The Creative Digital Media Forum, held in the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka on 17th June 2014, was an inclusive democratic event where artists, bloggers, digital media experts, educationalists, journalists, poets, policy makers, web designers and others came together to discuss creative digital media. The Forum demonstrated the vibrancy, creativity, professionalism and energy of the rapidly developing digital media sector in Lusaka, both industry and education. A packed day of speeches, insightful contributions, discussion and some music, it was facilitated with style and grace by MC Solomon Nyirenda. The Forum was the beginning of a conversation which we hope will continue. Over one hundred and twenty people participated in the Forum.
Speakers from industry and education focussed on how creative digital media can contribute to development and to job creation in Zambia. Key policies required to create an enabling environment for the growth of the digital media industry were identified including training, reliable high speed affordable broadband, recognition of expertise within existing digital media industry, a regulatory framework that facilitates freedom of expression, and the need the criteria in tendering processes to reflect the changed nature of communication. Links with the broader creative arts, music, art and drama, were at heart of many discussions. Content and creativity emerges as key themes. The transformative effect of digital media on education and in communicating information in areas such as health and citizens’ information was another recurring linking theme throughout the day.
Huge thanks are due to all the speakers and facilitators who willingly and enthusiastically agreed to participate from the outset. Thanks to all the participants to attended and made the Forum a success and to the many people from Evelyn Hone College, TEVETA, BongoHive and the creative digital media industry in Lusaka and from Ballyfermot College and CDETB in Dublin who contribute so much to organising the Forum. Thanks to Irish Aid for supporting the Forum through the Programme of Strategic Cooperation. It was truly a team effort!
A full report from the Forum is being compiled and will be available here in December. For now, here are some photos and a brief report from the Forum.
The day commenced with a rendition of the national anthem performed by Jane Siankombo, Mwiinde Monica Mugoba, Simon Malupande, (Vocals), Jackson Chanda (Piano), Edward Chabu (Drums), students and graduates of Evelyn Hone College. This group also gave a wonderful performance at the closing of the Forum.
In the first and scene-setting session, David Chakonta, Director General, TEVETA, gave a comprehensive overview of the industry, employment trends in context of digital migration and training needs. David spoke of TEVETA’s commitment to supporting the creative digital media industry and the opportunities for employment that digital media offers to young people.
From industry, Costa Mwansa, Managing Editor, MUVI TV, delivered a passionate speech on the dynamic and ever-changing landscape in the television industry and on the obstacles, legal now outstripping technical, which limit broadcasting in Zambia. As a graduate of Evelyn Hone College, Costa was enthusiastic about the potential of TVET colleges to provide the skills and training for the television and broadcasting industry.
Silumesii Maboshe, from Pencil Case Studio, an innovative web design, development and photography studio gave a thought-provoking contribution on creativity and what is needed for a sustainable and dynamic industry. Addressing the question of how to develop the industry in Zambia, Silumesii posed the question : Whose fault is it? We want to blame someone else when things go wrong. We must take responsibility for things.
The session, focussing on the potential of digital media was a lively, informative session featuring two speakers, Cathy Phiri and Alan Costello, one from industry, one from education, both passionate about design, digital media, education, change and excellence.
Cathy Phiri, Managing Director, Media 365, a cause-related media communications company, gave an inspiring speech about developing socially relevant content which contributes to social transformation. Cathy spoke of the power of digital media to transmit information and the profound effect that mobile phones have had on communication. She discussed health and other campaigns for local and global clients and the role of social media in human rights work and, in particular, the Bring Back our Girls campaign, which united campaigners around the world through social media.
Alan Costello, Lecturer, BCFE, gave a presentation on approaches to integrating development education themes into a practical graphic design education, using a number of case studies from the Higher National Diplomas in Graphic Design, Digital Media and Illustration at BCFE. Addressing the key issue of hopes and expectations for graduates Alan said: Our graduates should not only be good designers but good citizens –critical evaluators of ideas.
The Forum was honoured to welcome Minister of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education, Mr John Phiri, to the gathering. The Minister emphasised the importance of digital media for Zambia and, in particular, the potential for employment creation it offers for young people. Acknowledging the role of the partnership between Evelyn Hone College and Ballyfermot College, the Minister reiterated the Zambian government’s appreciation of the Irish government’s support, through Irish Aid, for this initiative. The Minister wished participants well in their deliberations.
