Saturday, February 4, 2012

More pictures from the training

Here are some pictures from the last day’s training. As a starter a tight close-up of Masembe Tambwe of Daily News concentrating on his final assignment.

Here the whole class at work. In the front Hikloch Ogola, Tumaini University, and Sylvia Mwehozi, Radio Mlimani and SJMC.

Journalism lecturer Njonjo Mfaume from the University of Dar es Salaam is working on his new blog that focuses on journalism resources.

Following the final session, John Daniel of Raia Mwema, Furaha Maugo from Mwananchi and Joyce Shebe, news editor of Clouds FM.

Here Sylvia Mwehozi is presenting her blog to the rest of the group. Other participants were giving feedback. Photos by Maggid Mjengwa.

Final feedback on what we are taking home

On the final day of the training, the participants filled in an assessment questionnaire and also published some postings giving feedback on the training, whether the training week met their expectations and was useful for them in their daily endeavours as editors or as trainers of the new generations of journalists to come.

According to the questionnaire replies, the participants were all pretty happy about the intensive week we’ve had, although some wished that the training would have been even longer, and others complained about the slow speed of the network on some of the days.

Below are some of the comments from the blog postings of the participants.

Rose Haji from UN Women and also coordinator of the Community Media Network of Tanzania says that her expectations for the training were met by 99 percent. In her opinion the training was well blended with theory and practice, interactive and full of fun. “It was really adult learning”, she says.

Bestina Magutu, news editor at TBC, also says that the training was enjoyable and easy to follow. Key lessons she drew from the training included smart internet searching, the use of adding web pages to favourites for easy recording, several new websites to use, knowledge on plagiarism and how to avoid it, and links to inspiring blogs of young women in neighbouring Kenya. (Links to these blogs can be found on the right.)

Joyce Shebe, news editor at Clouds FM, admits that before the training she was lazy in searching and reading the web, but from now on she will improve her work and find new material as much as she can.

Eleuter Mbilinyi, subeditor of The African, says that he has learnt a lot of new and basic techniques that will be very useful for him and all his colleagues back at the media house.

Sylvia Mwehozi, editor of Radio Mlimani, the student radio station at the University of Dar es Salaam School of Journalism and Mass Communication, says that the first thing she will do when she gets back to work is to open a blog for Radio Mlimani so that in the future people can access their stories also online.

Njonjo Mfaume, journalism lecturer at the same university, tells us that he has now officially launched his blog, which will focus on journalism resources and target both journalism students, trainers and journalism practitioners.

Masembe Tambwe, weekend editor at Daily News, writes especially about the last day of the training week, which was like “the icing of the cake of the training”, thanks to the nice audience provided by the famous blogger Maggid Mjengwa.

For Kiswahili readers, please find the comments of Furaha Maugo of Mwananchi here and the comments of John Daniel, Raia Mwema, here.

I also want to thank all participants for a great week with lots of debates and joking and laughter. Thanks to MISA-Tanzania and especially Cecilia Mng’ong’o and Gasirigwa Sengiyumva for facilitating the event and to Andrew Marawiti for the good pre-training preparations. Thanks also to the IT support and catering at TGDLC. Many thanks also to the Embassy of Finland in Dar es Salaam for good cooperation and to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland for the funding of the whole internet training programme.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Think first and other tips for fact-finding

Here’s some useful tips when searching for information from the web.
Think first, before going to the web.

What do you search for and where might you find it? Are you searching for simple facts, backgrounds or any other information that can develop your story? Should you google, or can you find the information on a specific website you already know? Do you find it from the internet, or better somewhere else?

Always monitor other news sites, both local and international, and also other web resources.

Choose right search words.

Try different Google search options - sometimes web, sometimes news, sometimes “all web”, sometimes only Tanzanian pages, or only Swahili language pages.

Open pages in new tab. While the new pages are opening, you can continue reading the original page.

