Blogs and the Developing World

Exceprts from an interview with Ethan Zuckerman:

In free market journalism you’re allowed to print whatever stories your audience wants to read. And because you know your audience is more interested in Michael Jackson than Jesse Jackson, you’re going to run fewer stories on policy and more on the abuse of boys on Neverland Ranch. Unless you get some extremely strong current of countervailing opinion, your coverage tends to fall towards the lowest common denominator. That’s why the international news hole in domestic television coverage has shrunk to almost nothing in recent years. The assumption is that no one’s interested.

That’s why a blogging community that pays attention to the rest of the world is so important. If bloggers talk about what’s happening in Africa, say, that not only means that more people have access to information about what’s going on there, it also means that there’s a countervailing force which shows the editors at the New York Times that people are interested enough in these issues to read about them.

One of the kinds of bridges I’d like to build is between talk radio and blogging. For much of the world, talk radio shows are their blogs: you have something to say, you find a platform to say it on, lots of people can hear you say it and they respond to it. Encouraging people to blog in Ghana is all well and good, but at the moment, most of the interesting debate there is happening on talk radio.

What’s interesting about digital technology is not just that it lets you create tools and hand them out to large audiences, but that once you figure out how to use those tools you’re able to build new tools for your own local, specific purposes, but in ways that contribute to the rest of the world as well. It’s not just about getting computers into hospitals and schools. What it’s really about is ensuring that we have software developers all over the world who can help those doctors and teachers design the tools they need.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.