LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.5

Help for AFRIK-IT Archives


AFRIK-IT Archives

AFRIK-IT Archives


AFRIK-IT@LISTSERV.HEANET.IE


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

AFRIK-IT Home

AFRIK-IT Home

AFRIK-IT  June 1995

AFRIK-IT June 1995

Subject:

IT and the media in southern Africa

From:

David Lush - MISA <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Thu, 29 Jun 1995 14:45:00 GMT+0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (311 lines)

Greetings. Firstly I must apologise for taking so long to introduce myself.
However, I thought I would lie low a bit because, being a die-in-the-wool
techno-nurd, I felt a bit intimidated being in the presence of such capable
people as yourselves. However, I feel I can contribute something to the
discussion on telecommunications/IT access on the continent, particularly
from a media perspective.
 
I am a journalist by profession, and the grand-sounding "Information
Co-ordinator" for the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), a
non-governmental organisation promoting media freedom and diversity in the
SADC region. One of the main projects I am working on is the MISANET - an
e-mail/Internet network of media orgnanisations in the region aimed at
making the flow of information between media organisation in the SADC
region - and hence their audiences - more free.
 
What follows is the edited text of a presentation I made to our annual
congress last November, which should give you an idea of where we are
coming from, what we are trying to do, and where we are heading (sorry to
those of you who have to pay by the byte for their e-mail - it's a bit long
but I'll try and keep it as short as possible).
 
Let me first put this in context. When MISA was established, our job was -
and remains - to co-ordinate media and journalists in the 11 SADC
countries. However, this soon proved to be extremely difficult because of
the region's apalling and expensive phone lines, and its slow and equally
expensive postal services. As with other African coutnries, we could
phone/fax/smail Europe and the US no problem. But getting through to
neighbouring countries in what is supposed to be a "development community"
was a nightmare. For example, if my figures are right, it was 350 per cent
more expensive for our members in Zambia (our neighbour - we are based in
Namibia) to phone/fax us than for us to phone/fax them. Our representative
in Angola (another of Namibia's neighbours) had to pay about U$10 just to
RECEIVE a fax at the press centre he worked from, and sending a one-page
fax to us cost him about three times that amount (the average salary for an
Angolan editor at that time was about U$30 per month!).
 
Part of our work is monitoring media freedom, and we issue "alerts" about
abuses of this freedom in our region. Issuing of these alerts has to be
rapid, so faxing was the means of communication. This involved sending a
single, one-to-two page alert to about 50 destinations in the region and
beyond. To do this, I had to stand over the fax machine for about 2 days
solid sending the one fax, with much of the time wasted trying to get a
line and re-sending faxes which did not go through properly. The sending of
one alert cost us about U$150 in telecom. charges. We also produce a news
letter (now a magazine). This had to be posted. But it took often up to two
months to reach some of our members in the region - sometimes it never got
to them at all (members based in the same region as ourselves!). Yet the
newsletter would get to subscribers in Europe and the US within 10 days.
Our postage bill for sending out the newsletters was upwards of U$900 per
edition. (Then 1500 suscribers receiving a 12 page bulletin every other
month).
 
So an alternative had to be found, and e-mail was the most suitable
alterative we could think of. We now have 20 or so MISA members on the
MISANET, and communication is vastly improved. In 1994 we issued more than
70 alerts via MISANET, and the International Freedom of Expression eXchange
(IFEX) e-mail global netork of media and media freedom organisations. The
issuing of these alerts cost us in the region of U$4 in local telecom
charges (sending messages to the Internet gateway at the University of
Namibia). It would have cost us in the region of U$10 500 in telecoms and
140 working days of my time (this was not my only task) to have sent them
by fax! And the benefits go well beyond savings as we are now able to lauch
quick campaigns against media freedom violations etc with rapid response
from around the world. For example, in August last year a young journalists
was shot in the leg by soldiers while covering a demonstration against the
royal coup in Lesotho. He was going to lose his leg if he didn't get
treatment in neighbouring South Africa fast. We issued an alert via MSIANET
and IFEX calling for donations to pay for his treatment and within 12 hours
we had raised the money and he was being taken to SA for surgery which has
saved his leg. This is just one example.
 
The MISANET network is by no means perfect, but nothing is. Some of the
problems mentioned below are being overcome. Member organisations are now
feeding information into the news-exchange. Two of our members have WWW
sites (The Post in Zambia - http://www.zamnet - and the Weekly Mail and
Guardian from South Africa - http://www.is.co.za/services/wmail/). However,
e-mail remains the main means of communication because so few countries in
our region have direct Internet access. As Afrik-it netters have been
pointing out, phone lines and phone-access is crucial. It is easy to be
bilinded by the glitz of WWW, Interactive software etc. But those are
currently pipe dreams to many of us. What is cruicial is access to
computers and functioning/relatively cheap phone lines, and at present both
are scarce in our part of the world.
 
