October 10, 2008

Afro-Connections: Internet Resources for Development and Change in Africa

With my recent realization of just how expansive the world wide web can be, I took the time this week to journey into its darkest corners in search of credible and useful resources to provide auxiliary information regarding the issues I tackle in individual posts, as well as to facilitate the further investigation of developmental matters in Africa. By employing both Webby and IMSA criteria to assess each website, I have selected twenty remarkably informative and intellectual sites that harmonize with and expand upon the nature of my blog. Within this collection of web-based resources, there are links to news sites, academic journals, aid-based organizations, and individual blogs in order to offer diversity of both perspective and subject matter. Each site functions with a high level of legitimacy and integrity, demonstrated by their stimulating and scholarly subject matter, clever visual design, and clear and logical website structure. Along with a general description and evaluation of each link included in this post, the twenty chosen websites have been posted on my linkroll (located on the left-hand side of this page).

The first websites that I happened upon, without too much exertion I might add, were the well-established, high quality news websites of the International Herald Tribune: Africa and the Middle East and BBC News: Africa (as depicted in the graphic below). Both sites provide their viewer with a clean yet stimulating visual layout, and offer a comprehensive range of global issues comprised from credible sources and scholars. The International Herald Tribune provides useful links to blogs, discussions, and special reports that supplement the major headlines. BBC News offers similar features, while also including links to audio news programs with an African concentration, such as "Network Africa" and "Africa Have Your Say". Both sites are excellent starting points for research on current issues in Africa, however their breadth is typically too expansive for the nature of my blog, which requires a certain level of specificity. In addition to the two sites aforementioned, I also uncovered "The Economist: Africa and the Middle East", a facile site to navigate with useful tools to find scholarly articles from current or previous editions, by country or by subject.  Another valuable news website is "World News Network: Africa", dividing resources into two categories, siting general newspapers, such as "Renewable Africa", as well as regional and national newspapers, such as the "Sudan Times". What makes World News Network unique is its visual content, replete with stimulating graphics that entertain and entice its visitors to further explore its erudite content. IT News: Africa is another excellent resource, which concentrates on technical and developmental news on the continent. However, it lacks organization, and can prove more challenging when trying to locate articles within a specific subject or location.

In addition to the larger and internationally renowned news sources, my online quest has also revealed a few hidden gems that are equally informative with content more unique to Africa.  All Africa is one of the largest electronic distributors of African news worldwide, highlighting topics such as "Sustainable Africa", which is of particular relevance to my blog content.  Despite  a visual layout littered with low quality graphics, distracting advertisements, and poorly categorized tabs, this site is teeming with articles and information on issues that are often overlooked by the mainstream media.   The Africa Resource Center is a credible academic resource, and includes scholarly essays, peer-reviewed journals, art and music information, and a diverse assortment of columnists who discuss anything from African rastas to social issues affecting children. In order to attain humanitarian news and analysis, IRIN News is a particularly educational website, offering film and radio footage, as well as "Hear our Voices", a forum for marginalized individuals to express themselves and call attention to their plight.  I have also included two Kenyan news sites to provide African perspectives on local issues from both regional and local levels: the Daily Nation, a popular Kenyan newspaper that focuses on events of the East African coast, and Coast Week, which deals with local issues confronting Kenya's coastal province.  While Coast Week is a more difficult site to navigate, mostly because of its low quality graphic design and layout, it presents compelling issues lying below the national level from a local point of view.  

Furthermore, I uncovered many websites for aid and development based organizations, such as the United Nations Development Programme: Africa, an informative source of new developmental programs, in particular those in place to empower women and reverse the marginalization of Africa. I also found the World Bank: Africa to be similarly educative, focusing on current projects set up to generate long-term, positive change to empower the African people, with a particularly helpful section entitled "In Focus", which discusses the major current problems and the efforts made to combat these issues. However, the World Bank website focuses largely on statistics and percentages, and lacks the personal accounts and engaging visuals that are offered on other sites. Mercy Corps, an organization which works to create lasting positive change in transitioning countries, is one of my preferred resources with its very personal and small-scale approach to change, and the added bonus of a user-friendly website that allows for easy searching and access to information. Another personal favorite is GlobalVoices: Sub-Saharan Africa, which displays and promotes online global communication, and shines light on issues that are skimmed over by the media. Other similar organizations include Africare (as pictured to the left), an aid-based organization dealing with HIV/AIDS, food security and development, as well as Transform Africa, a consortium of NGOs from the United Kingdom that are working to improve the effectiveness of local African organizations. Both sites are easy to navigate and informative, yet lack an explanation of the successes and/or failures of the programs and projects they have implemented.

Finally, I have unearthed several academic blogs that provide alternative perspectives on the issues I tackle in my own postings. One in particular, Afrigadget, a news and collective blog site highlighting new development with African initiative and innovation, has been one of my main resources in previous entries. Afrigadget is a particularly engaging blog and informative resource, displaying the successes of pragmatism with a simplistic approach, and focusing on creative development stemming from within the African community. I am also fond of The African Uptimist, where Lawrence, a program manager at United Nation's Environment Programme, explores the success of technology in Africa with an optimistic perspective, as well as Kenvironews, which investigates political and environmental news in Kenya.  However, Kenvironews' entries frequently reference an entire article with little opinionated commentary, which can prove frustrating if one is searching for a more personal perspective on a subject. Another great resource in the blogo-sphere is Kenya Unlimited, a website devoted to Kenyan vision and voices with a collection of blogs written by Kenyans, which again has personal significance to me and to my recent entries regarding Kenyan development. Overall, each website I have discussed offers creative, credible, and unique approaches to the delivery of their information. The diversity of perspective and subject matter creates a comprehensive list of resources that will promote further exploration of change and development in Africa, for both my readers and myself.


Brian Rudloff said...

First of all, I think you have crafted an excellent post for WP3. It is extremely well written and I am envious of your clear and sophisticated rhetoric. You have a good title and all the links work correctly. The pictures definitely compliment your post. There is a nice variety of kinds of sites that you link to with different perspectives. It seems like it could be easy to just find a bunch of sites that are very similar given your topic, but you obviously put time in to finding unique resources. I also like how well you describe and explain the purpose and usefulness of the sites.

I think the only thing missing from this post is more commentary on some of the sites' weaknesses. You give an excellent description of all the sites' strengths, but only about half address negative aspects of the sites. For example when you address "The Economist" you write, "I also uncovered "The Economist: Africa and the Middle East", a facile site to navigate with useful tools to find scholarly articles from current or previous editions, by country or by subject." I'm sure there is something negative, as per the IMSA criteria, that you could address. When I first visit that site two weaknesses come to mind: perhaps the advertisements are too distracting or there is so much information on the homepage that it could be overwhelming. Since commentary on a site's weaknesses was part of the criteria for this post, I suppose I have to criticize you for not having it. Also, I think some assessments of the blogs' authority and who the authors are could enhance your evaluation.

Overall, though, this is a nice post.

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