Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Zambian Bloggers Network underway

By Brenda Zulu

A community of bloggers in Zambia has come together to network under the Zambian Bloggers Network with the help of Africa Interactive Media (AIM).

This follows the lack of a network of bloggers in Zambia who can work together to bring reports from blogs and other social media platforms by practicing citizen media. Bloggers are necessary to bring out other voices not ordinarily heard in mainstream media to make news and also contribute  to the development agenda.

Zambian Bloggers will seek to share widely Zambian Issues online and will seek to interview the ordinary people often ignored by the mainstream media on different topics including health, business, sports, ICTs, fashion, gender and development, governance, politics etc

Some Zambians are blogging, podcasting, vlogging and uploading photos and information across the internet, but unless you know where to look, it can be difficult to find respected and credible voices.

Zambian Bloggers with the help of HIVOS are setting up a BLOG Ring for the Zambian Blogosphere to help in the generation of local content. We hope to work virtually and also meet in person during the monthly meetings to network on many issues. We hope to generate funds through micro payments, doing some relevant jobs to content creation and management and also through adverts. We still welcome grants, any donations and sponsorships to cover a lot of costs including high internet costs.

Zambian Bloggers hope to redress some of the inequities in the traditional media by leveraging the power of citizens’ media. We believe in freedom of expression and hope to focus our attention on the most interesting issues around Zambia by linking to social media, blogs, photos, podcasts, video and other forms of grassroots citizens’ media.

It is hoped that with the BLOG RING, Zambian Bloggers Network can grow to be consistent in it’s news coverage and regular in blogging and also become visible to Zambians and the world over. To critically reflect on the Zambian society issues, the bloggers hope to enlarge spaces of expression. It is hoped that bloggers may receive appropriate training in all forms of blogging and web 2.0 applications.

There is need for a Capacity Building Workshop for bloggers on blogging, social bookmarking, tagging, RSS feeds and generally on Web 2.0 applications. Bloggers however would like to know how to grow a network online and how to make money and also behave in cyber space.

One day while in Ghana I read a tweet about a Ghanaian Bloggers meeting and decided to attend. I liked their concept and looked forward to a day I would start this familiar platform in Zambia.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Linuxchix Africa 2010 Observations

By Brenda Zulu

Following the formation of Linuxchic Africa in 2004 by African Women and for African women, Africa has seen the building of a critical mass of Linux skills and advocacy for the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) among African women.

Linuxchix Africa is affiliated to Linuxchix worldwide. Africa has seen a lot of FOSS initiatives in many community development challenges being faced by Africans, especially African women.

Examples include programmes developed to monitor the stock out of medicines in hospital and also programmes developed to help locate people who get lost when disaster strikes.

The challenges of Africa are well documented, with HIV/AIDS representing the most significant development challenge of our times. African women have had to bear of being the face in wars, post election violence such as in Kenya and Zimbabwe, outbreak of diseases, rape being used as a weapon of war in the Congo, they are also a face of Africa’s clamities such as poverty, drought floods and famine.

Community development can no longer be viewed in isolation but require multi-tiered, cross-sectoral, and well-coordinated approaches that are aligned to Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

Without ICT, communities get left behind and are unable to take advantage of the social and economic benefits that come with ICT. This integration of ICT into social development programmes is often referred to as eTrade, eGovernance, eCommerce, eDevelopment, eHealth and eLearning and represent models of ICT intervention in development, health and education respectively.

With the advent of FOSS, it has now become possible to make software available to people who would otherwise not afford it. With FOSS, countries will no longer have to priorities between poverty and the digital divide. Also since women are the ones mostly affected by poverty and HIV/AIDS, it is relevant that they be properly tooled and positioned to make that difference in their lives.

Furthermore, ICT is still male dominated, more so the open source technical environment, so Linuxchix Africa has played a role as a catalyst that has demystified FOSS to the people who stand to benefit the most from it.

Looking back we see that Linuxchix Africa has helped in mainstreaming technological advancements with the momentum continuously increasing everyday as more and more women are introduced to FOSS.

We have slowly started seeing women organizations such as the Association for Progressive Communications using the Creative Commons license which has become the most preferred alternate Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) licensing tool for both publications and FOSS around the world.

There is actually need for a lot of advocacy in Africa about the Creative Commons License in that many creators of content, music and inventors do not know about the license and its properties. An experience on the creation of the Creative Commons Jurisdiction in Zambia shows that many people do not know about the license. It is hoped that the process leading to the creations of the CC Jurisdiction in Zambia will also create awareness to the general public on FOSS and the license.

