A two-day conference of African bloggers ended recently in South Africa, REMMY NWEKE, who was there reports that all hopes were not lost as the continent prepares to take its place in the blogsphere.
Of course, Grahamstown, city of the first-ever Digital Citizens (DC) Conference otherwise called Indaba, in local parlance was seemingly agog for the duration, which lasted for two days.
Held at the Fine Arts building, within the Africa Media Matrix (AMM) mansion, Rhodes University campus in Grahamstown, South Africa, the event was hosted by the New Media Lab as part of Highway Africa 2006.
For the event co-ordinator, Mr. Colin Daniels, it was a gathering of African citizens, bloggers, mobile bloggers (mobloggers), vloggers, podcasters, hacktivists and new media journalists, as such focusing basically on blogging.
What is blogging?
This could go for web-logging, another qualifier that has become an acronym for web-logging and those involved in this kind of activities are called bloggers.
According to San Francisco-based Online communicator, Mr. Mark Glaser, in a piece for Reporters Without Borders, noted that weblogs were borne out of the idea of an online journal and or a personal journal, hence most of the time weblogs do not reflect academic writing, like impersonal writing for a wire service.
A lot of other online experts have various views on weblogging including disagreeing with Glaser on the onus or methodologies of weblogs as companies nowadays have weblogs, even as it is moderated to an extent.
Also, experts on weblogs at globalvoicesonline.org described blogging as anything from a personal diary to a complicated website edited by multiple authors. The vast majority of weblogs resemble journals written by one person, usually for an audience of a family or friends.
But weblogs nowadays resemble newspaper opinion columns or magazines on specialty subjects and even read these days by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.
As it were, one could be reading weblogs without knowing it because of the quality of information webpages have via weblogs, which take the sign of syndication feeds like the Really Simple Syndication (RSS), Atom or Extended Mark-up Language (XML); providing links for syndication of a site to know that a site is a weblog.
Therefore, blogs could be set up in matter of minutes depending invariably on the kind of bandwidth at an individual disposal and is largely a free hosting service that has been on the increase globally.
Digital Citizen Indaba
Obviously realising this evolution made with blogs, the organisers of DCI decided to gather what initially was a crème de la crème of African bloggers and despite the initial disappointments with the travelling arrangements, it eventually went off the ground on September 14, with registrations at AMM.
The goal of the Indaba as said by Daniels, was to provide a networking platform for fellow Africans that will hopefully promote further collaboration on the continent and build a strong, active online community.
Daniels in his address to the occasion lamented the lackadaisical state of Internet connectivity on the continent, which he said, has cost Africans not to feature prominently in the blogsphere statistics releases recently by Dave Sifry, whereas Technorati now tracks estimated 50 million blogs even as blogs are being created at every second, let alone families.
He pointed out that as technology savvy continents of the world speak of one blog per family, this largely remains a dream for many African media organisations.
And to reverse this trend, the event coordinator noted, that was the nucleus of the gathering and to deliberate further on issues bothering on blogging and new media precisely in 21st century.
He further described the Internet as “the power to challenge society’s injustices and allow ordinary citizens to question the actions and policies of their governments.” Stressing that blogging with its extended reach becomes an essential tool in ensuring, for instance, that the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) comes to fruition on the continent.
While congratulating participants to the Indaba as part of history on the first blogging conference in Africa, Mr. Daniels, enjoined them to make more use of the tools they have toward making the continent more democratic and journalism friendly society for all.
Although the DCI has come and gone but the criticisms that surrounded it even during and after should not be taken for granted as already, plans are underway to root another Bloggers confab probably against next year.
Riding in a cab from Grahamstown to Port Elizabeth airport, the entire journey was dominated with lamentations of participants in the evening of the last day, September 15.
Most of all was the connectivity issues which almost kept some bloggers out of the venue at the Fine Arts building for the sake of having Internet access, coupled with the change of the wireless access to the participants after the main Highway Africa conference was over penultimate Wednesday.
All these no doubt created a kind of hullabaloo, according to some of the participants on how come there was no Internet access at the venue of supposed core Internet subject of the century, blogging.
In fact, this outcry literally required the organisers to endeavour to make up the following day, being the last and of course, it did not go round due to lack of information on the new wireless created that day by the technical department, thus enabling skeletal access at the Fine Arts building.
Above all, expectations were damped especially on the business modules for weblogs as most media practitioners, especially the new entrants into the world of weblogging looked forward to optimising this to cover up the handsome amounts they pay for Internet access on the continent, even with low bandwidth. This was apart from the initial criticism of the speakers being mainly ‘whites’.
And preceding debates on the outcome of DCI on Blogging, Mental Acrobatics, www.mentalacrobatics.com, in what the proponent, Mr. Ndesanjo Macha described as a practical suggestion; to create a truly African bloggers conference.
“Clearly, we have many African bloggers who have an opinion on what an African blogging conference should or should not have been, should or should not do. We have many African bloggers who have an opinion on how an African blogging conference should be run,” just as he had set up a Google email discussion group called “African Bloggers”.
This group, Macha said, has a simple task but it is a massive one; borne out of the desire to work towards organizing a conference for African bloggers come next year.
“Our discussions within this group will centre around but may not be limited to sponsorship, dates, venues, facilities, speakers, agenda. This group is open to anyone who has a blog,” he declared.
Consequently, industry watchers believed that despite the challenges of DCI organisers, it sounds prophetic of Daniels when he asserted that he would like participants to leave with the feeling of inspired and informed about blogging and its attendant potentials.
A new dawn
There is no doubt, therefore, that with the support of notable bloggers like Ethan Zuckerman, Emeka Okafor, Ory Okolloh, Alaa Abd El Fattah, Matthew Buckland, among others who came from within and outside the continent with Africa at heart; will enthrone a new dawn worthy of anchoring in the blogsphere.
Just as it would not be a bad idea if African Bloggers have sub-regional conferences and then come up with the continental version of the Best of Blogs awards.
And even nothing else, DCI and its organisers has inspired some Africans to rally round the likes of Macha for a truly renaissance as far as blogging is concerned and the history would be incomplete without DCI mention, at least for taking the initial step at Grahamstown in 2006.
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