Sunday greetings. I know that many of the funding opportunities I have been sending out lately have been related to developing applications for mobile phones rather than for citizen media projects. For some reason grant competitions seem to come in waves, with citizen media around October and November and computer programming around March and April. Still, I have included links to the software competitions because our movement to bring more voices to the conversational web often depends on having the right tools and knowing how to use them.
For example, last week I was involved in a few workshops to teach some Liberian journalists how to blog. We were using the WordPress.com blogging platform, which I tend to prefer because of its strong multilingual support. Unfortunately, however, the admin panel of WordPress.com takes a long time to load on slow connections. Continually waiting for the page to load can easily take up half of the workshop – a point which Tshwarelo mentioned in an email last week.
This is why Elia Varela Serra and Miquel Hudin are currently developing Maneno.org, a new blogging platform that is specifically meant for people living in Sub-Saharan Africa where the internet connection tends to be slower than other regions. Maneno is now available in English, Spanish, French, Swahili, and Portuguese. They are also working on Lingala and Luganda translations. I have uploaded a three-megabyte file of Elia Varela Serra discussing Maneno on the BBC here.
Google Summer of Code
If you are a student and you are interested in developing tools like Maneno, one of the best opportunities is right around the corner. Every year Google sponsors a “Summer of Code” which brings together students who want to practice computer programming and existing open-source applications. For example, one of the problems with Google Translate is that it is only available in a few major languages. Apertium is an open-source machine translation website that focuses on “lesser-resourced and marginalised languages.” If you are a speaker of a language that is not listed on translate.google.com and if you are interested in making machine translation available for your language, then I recommend that you submit a Summer of Code proposal to Apertium. Similarly, the Sunlight Foundation, which uses technology to promote greater government openness and transparency, is also accepting proposals from students around the world who want to develop new applications which promote government transparency and fight corruption in their countries. Google seems especially eager to receive proposals from students living in the developing world. On their official Google Code blog they feature information sessions about Summer of Code that have taken place in South America.
Web 2.0 for Women
Even if the day arrives when the right tool exists for everyone, regardless of the language they speak or the speed of their internet connection, there are still many obstacles that stand in the way of an equitable conversation. Cristina Quisbert, a member of the Voces Bolivianas project which trains Bolivians how to use new media, has written a very informative article in the online magazine World Pulse about how women around the world can take advantage of Web 2.0 tools. She writes: “If the voices of women with a good economical situation or status are not taken into account, many times it is worse for the ones that live in underdeveloped countries and from indigenous origen. Mass media sometimes covers only what men have to say. To navigate in the internet and to use these tools gives me a feeling of strength and motivation.”
Fortunately, the McCormick Foundation’s “New Media Women Entrepreneurs” is currently accepting applications from women “who have original ideas to create new Web sites, mobile news services or other entrepreneurial initiatives that offer interactive opportunities to engage, inspire and improve news and information in a geographic community or a community of interest.”
Deadline: March 31
Finally, a couple links to start the week off. The Knight Citizen News Network has published another module for their citizen journalism learning guide. This one focuses on how to conduct an interview. And, as we have discussed in the past, the Guardian newspaper in England has a project based in Katine, Uganda which is meant to provide detailed coverage of what development is like in rural Africa. They have finally handed the cameras over to the citizens of Katine so that they can tell their own stories. A description and video of the workshop is here.
All the best,