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Sunday, 13 May 2007

Are Zambians doing enough with the internet?

Its now just over 100 days since I entered the world of Zambian blogging. It has been an exciting and challenging period of meeting Zambians and most importantly exchanging ideas on the challenges facing the best nation on earth. Many thanks for those who regularly read the blog and find time to drop some ideas and kept the dialogue going. Your contributions continues to make my blogging a learning and addictive experience!

I guess the “100 days” anniversary of the blog provides an ideal opportunity to offer a few reflections on the state of Zambians' personal use of the internet, in particular in the area of blogging and the general exchange of information.

I have been particularly struck by how few Zambians are blogging on the net. Surprised because I would have thought with 10% of our educated elite abroad and with incredible access to the internet and abounding with new ideas, conversations will be aplenty. For a nation facing such huge challenges we are not doing our very best to discuss these issues at a deep level among ourselves and networking our ideas, with the view of influencing policy development. If Government is not listening, we are certainly not talking!

To make it worse, the majority of the few blogs that are discussing Zambian issues are mostly written by students on a “year out” in Zambia. It’s not uncommon to find a blog on “Ben in Zambia” or “Sarah in Kitwe”. There’s nothing wrong with these foreign students blogging, I just wish indigenous Zambians did not let western students define the image of Zambia to the world. We have let others project an image of Zambia to the world for us. This malaise has extended to “Zambian discussion forums” as well. It’s bad enough that there are few positive forums out there, what has puzzled me is that the most popular of them, Bwanji continues to project a poor image of Zambia to the world. On Bwanji Zambian students from around the globe converge to exchange profanity and ignore the trade of ideas.

This lack of trading in ideas is extremely disappointing. It is very important that Zambians at home and broad work hard to exchange ideas and get involved in the debate through blogs and positive forums. To my mind, the reason why some countries are so rich and others so poor is down to the area of "knowledge".

Economic historians have for some time been puzzled on why Portugal, so prosperous in the 15th century began to decline from thereafter. A lot of reasons can be put forward, but one common and unmistakable reason was the decline in the trade of ideas. In Francis Parry's 1670 observations, "the people are so little curious that no man knows more than what is merely necessary for him". Indeed the 18th Century visitor to Portugal, Mary Brearley remarked "the bulk of the people were disinclined to independence of thought and, in all but few instances, too much averse for intellectual activity to question what they have learned".

I fear the same can be said on why Zambia remains poor today. Zambians at home and abroad trade very little in ideas. We are not doing enough to step out of the confines of our daily preoccupation and use our individual gifts to extend Zambian intellectual thought and help those in Government to think differently. You don't have to be in academia or Government to do this - all of us have something meaningful to say! If you are into IT, have a blog on IT in Zambia, if you an economist, reflect on Zambian issues, if you are an artist, blog on Zambian art, if you are an historian, blog on Zambian history, and so forth. Through this intellectual exchange we will go on to build a better and new Zambia. Through this process, we can network and somehow help shape policy debate in Zambia.

As David Landes puts it “if the gains from trade in commodities are substantial, they are small compared to the trade in ideas". When all Zambians learn this principle, we will then begin to lift ourselves out of poverty! Zambians abroad constantly condemn Government for poor policies, but if our forums are full of profanity and we are weak on intellectual discussions online, are we really in position to criticise? If we aren't doing enough as individuals to think through issues via blogging and other things, can we really blame Government when the policy solutions appear inadequate?

My hope is that Zambians will now do more to start discussing positive ideas, stirring each other to progress, and most importantly networking. Zambia will only develop once knowledge sharing improves. In this vein I have listed some interesting Zambian blogs and forums that I have come across. We must do all we can to support them. If you are aware of other positive Zambia blogs and forums not listed below please let me know so I can add them to my directory. Let us keep the Zambian candle of positive dialogue going, for we are the guardians of our time.