I hope this and the following will be of interest to you all, and I will be
happy to answer questions.
 
Best wishes.
 
 
THE ADVENT OF THE INFORMATION SUPER-HIGHWAY AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE TO THE
MEDIA IN SOUTHERN AFRICA
 
 
 
By David Lush, MISA Information Co-ordinator
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Those of you who attended the now-legendary Chobe meeting in 1989 - a
meeting at which the seeds for MISA were sown - might remember that the
co-ordinator of the conference, Patrick van Rensburg, was promoting a
dream. He wanted to see the launch of a regional newspaper, but, his dream
was floored for logistical reasons. Poor and expensive communications
within the region would have strangled the news-gathering process, and
would have it too expensive and impractical to distribute such a printed
publication; the venture was simply unviable.
 
 
 
Patrick's dream might have faded, but the needs which it addressed remain
increasingly pertinent to the region's media business. Our respective
countries are together, side by side in a region - a development community.
And yet we as media workers - and thus our audiences - know alarmingly
little about each other. We have to rely largely on multi-national news
agencies for information and images about our neighbours; agencies which -
as we all know - have the news sense of vultures when it comes to reporting
on Africa.
 
 
 
Efforts of the region's news agencies to provide an alternative to the
multi-nationals have been stunted by the continuing problem of distributing
their news and information, while cost has prevented many impecunious
independent media organisations from receiving these agencies' material in
a quick, ready-to-use  format so essential to NEWS organisations.
 
 
 
In short, the free flow of diverse information now recognised as an
essential - some will say THE essential - ingredient of development is
being stifled by the region's appalling communication systems. I would go
as far as to argue that the post and telecommunication networks of southern
Africa are the most subtle and most powerful forms of censorship in the
region.
 
 
 
While we are increasingly swamped with news and information from America
and Europe, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we still struggle - sometimes
for days - to send a message from one country to another. We as media
workers are communicators, but we can't communicate with ourselves. We are
in the communications industry, and yet we cannot apply our trade beyond
the most basic and localised form.
 
 
 
 However, in theory, and increasingly in practice, we now have the means
with which to overcome many of the problems which hinder inter-regional
communication. The information voids which insulate us and our audiences
from the rest of the region can now be traversed, and Patrick van
Rensburg's dream of a regional newspaper is now possible, albeit in a
different form.
 
 
 
 In theory, electronic mail will allow us as media practitioners to
communicate with each other much more efficiently than via telephone, fax,
and post. This is why MISA has embarked on the MISANET project to link MISA
member organisations to electronic mail. I say "in theory", because the
MISANET is still in its infancy, and we are busy experimenting to see what,
in practice, we can achieve with electronic mail in this part of the world.
To date, we can tell you for sure that electronic mail has made it possible
for the MISA secretariat to communicate cheaply and effectively with media
freedom organisations all around the world. It now takes less than 12 hours
for a single message sent from MISA head quarters in Windhoek to be
distributed world wide, and thus for MISA to initiate an international
campaign against media freedom violations in our region. This time frame
will be reduced to a matter of minutes once Namibia has full Internet
access. With electronic mail, it takes less than five minutes to physically
transmit this information (the rest is done by computers), whereas it took
several days - time spent standing over the fax machine - to fax out the
same information to those individual media and media freedom organisations
we now reach via e-mail. Now it costs the price of a local phone call to
access this global network, whereas before each campaign we launched
against a media freedom violation cost upwards of R500 in fax charges.
 
 
 
Let me give you another example. The entire MISA Free Press magazine can
be distributed via electronic mail to more than a hundred e-mail
subscribers for the cost of a 1 minute local phone call. It costs several
thousand Rand (at least U$ 1000) to post copies of EACH printed edition of
the magazine to postal subscribers, and it can take up to two months for
these postal subscriptions to reach MISA members in the region - if they
arrive at all. Electronic mail subscribers to MISA Free Press receive the
magazine long before the printed edition has even returned from the
printers! Likewise, I receive on my computer in Windhoek the Weekly Mail
and Guardian before it hits the newsstands in Johannesburg.
 
 
 
We know it is possible to send photographs via electronic mail. The
photograph on the front page of the May edition of MISA Free Press was sent
from Johannesburg to Windhoek at a cost of about 15 US cents. Thanks to
electronic mail, I can discuss the latest news about my favourite football
team with fellow supporters all around the world. Meanwhile, the MISA
secretariat and others already on the MISANET are currently receiving 10-20
stories a day from the Harare-based Inter Press Service (IPS) agency;
quality features on politics, general news, economics, human rights and
environmental issues, in a ready-to-edit form (no typesetting required) in
less than a day after they were released - far preferable to receiving the
stories via fax, when they have to be re-typed, or via post, when not only
do the stories have to be re-typed, they are often out of date by the time
they arrive.
 
