AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS PUT ON NOTICE
By Kezio-Musoke David and Rebecca Wanjiku
African governments who gag investigative journalists have been put on notice, courtesy of modern computer applications available on the World Wide Web, said Tom Johnson managing director, Institute for Analytic Journalism.
Johnson said technology will make it hard for governments or other agents affected by investigative work to destroy journalistic work.
While training journalists on the available Web operations that can guarantee security, sharing and storage of their work, Johnson said that the Internet is promoting freedom of _expression and making it harder to destroy vital information.
“Web 2.0 applications can be used as weapons to fight corruption. Web 2.0 Applications will not directly fright corruption but will equip journalist with resources to do better investigations, research and analysis,” Johnson said.
In countries known for investigative journalism, media houses have been burnt and computers stolen by agents opposed to publication. For instance, in Kenya the government stormed The Standard Group, carried computers and burnt newspapers. The move was calculated to force the Standard Group to abandon serialisation of corrupt deals by the government.
“It is now easy to scan documents and store them digitally; they will be available everywhere in a computer. Digital storage acts as backup incase the hard disk is stolen or destroyed,” Johnson said.
Johnson acknowledged that the technology may not be fully available to all journalists in Africa but noted that the continent is growing at a fast rate and introduction of the internet tools will improve investigative journalism.
“I am surprised that in Africa the use of SMS applications is massive as compared to North and South America . This is exactly what I am talking about. The integration of digital technology with the use of Web 2.0 can be very useful in and environment where the infrastructure is limited,” he added.
Web 2.0 is an open source software available free or low-cost. According to the journalism trainer, these applications are continually collaboratively updated making it easier for users to suit it to their needs.
In this respect, Johnson said the applications can allow journalists to research, write, analyse and store information on the internet. The applications make it easier for journalists to share the information and continually update, erasing the need for physical presence. For instance, journalists in Cape Town and Durban can follow similar stories and update via the web without meeting.
Regarding on-line storage, Johnson singled out Google’s Gmail which offers users 2.7 GB, Yahoo, 1 GB and all files can be shared. Others are, Freedrive
http://www.freedrive.com, and Fortune City.
On sharing information and editing, he suggested several websites that allow various options for book marking and follow-up of web links. Examples: www.google.com, www.writely.com, www.socialtext.net, www.zoho.com and mediawiki.org/wiki/MediaWiki