Role of bloggers in fast-tracking East African integration
Since its re-establishment in July 2000, plenty of efforts have been made to strengthen cooperation within East African countries, as well as to reach the goal of the East African Community. EAC development and integration began to run fast around 2010 when the region launched the political federations as other regional blocks like west Africa’s ECOWAS and southern African region’s SADC were moving at much slower pace. For citizens of the region to realize fruits of East African Community economic integration, many things would have to be done intensively to implement the rules and regulations, which are expected to be ratified by all five member states in November 2013 in an East African head of states summit. When it began, EAC region comprised of only basic provisions but after years of hard work among the member states the region has developed enviable rules and policies that are being implemented in each at a time. However, as a keen watcher of the region there is an emerging trend in battles of ideas among individual member states bloggers some who are raising concerns over the interpretation of the region’s provision and its delivery to the people estimated at 136 million with a combined GDP of $87billion as at August 2013.
A blog is defined as an abbreviation of the term web log and is a type of personal website with regular entries such as opinion pieces, commentaries, descriptions of events and other materials such as graphics or videos a good example being www.contadorharrison.com. Individuals who upload content for public viewing are referred to as bloggers just like Contador Harrison is. In the midst of these battles of ideas and the interpretation processes of the policies one wonders whose interest are the amateurish and wannabe bloggers are serving. Unlike the responsible mainstream media, what are bloggers contributions to the establishment of fully integrated EAC in the next few years? All those questions have come up since we realize that one of the key areas for the successful development of the East African Community is that it must be people centered and peoples driven. In the era of robust growth and development of information and communication technology, regional bloggers of sound mind should play a pivotal role in engaging people to people contact. Since its first development a decade and half ago, blogging has been growing tremendously in the East African region and blogs have become a new medium for the dissemination of news and information across the block just like other parts of the world. Alongside the mainstream electronic and print media, bloggers can utilize blogs as a new media to bring key information to the public.
Blogs have provided the East African region with opportunities to debate openly the issues, added depth, context and regional angles to issues and engaged in conversations taking place on the web; and also online social activities that concern the citizens and the regional social political and economic issues. What the regional bloggers need to understand is that blogging about East African Community is not just about bloggers talking to their fellow bloggers. They should also strive to speak informally with their targeted audience about specific issues that concern East African Community. Rapid development in ICT sector across the region has led to blogging developing rapidly and has become a norm and a very accessible medium of information for Internet users. Bloggers in the region are highly active in online activities including open discussions, and engage in conversations with people via their blogs as well as other social media i.e.Google+, Twitter, Linkedln and Facebook. Some Bloggers have established communities in major cities like Kigali, Nairobi, Kampala and Dar Es Salaam where they actively conduct and organize various bloggers gathering.
Individual countries like Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya have witnessed explosive growth in the use of social networking and micro-blogging sites although overall Internet penetration remains low compared to other part of the world. As a result, bloggers are playing pivotal roles by engaging with their online readers to share ideas and take a part in the community development process. There is need for bloggers to get together and share concerns in regards to regional issues that will strengthen East African Community integration. East African Community members are facing a reality where the frequency and depth of contact between citizens through email, Google +, Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook among others far exceed the formal interactions between government officials. East African region being the Africa’s second-largest social media region after West Africa and second largest on Twitter, knows this very well that citizen journalism can enhance and promote cohesion. East African technocrats must be creative and open minded in harnessing the power of blogging to promote people to people contact if the dream of one region one people is to be realized.