Digital journalism is booming in Africa thanks to the efforts of people like Cameroonian blogger and multimedia journalist Dorothée Danedjo Fouba, whose online alias is DorothyDaf.
A winner of the prize for “Best African ICT Blog, Telkom-Highway Africa New Media Awards 2013″, she recently spoke with Dibussi Tande (@dibussi) about the state of affairs in this field, and the qualities needed to excel in it.
Dibussi Tande (DT): Congratulations on having won the “Best African ICT Blog, Telkom-Highway Africa New Media Awards 2013″. What does this mean to you?
Dorothée Danedjo Fouba (DDF): To me, this prize represents a great recognition of my journalistic work, particularly in multimedia journalism. And one could say it is a tribute to work well done.
DT: Your blog has received awards in two consecutive years from Highway Africa. What is special about dorotheedanedjo.com?
DDF: My blog is oriented towards the Internet and new technologies for journalists and communicators. Specifically, it gives tips and teaching tools for audio and video podcasts. I think what distinguishes it from the others is: that it tries to present information in both French and English in an educational manner.
DT: In addition to your blogging, you host a show about multimedia on CRTV, and you have recently obtained a master's degree in professional design for online media education, from the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle. What is the origin of your passion for information and communications technology (ICT), and for digital journalism in particular?
DDF: Let's just say that I've always been attracted to anything that is technical, since I was a child. Perhaps it's true that I have a talent for writing, but at heart, I am a scientist. Anything that can be demonstrated in a technical manner is interesting to me, and that is why, over time, I turned towards digital journalism, because I always wanted to find out how these technologies can be used as tools of the profession.
DT: What attracted you to blogging? The desire to fulfill something that was missing in the profession, a passion for the written word, etc.?
DDF: As I was saying, I am a hybrid, a product of both writing and love of technical knowledge. I turned toward blogging, not only because it helped me to overcome a professional deficit, given the fact that it is not always easy to deal with all subjects in ordinary writing, because of the role of editors, but also to show to others what I think about the methods and approaches that can be adopted to connect media with new technologies.
DT: In your opinion, what is the reason for the noticable lack of blogs in Cameroon, or even in Africa, which focus on ICT?
DDF: I think that their absence can be explained by the fact that one has to invest a lot of time to create a blog that focuses mainly on ICT. Or, by definition, a blog is a personal journal, and thus, it is managed by one individual. That is not easy. In addition, it requires a certain amount of digital culture and personal effort to be able to collect information. We generally prefer to write political propaganda, essays on culture, and to “seek pity”, in the political sense, about certain topics. Or sometimes, it is simply due to laziness.
DT: Most media outlets in Cameroon are slow to adopt new technologies, have a very hesitant online presence, and do not sufficiently take advantage of social networking resources. What explains this phenomenon? Lack of financial means, unreliable internet infrastructure, or simply a lack of information?
DDF: I would blame it mostly on ignorance, and on fear of the unknown. We are afraid of anything which is new, and which would bring about a change in our habits or methods.
DT: In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good digital journalist or blogger?
DDF: A good digital journalist or good blogger must already have the intrinsic qualities of all good journalists, which is to say: to find, collect, and distribute accurate and proven information, in a clear, concise, and precise manner, and in accordance with ethics and moral obligations regarding information publishing. They also need to have a strong sense of curiosity, and knowledge of how to create online content using digital tools.
DT: A few years ago, you advanced the idea that new media may be able to save African literature. What was that about, exactly?
DDF: That idea was in 2011, if I remember correctly. It consisted of looking into how one could create an online network for distribution of African books. My concept would be realized in the form of a specialized portal site, used to transform ordinary books into e-books. This solution could be based, strategically, on bulk SMS.
DT: In 2011, you outlined a proposal for a digital library based on two literary portals called Kamerbooks and Afrobooks. What is that project about?
DDF: Yes, indeed, that project was the result of my ideas about the uses of new medias for African literature. Two years ago, when I was looking for the ways and means to set this up, I almost got conned by a self-described Cameroonian “web entrepreneur”. Now, I am working to realize the project in as short a time as possible, and I remain open to proposals from potential partners.
DT: In March 2012, you won another pan-African prize, the African FOSS Reporter Award, which is a prize for African reporting on free and open-source software. How can these free software programs be catalysts for socioeconomic development in African nations?
DDF: In reality, the low-cost nature of this type of software, the freedom that we have to modify and to distribute it, and the resulting anti-virus protection, are such that they inevitably catalyze development. Imagine for a moment that the Cameroonian administration were using these: first, the cost of importing anti-virus would be reduced to zero, and second, the costs of buying licensed software would be cut by at least half. This undoubtedly would represent a huge gain, that would permit job creation for some of the unemployed, whom, as you know, are so numerous in developing nations.
DT: Is there a difference between “DorothyDaf”, the blogger, and Dorothée Danedjo Fouba, the veteran journalist who works at the Ministry of Communication?
DDF: Ha ha, not really. “DorothyDaf” is just an abbreviation of Dorothée Danedjo Fouba. Responsibilty for everything that I do on paper as “DorothyDaf” is entirely assumed by Dorothée Danedjo Fouba, under the general inspection of the Ministry of Communication of Cameroon. Both tasks involve my freedom and my responsibilities as a journalist, in every way.
DT: One last question : You are only 30 years old, but you already have a closet full of trophies and distinctions, including a new master's degree, among others. How do you see the rest of your career?
DDF: As for the rest of my professional career, first on the horizon will be the realization of a multimedia teaching platform for online media education, which I began to develop during the year of my master's degree program at Ingenieris Cameroon: Matic.edu (Medias assisted by ITC). I hope to have the good graces and health, which only Christ can give, to be able to see it to fruition.
Thank you for your interest, and for the encouragement you have given to me.