When I work with members of NGOs and Civil Society Organisations, I always point out the exciting new media and publicity possibilities that are constantly springing up on the Internet. But the question I’m always asked is how relevant citizen journalism and social media such as YouTube and Facebook are for organisations in Africa — given that access to the Internet is still slow and not very widespread, and mostly restricted to elites.
My answer is that the Internet may still be restricted to elites, but that this is changing all the time — and that it’s still crucial to consider, in order to reach those very elites. It is also very important to think about audiences overseas, who do tend to use the Internet as their main source of news and views, and whose support and donations might be crucial to your campaign.
The participatory media site, Global Voices, for example, brings together blogs and reports from all around the world, on a range of social and political issues. It’s a great resource and opportunity for individuals and organisations who want to reach a global audience.
A recent report by David Sasaki on the allied, Rising Voices, site, illustrates how social media and citizen journalism are having an impact by drawing international attention to environmental and political turmoil in Madagascar — which, as Sasaki notes, is a country mostly known to outsiders as the setting for a Disney animated cartoon.
The article is called Rising Voices » Protests in Madagascar and the Importance of Citizen Journalism Training. It’s really worth a read for a look at how young citizen journalists in Madagascar are using the Internet to reporting on the devastation caused by cyclones as well as the recent political unrest. They do this by sending short update messages via Twitter, and uploading photographs and video to Flickr — and of course by contributing blogs, photos and podcasts to Global Voices itself.