The Media in Africa still has a long way to go in challenging the implementation of Information Communication Technology (ICT) policies in the economic and social development of the continent.
Speaking at the opening of a media workshop organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) at Highway Africa 2004 conference, Aida Opoku-Mensah, Officer in Charge, Development Information Africa Commission said that the media has to champion information as a human right. She observed that only 30 African countries have national information and communication policies, a major improvement from only four in 2000. “Telecom deregulation has occurred in more than 40 countries, compared to five in 1992,” observed Mensah. She pointed out that according to documentary evidence on African media and ICTs for development baseline study, on the state of the media reporting on ICTs and information society issues in Africa, journalists are failing in several areas of reporting on ICTs.
Media misses out on follow-ups on reports, and often does not do critical analysis of policies. Media is not a neutral stakeholder, but highly dependent on ICTs. She urged African journalists to look at how this global issue impacts their local communities.
Susan Mann, Media Consultant, who introduced the course and defined ICT4D teams, facilitated the media workshop. The workshop was highly attended by over 45 journalists, coming from different African countries.
Journalists interviewed on the subject matter said the following:
I think there are number of issues that are affecting the way the media reports on ICTs, that are over looked by the analysts most of the times. Sometimes reporters are not to be blamed as there are gate keepers who have a say on what goes in the news, so at times, reporters are willing to write on the issue but the motivation is not there. ICT stories have not yet reached a level where they are appreciated and given the prominence by media heads. There is need to target editors and find a way of encouraging or persuading them to start embracing ICT issues. This needs efforts from different corners of the media.
It is also true to say that the lack of proper understanding of ICTs and how they could influence people’s livelihoods is another obstacle to reporting on the ICT. This creates a problem, because, if the reporter does not understand the idea, it is difficult to take it across to the local person. ICTs are many times looked at as only applying to the elite. The media needs to cover human interest in articles in order to attract the people’s attention, and the understanding of ICT’s. It is time to divert the focus of media from politics, just for the sake of achieving mere political mileage, to give the local community a voice. When it comes to reporting on ICTs, good examples of ICT4D projects in the community should be presented in order to enable the public understand the technology and relate to it more easily, and then ICTs will be appreciated. The voice of the marginalised in rural communities must also be represented if we are going to talk about communication for sustainable development.
Glory Mushinge- Zambia focal point Media ICT Network for Development (MIND)
I think it is a global imperative in building a true world. There has been longstanding lack of interest, which is a set back for the developing world, the media should focus on modern methods, like multimedia, as opposed to traditional ways of reporting.
Charles Mangwiro- Mozambique, focal point ICT4D Media Network
I think personally that ICT policies are very important with regard to media since nowadays on the Internet we notice that a lot of intellectual property rights are being copied and moreover many companies and websites are just taking information from here and there without considering the serious issue of copyrights.
I think that Africa needs ICT policies to move forward since our journalists do not realise what can be copied and what cannot be copied.
The point raised by Mensah is very important because only 30 African countries have ICT policies. Nowadays, most communication media are online and our journalists do not have proper realisation about their rights since the continent is lagging behind on ICTs. This is a big problem for each and every government in order to catch up with the ICT world. Each government should be responsible for each country and should put policies in place and should promote ICTs as it is the future of the world.
Bravesh Baijnalh, Mauritius, focal point ICT4D focal point
It is true that the media was highly dependent on ICTs. Very few journalists have access to mobile phones and the Internet. In Burundi we have a press centre, which has only six computers with full Internet connection and are shared by over 100 journalists.
Sadi Niyungeko-Burundi focal point BUJA ICT Network
Reported by: Brenda Zulu, Freelance journalist, firstname.lastname@example.org