 
 
So electronic mail does work in our region, and it has certainly
revolutionised the information co-ordination work of the MISA secretariat.
However, it is not all plain sailing. I mentioned earlier that 12 MISA
member organisations are now hooked up to the MISANET electronic mail
network, 10 of which were connected during the past two months (the Weekly
Mail, and The Namibian were already on electronic mail). All these new
connections have been "on-line" for at least a month now. During this time,
they have been receiving - free of charge during this experimental period -
all media freedom "alerts" and other information issued by the MISA
secretariat, the IPS feed, as I mentioned before, global media freedom
information courtesy of the IFEX Clearing House, together with some news
features commissioned by the secretariat exclusively for MISANET members.
And yet, during the entire time these MISA members have been on electronic
mail, we have not received in return a single piece of information -
besides "hello" test messages and a couple inquiries about tickets for
delegates attending a MISA workshop.
 
 
 
Part of the problem is that people are not sure how work their electronic
mail. Admittedly, the training they received from the technician who has
been installing the necessary equipment and computer software was rushed -
he had a hectic schedule. I also accept that electronic mail is alien to
many people - it certainly was to me when I first started using it. Such
teething problems are inevitable, and can easily be over come given
members' co-operation. However, I am not sure this co-operation will be
forthcoming from everyone. Correct me if I am wrong, but I sense that, in
some cases, the MISANET is viewed as another "gravy train freebie" conjured
up by a cash-flushed secretariat in a bid to impress. I detect that some
organisations lack the will to grasp this opportunity and to master this
new technology and put it to practical use; they are unwilling to adapt
attitudes and routines in order to emerge from their current regional
isolation.
 
 
 
Such attitudes are painful, not just because they will result in
tremendous effort and scarce money being wasted, but also because these
attitudes will ultimately result in the demise of MISA. MISA is currently
100 per cent donor funded. Perhaps this is fine as long as the donor
funding lasts, but in a few years time, when the donors' priorities shift,
or the people of Sweden, Denmark, Norway or Germany vote in a different
government, that money will be gone, and MISA will be left high and dry.
Which gives MISA with no option but to start earning its own money, and to
start earning it now.
 
 
 
Electronic mail and the Internet is a vehicle in which MISA can begin to
travel along the road to self-sufficiency. But the active participation of
MISA's members is still needed to fuel this vehicle.
 
 
 
Already, we have begun to use the MISANET for the exchange of news stories
between MISA members, the idea being that this will provide member
organisations with a cheap, practical and relevant source of regional news.
And as we wait anxiously for the first stories from our members to appear
on the network, we would like to take the news exchange concept one step
further. With your agreement, we want to re-package the information
generated by individual MISA members and make it available to a wider,
paying audience. We are currently negotiating (to publish an on-line
regional newsletter using information available on the MISANET). We also
intend to build up an (on-line) computerised archive, again using news and
information provided on the MISANET, as well as information gleaned from
other sources. It is also intended to commercialise the MISA Free Press
newsletter.
 
 
 
There's nothing really new in these ideas - they have been alive since the
1989 Chobe meeting and before. What has changed is that we now have the
means to implement those ideas. All the projects outlined here, and many
others, are feasible using electronic mail and the Internet. A regional
publication is now a viable proposition as it can tap - quickly and
relatively cheaply - the necessary sources of information via electronic
mail. It is now possible for such a publication to be up-to-date, a factor
further enhanced by speedy DISTRIBUTION via electronic mail and other
services on the Internet. Thus, regional publication becomes more
attractive to a wider readership. The same goes for the MISA Free Press
magazine, which is already being distributed to more than 100 electronic
mail subscribers. Furthermore, those with Internet access will be able to
make use of the computerised archive, and have at their disposal a wealth
of information, without having to build up their own libraries.
 
 
 
 
ends
 
 
 
David Lush
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Private Bag 13386
Windhoek, Namibia
Tel. +264 61 232975, Fax. 248016
e-mail: [log in to unmask]

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
September 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
October 2009
September 2009
July 2009
June 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
November 2008
October 2008
August 2008
July 2008
April 2008
March 2008
November 2007
August 2007
July 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
November 2005
October 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
December 1998
November 1998
October 1998
September 1998
August 1998
July 1998
June 1998
May 1998
April 1998
March 1998
February 1998
January 1998
December 1997
November 1997
October 1997
September 1997
August 1997
July 1997
June 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997
December 1996
November 1996
October 1996
September 1996
August 1996
July 1996
June 1996
May 1996
April 1996
March 1996
February 1996
January 1996
December 1995
November 1995
October 1995
September 1995
August 1995
July 1995
June 1995
May 1995

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



LISTSERV.HEANET.IE

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager