SOUL BEAT AFRICA RESPONDS TO ENTHUSIASM FOR INFO SHARING
Soul Beat Africa is a newly launched website that aims to connect people and organisations using communication for change and development in Africa. Across the continent, countless ICT activities are being undertaken to address diverse social issues. The evaluation and findings from one programme, can help to guide the next. Good ideas can be adapted to suit a local context, and materials and scripts can be shared. The Internet of course offers an opportunity to collect and share this information, and that is exactly what Soul Beat Africa is aiming to do.
This web portal is a space to share experiences, materials, strategic thinking and events, and to engage in discussion and debate. Through the website, and The Soul Beat, a bi-monthly e-newsletter, people and organisations are sharing information about how communication is being used to address such issues as HIV/AIDS, economic development, women’s issues, youth, health, and the environment, to name only a few. Experiences in developing radio programmes, edutainment, drama, mass media campaigns, and a diverse range of communication programmes are summarised for quick and easy review, always with contact information, helping to connect communicators across the continent.
Soul Beat Africa is a collaboration between The Communication Initiative, which shares similar information globally, and Soul City, a health communication organisation based in South Africa. But why another information sharing initiative? "There is so much to learn from experiences in Africa, much of it hidden in filing cabinets or locked in the heads of communicators across the continent," says CI Programme Director Chris Morry. "Soul Beat Africa provides a platform where people involved in communication for development in Africa can share their experiences, learn from each other and make communication a more effective and fundamental part of African development intiatives."
Of course, Africa faces connectivity issues, meaning that getting the information from the filing cabinets to the web is not easy. "Over the past months we have been conducting our Theta forums, an ICT discussion, in various South African provinces, to promote the practical benefits and opportunities provided by ICTs to Southern African civil society and to provide an opportunity for reflection on the relevant impact and challenges," says David Barnard, Executive Director of SANGONeT, which is implementing Soul Beat Africa. "The enthusiasm for using the web, is not yet matched by the infrastructure. This is the challenge we are rising to."
Recognising that connectivity is an issue in Africa, efforts have been made to ensure that Soul Beat is as accessible as possible. "Our website content and e-newsletter is text based, to make sure that it is as easy as possible for users with low bandwidth to download," comments Deborah Walter, Soul Beat Africa Project Manager, "we also include contact information with our project summaries on the e-newsletter, so that users who can access e-mail, but not browse still have opportunities for interaction."