Friday, September 28, 2007

Earthquake in Rome: Web 2 shakes the very foundations

The safety announcements at the beginning of the Web2forDev conference included a warning that Rome was prone to earthquakes, but I don't think any of the 300 of us expected to be moved by the meeting in the way we were.

By the time of the closing, everyone including our host Anton Mangstl, director of Information management at FAO, was talking about a seismic shift in the way we will manage information. He commented on the future role of the UN organisations supporting that process. In the past, data was stored in these organisations but in the new order of web2 they will play a facilitating role, setting international standards for exchange of information. But in order for this to happen, it's not enough to adopt the tools: equally crucial is a shift in mindset.

Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices suggested that even vocabularies might be redundant and that organisations no longer need their own server. This does not mean not controlling your own website. You can keep control by using open source software such as Drupal or Wordpress hosted online for some core tasks such as making mash-ups (combining content from different sources on one site).

The most striking applications of web2 technologies for development were in Africa; a good example was vlogging with GINKS, to combine written text with video and audio material to better match habits and culture of Ghanean's users.

For some of us, the technologies were completely new, a group of African journalists were struck by the immediacy of the medium and the fact that one person could become a press agency, publishing blog stories, videoing and recording audio. The meeting was continually summarised in blog stories and the range of lessons learned from the meeting were brought together by counting on the fingers of both hands.

Blogs, Wikis, Tags, Feeds and Mash-ups were the key tools and People, Access, Participation, Content and Change were the key concerns in applying web2 for development.

by Chris Addison

Read related stories.

See also relevant articles from the following sources:

- web2fordevblog
- ICTlogy
- crisscrossed blog