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I blame the wifi

It’s fun to watch digital natives at a conference where the connectivity isn’t working. They twich. They’re edgy. They’re like smokers in the eighth hour of a trans-Pacific flight. They wander around from one room to another, laptops in hand, trying to get a fix. Or, at least, that’s what I did.

I missed one of the talks today – on the future of the South African Broadcast Corporation – because I was wandering the halls, trying to catch up on two days of email. Highway Africa isn’t – at present – a very wired conference. Those of us – like Ory – who were frenetically transcribing sessions caught more than a few sidelong glances. “Aren’t you paying attention at all to the speakers?”

(From what I caught of the SABC presentations – the network is taking steps to expand into Brussels, New York, DC and Beijing, with a goal of providing better international coverage from a South African perspective. This led to questions about whether it was more appropriate for Africans to support SABC in their goal to create news from an African perspective, or a pan-African channel. Once again, the question seems to be whether South Africa – the 800 pound gorilla in so many African arenas – will become the defacto leader in the news space.)

Had I internet connectivity during the afternoon, I would have researched the 1991 Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press, which was widely celebrated in an afternoon ceremony to open the “Windhoek Declaration Seminar Room” in the media department of Rhodes. Fortunately Alain Modoux, who had been assistant Director-General of UNESCO and was involved with the declaration, was on hand to explain that the declaration was the first major human rights document authored by Africans, rather than merely adopted by African governments. Almost uniquely amongst UN declarations, the document was authored entirely by journalists and activists, not by UN bureacrats, and was accepted without edits. One of the outcomes of the document – World Press Freedom day, celebrated each May. At some point when I’m online again, I have high hopes of reading the declaration. The seminar room, I’m happy to report, is very nice.

I’ve got high hopes that the situation tomorrow will be better – as we move from Highway Africa to the Indaba, we’re going from a group of about 500 down to 120, and will be in a smaller space, closer to the wifi access points. That’s what I’m counting on, since many of my friends haven’t prepared slides and are planning on running their presentations by giving live tours of websites…