Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Journalism and Media Technologies

New Technologies, New Practices and the Renewal of Media Training in Africa
By James Achanyi-Fontem, Director of Publications
A five-day Conference holds from August 23 – 27 2009 at Pan-African University in Lagos, Nigeria. The institution of media as we know is being transformed virtually beyond recognition right before our eyes. The advent of the internet in the late nineteen nineties, leading to the near total dominance of new media technologies and the ICT in general, has engendered new journalism practices, well beyond the notion of technology as aid. As illustration, networked journalism, citizen journalism (including the I-Report on Cable News Network) and the frequent recourse of major news networks to such reports in major news bulletins; the rise of social networks as a means of self-presentation; the rise of blogs; the reliance of major newspapers, radio and television on their websites for indepth or further depth… all these point to what amounts to a paradigm shift in the global practice of journalism.
In Africa, the changes are less noticed. But the rise and rise of satellite television (Multichoice, Hi-tv; Daar Communications); the emergence of such dedicated networks as CNBC-Africa all show an alternative movement from the past. This movement, if not premised on technological difference, but on a shift away from public broadcasting or free to air, to pay per view is also changing media consumption practice.
These developments raise fundamental questions about how we think and practice and teach media in Africa. This conference is billed as a meeting point of industry and the academy in Africa, and between the public and private sectors. Besides the key thematic issue of the transforming role of ICT in journalism practices, we are concerned to bring to the fore sub-thematic problems of funding, capacity and inadequate infrastructure. No less germane, are questions of policy as governments struggle to come to terms with the aspirations of industry in virtually all African countries. From the point of view of the academy, inadequate training facilities conspire with inadequately prepared faculty and out of date curriculum to keep the continent playing catch up.
To address these and similar issues, 500-word abstracts are invited from scholars, industry practitioners and public officials. Industry practitioners may be journalists and media managers or from media technology equipment and service providers. Companies wishing to show case their products are also invited for the conference-long exhibition and workshops that will form an integral part of this event.
Conference Sub-themes
A.Conceptualizing and Theorizing the New Media
Convergence and Interactivity
One-to-many; many-to-many: corporations and new media
What is new about the new media?
B.New Journalism Practices
Networked journalism
Citizen journalism
Streaming in electronic media
C.New Media and Media Enterprise in Africa and Elsewhere
Social networks
D.Curriculum and Training Regimes
Media enterprise
Restructuring media training
Role of ict in training delivery
Virtual classrooms: e-learning tools
E.Contexts and Environments of new media practices
Access issues
Political and social contexts
Policy issues
Economic and Financial issues
Business and enterprise management issues
Assistance to African Participants
Conference Organizers
1. Abstracts and academic issues: Anulika Agina ( e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it )
2. Exhibition issues: Tayo Akinyede ( e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it )
3. Workshop and hospitality issues: Ijeoma Nwezeh ( e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it )
Conference Convener
Prof. Emevwo Biakolo
Dean, School of Media and Communication
Pan-African University

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Breastfeeding & Swine Flu

Breastfeeding & Swine Flu
Recommendations for Physicians
By Karla Shepard Rubinger, Executive Director, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, (914) 740-2100, ext. 2153,
Breastfeeding can limit the severity of respiratory infections in infants and is particularly important for minimizing the risk and effects of infection during an influenza outbreak, such as the current H1N1 influenza virus (also known as the “swine flu”) outbreak, according to recommendations released by the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM).
The new guidelines presented by ABM urge physicians to support continued breastfeeding even if the mother is suspected of having the H1N1 influenza virus, since the infant would likely have been exposed to the virus before the mother’s symptoms appeared. Continued breastfeeding may help limit the severity of respiratory symptoms in infants that become infected.