Mr Finbar O’Brien, Ambassador of Ireland, welcomed the focus and enthusiasm around the important issue of digital media in Zambia and said that the Forum was part of a continuum of engagement six months after the launch of the new Diploma in Digital Media in Evelyn Hone College. Recognising that the economic growth is creating a demand for rapid improvements in ICT and connectivity in line with international trends, Ambassador O’Brien said : It is heartening to see that Zambia’s improvements in ICT have been visible with the country being recognised as one of the ten most rapidly improving countries on the ICT development index.
Digital media should be seen as a tool for development in the broader sense through its potential to create employment and improve service delivery in critical sectors such as health and education. High-speed affordable broadband, a conducive legal and regulatory framework that facilitates freedom of expression and innovation and protection of intellectual property, and strategic linkages and collaboration between stakeholders at all levels to ensure open dialogue, inclusiveness and shared objectives are all necessary. The Ambassador reiterated Ireland’s support for development in Zambia and hoped that the Forum would be successful.
The New Diploma in Digital Media in Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and Commerce was presented to the Forum by Michael Mumba, Lecturer, EHC. As Zambia’s first programme in creative digital media it aims to offer top class education and training in digital media and to enable students to develop high level technological and design skills. The programme is a three year diploma programme validated by TEVETA at level 6 on the Zambian National Qualifications Framework.
From Public Relations & Advertising, Kachepa Mtumbi, Principal Consultant, KPR Consulting gave a vivid outline of working in the industry, describing the level of professionalism, innovation and commitment involved. Kachepa illustrated the excitement and challenges of working in a cutting edge global industry and being part of the new professional industry in Lusaka. Explaining the approach of the Advertising/PR Industry to digital media which put the focus not on brands but on the world where their products and services make a difference, Kachepa said : It is about engagement, interaction and sharing. This level of engagement was not happening years ago in Zambia and is steadily on the rise with various brands – both local and international. In light of this, jobs are emerging for those with skills in the sector to communicate through digital channels.
Speaking on Equality, Health & Education Campaigns and Inspiring Change, Charlotte Gruen, Projects Manager, Barefeet Theatre brought together many of the key themes of the Forum. Barefeet is a non-governmental organisation which uses play, creativity and empowerment to give vulnerable children in Zambia a better life. Barefeet has a website that reflects its core values which are about children, art, change and achieving transformation through mischief, hard-work and laughter. Through its website Barefeet is reaching people around the world. Barefeet is also involved in new and innovative social media campaigns with people in rural areas promoting change and empowering cultural and artistic expression
Victor Makashi, Director of Arts and Culture, Ministry of Tourism, spoke of the transformative effect of digital media on creative writing, music and visual arts and how it has provided access to greater audiences. Describing the challenges of reaching rural areas and tackling the urban rural divide Victor described the depth of creativity in music and art which exists in rural areas and advocated the use of solar energy for power and the establishment of community centres which would be hubs of creativity and sharing. Recognising the importance of digital media for the creative arts he said : The Creative Digital Media Programme at the Evelyn Hone College is therefore a very important milestone in our development agenda as a nation. A very firm foundation has been laid, and with support from government and private institutions and individuals, we are all likely to benefit from the fruits of its graduates. We cannot thank the Irish Government enough for the generous support towards initiating and running the programme.
Jerome Morrissey, CEO, GESCI, an international non-profit technical assistance organisation, which works to address key educational challenges of equity and access, relevance and quality through the innovative use of technology, highlighted the vibrancy and creativity in music and art throughout Africa and yet the very low share which Africa has in the global creative industries. Emphasising creativity, story-telling, culture and links between creative arts and education, Jerome described how the animation industry was started in Ireland: The ultimate raw material of the creative industries is the human being and their array of creative and artistic ability. Content always matters –getting back to your own storytelling, your own culture.
The workshops presented an opportunity for discussion and sharing. Both were lively, interesting and inclusive. In both workshops participants expressed a need for more initiatives that directly address the social media/traditional creative media space in Zambia.
The Artists, Writers & Bloggers Workshop began with a contribution from Alex Nkazi, Artist and Lecturer in EHC, on how digital media can help artists and also on how artists can learn about, and be involved in, digital media. Alex emphasised ideas about art and design and telling of stories. Benny Blow, Freelance Writer & Blogger and music journalist, gave everyone huge encouragement to be creative, to take chances and to follow their heart. Benny outlined the dynamic and co-operative network of young creative which is emerging in Lusaka. Agnes Nywenda, from the Zambian Women Writers Association spoke of the importance of stories. Agnes said children and adults need to have access to books and to be encouraged to read and to write their own stories.
