Technology is Easy, Community is Hard

the view from downtown Salzburg, Austria

Sometimes conferences get in the way. Other times, especially when one is wrestling with an idea in progress, they can inspire. This week, the Salzburg Global Seminar, on new media in the developing world, held on a gorgeous lake at the foot of the Dolomites, was certainly the latter.

I've been wrestling with the question of where development institutions (widely construed) fit in the new media landscape in the developing world. I'm passionate about, and deeply involved, with the development of local technology industries in Africa. However, unlike many in this community, I do not feel the need to will away an international aid community that is working and succeeding on hard problems [to take just one example, how mobiles can become a tool that helps health workers in northern Zambia lower the death rate of babies born with HIV] that local tech industry can not yet serve. In fact, in the short to medium term future, these international institutions will continue to be the main client base for local tech.

One thought that I continue to ponder came from David Sasaki, Director of Rising Voices, a global citizen media outreach initiative of Global Voices Online.

Technology is Easy, Community is Hard
Too many projects focus explicitly on technology training, when in reality the technical skills necessary to create media, such as posting on a blog, become easier every day. Instead, these projects should focus on the difficult challenge of creating a lasting community of young people who are passionate about telling stories about their community and willing to experiment with new media tools.

Frequently, there are many individuals who care about community issues and are curious about technology, but lack a venue to come together and share both their story telling and technology skills. Media development projects can play this role. I believe they can provide 'scholarships' for ensuring that promising young people from dis-advantaged backgrounds have access to this community and the ideas that come out of it.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home