Other key recommendations encourage continued breastfeeding even if the mother is taking either of the two antiviral medications prescribed to treat or prevent influenza infection (oseltamivir or zanamivir). Breastfeeding should also continue if an infant becomes ill with suspected H1N1 flu. Furthermore, if breast milk is only part of an infant’s diet, it would be wise to increase the amount of breast milk the infant receives during an influenza outbreak, perhaps supplementing breastfeeding with expressed or pumped milk.
Good hygiene, including regular hand washing around the baby, can help minimize exposure to respiratory droplets that may carry the flu virus. Limiting close contact by non-caretakers, use of a mask if a caretaker has flu-like or other respiratory symptoms, and avoiding crowds are other recommended actions to reduce risk of infant exposure. According to ABM President, Caroline J. Chantry, MD, "It is timely for physicians to be reminded that breast milk contains a myriad of antiviral and immune boosting components beyond specific antibodies that will help protect the infant even when a mother does not have preexisting immunity to a particular illness."
The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine is a global organization of physicians dedicated to the promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding through education, research, and advocacy.
This information is published courtesy of The Mary Ann Liebert Companies 140 Huguenot Street, 3rd Floor New Rochelle, NY 10801-5215, USA
For information on the World Breastfeeding Week in Cameroon, click on the following link-

Monday, May 11, 2009

Linking Producers & Consumers with ICT

By James Achanyi-Fontem
AMIS is a not-for-profit and non governmental organisation working with farmers and consumers for the protection of their rights. The organisation’s objective falls in line with the Millennium Development Goals No. 1, 3, 7 and 8. AMIS researches on the problems faced by farmers and consumers in the rural communities of Cameroon and seeks durable solutions together for overcoming regular occurring difficulties. In some parts of Cameroon, seasonal roads make it impossible for agricultural field workers to make frequent trips to monitor farmers' activities, while in other parts it is the hostile climatic and environmental conditions that hinder good yields. The use of ICT is now seen to be relevant for circulation of frequent alerts on the positive and adverse situations throughout the country at all moments, to up date farmers before, during and after the planting season.
This proposal is hinged on the premise that the lack of access to immediate information is the reason why farmers and consumers alike fall short of satisfying their quests. African farmers in general, on the one hand strive to increase the continent’s food production and make economic gains for themselves through farming in the expectation that consumers would just “stumble” upon their products “with pockets full of money”. Unfortunately this has not been the case, as farmers work hard and end up either destroying their ecosystem through uninformed farming practices thereby unwittingly destroying their dreams to prosperity on the one hand, and on the other hand depriving consumers “with pockets full of money” the opportunity to avail themselves of these products, stay clear of famine and contribute towards fulfilling the farmers’ quest to economic posterity.
Project Overview
This project is about delivering educative and informative SMS messages to farmers and consumers that would enable them connect directly and do business. It is intended to seek funds and expertise that will enable the team fulfill the wishes of the rural populations within some enclave isolated English speaking communities in Cameroon.
The rural community in question are dominantly peasant farmers and consumers within localities close to Limbe and Buea. Information and education on the use of pesticides has been found to be lacking and this is vital for the health of their crops and up grading the soil. These farmers also need information about available markets and consumers demanding their products.
This approach aims at improving their economic situation, reducing the poverty level and promoting responsible farming practices in areas not readily accessible by agricultural field workers.
The strategies and approach applied in the AMIS project has been used in the banking and transport sectors in Cameroon with great success, and there is no doubt that it will be productive to replicate it. Associating the strategy with existing infrastructures of mobile communication, the simple tools of Information and Communication Technologies would positively affect farmers and consumers as well.
The advent of the internet, websites and satellite technologies though very effective as tools of modern communications fall out of the range of these actors for two reasons: either farmers and consumers don’t know how to exploit them, or that they cannot afford the cost of getting connected and finding the information they need. The proliferation of websites that document information about farm products and consumers therefore does little or nothing to remedy this situation. Therefore, this proposal reposes entirely on SMS messaging to all actors involved because it is more instantaneous than other applications in use.
