Friday, July 6, 2012

Kenya hosts a major summit on Citizen Media

by Thomas Bwire

Just imagine yourself in a pool of so many foreigners at one of the local hotels in Nairobi, I almost thought that I was out of the country.  But in fact I was right in Nairobi earlier this week attending an international summit on Citizen Media organized on by Global Voices. I was one of the lucky five grantees from East Africa who received a free travel and registration to attend this summit.

Nairobi, Kenya was a host to this special summit that is a biennial gathering, which brings together bloggers, activists and technologists from around the world for public discussions and workshops about the rise of online citizen media movements worldwide.  All new visitors were warmly welcomed and made to feel at home.

Thomas Otieno Bwire, Uweza Communications Officer, at the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit
A start to the program was Global Voices Southeast Asia Editor, Mong Palatino, who took us through various social media campaigns from the region, including the Thai floods. In his presentation he also did explain that both offline and online mix of activism could affect real mobilization and change. Tea break followed after a few other speakers had their presentation centered on the global rise for citizen media.

Let me take you through the Kenyan presentation which was done in split groups.  Here the panelists addressed how online tools and channels are not just for airing opinions affecting it's people but also act as a source of latest breaking news.

Panel of Kenyan bloggers
Lunch break was a good time to get to meet new people of whom we heard from their experiences from different countries one on one and why this summit was of great importance to them.  Afternoon sessions allowed audience members to suggest and lead discussion groups on a wide range of themes, such as 'How Facebook spies on you.'

Later on Bob Boorstin from Google, Max Schrems (Europe vs. Facebook) and Ramzi Jaber ( joined GV's Ivan Sigal for the panel 'Giants of the Internet: What Role and Responsibility?'.  The audience was made aware that Facebook declined an invitation to attend, and a Yahoo! representative could not come at the last minute.

Presentation on the use of social media as a source of news
Bob Boorstin declared that the Internet is not borderless - that if you cross borders, laws change - and also shared his belief that technological monopolies don't last. Ramzi Jaber announced the launch of, a website on which you can report if your account or content is censored.

Ory Okolloh, the original Global Voices Africa editor and a co-founder of Ushahidi who is Google's current Africa policy head, answered an audience question about whether African net users are aware of how to protect their online rights. She spoke about her concerns regarding local capacity and mentioned how she is working with local groups to raise issues. “I must say I am extremely excited, all the more so since I am hardly a year old as a Global Voicer yet being part of the online community as a Kenyan author has proved beneficial in so many ways. I am eager to meet the very many faces of fellow authors and editors of whom I have had opportunity to work with online” noted Okolloh.

The two day summit was really gave me a better understanding of the power of usage of social media and felt special among a pool of talented people I was able to meet through Global Voices community. The summit could not just pass by as I was also lucky to personally meet the Global Voices Director Eddie Avila.

Thomas Bwire, Global Voices Director Eddie Avila and a grantee from Uganda
 To wrap up the day, there were some dances from one of the Kenyan youth group as they show cased their dancing techniques as the audiences cheered them on.

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