Africa's largest gathering of journalists, the Highway Africa conference, has opened in Grahamstown, South Africa, with a call on media practitioners to educate the masses about Information Communications Technology (ICT).
The conference is to discuss issues relating to the impact of technological breakthroughs such as the Internet, mobile telephony and convergence on journalism, media and society.
The theme for this year's conference is “Citizen Journalism, Journalism for Citizens”.
The Highway Africa conference has been at the centre of Africa's debates on journalism and new media for the past 11 years and has become the largest annual gathering of African journalists on the continent.
Among the many issues to be addressed at the conference are questions around the technology that is driving citizen journalism and how 'traditional' media should respond to citizen journalism.
About 700 delegates, including journalists, academics, bloggers, students, publishers, and other interested media professionals are attending this year's conference.
The conference would assess the state of African media, particularly with regards to harnessing new technologies, as well as the crucial role that new media has played in democracy and development and short skills training workshops.
Journalists would be trained by experts in the field of ICT, as well as video investigative reporting and be exposed to some of South Africa's best (and most renowned) examples of investigative reporting.
Opening the conference, the South African Deputy Minister of Communications, Mr Radhakrishna Padayachie, said the media had a responsibility to help Africa keep up with the current surge of digital advancement.
He said while the government was responsible for helping the ordinary citizens gain access to digital media by creating the right policy frameworks, regulations and legal functions, the media must educate the masses about ICTs.
Mr Padayachie said the biggest restriction to the digital revolution in Africa was poor infrastructure and cited the prohibitive cost of importing broadband to most African countries as an example.
In relation to mobile phones, he said a recent report from Nokia showed that while South Africa for instance boasted the highest concentrations of mobile technology available in the world, the cost of handsets was high and the sophisticated generation and development of software was still unavoidable in the country.
The Deputy Minister of Communications therefore challenged African governments to engage the private sector, civil society and media workers to actively involve the local people in the development of ICTs and the digital revolution.
He held the view that technology had transformed the traditional media landscape, as well as newsrooms.
Story by Enoch Darfah-Frimpong.