Add to favourites. Also open new files for your favourites. Then you will easier find the stories when you want to come back to them.

Follow the links in the stories you read.

Go to original sources.

Don’t always read everything, but scan for what is of your interest.

Don’t ever copy-paste! That’s plagiarism.

Print if necessary. Read as homework, underline.

Also make notes to notebook and save drafts to a USB flash.
Here’s some more tips before you start writing the story.
Structure your story in your mind and on paper.

Decide what is relevant for your narrative.

Write simple with own words.

Quote when necessary.

Understand what you write (you are there to make things understandable for your audience).

Add details for human interest.
When you’re about to publish:
Provide links to original sources (if you publish online).

Always also think about headline, visual outlook, quotes, images, graphics etc.
Some general good advice for producing good investigative stories:
Spend much more time on the investigation than on the actual writing.

Plan your story into narrative chunks.

Also plan how you use your time
- for research
- for writing
- for editing your text
- for checking facts
- and for delivering the final story.

Some success stories on citizen journalism

Today we have had a guest lecturer in class, as Maggid Mjengwa, Tanzanian blogger and newspaper columnist, has been presenting to us his Mjengwa Blog, and explaining how he operates it, updating pictures and comments several times a day.

Maggid is a long-time friend of mine from Iringa, where he is coordinating the Tanzania programme of the Swedish NGO, Forum Syd. But he is also a journalist, writing weekly columns to the Raia Mwema newspaper and also publishing a local newspaper in Njombe district as well as an online publication called Kwanza Jamii. Nowadays it’s his blog however that he’s most known for among Tanzanians with an access to the internet. The Mjengwa Blog is one of the most famous and most visited blogs in Tanzania.

When Maggid launched his blog back in 2006, he was mostly publishing his own snapshots that he took about Tanzanians living their lives in the rural areas and cities. But as the readership has grown, today you’ll also find photos shared with other bloggers, pictures of news events and politicians, sports and celebrities. With some thousands of page views per day, Maggid’s blog now attracts adverts, and he also hires some people who assist him to run the blog.

Here are some pictures taken from the class today and posted in the Mjengwa Blog. The headline says “Journalists at training”, but as the first picture shows them during the lunch break, some readers were fast to send their comments asking whether the journalists were on a training course to learn how to eat :-D

During the last session today, I introduced to the participants some more websites, starting with Huffington Post, which was originally just a personal blog of the American journalist Arianna Huffington. In just a few years, Huffington Post has developed to become the third biggest online news publication in the world (right after BBC and CNN), with a huge following especially in the USA. Last year, the site was sold for 315 million dollars to the internet conglomerate AOL.

I also showed two blogs from Iraq which became famous during the war and the early years of the American occupation of the country. The blogs of Salaam Pax and a young Iraqi lady calling herself Riverbend gave readers around the world a direct taste of what life was in the country plagued with military raids, power cuts and water shortages, and local extremist militias taking control in the streets.

The neighbouring Kenya has also produced some great examples on how to use a blog for constructive and social purposes, or narrative creativity. Some of the most well-known Kenyan blogs since some years back haven’t however been updated for some time as many of the bloggers have moved on and climbed to other positions promoting the social media nationally or internationally. Here’s a piercing comment on that by Kenyan ex-blogger Potashius Nairobus.

Mzalendo, a Kenyan Parliament Watch, was a blog launched before the country’s elections in 2007 to report what the Kenyan MP’s were actually doing, and not doing. Readers were invited to share their contributions for publication.

Then, during the ethnic clashes following the Kenyan elections, the web service Ushahidi was introduced allowing people to send in alerts of unreported attacks and need for assistance. The site was simply using the Google Maps to visualize the killings in Western Kenya and Rift Valley. Later, the Ushahidi platform has been applied also for reporting crime in Atlanta or humanitarian needs after the earthquake in Haiti.