Zambian blogs
http://www.maravi.blogspot.com/
http://manena20.blogspot.com/
http://zambianchronicle.com/
http://positivelyzambia.wordpress.com/
http://brendait.blogspot.com/
http://youngafricanleaders.blogspot.com/
http://www.minewatchzambia.com/blog.html
http://ipamanning.blogspot.com/

Zambian discussion forums
http://lusakatimes.com
http://www.truly-zambian.com/forums/phpBB2/index.php
http://groups.msn.com/ZambiaSossa
http://www.forums.zambia.co.zm/

13 comments:

  1. very well put! I am not sure why there aren't that many Zambian bloggers either. It started out as a joke for me till I realized people actually read this stuff and if I have something random to say, I can just throw it out there in the the blogosphere...:-)

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  2. I agree and have put a list of blogs on my zambia info site: http://www.zambia.startkabel.nl - blogs.
    may be it stimulates others!

    would be happy if you put a link on your site to www.zambia.startkabel.nl

    a tip for your site: if you click on a link on your site they leave your site. if you want to open a link in a new frame, use- target="_blank"- in your html content.

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  3. Thanks Anonymous!!

    I have added your link to the blog....

    Its a very interesting site.

    Please add mine as well..

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  4. Congratulations on 100 years of blogging. Your blog is a great read on events and sites on Zambia.

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  5. Oops. That would be 100 days of blogging.

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  6. Leo,

    Thanks!

    Nice webpage you've got there...

    Are you really the architect of the Zambian?

    I have been waiting for you guys to put up my link :)

    I guess you also know the Bwanji admin right??? Isn't that the same network.....

    If so, what is the ethos behind Bwanji...why is it unregulated?

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  7. .....whether we are making best personal use of the tool that is the net.

    my friend,that's a fundamentally important analysis to make.

    it's in many aspects however subjective in that the internet is a "multi plogged tool"with various uses

    on a very simple level, the internet is no different than how we used to write letters and mail them via the post office or how we talk on the phone, the content of either one of these media can be anything from contracts to gossip and everyhthing in between

    what i'm saying is that we can't criticize a forum or blog for it's content because as long as there's an audience, that's the purpose of the internet to bring people together in cyberspace, what is shared or discussed is irrelevant.

    i agree with your observations about the significance of networking and sharing knowledge. this depends i feel on the most part on one's field of study. i am from the IT field and sharing is the norm. the projects i work on are all about sharing little pieces to create a bigger picture for instance. sharing is protected when it's seen as having an added advantage. if knowledge is power i see the need for someone to want to protect and hold on to it and not share it. i can understand where they are coming from. there are so many examples that i can give you where the credit and all the rewards that go with the smart idea are given and accepted by the wrong person, so i can understand why some are reluctant to share knowledge.

    we need to break through such trends however. there's so much competition in wanting to be the only bandas or chandas with a color tv on the block, even though a color tv can be made by simply putting a color platic material on the screen and showing the neighbor how to do just that takes away nothing from the one that came up with the brilliant idea.

    again very important what you say, without sharing and networking, zambia will only have a few pockets of people/sectors that are developed. but then isn't one person for herself or himself? you have an economics background, there's a name/term for that.

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  8. "but then isn't one person for herself or himself? you have an economics background, there's a name/term for that".

    lol!!!

    I think economics has moved on since the days of Adam Smith!!
    Self interest has enormous limitations....

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  9. Don't forget Zambia's new home-grown blogspot at www.mysms.co.zm

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  10. Anonymous,

    Thanks for let us know about the site.
    It has some interesting stuff on there, good to see a site encouraging Zambians to blog :)

    I'll include it on the list.
    I note that it is only for people who are in Zambia or own Zambian mobile numbers who can "register" there...right?

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  11. Cho - If you get a chance stop by Bwanji again. A lot has changed or at least things are in place to allow for greater moderation (if necessary) but also at the same time facilitate the exchange of ideas etc.

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  12. Yes, it looks very good actually. I will drop by to check things.

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  13. am south african and came across your blog today and impressed with it. its a great platform to debate issues affecting your country.

    ReplyDelete

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