Auma Obama: 'Participating in digital media carries a responsibility'
'There is no longer any excuse for ignorance,' said DAAD-Alumna Dr Auma Obama at the Global Media Forum 2014 in Bonn. The founder of the Sauti Kuu Foundation sees the digitisation of the media as a major opportunity for development, but also points out that participation carries a responsibility.
The Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum 'From Information to Participation – Challenges for the Media' was held in Bonn from 30 June to 2 July 2014 . Numerous high-profile speakers and guests delivered presentations and workshops on issues surrounding digital media and their impact on journalism, politics and society. Dr Auma Obama, founder of the Sauti Kuu Foundation, delivered a presentation on participation and gave a statement to Alumni Reporter Aquil Zahirpur on the digitisation of the media.
About Auma Obama
Dr Auma Obama is a Germany-Alumna. Born and raised in Kenya, she studied in Heidelberg and completed her PhD at Bayreuth University, funded in both cases by a DAAD scholarship. After completing her doctorate, she initially worked in London before returning to Kenya, where she spent five years serving as East Africa Coordinator for the aid organisation CARE. Even at this stage, much of what she did was focused on working with young people. The 'Sports for Social Change' programme sought to boost the self-esteem of girls in particular and to help them develop more positive patterns of behaviour.
Sauti Kuu – a foundation promoting participation and self-esteem
'Use what you have to get what you need' is the motto of the Sauti Kuu Foundation ('sauti kuu' is Kiswahili for 'strong voices'). Dr Auma Obama set up Sauti Kuu to provide young people in the Kenyan countryside with an alternative to rural exodus. The foundation seeks to work with young people to find out how they can use and develop the resources and opportunities in their rural communities. For example, German firm REHAU has helped to develop sustainable irrigation systems and also to build a club house where young people can meet.
'We work with young people to help them develop an awareness of their own existence and of the fact that they are important and have a right to a life lived in dignity. And it is also important for them to be informed,' said Auma Obama in an interview with German daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. While the young people that the foundation works with may only have very limited access to digital media, they are taught that information is very important for their development.
Auma Obama sees media participation as an opportunity
Rather than a right, she sees the digitisation of the media as an opportunity for users. In her view, participation carries with it individual responsibility; users should think very carefully about where they obtain their information from and how they distribute it.
In her presentation at the Global Media Forum, Auma Obama again underscored the importance of digital media, especially the mobile phone. She said that it allowed users to 'take their destiny into their own hands and make their own decisions' without having to possess a great amount of technology or money. The only question was what people do with the information once they have it: 'We have access to information, but does that mean that we will take action? Will we take steps that change our society?' There is no longer any excuse for ignorance, which means there is also no excuse for inaction.