Digital Innovation and the Future of Journalism in Tanzania

Digital innovation isn’t about the technology itself, but rather about people’s ability to utilize digital technology to solve traditional problems; It is the process of leveraging advancements or innovating with technology to reimagine how business is done. The development of digital media has delivered innovations and prompted tectonic shifts in all aspects of journalism practice, the journalism industry and scholarly research in the field of journalism studies.

The article has been inspired by a panel discussion hosted by Mwananchi Communication’s Habari Hub as part of Human Development Innovation Fund (HDIF)’s Innovation Week in Tanzania. The theme was “Digital Innovation and the Future of Journalism” on the topic “News gathering skills: Technical, Production and Multimedia Skills needed to be successful in the 21st Century.

It is imperative that we are keen and careful in regards to what we need apply when it comes to innovation that requires technology especially in the media landscape. There is no way we can consider successful Media landscape by disregarding innovation using technology. The contemporary society has influenced how information is found, shared and received.

Today it is impossible to regard journalism as a one way activity without addressing the fast-moving increase of citizen journalism and their participation in particular and the online community in general. While if not careful it might be considered that all societies should have similar attributes of how Digital Innovation and the future of journalism should be; if thats the case, it will inevitably be unsophisticated when it comes to effectiveness, value and impact. To well understand this, there is a need to understand “Adaption” versus “Application” in the line of Digital Innovation in journalism and Media landscape.

Adaption versus Application in line of Digital Innovation

Adapted Digital Innovation is when one region chooses to adopt foreign modals, means and tactics of Digital Innovation in the their Media approach as opposed to understanding their local context and device a more effective approach. Where as Applied Digital Innovation is an approach that best considers the local context to devise an effective approach for effectiveness, value and impact.

For our Tanzanian local context, Digital Innovation in the Future of Journalism will fail miserably if it is to be adapted. For it to succeed it has to be applied. With adaptation the modal is copying exactly how the Instigators of Digital Innovation apply it to journalism drawn more in context of how information is gathered and obtained by their consumers which is strikingly different from the Tanzanian consumers. The Tanzania Media landscape has to deliberately apply digital Innovation by understanding its environment, it’s consumers, new information dynamics and most importantly avoid being rigid by pushing in the etiquettes of traditional media onto new media.

So how do we apply it? (Application)

There is an urgent need to adopt Digital Skills to fill in the Digital knowledge gap for Digital Innovation goes hand in hand with Digital Skills in a variety of forms by merging online and offline efforts for more effectiveness. There are more than 50 digital skills that adds value to journalism, the top 10 that I would list from my Expertise and Experience from the field that is a good startup packages fitting in our local context are;

Basic skills required in the future of journalism

The core chronic challenges of the Media and journalism that has been identified since mainstream media (specifically on African Countries) have more than ever, a chance to be rectified by the use of technological innovation. Digital Innovations emboldening the viability of the future of journalism for the Tanzanian context, has great potential pushed by a variety of facts, some listed as follows;

  1. We are lacking online quality content (especially of Swahili language addressing challenges and general knowledge and information from the Tanzanian context). There is an extreme growth of local Swahili content but most of it non-constructive for the end-users.
  2. The growth of the number of internet users and availability of relatively affordable smart or featured phones play a positive role into the Journalism Viability in Tanzania. With over 27M internet users (although they are not all active everyday) the community to access information is there. The secret lies in knowing how they can be enticed to access the quality content shared.
  3. There is a lack of online platforms with original Swahili content. Most platforms in the forms of websites, blogs have copy and pasted content. A very few have original content such as Mwananchi itself.
  4. We have many professional content generators (and that is to say journalists) who are not active on the online space. I have heard in most of the media houses only a selected number of news gathered is published. The task at hand is how do we change the mind-set of this group to be willing to be part of Digital Skills capacity building so that they can be reliable and dependable online content generators in a productive way that could benefit them as well.
  5. The recent deliberate efforts by the government on ICT instills hope for innovation and technology in all spheres as well and journalism and media.

With an abundance of Digital Skills in the market, those who are inquisitive, embrace digital media and embrace al the interactive forms of information exchange have their future success in New Media in their grasp.

Expert at the intersection of Internet on Information, Innovation, Technology & Governance in New Media | DW Certified Trainer | CEO at Media Convergency