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Digital Citizens Talk back

The fifth annual Digital Citizen’s Indaba (DCI) [], held on July 7 at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, will draw together citizens, advocates, bloggers and activists to discuss how new media can revolutionise development work and give a voice to the unheard or silenced. This year’s theme, Africa’s underdevelopment: Digital Citizens.

Talk Back, will explore citizen media and the exploitation of natural resources, disasters, climate change and mega events. The DCI is a project of the Highway Africa Conference [] which takes place on July 5 and 6.

Our theme will be explored through three topical panels entitled, ‚Natural Resource Exploitation’, ‚Citizen Media on Disasters and Climate Change’, and ‚Mega Events‚ÄîWhose Voices are Heard?’. The panels will involve activists who use new media to make their voices heard, or those who play a supporting role in development work.

The Indaba has attracted the attention of major international figures like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who will give the closing addresses for both DCI and Highway Africa.

Archbishop Tutu will discuss the role of media and new media in South Africa and the World DCI also features international media workers and activists like Carel Pedre, a Haitian Radio DJ who used Twitter and blogging to inform and educate local and international communities in the aftermath of Haiti’s recent earthquake. ‚Twitter helped us save lives, get much needed medication, tents and survival equipment to families and to those affected most by the earthquake,‚ said Pedre. ‚From Twitter to Skype I could reach out to the world and let them hear from Haiti directly.‚

Kambale Musavuli, Congolese activist and spokesperson for Friends of the Congo [], will be the DCI’s keynote speaker. He will also take part in a panel about the environmental and social impacts of exploiting Africa’s natural resources. Musavuli produces a weekly podcast on the Congo and tours internationally to educate communities and mobilise support for the people of that region. FrontlineSMS will be represented by their project manager, Laura Walker Hudson.

The organisation, whose innovator was recently acknowledged by National Geographic as an ‚Emerging Explorer’ [], creates technology to improve the work of local NGOs and grassroots advocacy organisations. The company has developed free mobile phone technology that transforms a cell phone into a global network without the use of the internet.

Each speaker will illuminate various ways of taking the media out of exclusive, elite realms, and placing it in the hands of citizens who are passionate about development. ‚We’re trying to get professionals and citizens to share information about how to use media tools to improve their causes on the ground,‚ said Jane Duncan, Chair of Media and Information Society at Rhodes University and co-coordinator of DCI. The DCI encourages skills transfer between media professionals and citizens and will therefore offer six free workshops to all participants. The workshops will assist digital citizens in developing the skills and knowledge needed to blog, tweet and use cell phones and video technology to enhance their advocacy work and assist in emergency efforts during Motivating DCI year after year is the belief that Africa’s most precious resource exists in the wealth of capacity of its citizens. This powerful supply of creative initiative must be tapped if sustainable development is to be a reality. Through encouraging collaboration with media professionals, DCI is empowering these projects and helping transform the business of Take part in DCI and register here [] or follow us online via or on Twitter @DCIndaba with the hashtag #DCI2010

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