A new development in Kenya are the many blogs by young Kenyan women in their twenties. The same thing is actually happening in Finland as well, where some of the most popular blogs nowadays are fashion blogs hosted by young girls. The big difference is just that many of the blogs of the Kenyan ladies are really good, with well-written and amusing stories about anything from milkshakes to hard politics. I have provided links to some of these blogs on the right.

Just two examples how the established media elsewhere has reacted to the challenges of citizen journalism:

BBC was the first big news company to ask their readers to send in their photos for publication. That happened during the London Underground bombings in July 2005. The editors understood that the readers who happened to be at the place of the bombings and were carrying mobile phones with inbuilt cameras were the only potential source to provide pictures from the bombings.

The other example is more like a curiosity on how to attract the interest of younger readers who otherwise might shun away from the mainstream news coverage about political or economic or global topics. The American ICT magazine Wired produced an online game to explain the social and economic backgrounds of the piracy in the Indian Ocean waters outside the coast of Somalia. In the game, the player is running a Somali pirate operation, and really needs strategic thinking to be able to accomplish the mission with profitable results.

Well-articulated stories on three African ladies

The journalists have published their stories from yesterday about three famous African ladies. As part of the fact-finding assignment, they have also provided links to the original sources. Many have also added pictures to their postings.

Here’s Rose Haji’s article about the life and achievements of the Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Here’s another story about her by Hikloch Ogola.

Others chose to write about Dambisa Moyo, the Zambian economist who in her bestselling book Dead Aid suggests that Africa should stop receiving foreign aid altogether because it causes dependency, encourages corruption and damages local initiatives. The journalists were supposed explain the content of the book and also add their own comments.

Here’s a well-written and well-argued commentary by Bestina Magutu (who seems to somewhat support the ideas of Dambisa Moyo). And here’s another well-articulated story by Masembe Tambwe, who nevertheless says that in the case of Tanzania foreign aid could not be cut as then the whole country would just stagnate.

The third option was to write about Leila Lopes, the Angolan Miss Universe from last year. Here’s a text by Sylvia Mwehozi explaining many details about the beauty queen and also some allegations and rumours that could make her loose the crown. Here’s another story by Njonjo Mfaume who concludes that beauty contests are in fact exploitation and lead to a negative portrayal of women as leisure objects.

Journalists comment on the fact-finding days

The training participants have posted their comments and reviews about what we have done the previous days.

Here’s a posting of Njonjo Mfaume about the programme on Wednesday when we moved on to more practical fact-finding exercises. Here’s also a short summary by Eleuter Mbilinyi about the day we went through some useful tips to remember before going surfing for information in the web. Here Rose Haji explains some of those search tips in more detail.

On Thursday morning, we also had a visit to the training by Jussi Nummelin, Second Secretary from the Embassy of Finland in Dar es Salaam. Jussi is the person at the Finnish embassy in charge of press relations and cooperation with NGO’s and the civil society. In his short address, he underlined to the training participants the importance of the internet in today’s media and modern life in general, but reminded that one also has to be critical towards the information found, because as we know, anyone with some basic computer skills can publish to the web whatever he or she likes, sometimes even without proper knowledge. Comments by Njonjo Mfaume can be found here, and here’s another nice summary by Eleuter Mbilinyi.

Last night, we were all also invited to a reception at the Finnish ambassador’s residence in Oysterbay. It was a relaxed and nice occasion and probably very useful for networking for both the media people and the folks at the embassy and other stakeholders. Many thanks to the ambassador, Mrs Sinikka Antila, for hosting the event. I will try to trace some photos from the reception and publish later.

How to avoid plagiarism

Plagiarism and the need for ethical reporting and true professionalism have been continuously on the agenda during the week of training.

The website lists the following examples as plagiarism:

Turning in someone else’s work as your own

Copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit

Failing to put a quotation in quotation marks

Changing words but copying the sentence structure without giving credit

Copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not
The editors in class agreed that the previous examples feel too familiar.

