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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Innovative weblogging and social change

Features of the week:

The new phase of development in the nation’s telecommunications sector has been found in the Value Added Services (VAS) based on information sharing. REMMY NWEKE in this report examines the effect of weblog as a means of sharing information for social change.

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, to drive social change.

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 were examined during the course of our investigations across seven acclaimed national dailies in Nigeria and three magazines, additional to three Ghanaian media websites. The 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 was 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 2007 election’s Presidential aspirant 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, a 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, it was 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 globe.

“In West Africa, Nigeria commands a high number of blogs and bloggers. Blogs on Nigeria and by Nigerians cut across various discussion topics on 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.

Conclusion:

Efforts by media practitioners could boost blogging in the region, if various stakeholders group like the Joint Action Committee ICT Awareness and Development (JACITAD) set up in 2003 with 75 per cent membership drawn from the media, queue 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 and precisely Nigeria.

courtesy: Haayato Mediatric
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