News / Africa

Abidjan 'Web Mayor' Dreams of Online El Dorado

Emmanuel Assouan, Ivory Coast's new web mayor, right, confers with adviser Bacely Yorobi at headquarters of a tech start-up, Abidjan, May 26. (R. Corey-Boulet/VOA)Emmanuel Assouan, Ivory Coast's new web mayor, right, confers with adviser Bacely Yorobi at headquarters of a tech start-up, Abidjan, May 26. (R. Corey-Boulet/VOA)
x
Emmanuel Assouan, Ivory Coast's new web mayor, right, confers with adviser Bacely Yorobi at headquarters of a tech start-up, Abidjan, May 26. (R. Corey-Boulet/VOA)
Emmanuel Assouan, Ivory Coast's new web mayor, right, confers with adviser Bacely Yorobi at headquarters of a tech start-up, Abidjan, May 26. (R. Corey-Boulet/VOA)
Ivory Coast’s first-ever elected “Web Mayor” was officially sworn-in on Friday by a group of computer-technology enthusiasts hoping to shed the country's reputation for cybercrime and make Abidjan the continent’s latest tech hub.
 
Kneeling on the floor and surrounded by a team of advisers, Emmanuel Assouan, clad in a dark suit and red necktie, places one hand on an iPad and reads aloud the oath of office.
 
Following a hard-fought campaign against 11 other candidates, the 22-year-old graphics and Web designer has officially assumed his role as the first “Web Mayor” of the nation's commercial capital.
 
Organized by members of Abidjan’s innovative group of startup founders, Web strategists, designers, entrepreneurs and bloggers, the election was held just days after government-organized polls for municipal and regional offices.
 
According to Amevi Midekor, one of the election organizers, the campaigns for “Web Mayor” persuaded the interests of the country's online community in a way that the government elections could not.
 
“The Web community is on course to grow and enlarge here in Ivory Coast. It is a space where expression is free and people can say whatever they want," he says. “So we needed to have our own mayor, because generally the people who are elected in the government elections are not effective, and they do not think of the population. We wanted someone who would think about us.”
 
Assouan, who has no budget to speak of and only one term to serve, has ambitious goals to end Abidjan’s reputation for cybercrime and turn the city into an “El Dorado” for tech enthusiasts.
 
Campaigning on a promise to make the Ivorian Web “healthy, safe and rich in content,” one of his first steps, he says, will be to facilitate dialogue between two camps that are naturally at odds — hackers and the Web developers whose programs they try to outsmart.
 
“I want to eliminate the differences and the inequalities among these groups, so that we can share our knowledge and give a better image of our country to the outside," he says. "Our country is currently on blacklists because of cybercrime, but I want to turn us into an El Dorado for all of Africa.”
 
The Ivorian online community has already come a long way in just a few years. During the country's post-election violence in of 2010-11, members experimented with Twitter and other programs to quickly spread information get assistance to people in need of medical care or food.
 
Since then, other projects have been launched to help the general public: CivRoute, for example, is a program that allows users to post updates on road accidents and traffic jams, making the city more navigable.
 
Earlier this year, one designer created a masked cartoon villain whose presence informs residents about power cuts. The name of the antihero, Delestron, derives from the French word for power cut, delestage. His Facebook page now has nearly 5,000 “likes.”
 
Bacely Yorobi, who finished third in the election and has since been named to Assouan’s circle of advisers, says Ivory Coast’s Web experts are now ready to play a role in decisions that affect the whole country.
 
“There is a need for technocrats," says Yorobi. "We can have people online who influence the decisions taken in the country — by the government and others who play a role in managing the country. This election is a strong signal that those of us who are online are ready to take the lead.”

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs