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How can African Journalists benefit from Web2.0 revolution?

African Journalists need to embrace the new revolution of Web 2.0 tools if they are to catch up in this globalised World. Below find an interview on Web 2.0 with Matongo Maumbi a journalist from Zambia whose blog

Maumbi recently attended an online training focusing on Web2.0 tools organized by PenPlusBytes, the International Institute for Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) Journalism. In 2006, PenPlusBytes launched an online course on ICT Journalism in Africa and it attracted about forty three participants from nine countries spread across Africa, Europe and Asia. You were one of these fortunate students.

Why did you want to engage in such a course? What were your needs?

Matongo: I engaged in the course because I have an interest in exploiting ICTs at personal level and also professionally. I have been working as a broadcast journalist since 2002 and I was lucky to have been exposed to the computer and internet right from the early days of my career. My ICT knowledge is driven by personal interest and enthusiasm. I needed some professional guidance on using ICTs in my career as well as how I would fully utilize them. I needed to know the pros and cons of using ICTs . The limits, the potential benefits the fun of using the internet and how to explore it better.

What did you learn? What did you prefer (e.g.,. learning about new tools, engaging with other journalists, sharing your ideas and knowledge with others, working together on a common article, networking and interacting…)?

Matongo: I leant quite a number of things. I initially only took blogging as an adventure. Writing whatever came to my mind without any real set objective or target. I guess this was because I did it just out of interest and curiosity. I learnt how to conduct better online research for background information. How to source documents, how to set good parameters for searching. My knowledge on Web 2.0 was improved. Blogging is a good place to express oneself freely without the censorship of your editor or superiors on your work.

How does, what your learnt, influence your current journalism practice? How did it modify your way of working? How did it nurture your work (if so)? How do you apply what you learnt?

Matongo: I preferred learning new tools and also interacting with other journalists from across the continent and globe. As curiosity satisfaction was among my needs, I was really looking forward to learning new tools on ICTs. My mind was more set on learning new tools from what I already taught myself. I guess from the many things I learnt, I now spend less time on the internet. I spend less time because I know better how to conduct my online research with in the shortest possible time but with maximum information. As I am now working better with internet, it has encouraged me to continue getting a local touch to what I read on the internet. During the course I found my self working on fewer but better researched programmes that are of great relevance to our catchments community.

You created your own blog. How do you use this blog? What is the main purpose (PR, information sharing, interacting….?). Did you reach your goal? What are the strength and the weakness of such an exercise?

Matongo: Initially had a website aimed at doing radical campaigns online on things that affect Zambia. Time and resources could not allow me to continue and my site died out. Then I though of creating blog with a similar aim. I basically transferred what my site to the blog. I use the blog to make and achieve my thoughts online. As my blog is more of expressing my self, I have not yet set a good objective. In a small way I have reached my goal of transferring my thoughts online. The greatest strength is that you are your own editor and can write anything you fell is morally right at your own pace and space. You get unlimited freedom besides that fact that you have sensitive stories. Weakness comes in as most of the time I only write about my thoughts without backup professional thoughts. This creates a sense of non credibility from readers. Updates are seldom coming on the blog as I use company equipment and internet to do the updates.

What are the main challenges for African journalists to use Web2.0 tools? Do you think that most journalists have already a “mindset” for Web2 tools? What would the African Media community gain by using Web2.0?

Matongo: The main challenges of African journalists using web 2.0 tools is that we do not have our own working space. We have to rely on computers and internet from our offices. How on earth could one fully use web 2.0 tools when one does not have their own resources? The mindset for most journalists is there but a mindset with out resources is meaningless. Internet connection and access is very expensive for most journalists and even when it is affordable it is very slow. There is plenty to gain such as information sharing, unlimited power to express oneself (group) without the trouble of going through the censoring editors and managers.

Do you think that web2.0 applications – if well used by African journalists – can make the Internet more “relevant”? How so?

Matongo: I think Web 2.0 tools if properly used can make it more relevant. There is a lot of information that African Journalists have but because they have to go through editors, such info is suppressed. Mostly it is as a result of editors, managers not appreciating the role of ICTS tools.

Have you advertised your blog. If yes to whom and how?

Matongo: I think my blog is an isolated one. I have not advertised it. The only people that know about are my friends. I never thought of advertising it mainly because I think I do not update it regularly.

Are you making money from your blog?

Matongo: I am not in any way making money from my blog . I still do not fully know how I can tap into that potential. I do not really see how I can make money. I guess this is something I have to learn next. I know I have what it takes; I just do not have the right guidance.

Have you taught others about blogging?

Matongo: I have not taught any of my close friends’ blogging and taking full advantage of the internet besides e-mail messaging. Training for African Journalists in necessary on new web tools because these are new things which are not taught in Journalism. It is also important to note that a blog helps to store content online for African Journalists which has been for a long time been stored in paper form. The content put on a blog is shared and people learn from that kind of content.

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