By Arthur Chatora
The issue of content production and representation is important within African news production. Anna Badimo, the chair of LinuxChix in South Africa, highlighted the need for new approaches in African news production in her presentation at the 2007 Digital Citizen Indaba conference in Grahamstown on Sunday.
African news products should deconstruct Western stereotypes of African stories by providing alternative news from diverse lived realities across Africa.
LinuxChix was established 1999 by Deb Richardson in the United States and it is now represented in 26 African countries. The organisation’s vision is “make the future, be the future”. LinuxChix aims to change the lives of women for the better by empowering them to express their lived experiences and share their knowledge with the world.
However, the organisation faces challenges such as access to and affordability of computers from the developers’ perspective, connectivity, affordability and usability of ICT and new-media technologies. Badimo highlighted language as an issue slowing down content production. Most content about Africa is not in an African language, and this affects representation. Also, indigenous knowledge is lost because of lack of adequate representation of diverse cultures, languages and experiences.
Even with the open-source initiatives now prevalent in South Africa, only 2% of developers are women. Women are lagging behind in content production and in technically inclined issues. The solution is to encourage African women to participate in blogging on their lived realities and experiences.
Head of Africa Interactive Elles van Gelder explained that Western media do not fairly and accurately represent Africa and thus there is a need to paint a more balanced image of Africa, to see more stories from Africa written by its people.
Africa Interactive “trains” citizens to use cellphones to report and cover events in their areas and produce videos, articles and take photographs. The organisation has pilot programmes in South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique and Ghana.
APC Africa-Women coordinator Sylvie Niombo explained that content in the mainstream media ignores lived realities of women. Her organisation aims to create content by and for women, develop their ICT skills and advocate their rights to free expression. It also trains women to develop their skills and enable them to share and network among each other.
Chatora is a student in the New Media Lab at Rhodes University