Africa Rising: the Highway Africa Conference 2012

“Africa Rising” was the theme of the 2012 Highway Africa Conference, held in Grahamstown, South Africa in September 2012. The Highway Africa Conference has been held for the past 16 years as a way to bring journalists together from across the globe to share new ideas and to reflect critically on journalism, media, technology and development in Africa. Despite the camaraderie of the event, some serious issues were raised.

One of the key ideas presented at the event was the importance of using technology to create research, news and data, for efficient reporting and creating communicable content for newspapers and projects in a world in which news is shared rapidly through online platforms, as explored through sessions titled “How Media Innovation is Reshaping Our Field,” “How to Mine and Visualise Data” and “Mobile Technology and Digital Life – A Look at Some Innovative Software Applications Made in Africa.”

Sourcefabric and NikaNow are two of the new online platforms for collating and enhancing data platforms that were presented at the Conference. Sourcefabric produces an open content management system for improved online news publications. One of its programmes, Newscoop, assists independent news bodies to coordinate online publications, enhance content and reach new, diverse audiences more efficiently. It does this with “intelligent media archives, drag-and-drop front-page management and a range of citizen journalist tools.” For example, Sourcefabric assisted the West Africa Democracy Africa radio in Dakar, Senegal to publish in two languages (French and English) and to join in social media networking. Newscoop, Airtime radio software and the SoundCloud audio-distribution platform are open source tools, which creates a radio network and resources in an area previously devoid of such resources.

NikaNow is an internal workflow management system that uses Twitter’s platform as a tool for producing information and research. It aids community publishing and presentations by presenting real-time information and tweets. Users post news and exchange data on the platform, facilitating dialogue and keeping readers up to date with what’s happening in specific sectors. For example, publishers in the small South African town of Grahamstown, used NikaNow to start a “mobi-site” that now publishes “real time localised content” in an easily readable and shareable mobile format.

Current developments are underway to make such online platforms more numerous and accessible to African audiences. These platforms have great potential to generate credible and timely data to ensure that knowledge production in Africa continues to rise – and to rise in a sustainable way.

— Erica Penfold

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