Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blogging has grown Exponentially in most parts of South Asia

Around one-fifth of world population live in South Asia but the number of blogs from South Asia is still not that significant. Blogging in regional languages (Bangla, Hindi, Tamil, Urdu etc) of South Asia could not even make in to the report of The State of the Live Web, April 2007. Rezwan is Regional Editor for South Asia and he has been trying for five years to promote Blogs and Bloggers from the region. He covers South Asian Blogosphere almost on a day to day basis in Global Voice Online. 
Rezwan has a personal blog called The 3rd world view. He recently gave an interview to South Asia Blog about blogging in South Asia and Bangladesh. Here is the interview for the readers:

You are perhaps one of the very first bloggers from Bangladesh. What inspired you to start your own blog in 2003 and kept on blogging until now?
I learnt about blogs from a daily newspaper and started to explore. When I read other blogs from around the world I found that there were huge misconceptions about Bangladesh, mainly due to the absence of Bangladeshi voices on the internet. So I had the urge to comment on those blogs negating those misconceptions. I soon started my own blog and started to provide my opinions about my country and on what is happening around me. 
Now looking back to the last 7 years, how would your describe your experience as a blogger? 
During the first few years there were not many strong voices from Bangladesh. So I felt some kind of compulsion to write on burning issues back then. Now a days, there are so many good blog writers around so I feel relieved and feel that those issues are covered. However I tend to write on issues that require publicity or awareness. From mere daily ruminations blogging is for me a way of activism now. I use Facebook or twitter more to jot down my momentary feelings or thoughts.
What do you think is the current condition of blogging in Bangladesh right now?
Blogging has become popular among the younger generations in Bangladesh. Especially they prefer to blog in their mother tongue, Bangla which is understandable. In the near future the government will provide computers to every school in the country. So we will see an explosion in blogging. But we need to channel those interests in right paths. We need to provide them established and cause driven platforms (like environmental blogging) so that they do not get lost or waste time. 
We are also witnessing that the number of bloggers who write in English have decreased. So there is a peril that our voices will not reach the world audience. We need to take initiatives to build the bridge, sites like Global Voices Online can provide that bridge. I hope someday online services like Google will provide translations from Bangla to other languages, which can provide a solution. 
If we look at the blogosphere in Bangladesh, we will see that the community blogs like Somewherein, Amarblog, Prothom Aloblog, Sachalayatan (although they don’t call themselves a Community blog) are successful but we do not see personal blogs that are read by hundreds of people every day. What do you think is the reason? How can individual Bloggers in Bangladesh become successful?  
Community blogging is popular in many countries in a big way like Russia and China. In Bangladesh, we are now witnessing theme based closely knit community blogs like Cadet College blog, which is the way forward in my opinion. These can establish a good trend and contribute to the society. 
Now a days, we have so many blogging platforms and it is hard to follow good blog posts. Out of 100 blog posts you might find 5 to 10 worthy of your taste (depending on sites). 
In community blogs, a blogger sometimes feel confined. The community sites also have restrictions on double posting or the nature of postings. So I think it is handy for a blogger to have their own space where all of their writings are archived. It will be easy for his/her readers to follow his works without missing anything. 
That will also be a measure of popularity and success of bloggers.
You have been related to Global Voice Online as the Regional Editor for South Asia for a long time and you are informing the world about the blogs of South Asian Bloggers on a day to day basis. How has blogging grown in South Asia in the last 5 years? 
My efforts at Global Voices are to overcome the language and regional barriers and bridge the local blog voices with the world audience by highlighting, translating and contextualizing. Blogging has grown exponentially in most parts of South Asia as internet is becoming cheap and accessible day by day. But unlike the western world we have seen less politicians or bureaucrats using blogs in their daily affairs. The leader of the opposition in Bhutan parliament blogs. But what about India, Pakistan or Bangladesh?   
At this moment, you are attending Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2010 in Chile. Can you share some words about the event?
