media in Africa in particular
  • 5. Example: South African web
    • 13% of South Africans 16yrs and older in major metropolis have accessed the Net in the past 4 weeks (+- 1.3 Million people)
    • 50/50 male/female split
    • 2/3rds of users are White
    • Predominantly still English speaking
    • Ave. household income has come down a bit (+- R13K / month) High LSM
    • 2/5ths have a tertiary degree
  • 6. The reality is
    • 2005 average household income is R6 215 p/m (Stats SA)
    • This does not account for racial differences in income which has SA with the 2 nd worse Gini coefficient in the world
    • Blacks constitute 80% of the total population
    • Whites constitute about 9-11%
    • English speaking population as first and additional language totals only 13 million out of population of 44 million
  • 7. So what?
    • Online social media biased towards wealthy, educated, urban elites (generally English speaking); people in communications disciplines et c.
    • Conversation in African social space is not representative of majority aspirations and replicates inequalities in social power
    • But it’s a great captive market – high LSMs, early adopters
  • 8. So what?
    • If local media in Africa want to grow social networks as new public sphericules and as markets for monetisation, they have to help foster national ICT capacity; monitor ICT policy and market players
    • Groundwork in creation of social media already done by NGOs, commercial organisations, international social media e.g Ushahidi, Haiya, Zoopy
    • Traditional media proprietary and BAD at partnerships
  • 9. Are journalists ready for social media?
    • Not really
    • Little new media education
    • Shortages of computers
    • Shortage of cell phones
    • Shortcomings in the basic distribution of ICT,
  • 10. Are journalists ready for social media?
    • Expensive broadband: In Africa, the cost of basic broadband per month was $366 in 2006. In Europe the average cost was estimated at $40
    • Malawi: one newsroom allows internet access for 30 minutes a day (2008)
    • Many newsrooms don’t have basic Content Management Systems
    • Some major titles in Southern Africa still don’t have web presence – not even a free blog
    • No ICT or social media policy in newsrooms
  • 11. Are journalists ready for social media?
    • Only few well-heeled news operations allow journalists’ access to Facebook
    • Fewer allow access to Youtube;
    • Africa’s leading PBS, the SABC doesn’t even allow comments on news stories
    • Twitter?
    • Result – arid ground for open and conversational journalisms
  • 12. Does The Digital Divide mean Africa will be left behind in real-time and social media revolution?
  • 13. Not really!! Alexa ranking of top ten websites circa May 2009
      • Yahoo
      • Google
      • Facebook
      • Sobika
      • Windows Live
      • Free
      • MSN
      • KENYA
      • Yahoo
      • Google
      • Facebook
      • Windows Live
      • MSN
      • Youtube
      • Blogger
      • Wikipedia
      • Tagged
      • ZA
      • Facebook
      • Google
      • Yahoo
      • Youtube
      • Wikipedia
      • News24
      • Blogger
      • Gumtree
      • MSN
      • NIGERIA
      • Yahoo
      • Facebook
      • Windows Live
      • Youtube
      • MSN
      • Wikipedia
      • Blogger
  • 14. Two African countries are Opera’s Top 10 international users
  • 15. Mobile Use/Consumption
  • 16. Mobile Use/Consumption
  • 17. Mobile Use/Consumption
  • 18. Mobile Use/Consumption
  • 19. The revolution will be mobilised
  • 20. The African participatory web will be mobile
    • Personal customisable information and communication platform
    • Leapfrogs infrastructure and distribution limitations of fixed line Internet
    • 2002 to 2008: global fixed line grew by 27 million .
    • 2002 to 2008: global mobile subscriptions grew by 3.1 billion
  • 21. Growth trends
    • Africa 2007: 28,5m landlines
    • Africa 2007: 198m mobile phones
    • Even lowest functionality mobiles can be used for SMS and creating SMS social networks
    • China: 30% of citizens access the Internet on their mobile phone.
    • Jamaica: Mobile web surpassed fixed line Internet
  • 22. Social media roles
    • Time space distantiation, mobilisation, resource coordination, education, health
    • Communicating with Africa’s diaspora
    • Providing real time market information etc.
