ICTs for Development

Markets and Value Chains

A Social Reporter CTA has created in me; a new career is born

By Wandila Simon Kamukwape

May 22, 2014

I am Simon Wandila from Zambia, one of the Social Reporters who attended last November 2013 ICT4Ag conference in Kigali, Rwanda. I thought it necessary to share my experience and what ensued from that event.

Since I got to the ICT for Development arena, I had never met an opportunity so challenging, overwhelming and inspiring; so much full of raising future hopes and ambitions. The Social Reporting task at the ICT4Ag International Conference, was the first of its kind turning my career and ambitions in new a direction. More interestingly, this coincided with a new approach to my work, having spent the few months before the event, brainstorming an Agribusiness model.

Having spent about 5 years by then (2013), using social media actively, I had been exposed to a number of tasks randomly as well as structured. After so much work, especially working with the Southern Africa Telecentre Network in coordinating its online presence, I developed great passion for media work. My first most formally published article appeared in the ICT Update issue published in June, 2012, following my reporting for the CTA sponsored Study tour on telecentre initiatives in Botswana, titled: "Diversify to survive. Public-private partnerships revive Botswana's telecentre programme". Little did I know that I had sent such a strong positive message, until I started receiving compliments from various readers of ICT Update. It was so amazing, and eventually this granted me a number of new connections, a great network and more confidence. When I read the call for Social Reporters for the ICT4Ag International Conference, I did not hesitate to apply to collaborate in the vest of onsite Social Reporter.

What a time consuming application it was, and I knew there would be competition indeed. As I sat down to reflect on my previous work in the area of ICT for Agriculture, no statement could be complete without crediting the training on Web 2 and social media for development which I received during a workshop organized by Southern Africa Telecentre Network, the study tour on the Telecentre initiatives in Botswana, all opportunities made available through the generous support offered by CTA. I carefully complete my application and there was no doubt the best sample of published work I could submit was my first ever ICT Update published article.

Simon WandilaI received the news of my selection as an Onsite Social Report with joy, yet so anxious about whether I would meet the high standard of deliverables that were required at this high-level event. When I completed the draft my first article for this assignment, I was a bit nervous to send it over to the editors, delayed a little bit, and finally had to submit it. Of course I expected the corrections and yes I got it published on the conference blog. When I joined the training workshop, I sat so quiet and could hardly come out as I was trying to figure out what task was ahead of me and the team of social reporters at large. Eventually, we got time to interact and practice hands-on. The trainer and coordinators of our team could not let the "quietness" to continue and engaged the whole team into discussions and the whole thing became practical. As emphasis was placed on quality and not quantity, the message resounded so much in my mind. The revisiting of various social media tools and how these could be strategically applied in our work was a fascinating experience.

I cannot just explain how differently I looked at the articles I previously wrote. They looked so different, and I spotted gaps that called for improvement. Tagging posts, linking various key points to other articles or information resources, including images and video, are just some of the great recipes whose importance I had not paid attention to, until the second day of the Social Reporting training which preceded the conference.

The first day of the Conference gave me the best experience ever in conducting interviews. We ran a series of video interviews targeting selected speakers, and with little guidance and rehearsals it happened so smoothly. Besides I had to write articles assigned to me for the day. I must confess that I felt so honoured, with confidence building every time I took up a new task. I felt like I should engage in a new professional pathway focusing on media and communication in the agriculture sector.

A new career was born in me, which would build on my Information Technology background to acquire additional skills that would help me effectively communicate agriculture-related information across stakeholders, in a much more dedicated way than I had previously done.
Yes indeed, a process CTA started silently in me since 2009, had reached its peak. As a participant in the Kigali conference, I learnt the stunning innovations that were showcased and ardently documented them to support me in the development of an Agribusiness initiative. When I arrived back home, I reached out to my teammates and my Mentor, and told them I had made up my mind. Inspired by the ICT4Ag13 International Conference I would complete my plan and do something about helping farmers and stakeholders in agriculture benefit from the innovative services that we could provide.

Yes. I achieved my goal, exactly as I wrote in my blog... "As a Social Reporter for the ICT4Ag13 conference, I expect to attain increased insight, knowledge and skills on how Social Media can be effectively and efficiently used to disseminate agricultural information and knowledge. I would also like to know more on the various knowledge management activities and for improved agricultural production." I have a great story to tell about the great Social Reporter CTA has made in me.

I feel I have just started, and yet to do my best in putting to use the skills and knowledge I have acquired and also look forward more opportunities to improve my knowledge and skills. The continued support by CTA towards youths in ICT and Agriculture has proved to be successful in engaging the youth, inspiring them and encouraging them to participate in Rural Development, ICT and Agriculture. I cannot wait for the next opportunity to advance this great work.

I thank you.
Wandila Simon Kamukwape
Freelance Media and Technical Support-Southern Africa Telecentre Network and Project Manager - Youth Skills for Development