Global Voices consists of top internet activists from different parts of the world. This is a meet of more than 150 bloggers from above 60 countries of the world. This was sort of a mini UN meet where we finally put a face on the familiar names and get to understand each other well.
In the summit we discussed about online freedom, impact of citizen media, censorship, activism, social media's role in conflict reporting etc. You can get details from the summit site (
Who is your favorite blogger in Internet and why? 
I can't answer that question. Because in my rss reader, there are literally a few thousand bloggers from South Asia and across the world listed. I sometime get lost in them and there are simply too many good bloggers/blogs to name.
In India, professional blogging has flourished quite a bit but in Bangladesh, blogging has not become yet an income source for most Bloggers. How can we change this scenario? Is it possible for Global Voice Online to take a project to train up Bangladeshi bloggers so that they can earn money from blogging? 
We have got an interesting debate in Global Voices about blogging and money. Our volunteer authors across the world are quite popular and accomplished bloggers in their communities and most of them have their own separate profession. They blog for passion and activism but not necessarily for money. We realized that if we had enough money and could recruit other authors in place of these volunteers, we would not have so much quality content as when it becomes a mere job usually the focus and intensity deteriorates and the quality falls.
 In India there are some citizen media models which offer some amount of money for the citizen journalists' contents. But I must say that those are not the right kind of model that can compensate a really good blog writer comparing to a novice writer. Their models are mere business models but not focused or cause driven. I think to enable Bangladeshi bloggers to earn money we need to have services like Adsense in Bangla, Paypal etc. to start with. In Western world the blogger who gets more than 20,000 visitors a day probably gets enough money from advertisements to sustain his/her living. But in Bangladesh's context, if the medium is in Bangla - will we have that many readers so that one blogger can sustain from advertisement?
 But I see a promising scope for bloggers in Bangladesh. In Western world, there are some professional bloggers who are employed by NGOs, corporations and other institutions to write about specific issues. Our NGOs are sadly much behind in terms of social media. I think the donors can assert that the these NGOs should have blogs and will require to publish the opinions of the end users/recipients in blog posts/podcasts. Then the NGOs will have to recruit bloggers to perform these tasks. This can be a good career opportunity for the budding bloggers in Bangladesh.
Global Voices can certainly help train bloggers but for the earning model the local bloggers should take the initiative. We have projects in different parts of the world (including Bangladesh) undertaken by our outreach arm Rising Voices. We provide small grants to local bloggers who train citizen media techniques to disadvantaged societies. Some of the projects ceased to exist and some flourished - we have produced more bloggers nonetheless. We funded HiperBarrio, a grassroot project in Colombia (  which has now become a registered NGO and is carrying on with their training workshops funded by local government and other NGOs.
You lived for the last few years in Germany. Now, you are in Indonesia. What are major differences between these two countries that you can find as a foreigner?
Germany is of course a large social welfare state with less people and more accumulation of wealth. The most remarkable thing is that they value their dignity and pride as a nation. A typical German will refuse to take what they don't earn. They are a rule based society and your neighbor will remind you if you break the law. They are a hard working nation and these traits have contributed to their progress. 
I find Indonesia a lot closer to Bangladesh, the only difference is that the Indonesia is a big country and the government has more resources. Rampant corruption, traffic, bad customer service, lazy office staffs etc found here are all familiar to us. In fact I think corruption is far more widespread here than Bangladesh. The irony is that in Transparency International index our country seems to be more corrupt because it is a perception based index. In Indonesia paying bribe to a government official is seen as a part of the culture - its termed as a gift. So in the perception index Indonesia have a better position than us. But I must admit that the people here are tolerant to other culture. Indonesia is really a model Muslim nation and it is evident from how they treat minorities. Most foods have halal certificate (including water :) here and yet there are choices of wine and pork for the other religions in a local departmental store. Indonesians don't bother if two girls are sitting in a bus next to each other, one is wearing a hijab and one is wearing a mini skirt. 

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