    • Example: Niger saw a 6.4% drop in grain price due to SMS sharing of market info
    • Political accountability e.g Ghana, Zimbabwe
    • Real-time monitoring and conflict reporting and prevention in Kenya, South Africa, Palestine, DRC (Ushahidi)
  • 23. Youth
    • Youth are the future of African media as constitute the largest population demographic
    • Youth are also most vulnerable and least considered in editorial strategies and agenda setting
    • Youth are future of African democracies
    • Social media provide youth’s ‘gateway’ experience for further interaction with web
  • 24. Mxit – 15m users
  • 25. The Grid –location based social network
  • 26. The Grid – GPS based social network can be used for locative reporting
  • 27. Kabissa – networks African civil society groups using ICTs
  • 28. Gatorpeeps –Twitter knock-off (integrates with Twitter account if desired)
  • 29. Zoopy – online video community
  • 30. Haiya – Kenya
  • 31. But what about?
    • High handset costs?
    • Unreliable electricity supplies?
    • And low literacy levels?
    • Whatever works
  • 32. No electricity, no problem Yes, it is a solar powered donkey cart
  • 33. No electricity, no problem? Informal rechargers. Solar jackets for Boda Boda riders
  • 34. What about handsets?
    • Google Android Open Source mobile operating system frees OS from hardware
    • Could result in cheap local cellphones
    • Venezuela produces Vergatario
    • Vergatario includes telephony, MP3, 3MP camera and MP4 playback
    • Price - $15
  • 35. Bandwidth costs?
    • Four new subterranean sea cables to increase bandwidth capacity and (hopefully) decrease costs:
    • Seacom
    • EASSY
    • West African Cable System
    • Google’s O3B Project
  • 36. SMS Africa’s killer near real-time app
    • Not all phones are smart phones but technology is recycled and handed down every two years
    • SMS is still the ‘killer app’ in Africa
    • Even lowest functionality mobiles can be used for SMS
    • In developed world, SMS is used as one to one tool – in developing world, it is a one to many tool using SMS networks
    • That is why Google introduced SMS search in Uganda in July
  • 37.  
  • 38. SMS in newspapers
    • SMS becomes talkback mechanism
    • User tips, viewpoints, responses, helps set editorial agendas
    • Reader SMSs published in newspapers and online
    • Where media freedom may be limited SMS provides outlet for free expression
    • As result, newspapers like The Namibian take flak from politicians for publishing SMS comments
  • 39. The Namibian
  • 40. Izindaba Ziyafika (the news is coming)
    • Knight funded project in School of Journalism
    • Linked to South Africa’s oldest independent newspaper
    • Links a Content Management System (Nika - give) for curating and managing newspaper workflow
    • Digital content available for other platforms like SMS networks, wired and wireless web
    • Thatha (Take) creates a SMS gateway for receiving user text messages
  • 41. Grocott’s Citizen Media Newsroom
  • 42. Citizen contributed media (Grocott’s fire photograph below)
  • 43. Grocott’s Citizen SMS
  • 44. MyMakana Citizen generated stories
  • 45. Izindaba Ziyafika (the news is coming)
    • Citizen Journalism newsroom established
    • Platoons trained – students, NGOs, municipal councillors
    • Pro-am relations necessary to foster news awareness, basic skills for using computers and mobiles
    • Nika CMS available as Open Source tool for distribution
    • Nika CMS shifts analogue newspapers into the digital age
    • Changes news model from lecture to conversation
  • 46. Concepts
  • 47.
    • A future for African social web is possible
  • 48. Conclusion
    • Social media in Africa will be part of strong mixed media systems where mobile will be more important than the desktop access
    • Growth and use of African social media must be driven by media leaders who should learn from counterparts in commercial, NGOs and ICT4D sector
    • Social media can be important spaces for public discourse for democratisation and development especially among youth
  • 49. Join the conversation Jude Mathurine @newmediajude