Out of Africa: Zambia Online comes to Stanford

Every Labor Day, Stanford University assembles a remarkable group of journalists from all over the world in order to spend an academic year sampling courses, meeting professors and generally enriching their intellectual outlook at one of America's top universities. The global journalists are gathered through the prestigious Knight fellowship program.

Yesterday, this year's one African journalist, a distinguished Zambian writer and online journalist, Chanda Chisala, arrived. I met Chisala at the airport, partly out of courtesy and partly because on my recent visit to Lusaka, he showed me great hospitality.

Full disclosure: I sometimes teach courses at Stanford, so I predisposed to find value in the university's programs. Chisala, meanwhile, has become a valued friend, and I frankly want him to gain a wider audience during his stay in Palo Alto, California.

Chisala plans to study at Stanford the effect of the Internet on African media. The subject is close to his heart: in his own Zambia, he is the leading actor in bringing serious locally-produced content to the Net. He also thinks deeply about the political consequences of new media forms, and especially the effect on citizen participation in government. He is both an original thinker on African social issues and an important critic of conventional notions of black identity.

In Lusaka, Chisala is best known for his work on Zambia Online. He also is an important developer of software and Internet services in Zambia. He sees no contradiction between using new technologies to communicate and working to create and adapt new technologies to the conditions of his southern African country.

Chisala's journey at Stanford -- and in America -- is only just starting. What he brings back to Africa from my country will be worth a look, I am sure.

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