Outreach Field Research
AMIS has already undertaken an intensive field research on in puts. The results point to the need for a Market Information Service for Cameroon’s rural populations with low income earning power. Exchange working sessions have been organized with authorities of the agriculture public sector and leaders of other partner NGOs involved in the collection of useful data to be provided to farmers and consumers.
AMIS interviewed the petit traders interested and willing to collaborate once the service becomes operational. These middle men are mostly those who look for market outlets that farmers scout on permanent basis..
Before take off of this service link with farmers, workshops have to be organised to capacitate staff and stakeholders of the project. To lay the foundation, AMIS already discussed with experts in mushroom and snail farming. These experts have accepted to share their knowledge with us and farmers during planned workshops. These partners are only waiting to be announced the take off date for training.
The data collected so far shows the extent at which AMIS project would serve as a potential employer of many school leavers to serve as relay and community education agents at different level. The out come will be the reduction of rural exodus and the current massive rural-urban migration.
It all started with a keen observation of what is happening around us.
Scenario 1
If you go to the urban towns and cities, where a majority of inhabitants are employed by some industry or state-run corporation, you are likely to see a handful of individuals who practice farming as a hobby. Every week-end, they go behind their houses, and tend after their 2m squared garden of assorted vegetables, etc. In case some pests or fungi attack their farm, they walk down the street to a cybercafé and Google out information about this unusual occurrence that threatens their gardens. Sometimes they receive information that enables them solve the problem .Yet they do not depend on those small gardens behind the house for subsistence. It is just a hobby. So when they receive their salaries, they go to nearby markets to buy food from farmers whose agricultural activities provide food for them all year round.
Scenario 2
A majority of inhabitants in the rural areas practice agriculture as their only profession to earn a living. Cut off from daily information by bad roads, and the absence of modern tools of communication, they blindly work their way through dense forests, turning them into farmlands, and rely on the whims of nature for a good harvest. A majority of these farmers are ignorant of existing opportunities, lack the knowledge of good planning and do not receive information that enables them contain pest outbreaks. They are not even familiar with sustainable farming methods. Training workshops to boost food production hardly take place in the villages. These peasants invest their energy and money on vast acres of farmland with the expectation that a bountiful harvest will enable them sell their produce to city dwellers, enrich themselves, send their children to school, or pay for a visit to the doctor when they fall sick. When disaster that could have been averted through information strikes their farms, everyone in the family and community is affected directly or indirectly. Children drop out of school, the city dwellers do not receive their regular supplies and suffer through price hikes brought about by food shortages and scarcity. Life becomes difficult for everybody and the stage is set for now idle farmers' families and hungry city dwellers to engage in whatever activity it takes to make provisions for them.
A Hungry Man is an Angry Man
Today it is fishermen turned pirates off the coast of the Indian Ocean. They wreck havoc, take hostages and demand huge ransoms. These criminal acts undermine the authority of their state and destabilize the socio-political institutions. They disrupt the peace and harmony not only of Somali People, as the impact of their lawless pursuits is attracting and having global impact. This is not right. Tomorrow, it might be the farmer anywhere in rural Africa, Asia or Eastern Europe resorting to lawless acts because their once cherished profession no longer yields them the benefits expected. To have hundreds of thousands of disenchanted farmers and consumers taking the easy way to riches through lootings and other criminal acts paints a very grim picture of our world. Yet these hard working men and women would not engage in deviant behaviour if they were not hungry. Yes, angry consumers will not become lawless in these times of economic recession if they received information about sources of abundant food supply that would make them spend less and live better. Farmers or consumers become angry when they can no longer satisfy their basic needs. Something needs to be done about the current situation for us to live in peace.
