I’ve long been reading the multilingual blog, Blogalization, so I was very interested to read this article by one of its founders, Ethan Zuckerman, discussing the role of blogging in the developing world:
When journalists don’t cover parts of the globe, webloggers are like an amplifier without a guitar — they have no signal to reinforce. There aren’t enough bloggers in eastern Congo to give us a sense for what’s really going on, nor will there be for many years to come. None but the largest news agencies are able to pay the travel costs and insurance for reporters to cover these stories. Most choose not to cover a conflict that’s bloody, dangerous, difficult to summarize in a soundbite and unknown to most of their readers or viewers. The net result — we simply don’t have information about many parts of the globe relevant to world debate.
BlogAfrica, also started by Zuckerman, goes a long way to filling in one of the biggest holes in international media coverage. In the U.S. you only hear about Africa when there is famine or genocide, the rest of the time Africa doesn’t matter.
In Zuckerman’s article he has some interesting things to say about a whole bunch of issues, including the small number of people with internet access in Africa:
The small size of this community is not a reason to dismiss it. All new technologies get used first by a band of early adopters before reaching the mainstream. If these early adopters realize they’re not representative of the wider world and work to bring others into the fray, there’s a chance these technologies will evolve in a way that’s inclusive. If that group forgets that they’re outliers in terms of larger society and fails to include others in the shaping of these technologies, it’s unlikely that these tools will be useful to the wider world…
Zuckerman has a long history of working on these issues, as he is also one of the founders of Geekcorps, “a US-based, non-profit organization that places international technical volunteers in developing nations.”