Then how can you avoid plagiarizing? In most cases by citing sources. By simply explaining that a part of the material has been borrowed, and providing your audience the information necessary to find the original source. That’s usually enough to prevent plagiarism.

Plagiarism has never been as easy as it is today. Before the internet, potential plagiarists would have had to go to the library and copy texts from books by hand. The internet, however, now makes it easy to find thousands of relevant sources in seconds, and in a few minutes one could find, copy and paste together an entire seminar paper, or a feature story.

But there’s no point in copy-pasting. You just make a much better story by writing in your own style and words. An editor or a teacher should also easily recognize passages that are directly copied, from the vocabulary used.

Journalists in any country caught plagiarizing can get sacked. If you are copying someone else’s story for an article published in your own name, you might also get sued for copyright infringement and be forced to pay heavy compensation. The same goes for publishing a photo without the permission of the copyright owner. In most of the world, the length of the copyright is usually 50 or 70 years after the death of the author. In Tanzania, 50 years.

The recommendation was that all editors would take their time and read the Tanzanian Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act from 1999, found here as a PDF file on a UNESCO web portal where they have collected the copyright laws from most countries.

Here’s another link to a good BBC story about plagiarism, how easy it is, and how easily it can be detected.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Assignment topics

Shell in Nigeria
Write a compact story about the environmental consequences of oil production in Nigeria.
What did a recent report by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reveal about the situation on the ground in Ogoniland?

Coca-Cola in India
Write a short commentary about how the soda factories of Coca-Cola Company have affected the environment and lives of local communities in India.

Nestlé boycott
Explain why some people in different countries are boycotting products of the Nestlé company.
Search for facts and write a short commentary.

African and international web resources

Here’s a list of some local and international websites we visited today, useful sites not only for journalists but for anyone with the desire to find information. For Tanzanian online media, I will add some links separately to the column on the right side of the page. But here are now the other links.

Tanzania government You can find here some statistical data of the country, national budget and so on, but unfortunately the information is not updated very regularly. For reaching the different ministries, better to go directly to the section National information by topics with the giraffe image surrounded by links.

Bunge, meaning the parliament, has a good site with CV’s of all MP’s and other info. But the same here as with the government website - not updated regularly enough.

Jamii Forums This is the Tanzanian discussion site, with the slogan: “Where we dare to talk openly.” Here people use to leak out scandalous documents of corruption etc. that wouldn’t be published in the mainstream media. The tenth most visited website in Tanzania, next after BBC.

Reuters Africa Latest news country by country updated constantly when news happen. If things at home are relatively cool, meaning no huge floods or wars or rigged elections, the site might include only week-old business news.

IPS News “Tells the story underneath!” Well written news features from the South produced by journalists from the South. You can find the Kiswahili service here.

Other international Kiswahili language news sites include BBC Swahili, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America, all of them providing audio clips as well. Content from more than 125 African news organizations. Here you can read papers from Cameroon to Kenya. Of the Tanzanian media houses, The Citizen and Daily News have joined this news portal recently.

Al Jazeera This satellite channel from Doha, Qatar, is today providing probably the best Africa and Middle East reporting of all the big international news channels. The website is beautiful with sharp pictures and often clever stories and commentaries.

Africa The Good News A website from South Africa trying to counter the Western media stereotypes of AIDS, poverty, tribal feuds and corruption. Right now news about women’s village phone networks in Madagascar and Malawi and a feature about the benefits of African trade with China. This is a Somali news site with more than a hundred links to other Somali news and other websites. Online journalism can be a great media in a country with long distances and lack of paper, as long as wireless connections are there.

Pambazuka News Pan-African forum for social justice. Human rights activists and the best intellectuals on the continent are publishing enlightening stories on politics, development and people’s struggles.

African Elections Database Compiled by a chap somewhere out of Africa with numbers of votes, percentages and all other details from every election since colonial times.

