the importance of blogging in Uganda

Earlier this week, White African featured an interview with Neville Newey, creator of the Reddit-esque African social bookmarking site Muti. I think Newey, in addition to having an awesome name, is doing great things, and I agreed with every point he made in his interview until he answered the last question: What are your thoughts on the impact of blogging in Africa?

Newey claims blogging in Africa isn’t as influential as blogging in North America because news here is less frequently corporately owned, and therefore more independent, than it is there. I would argue that media in Africa is heavily censored — if not by corporations, then definitely by governments.* In Uganda, the New Vision is clearly Museveni’s plaything, and Blake Lambert (a Canadian journalist who was expelled from Uganda last year) has an excellent piece up at the Sub-Saharan African Roundtable about the numerous instances of media repression by African governments over the past year.

Blogs in Africa give their authors an opportunity to express views that aren’t being covered in the regular media. Sokari Ekine at Pambazuka News agrees: “African blogs have been able to challenge governments on issues such as corruption, human rights, economic policy and social justice in their respective countries (often anonymously) in ways that could not have been possible without risking arrest or harassment in the past.”

My thoughts on the impact of blogging in Africa? Many of the blogs that do exist are shaping the way people think and contributing to major debates in their countries — just look at Sub-Saharan African Roundtable or Weichegud. In 2006 the number of blogs on the continent doubled, and the number of blogs written by women quadrupled. The reason blogging isn’t as popular as it is in North America is simple — on a continent where fewer than 2% of the population has access to internet and only 70% is literate, creating and sustaining a thriving blogosphere is difficult. Still, I’m happy with the rate at which the African blogging community is growing, and I believe that as technology becomes more widely available, we’ll see bloggers influencing their societies just as much as their North American counterparts are.

*Paranoia (and the urge to mention his name) compels me to restate that the Daily Monitor and East African, the other two major English-language newspapers in Uganda, both belong to Aga Khan.

EDIT: Speaking of emerging blogging technology, I just found this post by Revence at Communist Socks and Boots. He blogged from the January UBHH using his cell phone. Way cool.