The 21st Century India Through Digital Content conference recently held in Delhi,  with topic such as Digital Content in Business, Enterprise and Livelihoods should have been infested with journalists. It wasn’t. Except for a smattering of our ilk, there was not one from the power-list of Indian journalism.

It really should be an area that should interest journalists. Thanks to Osama Manzar of Digital Empowerment Foundation, I was invited. The event, of course, being supported by the Department of Information Technology of the Government of India and the World Summit Awards, was dominated by bureaucrats and ICT activists.

The benefits of digitalization of content and the use of digital media to purvey content are not up for debate.

Critical to taking the front seat in this digital drive is the active involvement of the press. It not only has to convey to citizens the benefits of ICT but also that journalists should get to use digital content as primary sources for storytelling. Now, that looks like a tough one, given the state of the government websites and the closed-door-corp-com driven websites of corporate houses. But we’ll get there, hopefully with governments realising that content professionals can help them with sprucing up their websites.

To start with, the Department of Information Technology could come up with avset of guidelines and must-dos for government websites to implement. Post-implementation it could be closely watched by Chief Information Commissioner of India Wajahat Habibullah’s people.

Of course, rules and oversight by statutory bodies sound good but one really can’t beat an all-pervading culture of information sharing. That is possible when there is a demand for it. And journalists can crank up that demand is they see the benefit having credible information just a click away.

The post-lunch session was on education, a very NGO topic, if I may. There was a lot that was discussed — passionate people with informed views on the matter. But my take on it is that the government should not be offered a “digital” excuse for the shoddy implementation of education for all. It cannot become a crutch for the government or a means for profit-many companies to make hay. A robust primary and secondary education system that covers the entire population of this country is a must – period. It is the duty of the State to ensure that adequate funds and means are made available for this important national need. Which essentially means I didn’t talk at all during this session!

The last session of the day was very interesting. It was on Policy Framework for Governance & Inclusive Development and the sub-session I attend was on Efforts on Inclusive Content Development through Mass Participation: Web 2.0 Technologies & Media. There were some interesting members in this team, like Latif Ladid of IPv6 Forum, Beatriz Elvira Alonso Becerra from Cuba to name a few. This a topic very close to my heart, and, again, I missed journalist at this session.

By constantly returning to these issues, IOJ hopes to be the bridge between journalists and what the WSA and the DEF are doing.

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