Digitalisation of the Media in Africa: Prospects for Change

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Picture credit: Adam Cohn, Flickr

Global media has become increasingly digitalised in recent years. These processes have had a detrimental impact on the traditional business models of commercial journalism, as audiences have moved online and advertising markets have consequently collapsed.

Online audiences generally expect free content; attempts to erect paywalls have not been as successful an alternative as many had hoped. The digitalisation of media has therefore created a crisis for traditional media and its management models.

The digitalisation of media also presents new opportunities to think about the relationship between technology and society. The potential of these technologies to reshape the way citizens – especially the youth – participate in political debates has been met with careful optimism. Especially in African societies, as with other developing contexts in the global south, these technologies have sometimes been welcomed for their potential to ‘leapfrog’ traditional media.

While traditional media like television and radio still have the largest footprint in African societies, digital media have started to provide users with ways of becoming more directly involved in politics and of contributing to social change. Of particular interest for scholars of media and society has been the way African users have adopted and appropriated digital media technologies in creative ways. Examining the way the digitalisation of the media in Africa has taken place can provide us with a useful lens through which to view recurring questions such as the tension between new media structures and user agency.

This is the topic I address in an Expert Comment on the website of the research institute Dialogue of Civilisations. See the full piece here.

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