The discussion was wide-ranging with many participants sharing their own stories, particularly about finding the courage to follow their dreams and the importance of an education system that values and encourages creative expression from an early age. The opportunity posed by digital media, it was said, could transform the education system.
The Online Media & Blogging Workshop was facilitated by Mukuka Mayuka, Mwanabibi Sikamo and hosted by Luciano Haambote of Radio Phoenix. The workshop participants consisted of amateur to experienced bloggers and social media, technology and journalism enthusiasts. Mwanabibi and Mukuka shared some techniques on use of social media that people either did not know about or never thought to try out. They also shared their experience utilising social media as a tool to improve their businesses as entrepreneurs. Press freedom and freedom of speech online via blogs and other social media platforms was discussed. It was suggested that this particular workshop be basis for workshops on creative careers in the digital age for students in Evelyn Hone College and other colleges.
The final session of the day looked at the policy environment needed to support the expansion of the digital media industry and to maximise its employment creation potential. The issues covered included the provision of high-speed affordable broadband, fostering of a culture of innovation and collaboration and support for new start-up initiatives.
Simunza Muyangana Co-Founder of BongoHive and Director of Digital ICE Interactive Media, examined frustration as an impetus to creativity and also identified frustration as the real and reasonable response within the industry to the lack of support the industry is receiving. Simunza identified the persistent problem with current tendering processes for website design which is typically based on written proposals rather than on design submissions, examples of relevant work and ability to work with client to do the job. Bringing to the Forum the voice of the young creative generation in Lusaka, Simunza described its connection to the global industry and also outlined the role of the BongoHive as a centre for innovation and creativity in Lusaka.
Eliot Kabalo , ZICTA, outlined the National Strategy on ICT and Digital Migration. Eliot outlined how broadcasting was undergoing a revolution that will affect both traditional broadcasting and other medium of information dissemination. Transition from analogue to digital technology in Zambia, as in other countries, was creating opportunities for ICT applications and multimedia. The purpose of the national strategy was to ensure that migration leads to digital benefits for people throughout the country and to more services and broader coverage. Digital migration will provide the opportunity for local content creation and dissemination and this will be socially inclusive and will stimulate job creation.
Jerome Morrissey, CEO, GESCI, discussed key elements necessary for a supportive and enabling policy environment for digital media and job creation. A national communication backbone infrastructure to connect all areas of the country and Government co-ordination of initiatives by telecommunication companies to ensure that duplication of effort is eliminated and the pace of roll-out increased is required. Access for All must be ensured and ICT literacy promoted among all citizens. Continued promotion of creativity and innovation throughout the education system is essential; new technology should facilitate new modalities of learning; research and development should be supported. Inclusive policies which ensure that all stakeholders are accounted for in the broader environment should be developed. Policy coherence, planning that takes into account medium and long-term social-economic trends in the country and globally, evidence-based policy making, and involvement of stakeholders from business and non-governmental organisations are all essential elements to maximise the benefits of digital media.
The Forum aimed to create a space for discussion and sharing of ideas, observations and experiences with a view to further developing a network of professionals from both industry and education. Coming from diverse backgrounds the expert speakers and participants shared many similar understandings and views relating to current situation around creative digital media. Issues emerging understandably included some dissatisfaction concerning infrastructure, limitations and the rate of progress. However the dominant sense of the day was the shared positive perspectives among all participants on the immediate and longterm potential for Zambia posed by digital media. It was overwhelmingly clear that education, and the interaction of the industry and education, can play a central and positive role in future developments.
The Forum opened up many areas of discussion and dialogue; it provided the opportunity to network. However, in many of the sessions, time was too short. On very positive note, the Forum ended with agreement to continue dialogue and to build on the work of this inaugural Forum. Towards this end the participants placed significant value on the organisation of a follow-up forum in 2015.
The Forum was supported by Irish Aid. It was organised by Creative Digital Media Zambia, a partnership project between BCFE and EHC, which funded under the Irish Aid Programme of Strategic Co-operation. The PSC is managed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA). The ideas and opinions expressed herein are entirely the responsibly of CDMZ and/or the individual participants at the Forum and do not necessarily the views of Irish Aid or the HEA.
Helen Mahony, October 2014