Mind the gap! Does digitalization build a bridge or divide?

Journalism conference Bildkorrekturen invites professionals from the field of media and development, as well as aspiring young journalists to discuss this year’s topic of „Digitalization and Development“.

Audience at the opening of Bildkorrekturen conference

Audience at the opening of Bildkorrekturen conference

Bildkorrekturen (correcting images) encourages the questioning of established patterns of thinking and interpretation in order to deconstruct existing images from the media. Hosted by development initiative service Engagement Global in cooperation with four journalism study programs in Germany, the conference is held in the city of Leipzig from November 17 to 19.

The participants were welcomed by Dr. Jürgen Reiche, director of the Zeitgeschichtliches Forum (forum for contemporary history) which serves as the main location of the conference. Reiche pointed out the historical significance of Leipzig as the place where the peaceful revolution took place in 1989, leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification of Germany in the same year.

„What would have been different if the revolution back in 1989 had access to digital tools?,“ he wondered. Digitalization has changed the revolutions of today by simplifying communication and organisation, thus empowering people to engage. But on the other hand, cyber security and surveillance have become a great concern.

Digitalization plays a similarly dual role in development. While it has brought forth more growth and wealth in general, the persisting divide between social classes has received another dimension: a so-called digital gap that separates people with access to the Internet from those who do not.

Technology can always be used for the good AND the bad

Eric Chinje inspired the crowd to change their perspective

These challenges are well known to first keynote speaker Julia Manske who co-leads the project „Open Data & Privacy“ at Stiftung Neue Verantwortung (SNV), a Berlin-based think tank.

According to internet usage statistics, two-thirds of the world population are offline due to various reasons like the lack of infrastructure or the costs of broadband.

While Manske brought many positive examples of digitalization, she also showed concerns related to digitalization, for instance on how it will change the labor market.

But „the world demands change“, Eric Chinje, Chief Executive Officer of the Nairobi-based African Media Initiative (AMI) and second keynote speaker claimed.

Digitalization has changed the media ecosystem and accelerated the pace of development and innovation. Chinje welcomes this change: „We live in very interesting times. It’s passé to look at the world through the lens of yesterday.“

Break the walls down, don’t build them up

Journalism students blogging and tweeting live from the conference

Journalists blogging and tweeting live from the conference

The biased African narrative in Western media is one of the reasons for the creation of Bildkorrekturen, Prof. Markus Behmer, one of the founders of the conference, shared. For Behmer, coverage is too often focused on elites and negative issues like conflicts and corruption.

Since the first Bildkorrekturen conference in 2011, he and his colleagues were driven by one main question: How can journalists tell important stories in a way that reaches the interest of a mass audience?

Bildkorrekturen is not only about correcting and detecting „wrong“ or one-dimensional images. It is also a learning hub for the young journalists from the universities of Bonn, Bamberg, Munich and Leipzig who will not only participate, but also cover the conference.

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