By Lilian Ndangam (Rhodes Journalism Review, No 26 September 2006)
The story behind The Post newspaper's online presence.
Despite the proliferation of African newspapers online, many newsrooms around the continent still grapple with some difficult questions: How does a newspaper with no access to a computer linked to a modem create and maintain a website?
Why and how do you start publishing online when the print run of your hard copy ranges between 3 000 and 4 000, and your target audience is an urban-based, literate minority? In fact, why bother with online publishing in a country where computer ownership is very low and few people have regular access to the Internet? Enthusiastic about going online, yet challenged by these questions, Cameroon’s The Post– a private bi-weekly, English-language newspaper with a print run of 4 000, found one answer: the Cameroonian Diaspora.
Later in 2004, two US-based Cameroonians in the process of creating a multimedia and publishing company for Cameroonian artists and authors who have little or no opportunity to expose their works to a global audience, came to the rescue. Dibussi Tande, who with Emil Mondoa founded Jimbi Media, says: “We realised that we could use weblog technology to quickly create websites that could easily be updated even by people with absolutely no knowledge of web design. We therefore decided that the first phase of the project would be the creation of professionally designed weblogs for selected members of our target audience. Since we happen to be news junkies and were thoroughly disappointed with the initial Post website, our first target was The Post.”
The Post’s collaboration between the hard copy as content provider and its US-based site owners as administrator, demonstrates an alternative (even if unconventional) model of publishing online. It simultaneously illustrates how the skills of the Cameroonian diasporic community are being appropriated towards the homeland particularly in the face of poor infrastructure and a lack of skills in website development. Certainly, the constitution of the Digital Diaspora Network for Africa (DDN-A) during the WSIS process as a platform to mobilise the African diaspora’s technological, entrepreneurial and professional expertise and resources in bridging the digital divide epitomises recognition for this form of engagement between the African diasporic community and the homeland.
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