Where to look for online ICT groups
June 2011 Update: Twitter is hands down the largest online community engaged in conversation about African ICT4D.
Google Groups is definitely not the place to look to connect with others interested in African ICT. More than a dozen Google groups have been founded on this topic. However, only a handful are regularly updated or have active discussions. In fact, only 3 groups provide more than one message per month and half have not seen a message in over 3 months.
The top 3 Google Groups:
ICT4 Education & Development – 30 members, restricted. “This group focuses on the use of ICTs to promote education and development in africa through mutual and collaborative processes of sharing and exchange of ideas, research and consultancy in these and other related fields to foster unity and continental development for all the people of Africa.”
- AYF-ICT-AGnews – 2134 members, 3 messages per month. “AYF-ICTAG News is a forum for Africans all over the world and Friends of Africa who are interested in the development of ICT and Agriculture. It is also a platform to defend the interests of Africans, especially the youth at “Home” and in the diaspora.”
- Google Africa Community – 470 members, restricted, 4 messages per month. “Informal discussion about Google’s work and the Internet in general in Sub Saharan Africa. The forum is sponsored by Google’s product management team for Africa – everyone is welcome to join. Note: opinions expressed by Google employees are their own, and do not represent Google.”
The top 2 Yahoo! Groups:
- DigAfrica – 525 members, founded 2001, 52 messages last month. “Meet, discuss and get latest updates on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Africa.
- ICT4DKenya – 87 members, founded 2004, 8 messages last month. “This is an online electronic community that enables us to discuss how ICT is promoting development in Kenya and Africa.”
A much more promising solution is Kabissa (a dynamic network of groups and blogs working for change, plus a monthly newsletter) or Twitter. Kabissa is home to nearly 20 groups and a couple are dedicated to ICT. Although the site is young, it is growing very quickly and promises to be a place of discussion for years to come. Additionally, the new list feature on Twitter strives to create more of a ‘group’ feel by acting as an automatic aggregator for specific user-defined topics. A few African lists exist; oAfrica is a member of 9 145+ such lists which act as mini communities. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of tweets can become overwhelming and important messages can be lost in a matter of hours. If desired, social networks or niche blogging sites like Maneno can also act as forums for discussion. The posts on these sites are longer-lasting than Twitter and tend to be more didactic and less personal. In the end, though, it’s all a matter of personal decision.