African Journals Online On this website updated in South Africa you can browse and read close to 400 different African scientific journals, from the social science journal Africa Development to Zimbabwe Veterinary Journal.

African Literature and Writers on the Internet A web portal hosted by Stanford University in California with hundreds of links to websites on African literature, from sites about Chinua Achebe to Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina.

African Studies Internet Resources Web portal by Columbia University, New York. So many links that you can choose by region, country or topic.

Hello in many languages. This is one of my personal favourites. If you can greet in the Kihaya and Hehe languages and also say “thank you”, you might reach far. Here you can also learn to say “hallo” in about 20 different German dialects. The participants loved this site and taught themselves also many ways how to greet in Finnish language.

What did the prime minister say last Sunday?

We have moved on to real fact-finding and producing stories based on the investigations. First we had a warm-up of some more simple research in order to activate our brains and minds to the more challenging research.

To find out the population of Iringa town, the height of Mount Kilimanjaro and the street address of the Embassy of Finland in Dar es Salaam were yet easy tasks. Populations, geographical and political details and such can usually be found in a Wikipedia article that you would reach just by searching for the name of the place or country. Links to contact information of a company or an organization are usually found on the top of their website in the right end of the page, or in a column on the left side of the page, or at the bottom of the page.

So far easy was also to find out who is the current president of Namibia. The task to find out who is the president of Sweden was however a bit more difficult as the country is a monarchy and has a king - with no political power though. The prime minister is the head of the government.

As Tanzanians usually love English football, one search assignment was to find out who is the top goal scorer of the English Premier League at the moment.

Some other assignments, like the current inflation rate in Tanzania (19.8 percent!) and what prime minister Mizengo Pinda actually said last Sunday to the doctors who are on strike, seemed to be a bit more challenging for a warm-up. The difficulty was to narrow the search by using alternative Google options, such as Google news, or just to choose search results only from Tanzanian or Kiswahili language websites.

Now the participants are searching for information about three famous African ladies: Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of the Green Belt Movement, the late Wangari Maathai; the Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo who in her bestselling book Dead Aid suggests that Africa should stop receiving so called development aid as it is in her opinion bad for the economy and causes corruption and dependency; and finally Leila Lopes, Angolan Miss Universe crowned last year. Postings of the stories will be made later this afternoon.

Today we also had a special session on plagiarism, and we also went through a large number of international news sites and other web resources providing useful information on African events and backgrounds, both political, social and cultural. I will provide links soon.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Some pictures from class

Here are some photos from the internet training on Wednesday. In the front from the right, Hikloch Ogola of Tumaini University, Sylvia Mwehozi from Radio Mlimani and the University of Dar es Salaam School of Journalism, and Eleuter Mbilinyi, subeditor of The African.

Working on their assignments earlier today, in the front Joyce Shebe, news editor of Clouds FM, and behind Bestina Magutu of TBC and Rose Haji, former MISA-Tanzania National Director and nowadays community media coordinator at UN Women. Photos by Cecilia Mng’ong’o.

Newspapers must improve, or go online

Yesterday the participants got as homework to read and analyze and reflect on a speech by Rupert Murdoch given to American newspaper editors in 2005. Murdoch’s prophetic speech more than six years back was about the increased use of the internet, especially among the younger generation in the USA, and the consequences this would have on the newspaper industry over there and later also elsewhere. As many readers surely know, Rupert Murdoch is a famous media mogul, the chief executive of News Corporation, and one of the biggest individual media owners in the world. (Photo on the right by World Economic Forum)

Some participants have come back with really good reviews and commentaries.

Here’s Eleuter Mbilinyi’s compact and comprehensive review about Murdoch’s speech. He quotes Murdoch saying that in 1964 four out of five Americans were reading a newspaper every day, while 40 years later the figure had dropped to 50 percent, due to the use of the internet. “The new means of communication have an advantage of capturing people’s attention given their features of interactivity and hence doing away with the traditional dominance of some few people who decide what people should or shouldn’t get. To accommodate the situation, Murdoch suggests using the newspapers’ websites to win the hearts and the minds of the people.”

