News / Africa

South Africa’s Space Program Wants Twitter Input

Study says growth across Africa is driven by use of mobile devices, March 2011 (file photo).
Study says growth across Africa is driven by use of mobile devices, March 2011 (file photo).
Nadia Samie

A new study shows that social networking is growing on the African continent, especially in South Africa, where the country’s Twitter-active population posted around five million messages in the last quarter of 2011, double the amount of tweets coming out of Kenya, the continent’s second most Twitter-savvy nation.

Now South African authorities are getting in on the action, using the micro-blogging site to gauge public opinion on important matters -- most notably, the country’s space program.

South Africa’s National Space Agency is reaching out to citizens via Twitter, asking for input on what its agenda should focus on over the next 20 years.

It’s a move that hasn’t surprised Arthur Goldstuck of World Wide Worx, an internet research company.

"The only surprise about the move onto Twitter and Facebook is that it took so long for a government agency to do it," says Goldstuck. "But it's appropriate that a high-tech agency like the Space Agency should take that step, because you would expect them to be visionary and forward thinking."

The main drawback of gauging public opinion via social media, though, is that it reaches only the internet-savvy market -- a small, mostly elite segment of South Africa's population.

"Initially, the internet user in South Africa, and therefore the social networker, was part of the higher income group," says Goldstruck. "But with the explosion of smart phones in South Africa, we're seeing the growth of the internet in the mass market through mobile access to the web and through apps and the like. And particularly because of the fact that any smart phone that you buy today will already have Twitter and Facebook installed on the device, or at least a logo or link to those services. As a result of that, the broader market is moving into social networks in this country. The fact that there's something like 4.8 million Facebook users in [South Africa] and as many Twitter users suggests that it's not only the haves, it's beginning to move into the arena of the have-nots."

To balance the scales, South Africa's space agency is also engaging citizens face-to-face, aiming to create an all-round robust public discussion on its planned space program.

To assess the power of social networking in Africa, one needn't look further than the Egyptian revolution, which began with a couple of Twitter messages. But how does South Africa measure up to other countries -- the United States, for example -- when it comes to engaging citizens online?

"There's a fundamental difference in the way government uses social networks in South Africa [as] compared to the U.S.," says Goldstruck, explaining that South Africa still has a way to go. "In the United States, social media and social networks played a major role in the last presidential election, and that woke up the entire landscape to the importance of Twitter, as both a campaigning and communication tool between government and citizens. In South Africa, it played a very small role."

But the government's first decisive step into the Twittersphere has got locals buzzing. It is only logical, they seem to think, that cyberspace would prove the ideal place to help plan the country’s journey into space.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid