The Internet age Part Two: Facility reduced to platform of social chats [Daily Monitor, The (Uganda)]
(Daily Monitor, The (Uganda) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) In last week's lamentation about an Internet age in which we are all in touch with the world but most of us can't seem to make money from the content we upload on it, I suggested that there has to be a way around this dilemma.
The Internet should have been the long-awaited answer to so many of our endemic problems in Africa, from high unemployment to lack of information, poor communication systems, lack of contact with useful public institutions and personalities.
What it became, instead, was a platform dominated by social conversations and chat but so far has not done much to transform the African economies.
Still, most people in Uganda pay cash to buy airtime, newspapers, fruits, snacks, clothing, chewing gum and other bits and pieces of merchandise. It follows that to reach this market, one has to sell tangible goods payable with cash, be it music, videos, photos and news.
The futureFor the foreseeable future, from all indications, the Internet will not be much of a place to make money for the ordinary Ugandan or Zambian. There are no real eCommerce platforms in Uganda, few means of paying online for any such services in real time, and a tiny market for that even if it were there.
We are better off selling our creations and products in the traditional market, not online. The Internet is important in conducting research and communicating, not for trading, for the ordinary person.
It seems obvious but for many years after the mid 1990s, it did not seem that obvious. We were told about a glorious era of online shopping and earning money on the Internet, an era that has largely not yet come to be.For the few who might still wish to try their hand at making money online, especially in the news business, the nearest to an approach would be to seek specialist markets, small niches of people and groups one can target.
Last week, I mentioned the fact that I have more than 10,000 followers on the micro blogging website Twitter but none of this can earn me money.
My Twitter followers are scattered all over the world and so it is hard to find a coherent product to sell them or message that can translate into cash.
It would have made a big difference, however, if these 10,000 Twitter followers were all or mostly resident in Makindye Division where I live.
That way, I could concentrate on "tweeting" on nothing but Makindye news, gossip, crime, road accidents, missing children, community events, electric power outages and church services.
PreviouslyIn the olden days, a radio, TV station or newspaper published or broadcast as much and as varied news as it could, hoping to reach as wide and diversified an audience and market as possible.
The Internet now makes it possible to specialise and focus on a very tiny and narrowly-defined audience, and reporting, delivering or manufacturing, designing and discussing the ideas, goods and services of interest to only this tiny, specialized audience.
I would, in effect, have a Makindye Herald online newspaper and through this, could perhaps attract adverts, paid messages and so forth from these local residents and neighbours of mine in Makindye.However, even here one would be hard pressed to find small grocery shops that would place an advert in an online paper, never mind the right numbers of readers in our city divisions who have the means or education to read their news on the Internet.
Therefore, the stage at which we are is where the United States and Western Europe were in the mid 1990s. There is no real, substantial market for online content and transactions.
The right approach for the time being is to remain with the print newspapers and actual, physical supermarket shopping rather than have any hopes for the online world to happen yet for Uganda.
That is the discouraging side to the Internet. The most one can salvage from it, for the time being, is to use it as a research tool and to a lesser degree, a marketing tool.
If one understands how to use the search engines, there is plenty of information and patterns that one can build from these results, since they tend to be an accurate representation of the choices, wishes and interests of Internet users.
Two weeks ago as I researched the searches Ugandans or people living in Uganda enter the Google search engine, I discovered once again as I have many times before how little politicians either feature in the lives of Ugandans or how little they interest them.
Our news media, be it radio, television or newspaper, devotes its main coverage to politicians, political events and related developments, and yet in the searches Ugandans enter into Google, very few politicians appear.
Latest researchIn my latest research, the politicians who appeared prominently were President Yoweri Museveni, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and the UPC party president Olara Otunnu.
The Lord Mayor of Kampala, Erias Lukwago, appeared but mainly in relation to the tribunal set up against him.I found it odd that Otunnu should be the subject of so much interest, yet in general elections, the UPC party since 2006 is reported in official results to score only single digit numbers.
Could it be that Otunnu is more popular than we are officially told, which is why he has always been the focus of intense NRM State pressure and propaganda? And despite the efforts by State House to undermine Lukwago, it is clear that he retains a large following among a sympathetic public.
All this goes to show that the Internet is, of itself, a fairly good tool by which one can study and compile data on current social, political and economic trends.Many of us who took to it will have to accept that it is not going to be the key to earning money, but that it at least can be an avenue by which we establish the contacts and markets to get through our messages and products.
The history of the Internet
The history of the Internet began with the development of electronic computers in the 1950s.
The public was first introduced to the concepts that would lead to the Internet when a message was sent over the ARPANet from computer science Professor Leonard Kleinrock's laboratory at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), after the second piece of network equipment was installed at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Packet switched networks such as ARPANET, Mark I at NPL in the UK, CYCLADES, Merit Network, Tymnet, and Telenet, were developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s using a variety of protocols.
The ARPANET in particular led to the development of protocols for internetworking, in which multiple separate networks could be joined together into a network of networks.
In 1982, the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) was standardized, and consequently, the concept of a world-wide network of interconnected TCP/IP networks, called the Internet, was introduced. Access to the ARPANET was expanded in 1981 when the National Science Foundation (NSF) developed the Computer Science Network (CSNET) and again in 1986 when NSFNET provided access to supercomputer sites in the United States from research and education organizations.
Commercial Internet service providers (ISPs) began to emerge in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The ARPANET was decommissioned in 1990. The Internet was commercialized in 1995 when NSFNET was decommissioned, removing the last restrictions on the use of the Internet to carry commercial traffic.
Since the mid-1990s, the Internet has had a revolutionary impact on culture and commerce, including the rise of near-instant communication by electronic mail, instant messaging, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) "phone calls", two-way interactive video calls, and the World Wide Web with its discussion forums, blogs, social networking, and online shopping sites.
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