Rose Haji compares the situation in the U.S. with Tanzania, which has had a relatively large number of news outlets since the liberalization of the media in the 1990’s. But even here the circulation of many newspapers has declined, to the extent that several previously prominent papers, such as the trade union newspaper Mfanyakazi and the Catholic church newspaper Kiongozi, don’t exist anymore. According to Rose, also the ruling party newspaper Uhuru is only rarely seen in circulation. To reach her final conclusion, I recommend you read more here.

The posting of Njonjo Mfaume from the University of Dar es Salaam is so well articulated that I’m going to quote a longer passage.

“Whereas Murdoch speech was delivered and was most relevant in USA six years ago, we in Tanzania begin to see the relevance of most of what he said now.”

“Internet users increase daily in Tanzania and the bad news is the people who fast adopt the technology, the elite in major towns, are the ones who can afford buying newspapers. This simply means newspapers have to offer more or follow the readers online.”

“Now that the fiber optic cable infrastructure is spread all over Tanzania, it is likely that internet users will increase and costs will go down. Meanwhile, the businesses will start realising that most buyers are found online and thus see the need to advertise on the internet. Already blogs like Michuzi’s have attracted adverts from big and reputable companies.”

“Tanzanian newspapers’ problems are compounded by the fact that the journalism standard is incredibly low compared to levels reached by most neighbouring countries. What keeps them going is a flow of adverts through political and business connection of their owners.”
Challenges notwithstanding, the good thing according to Njonjo Mfaume is that some newspapers have become aware of the dangers ahead of them and have already prepared themselves. These include Mwananchi Communications which is nowadays regularly updating its website and has also opened a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

“For other newspapers which are oblivious of the dangers, it is time they read Murdoch’s speech, because the plunge of newspapers is a worldwide trend which is bound to happen in Tanzania as it did in the developed world.”
Now, to make things more interesting, Hikloch Ogola of Tumaini University couldn’t agree less.

“Rupert Murdoch is a typical Western media mogul whose ideas about the changing role of the newspaper industry in the age of internet perfectly meets the conditions in that part of the world but never in most African countries. It may be true that the print media in the Western world is facing stiff competition from the digital media in both news and advertisement, but in Africa issues of accessibility, computer literacy and language still give the newspaper industry an upper hand.”

“His well written speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors back in 2005 suggests that newspapers should create websites that will host different information portals that could be used by the emerging large market of youths who prefer to get news and other information through the internet. Yet, taking the case of Tanzania, the youth are not a large news market as compared to people in the 34 to 50 age bracket that also use the internet more than the younger age. Besides, this age bracket is the largest newspaper market.”
Ogola warmly supports Murdoch’s advice that print journalists and others should care much more about the views, needs and interests of their audience. But he is nevertheless sceptic that poor African newspapers companies would find the capital to invest into websites with video content and visual entertainment as suggested by Murdoch, owner of not only dozens of print newspapers in the USA, UK and Australia, but also owner of Fox Channel, Sky TV and many, many other big TV channels around the world.

Why there are more internet users in Kenya

The training participants have been posting their texts about their thoughts and reactions on the issues we covered yesterday.

Eleuter Mbilinyi, subeditor of The African, lists many of yesterday’s topics and says that he was delighted to learn about the statistics of internet usage in different countries and also about the most visited websites today globally, and in Tanzania in particular. He goes on to say that he was also impressed to hear about the history of the internet, as well as about some problems associated with the web, such as the digital divide, plagiarism, or IT security.

Bestina Magutu from TBC was happy to learn the different definitions of the internet and the World Wide Web. While the internet is a collection of interconnected physical and also wireless infrastructure of computer networks, the World Wide Web is the interconnected content which you can access by using the internet. “Many people use the two words interchangeably”, she writes, “probably because they are closely interrelated in the sense that the internet acts as a key bridge through which most of us can access the WWW contents.”

