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As Ebola Strikes, a Guinean Blogger Laments the Country's Lack of Online Community

Le Palais du peuple - Conakry, Guinée. CC BY 2.5

The People's Palace in Conakry, Guinea. CC BY 2.5

Guinea is going through a challenging period lately. The Ebola virus is having an extremely detrimental effect on the population at risk, of course (430 deaths as of August 26) but also on the health care system as a whole. The West African country's health system is not equipped to withstand the Ebola assault on top of their other existing needs.

The health system is not the only industry that has lagged behind in terms of development. The tech industry has not shown similar growth in comparison with its neighbors Senegal, Ghana or Côte d'Ivoire, and Guinean bloggers struggle to engage civilians in the kind of national solidarity in time of crisis that Ivorians managed to instigate a few years ago.

Alimou Sow is one of the most popular bloggers in Guinea. Creator of the blog Ma Guinée plurielle, (My Guinea is Plural), he won the awards for the best Francophone Blog organized by Deutsche Welle in 2013. This situation has hit a nerve with Sow, and he wrote a scathing post that questioned the involvement of the Guienan blogosphere in doing its part for the betterment of the nation. Here is an exceprt:  

Mais que s'est il passé sur la blogosphère guinéenne ? La Guinée-à t-elle une blogosphère ? Une twittosphere ? Ne sommes nous pas, comme très souvent des nombrilistes spectateurs passifs des convulsions du monde? Quelle est notre part du dividende de la citoyenneté sur le web ? Nous sommes un des rares pays – sinon le seul – de la sous région à n'avoir jamais pu organiser un ‪#‎BarCamp‬ ou un ‪#‎BlogCamp‬. Pendant ce temps chez nos voisins il existe des communautés structurées très dynamiques des net-citoyens qui se mobilisent spontanément à chaque événement important pour apporter une aide désintéressée à leurs concitoyens à travers les outils internet. C'est le cas actuellement en RCI et au Sénégal pour lutter contre l'épidémie d'Ebola que nous leur avons fourguée….

En vérité, nous Guinéens, nous nous sommes laissés avoir par la politique et l'ethnocentrisme en oubliant nos terribles ennemis communs que sont: l'ignorance, le chômage, la pauvreté et les maladies. Nous pouvons toujours continuer à demander de l'aide à Dieu, mais au vu de ce dont IL nous a déjà gratifié (un pays immensément beau et riche, une diversité ethnique et culturelle, etc.) je crains qu'Il ne soit lassé vu son agenda dans les autres contrées du globe: Palestine, Ukraine, Ebola, Irak, Libye, Syrie…

What happened to the Guinean blogosphere? Does Guinea even have a blogosphere to speak of? A Twittersphere maybe? Aren't we just too often the self-centered, passive spectators of the world's convulsions? Do we do our part as members of the citizenship of the interweb? We are one of the few in the sub-region — if not the only one —  that has never been able to organize a #BarCamp or #BlogCamp. Meanwhile, our neighbors can showcase very dynamic structured communities of bloggers who mobilize spontaneously at each major crisis to provide selfless assistance to their fellow citizens through internet technology. This is currently the case in Côte d'Ivoire and in Senegal in order to combat the Ebola virus that Guinea “passed on” to them.

[…] In fact, we Guineans, we let ourselves be fooled by politics and ethnocentrism and we forget that our first formidable common enemies are  ignorance, unemployment, poverty and disease. We can keep on asking God for additional help, but given what HE already has given us (an immensely beautiful and rich country, ethnic and cultural diversity, etc.) I am afraid that God is tired for helping and that God saw on its agenda that other parts of the world also need assistance : Palestine, Ukraine, Ebola, Iraq, Libya, Syria …

University of Conakry at Dusk  - Public Domain

University of Conakry at Dusk – Public Domain

A few additional bloggers reacted to the post and added comments to the conversation. Alfa Diallo agreed with the assessment that Guinea has fallen behind and needs to pick itself up right now: 

Particulièrement touché par ces vérités. Mais, moi je pense que vous êtes sur la bonne voie. La formation est l'élement qui manque à la chaine. En Guinée, même ceux qui ont des choses à dire ou à montrer ont un serieux handicap: la non maitrise des outils du web. J'ai participé à une seule séance de votre formation à la MDP, mais croyez moi j'ai baucoup appris. 

Particularly touched by the truths you exposed. But I think you're on the right track. Training is the element missing in the process. In Guinea, even those who have something to say/teach all have a serious flaw: they do not master web technology. I attended one of your training session and believe me I learned a lot.

Tafsir Balde took Sow's words to heart. He said Guineans must be held accountable, specifically those in the diaspora (Balde is resident of Morocco):

Au fait, moi je trouve que ce retard n'est pas toujours du côté de la Guinée, mais du guinéen en quelque sorte (sauf quelque uns). Au Maroc ici, des jeunes guinéens talentueux y sont, mais pas tellement branchés dans la blogosphère. Je ne connais qu'un seul blogueur guinéen ici (Kba), si non, le reste, ce ne sont que des simples internautes. J'ai représenté la Guinée et l'Afrique en général dans pas mal d'événements web ici au Maroc; ou j'étais le seul participant sub-saharien!… 

I find that this lag is not always on Guinean authorities, but also on the Guinean population (except for a few). Here in Morocco, there are talented young Guineans, but they do not get involved with the blogosphere. I know of only one Guinean blogger here (Kba). The rest of us are just ordinary Internet users. I represented Guinea and Africa in general in a few web events here in Morocco and I was the only sub-Saharan participant!

Thierno Diallo thought that some bloggers are capable of advancing tech civic engagement in Guinea, but they must get organized: 

On a dressé la liste (non exhaustive) des personnes qui se sont montrées aptes (par leur civisme) à faire partie de cette organisation ; Tu sais autant que les autres blogueurs que nous ne pouvons pas être manipulés comme les jeunes qui soutiennent aveuglément l'un ou l'autre camp en échange de quelques billets de banque, sans se soucier de l'intérêt de la Nation. 

We compiled a non-exhaustive list of individuals who have demonstrated with their civic engagement the ability to be part of such a movement; You know as we do that bloggers cannot be manipulated by politicians like the young people can be sometimes. They would blindly support one side or the other in exchange for some banknotes, regardless of the larger interest of the Nation.

This online conversion summarizes in a nutshell the many challenges facing the Guinean blogosphere. They act in isolation in an environment stricken by extreme poverty. In fact, bloggers face many challenges on a daily basis such as provision of basic services. Internet is just one of those services they have limited access to. 

Follow our in-depth coverage: The Struggle to #StopEbola in West Africa

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