Today's Blogger of the Week series features yet another global voice – Abdulrahman Warsame, who amplifies the reactions of Somali bloggers on Global Voices Online. A Somali born in Saudi Arabia, educated in Egypt and Australia, and currently working for Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar, as a Senior Analyst in New Media, Warsame shares his thoughts on blogging in his country and the rest of the Arab world.
At his personal blog, Warsame, who graduated from Monash University in Australia in Information Systems, focuses on politics.
“My blog is mostly a commentary on politics, journalism and culture but certainly politics takes a bigger space. Being an Arab and African, I focus on them most. I'm excited when I see young Arabs and Africans using the web – among other means – to bring about positive change: Egyptian bloggers exposing police torture or Kenyan bloggers rallying together to fight tribalism and create projects like Ushahidi.com to help those who need help. I get annoyed by the lack of time, I would like to write a lot more but I don't seem to be able to get the time. My co-blogger Hanna Ali makes the blog tick, with her intelligent comments on politics and Africa,” he says.
For Warsame, although the role between a blogger and a journalist are distinct, there are many meeting points.
“Blogging is simply a tool, so a journalist could be a blogger and so can a doctor. Blogging is closer to activism than journalism, but bloggers sometimes do some journalism (i.e. bloggers from Myanmar, Egypt and Iraq committed acts of journalism). But there are also journalists who blog, like Andrew Heavens,” he explains.
A relatively newcomer to GVO, Warsame hopes to be able to amplify what Somali bloggers are writing about and possibly encourage more of them to blog.
“I hope to introduce Somali bloggers to the readers of GVO and hopefully encourage more Somalis to read and write blogs. The Somali blogsphere is still relatively young and very diverse. Most Somali blogs, until now, are in English and are written by young Somalis in the North America, UK, Middle East and Africa. Forums and chat rooms are still big but as blogging catches on there would be more Somali blogs written in Somali language.”
Besides blogging, Warsame devotes “a large chunk” of his spare time to reading.
“I also like photography so I do it whenever I get my hands on a decent camera (planning to buy a pro camera in the near future). Socializing and drinking tea (at least 5+ cups a day) is another hobby.”
The father of a five-month-old son, Ibrahim, is also dismayed at the lack of interest in reading among some of his Arab compatriots – and blames the ‘system’ for it.
“Having been through Arab schools and speaking to students and teachers here, I think the education system is largely to blame for the lack of interest in reading books (people read newspapers). There are less books published in the Arab world (than Iran for example), there are few public libraries or national programs to encourage reading from you age. There was no decent public library in Cairo when I lived there, and it's the same here in Qatar (though they're building one now). It's a crisis and unfortunately no one is doing anything about it,” he notes.
And are Arabs making the most of online technologies?
“Some are and some aren't. I don't think anyone understands the dynamics yet though. Iraqi bloggers like Riverbend and Healing Iraq have done very well and online news sites like Morocco's Hespress are very successful. Forums and chat rooms are still bigger though. Governments, public institutions and companies are very much behind: most of their websites are out of date and have little information about anything. They assume people wouldn't be looking at them,” says the blogger, who is fluent in Somali, Arabic and English and has a bit of Chinese (Mandarin) and Farsi under his belt.