AMIS-CAMEROON Challenges the ideas that under advantaged people should continually depend on aid packages. It buys the idea of the Chinese proverb, "Give a man fish, and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime". AMIS-CAMEROON seeks to replicate this idea within farming communities. This, the organisation strives to achieve by giving rural peasant farmers simple tools that inform and empower them. AMIS is conscious of the fact that access to internet offers a broad range of opportunities, though , it is not ignorant about the huge costs involved in procuring these jewels that facilitate Information and Communication exchange. It is for this reason that AMIS-CAMEROON proposes direct instant SMS messaging to the mobile phones of farmers because these are the very tools the farmers themselves possess.
Develop a global partnership for development - Develop an open trading and financial system that is rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory, including a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction-nationally and internationally.
We are young persons and we are going to be dealing with people who are advanced in age to be our parents. We need all the subtlety the situation demands as we strive to meet the needs of the different farming communities.
We shall also need to learn public relation techniques that enable us to meet the different stake holders within Government and Civil society in Cameroon.
Sustainability (Financial) Model
The farmers will subscribe for a token to receive SMS and this shall be used for a start to buy SMS credits to sustain the project. As other farmers and stakeholders get the impact of the initiative they shall respond to the invitation to subscribe to the service and benefit from SMS information and education
Potential obstacles
Obtaining financing has been the major obstacle. Getting the institutions that represent agriculture, trade and industry to cooperate with AMIS have been a challenge. We believe that the recognition and endorsement of our idea as reflective of efforts to eradicate poverty and reduce dependence shall enable the Cameroon government institutions to give us the needed support.
Project Milestones
• There was a field study that lasted 6 weeks, then the project was presented as a master thesis at Orebro University, Sweden.
• AMIS acquired SMS credits online to send messages to farmers, and this warmed their hearts further to the project. Now as a team our ambition is to expand the SMS coverage and reach at least 5000 farmers weekly. For this to happen, we need funds to purchase SMS credit and also to create a feed back data base.
• AMIS presented its project idea at the ICT Africa Conference that held in Cameroon in December 2008.
AMIS Project Needs Assessment
(1) Agricultural Technicians
These are people with knowledge of farming and agriculture. They will provide the farmers with necessary modern farming techniques and teach them best farming practices. There are quite a number of trained agricultural technicians and AMIS needs only to compensate them for service rendered.
(2) Food Processing Engineers and Experts
These are people with knowledge of food processing. They will provide information on effective food handling, processing and conservation. They will also carry out quality control of the food put on sale in the markets or for exportation. Quite a good number of trained food and nutrition experts exist in Cameroon and AMIS needs only to compensate them for service rendered.
(3) Software Developers
People in this category will take care of ICT channels and facilities. They will be required to develop Soft wares, Websites, etc. to be used by the various operational task force of the AMIS Project. Soft ware Developers exist already and AMIS needs only to compensate them for service rendered.
(4) Internet Connection
From day one of execution of the AMIS project, permanent internet connection at various sites and offices of the project is needed. The internet links will serve to connect sites, villages, towns and cities within Cameroon first and also connect the AMIS project to markets in countries abroad. Internet connection will enable web access to the AMIS Project website to serve as the main advertising task force of the Project. The importance of a web site presence cannot be over emphasized. To start, funds have to be scouted to get connections operational linking a few key offices of the AMIS Project.
(5) Communication Credit
The AMIS project will be unable to guarantee that every participant will have net access and computer. But most participants already possess mobile telephone sets. The AMIS Project therefore takes advantage of this to provide instant messaging service to participants-farmers especially - informing them on possible disaster outbreaks, possible market outlets, buyers/sellers at home and abroad with updates on AMIS activities. AMIS is scouting for funds to purchase initial ICT computer servers and communication credit.
(6) Digital Cameras
To effectively advertise AMIS Project and its produce (farm produce), the project will use digital cameras for uploading samples, adverts, shows, documentary, etc. AMIS needs the best cameras and cost effective tools for this service.