Rose Haji from the UN Women Tanzania and the IPS News Kiswahili section is writing about the statistics of internet users in different world regions and countries. She says that language breakdown is the main reason why Tanzania is lagging behind neighbouring Kenya in the use of internet. “The Google website has been translated into Kiswahili, but most citizens cannot afford to use it due to computer illiteracy”, she says. Computer skills are being taught in schools, yes, but teachers are usually not well trained and in most schools there is no access to computers. Most of the teaching is therefore done in theory only, with no practice.

Njonjo Mfaume, journalism lecturer from the University of Dar es Salaam School of Journalism and Mass Communications, writes about the discussion in class about the difficulties caused by the planned transformation from analogue to digital TV broadcasting in Tanzania. The truth is that most of the local TV audience don’t yet know the benefits or challenges and how they could prepare themselves to the coming change. The director of the government communications authority yesterday said that the TV broadcasts should be fully digital by the end of this year.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tanzanians like to chat and gossip

Here are some of the topics covered in today’s training.

We started the morning by visiting the American online magazine Salon, which is featuring quite lively reporting and commentary on news, politics, culture and human interest. I wouldn’t regularly follow that site while in Finland, but the story of how it came about is worth sharing. It grew out of a strike. When the print newspaper San Francisco Examiner was shut for a while in 1994, a few of its journalists taught themselves the HTML website designing code language and practiced making an online newspaper with the new technology. They found the experience so nice that at the end of the strike some of them gave up their jobs at the print newspaper and launched their own online paper, probably the biggest of its kind at that time and still active.

We also searched the Wikileaks website to find all the 663 diplomatic cable reports sent from the American Embassy in Dar es Salaam between January 2005 to February 2010 about often secret discussions held between Tanzanian officials or individuals and US diplomatic staff. The revelations that the anti-corruption chief of the Tanzanian government was afraid for his life can be found here.

Statistics on internet usage in different world regions and countries attracted a wild debate. In absolute numbers, there are nowadays most internet users in China, USA, Japan, India and Brazil, in this order. Only then follow some European countries, Germany, Russia, UK and France, and right after them comes Nigeria, the new leading African country in the chart, boasting 44 million internet users, at least according to the figures published by the website Internet World Stats.

In recent years, the biggest growth in the number of internet users has been registered in Sub-Saharan African countries, especially Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and lately also Rwanda. In all these countries, the number of internet users more than doubled during just a period of one year. In Tanzania, however, such growth is not yet to be seen. Neighbouring Kenya has almost six times more internet users (four million) than Tanzania (676,000), although the population in Kenya is smaller than in Tanzania. One obvious reason is the language. In Kenya, the middle class speaks English, while in Tanzania the common language is Kiswahili. And from the web you can find so much interesting and useful information in English, while the Kiswahili content is still limited.

We noticed another thing in the latest statistic, namely that almost two thirds of Tanzanian internet users are also using the Facebook, while in most other countries in the region a much smaller proportion of the internet users would have a Facebook account. Some participants said that this is obvious, because Tanzanians love to chat and gossip and watch pictures, and are not so much interested in serious issues. There is not a reading culture, many people rather shun away from books. The education system has been in shambles since the good old days of the 1970’s, said the more senior participants. It would be the task for the new generation to change this pattern – if it’s at all about to be changed.

So far, the local online media doesn’t appear very high in the statistics of the most visited websites in Tanzania. According to a statistic from last year, BBC and CNN were among the Top 20, and the most popular local media website was, maybe a bit surprisingly, Global Publishers, the media house selling sensational tabloid papers such as Uwazi, Amani and Ijumaa. They were in position 28, followed by the popular blog of photojournalist Issa Michuzi. Far behind came the online editions of the English-language newspapers The Citizen (70th) and Daily News (80th). The online editions of the Kiswahili newspapers were not yet among the Top 100 most visited websites in Tanzania.

