Bloggers’ Notes From Web2forDev Conference

Web2forDev is the first conference on participatory web for rural development, which took place from 25-27 September 2007 in Rome, Italy. Bloggers who were covering the event included African journalists who were blogging both in English and French at the Web2forDev blog.

Brenda Zulu, a journalist and blogger from Zambia asked participants what they learnt on Day Zero:

I asked people about what they learnt on Day Zero Web2.0fordev conference and what they where going to take home.
Prince Deh GINKS Assistant Network Coordinator, Ghana
I am planning to host local language videos and translate the text in English because I realise that many people get my stories and information from the blog. Video blogging has enhanced my knowledge and sharing skills.As you see people are attracted by video and they want to see and hear at the same time. I have learnt how to use delicious, wikis and tagging. One thing is that if you don’t tag your work not so many people will read about it.

William Eziniwa Nwangwu, Nigeria
Regional Center for Information Science, Lecture
I have been wondering why Web 2.0? Isn’t it a new word for an old thing?I have discovered how it is being used and sometimes it worries me as an academician. Some Universities in the
USA have banned students giving reference to wikis as one of their sources of researched information. In wikis who is the author? Is the information peer reviewed? In my institution I limit the reference of wiki copies.

On day 3 she spoke with Wycliffe Ochieng Arua of Agricultural Commodity Exchange from Kenya:

It has been a great conference and the way forward especially if there is a way we could work together to blend the existing web 2 tools that are used in Africa putting in mind our users farmers they would like to access these application.I am looking at mobile telephone and interative voice resposnses an dthe local FM stations in Kenya.
I have taken home a lot of knowledge and I am very much informed now about blogs and wikis and would like to certain up a blog in our organisations especially when we are contributing to a proposal.
I think we used existing network to reach the people CSOs are working with on the grassroot level.

Chris Kgadima posted a podcast of his interview with SANGOnet ICT Services Manager, Matthew de Gale. Matthew talks about Citizen Journalism project designed to promote the use of Web 2.0 bu rural communities in Africa:

SANGOnet is an Information Communication Technology NGO in Southern Africa that promotes and support ICT projects in the region. They are currently setting up Citizen Journalism project with the aim of promoting the use of Web 2.0 by rural communities on issues of development. SANGOnet ICT Services Manager, Matthew de Gale explains how they are planning to make this project to provide communities with necessary skills and opportunities to utilize Web 2.0 to improve their lives.
Interviewee:Matthew de Gale ICT Services Manager SANGonet
Interviewer:Lillian Malete, Nkgowa Media

Brenda Zulu covered the session on video blogging for rural communities in Africa, Vlogging: amplifying voices of rural communities in Africa?:

Rural communities in Africa can have their stories shared with the larger audience using video blogging which is a Web 2.0 application to amplify the voices of the grassroots in the future.

Sharing his experience as a Vlogger, Prince Deh said he had been creating videos and posting them on a blog and hence received feed back from all over the world. “How do we solve the problem of rural connectivity in order to extend the benefits of Web2.0 tools much wider beyond the scope of the cities?” he asked.

Togolese multimedia journalist, Noel Tadégnon, posted a video of his interview with Kuami Ahiabenu from Ghana about empowering journalists with online tools, “Making a case for online training.”

Online training, according to Kwami Ahiabenu, will become the dominant means of training for journalists:

Making a case for online training of Journalists in Africa, Kwami Ahiabenu II from the International Institute for ICT Journalism (PenPlusBytes) observed that online training was going to become dominant means of training and that there was need to invest time and energy to ensure that it becomes part of a capacity building projects and programmes application.

He noted that though there are costs associated with online training in the long run online training was relatively cheaper and cost effective. An achievement was that online learning provided an opportunity for Journalists to learn about new tools and use them in the process of learning

In overcoming the challenges, Ahiabenu II explained that the course used a group e-mail list as their primary course delivery tool in order to ensure low bandwidth participants are not left out of the course.

Holly Ashley, the Assistant Editor, Participatory Learning and Action, wrote about from Ugandan web 2.0 pioneers:

I felt like I had found a magic bean. Ednah works for a Ugandan NGO, Busoga Rural Open Source & Development (BROSDI). It’s a not-for-profit organisation that works with government and civil society in improving rural livelihoods. Within BROSDI is a project called Collecting and Exchanging of Local Agriculture Content (CELAC).

Both BROSDI and CELAC project make extensive use of Web 2.0 approaches. But it’s a real combination of Web 2.0 and grassroots participation. For example, CELAC is almost entirely populated with locally generated content. As Ednah says, ‘We are sharing information from our great grandfathers that we are losing in our generation.’

Essentially, it’s a great combination of the online – Blogs, Google Maps, Wikis, online documentation, chatrooms – and the offline – a weekly mobile phone SMS farmers’ information service, village knowledge brokers, monthly farmer forum meetings, village meetings, radio, and hard copy documentation. They are even developing an e-learning tool for primary school children.

Ethan Zuckerman shared some highlights and his overall impressions:

Kwame Ahiabenu from the International Institute for ICT in Journalism (PenPlusBytes) in Accra, Ghana, makes a persuasive case for the importance of basic tools in online education. His team offers free online trainings for journalists on how to incorporate IT into their journalistic practice and better use IT tools for reporting. The courses are offered via email, and while they encourage the use of fairly complex online tools, they’re accessible to anyone who can participate in the email lists, which helps explain their popularity with users throughout Africa, and as far away as Bangladesh and Australia.

Two overall impressions:

- There’s a great deal of enthusiasm for the tools of web 2.0, but I worry that people are embracing tools because they’re worried about falling behind.

- Those of us who have been working in ICT for development for a while may – or perhaps should – be starting to feel like it’s “put up or shut up” time for these tools. We need to get beyond discussions of how these tools might benefit people and get closer towards ensuring they do benefit people.

1 comment

  • BRE

    Wow Ndesanjo, I’m really happy that GVO covered this important conference in Rome and that the attendees and speakers are so upbeat about the potential for implementing new technologies to help solve challenges and problems in rural communities around the world. Brenda Zulu and the rest of the journalist team sponsored by PANOS-West Africa have done a great job and their reports are much appreciated.

    I brought this conference to the attention of one U.S. technology company that is well known for its enterprise collaboration and communication software and I hope that they and other technology firms will follow the news from this important event via the Web2forDev blog and website.

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