(7) Community Offices in Villages, Towns and Cities
For permanent presence and impact, the AMIS needs to set up offices at various sites around the country. To get the peasant farmers more involved, AMIS is depending on community farmers’ cooperatives as the focal points in the villages. To enhance this partnership, AMIS will assist them during election of their farmers cooperative peer leaders and motivate them with small allowances for the service rendered. This will mean organizing peer education training on the functioning of the AMIS system.
(8) Farm Produce Distribution Points in Villages, Towns and Cities
AMIS Project will set up distribution points around the country to ease exchange and distribution of produce from the farms in the farmers’ cooperatives. This will facilitate safety and handling. Think about McDonald! If this is the case, we depend on community, rents, subsidies, and grants to make this possible.
(9) Financial Houses
AMIS project will not need to set up financial houses, but use the farmers’ cooperatives as the Peasant Farmers’ Financial House. This will ease money transfer processes and prepare the farmers for the project ownership. This will mean selecting members of the community for training on project management and accounting. This system will promote gender and equal opportunities with sharing of tasks between the men and the women. It will encourage peace and unity and consolidate marriages within communities.
The farmers’ cooperative unions or organizations will hold meetings regularly to evaluate progress and farmers can start reducing small loans to expand their activities.
(10) Cybercafés
Consumers have four (4) different ways of placing their orders: Use of internet website, phone calls, Mobile phone SMS and visit at the distribution point. Individuals not using private web access will have to turn to the cybercafés. Cybercafés will be installed in villages with large populations and farm out puts.
(11) Transport Services/Facilities
The AMIS Project is in need of the services of transporters and transport vehicles to move farmers’ produce from their farms to the cooperatives for those who require this service when the roads are accessible. The produce will later be moved from warehouses to distribution points, from distribution points to consumer homes, from warehouse to warehouse, distribution point to distribution point, warehouse to exportation points. We can make use of the existing cooperative transport system but to avoid regular vehicle break downs and maintenance and delivery problems AMIS project needs vehicles and transport services dedicated for its use alone.
12) Computers and Accessories
The AMIS project will require computers for each office or distribution point to collect data. For the beginning not all points will be computerized. Small holder schemes will be treated manually and processing at the offices and sales points would be centralized. However, computers will greatly facilitate communication and processing of order, requests for supply, registration and book keeping.
(13) Furnitures and Equipments
The offices, sales and distribution points will be equipped with furniture. These will include tables, chairs, cupboards, fans, etc. Weighing equipment, balances, loading cranes, trolleys,etc. will be placed in warehouses.
(14) Warehouses around areas of mass production
Warehouses will be located in areas of mass production. These will serve as areas for early preservation and temporal food storage location. Farmers will deposit food items for sale in the ware houses to reduce their transportation problems. The community will provide space for the ware house in each locality as their contribution to the project. But AMIS Project will construct specialized warehouses where there will be need.
(15) Storage Facilities
Like warehouses and distribution points, the AMIS project will construct or rent good storage facilities to handle delicate and perishable food items, without which handling becomes a serious problem.
(16) Initial Funds
For an effective take off of AMIS project activities, funds are needed for community awareness and installation of the initial facilities. Like any other funds we require, we depend on community support, grants, subsidies including profit derived from the services provided by the AMIS Project, Charity and Personal Sacrifices.
(17) Legal Advisor
There is a need for a legal advisor to backup AMIS Project activities and make sure each phase is guaranteed and covered by law. A lawyer will be hired for rendering legal advice and legal procedures services. AMIS has to make payments when service is rendered.
(18) Administration & Good Governance

AMIS will employ a good governance administrator to check cheating, stealing, etc. and all levels of the project. The good governance administrator will work in partnership with the required government services for processing transit documents.
(19) Management and Staff
AMIS Project will recruit staff based on merit and equal opportunities will be accorded both sexes. Project descriptions will be made and advertized before selection during tests and interviews. For more information on Cameroon Link, click on the following link,