For comparison, the discussion site Jamii Forums was the tenth most popular website on the list.

Jokes and laughter and high expectations

The training participants have made their first postings to their blogs. Links to all the blogs are on the right.

I truly recommend that you read the beautiful narration by Rose Haji, the most senior participant of the training, about how she felt to join the group of professionals of the younger generation who she thought would find it only natural to surf for their information and update their profiles in the digital networks.

But she wasn’t out of place. “It is a small group of 11 people with brains. We interact, participate and mostly share jokes and laughter!”

”Age ain’t nothing but a number. I am moving to dot com right from day one”, she concludes.

Here again you can find the posting of Bestina Magutu, news and current affairs editor at Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation TBC. She tells about some of the practical exercises we did during the opening day, booking flight tickets and finding other services online, as people in Europe have been doing already for some years, and now the same kind of services are gradually moving online here in Tanzania too.

Bestina says she enjoyed very much visiting the website Project Gutenberg, where one can read and download entire book classics as electronic files. One who agrees with that is Masembe Tambwe, weekend editor of the newspaper Daily News, who goes on to say that “much as the internet is a tool I use every day, there is still a lot that I don’t know. I plan to get as much as I can this week and will most definitely share this knowledge with mates and colleagues.”

Eleuter Mbilinyi, subeditor of The African, also shares his expectations for the coming days. “From today’s experience of the training, there is no doubt that at the end of this training I will be rich on the worldwide major sources of information and sophisticated techniques on how to effectively use the internet in executing this noble career.”

Monday, January 30, 2012

Clearing the jungle in the tovuti class

This is my first posting from a five days training course for Tanzanian editors and journalism lecturers in the use of internet, tovuti in Kiswahili, for fact-finding, news monitoring, communication and publication.

It is already the fifteenth internet training event for Tanzanian journalists, part of a training programme launched in 2008 and organized jointly by MISA-Tanzania and VIKES Foundation, a solidarity organization of journalist associations in Finland, with support from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

In the streets of Dar es Salaam it’s sweating hot today, but we have spent the entire working day in the cool air-conditioned multimedia room of the Tanzania Global Development Learning Centre, located at the Institute of Finance Management, the leading business school in the country.

During the first day, we have had eleven participants in class. They are mostly subeditors, news editors and feature writers from the national mainstream newspapers, radio stations and the government broadcasting corporation TBC, but there are also three lecturers from local journalism schools and the editor of the Kiswahili service of the IPS news agency.

We started the day with an introduction round and each participant listing their expectations for the training week. Most of them wished that they would learn more appropriate ways and better techniques to find information – “in order to clear a path in the internet jungle”, as Hikloch Ogola, journalism lecturer from Tumaini University, expressed it.

Many of the participants underlined that they want to share the new knowledge with their colleagues in their newsrooms.

Rose Haji, veteran journalist among many of the younger participants, admitted that she belongs to the P.O. Box generation, but after this training she hopes she will be well equipped to move on to the new era of

After the introduction and a tea break, we did some exercises on how to book a train ticket in Finland and how to buy a flight ticket in Tanzania. (A new online booking service has just recently been launched by the local airline Precision Air.) We also visited a number of websites that have in one way or another changed the world in the quite recent era of internet.

We have seen what Americans buy from eBay and watched a YouTube video of Barack Obama in January 2009 saying that he promises to close down the Guantánamo detention camp within one year. We edited a Wikipedia article about the major local newspaper in Tanzania, shared ideas about the importance of online games, visited the Twitter site of the Somali militant Islamist movement al-Shabaab, and downloaded some electronic books from the website Project Gutenberg, which claims to have over 38,000 free ebooks in its collection.

At the end of the day, the participants opened their own blogs. I will provide links tomorrow.