By Emeka Aginam, who was in Grahamstown, South Africa
At the just concluded     Highway African conference held in Grahamstown , South Africa   software giant, Microsoft called for an increased ICT real estate for the African media so as to brace up the new media .

A cross section of African journalists  during a training conducted by Micrososft  at  HANA event in South Africa
A cross section of African journalists during a training conducted by Micrososft at HANA event in South Africa

While advocating for more training for the African journalists, especially the ICT journalists, speakers after speaker at  a seminar/debate titled: Increasing ICT real estate in African media organized by  Microsoft    were worried about  the level of ICT penetration in the African media landscape  saying that  unless there is specialized trainings and digital empowerment for the journalists, the paradyn shift from traditional to new media may be far fetched.

Earlier in his opening remarks, the PR Manager, Microsoft West East &  Central and Indian  Islands , James Wilson told the gathering   that it was time  ICT journalism in the African continent took lead on the challenges of the 21st century knowledge economy.

According to James, technology has transformed the traditional media landscape to what he termed digital media.For the Head, School of Journalism and Media studies at the Rhodes University , Grahamstown, South African, Prof. Guy Berger said that ICT stories in the African media should  be given priority attention, adding that there was need to invest on mentoring for young ICT reporters so as to understand the technical languages used in ICT reporting.

According to him, ICT journalists should be investigative and analytical in their editorial so as to make front page stories in their different media houses.

The  level of ICT conscio-usness  among media practitioners in Africa he said  is improving by the day even in the face of inadequate technology tools.

As one of the intervention strategies,   ICT education  the conference noted, should, be integrated into the school system so that the syllabus from the kindergarten upwards would have students know the rudiments of IT before  moving to  under graduate studies.
By so doing, according to the conference,  the student journalists who graduate from the university would be ready to face the challenge of 21st century knowledge economy.

Similarly,   speakers at the Microsoft debate on Increasing  ICT real estate in the African media also noted that there  was  urgent need to introduce Digital Media as a core course in journalism schools across African.

This in no small measure, the conference said  will go a long way in preparing students journalists who may wish to be  Technology Reporters after graduation.

Incisive ICT stories,  the conference said  may be far fetched unless journalists are empowered with the commensurate digital tools and skills needed to face the knowledge Olympus .

Many media organizations in Nigeria and the rest of West African sub-region, according to the speakers at the Microsoft seminar still need specialized technology reporters, adding that  tremendous opportunities exist for journalists with in-depth knowledge and skills in the field to carry out case studies and research on emerging issues in ICT and globalization with a view to making such research results available to the society through the media.

As a way of intervention strategy, speakers at the conference urged  African governments, Donor agencies, Software/Hardware giants  to empower African journalists with multimedia tools needed to face the new media Highway Africa is a partnership between Rhodes University ( School of Journalism and Media Studies) and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), with the support of several partners, development agencies and sponsors. 2009 sees the 13th edition being hosted in Grahamstown with a record attendance of 735 persons in 2008 and offers a journalists reflection on 2010 in the New Media environment.

The Highway Africa annual Awards expand to over 5 categories in their ninth year, continuing to recognise excellence in ICT journalism in Africa .

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