Linuxchix Africa should therefore continue with anti software piracy campaigns and IPR protection enforcements that will continue to encourage computer users to increase the use of Linux Operating System, FireFox, Open Office and development of legacy applications on FOSS and Linux.

As a Linuxchix Zambia, I have continued to see Ubuntu-Linux as possibly the most favorite and preferred Linux Desktop Operating System distribution. I also welcome initiatives or projects that are encouraging African languages on the internet as these will help many women have access to information on the internet.

It is well known that many African women are illiterate and cannot read the foreign languages of the internet such as English, French and Portuguese. As you may already know Africa has an oral culture and thus the increased number of community radio stations compared to the number newspaper companies.

After observing the overall Linux industry, it has been seen that Linux will continue to be the leading and preferred server-side operating system in worldwide. Linux distributions will continue to add and distribute Blogging Tools, RSS integration in all user-centric applications.

Linuxchix Africa continues to use FOSS and Linux both as an alternative to combat software piracy and develop local skills, products and innovative ICT industries. Linux Africa has also observed that Ubuntu-Linux Desktop will continue to be the preferred choice of use deployed by 98% Telecenters and Community Technology/Multimedia Centers in Africa.

Web2.0 : Google and its by products

By Brenda Zulu

It is nice to have an interest in continuous learning on Web2.0 training. I attended a training today delivered by Digital ICE under CTA sponsorship. Having taken part in a web2.0 training some 5 years ago proves that there are many interactive tools that people can still subscribe to today. I am privileged to have a gmail account which was one of the requirements for the training.

To start with we had to learn about search engines and how search works on the web. The search engine finds every word that we put in the search engine and display it in search results. There are often too many results which are displayed after one does a search and that there is need to reduce the number of results so that one can find what they need. One needs to be more specific when making a search on the web. Eg when searching for FISH one needs to be very specific by typing “small red fish” ...You will see that each word you use gives you closer results to what you are looking  for online.

To be a smart searcher, one needs to know some basic short cuts. For words that are alike, it was recommended that quotes be put around the words eg “Brenda Zulu”. As for words with multiple meaning, it was advised to introduce a minus sign to the other meaning of what words mean. By being specific one will find exactly what they need.

 During the training, i had an idea of how google works in terms of doing advanced searches on different content. It was also interesting to hear from a presentation picked from http://CommonCraft.com/store on how one can find information on the web.

I was introduced to Google alerts of which i was happy to make subscriptions to different topics such as Reproductive health.  As a Population Reference Bureau (PRB) under Women’s Edition fellow it is important that am updated on reproductive health information. It will help me to also check on gaps on information that is not written on the subject showing me pointers on what i can write.Many times i have google searched myself and seen that there are websites who have used articles written by me without me knowing. With the use of google alerts, i will have information on who is using content written by me.
 I have plans of subscribing to many other topics such as ICTs, gender, science and agriculture which are my topics of interest. Previously, i did not subscribe to Google alerts because i was suspicious of increased content to my mail box. I however, received my first alerts and i like the fact that they came in one single mail.

I also learnt about iGoogle of which when i opened an account found all information which i added to my blog to aggregate.  I was happy to even see my twitter feed and other websites i had subscribed link on the Google reader. I am hoping to add all my favourite sites from my social bookmarks to iGoogle so that i can have the first hand of information from those sites.

Google translate was also taught but i have been using this tool for some time now. It helps in translations of words written in other languages other than the language one uses online. This helps me in having access to information which may be on the web in other languages. It is important to note that since internet started in the USA, most of the content online is in English language. It is however nice to see that African languages are also making a presence online and thanks to the localisation of content.

As a content creator and aggregator, i was interested in how to make content appear in google top rankings. I was however told that it was by making that content appear important when many people click on the link of the particular content which can be shared widely on social media. With more than 10 000 followers on social media, this will be definitely done very easily as long as the content appears to be that which the people need.

The training also encouraged me to join Google Baraza website which i have done already. It actually can help answer any questions.  So far i have asked two questions on new media and am waiting for answers.
One most of my interesting topics were on Real SimpleSyndication (RSS). I hope it becomes reality for the Blog Ring that am creating since Bloggers do not want to double blog but just want to their content to aggregated onto a platform.