I have rambled and ranted before about African based industry, software deployment even African Mathematics, but I figured it was time for another rant on Africa and social media.

James Farrar posted this question a couple of weeks’ ago  when reviewing the blogger coverage of the Davos gathering.

Surely all these gadgets, communications and software we hold court on can offer something to help in terms of improved communications, institutional development, education and economic development for countries like Kenya. Something

He is right. In our  industry we talk so much about the tools, we  sometimes forget that there is more to the world than using one set of tools to talk about another set of tools.

Quoting him from a different context altogether, Jeff Nolan had this to say..

Check out this snapshot of Techmeme today. As is typically the case, Google scratches its left ear lobe and an entire industry of bloggers kicks into gear dissecting what it means.

It reminded me of a cartoon from the always funny often insightful Oliver, over at Geek and Poke

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I started watching a video clip from Demo 08, thinking that I was going to blog about some of the cool African start ups in social media, mobile phone innovations, and laptops powered by bat droppings  but after watching it I  changed my mind.

You can watch the video here please,if the embed fails. (the video is about 30 minutes)

 Mike,one of my regular link victims, Erik Hersman who writes the brilliant White African blog, and Juliana Rotich of the excellent Afromusing  appeared on the panel.

Yes, they covered off some of the interesting solutions and services on the web in Africa,  talked about mobile phones, and developing market economies, all good stuff but what made me stop multitasking and really really listen was the discussion on Kenya, and I think it goes some way to answering James’ question.  Watch the bit about the Ushahidi project , and spend some time on the site.

Mashups of where the nearest Starbucks drive through is located have their utility, and I’m not knocking them, but seeing a google maps mashup of violence outbreaks in real-time reminds me that there are other, more important challenges and uses for the tools. Blogging is great to cover the latest cool new laptop launch, but there is something fundamentally good about being able to get a post up on wordpress.com in minutes to highlight Brian’s plight.

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One of the most thoughtful commentators on Africa in the blogosphere is Ethan Zuckerberg. His piece on the Kenyan middle class is worth a read, but I’d like to quote from one his posts about TED.

Mwenda points out that mainstream media doesn’t cover Africa, in print, in television or on the web. When it’s covered, “journalist behave like scavengers of disaster”. When coverage of disaster captures the truth, it’s only capturing part of the reality. They’re missing all the stories of ordinary people doing amazing things. “When people like Sergei Brin think about Africa, they think in terms of giving aid, not in terms of opportunity.”

Although  comedy, this clip from the Onion is rather too close to the truth for comfort. (you will need click here   because wordpress.com seems to disagree with oinions)

Nation Of Andorra Not In Africa, Shocked U.S. State Dept. Reports

Technology can play a vital role in times of crisis, but more than that, I have a hope that social media will help Africa tell its own story. As Zuckerberg notes, the web enables him to point, not tell. 

If you are interested in learning more about Africa,  then TED is an excellent place to start understanding its beguiling complexity.  Have a look at Joseph Lekuton, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Andrew Mwenda,  and Chris Abani. TED Africa 2008 looks to be a must view event.

Afromusing has an excellent blogroll, and herewith a random excerpt from What an African Women Thinks.

I’m very cross with Mwai Kibaki, Raila Odinga and their respective hardline surrogates today, for putting us in this position where the “International Community” have all the excuse they need to swagger into our sovereignty and order us around.
Because Condi, Milliband, and that tall German whatsisname guy with an unkempt moustache would not be all up in our faces being patronizing if Kenya’s erstwhile leaders just left their mountain-sized egos outside the negotiating room and got their acts together already. We want back our country and our pride. Give us back our country and our pride.
Seriously, today: Me. Cross. At these so called leaders of ours.
Wincing and squirming and cross.

There is more out there than techmeme. But if you are wedded to knowing the latest and greatest gadgets then please add Afrigadget to your RSS feed.

Oh, and finally again via Afromusing I’d like to remind you that Africa is open for business 

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