The good news about Global Voices? We do a pretty good job of giving you access to voices you might not otherwise hear from, translating and featuring bloggers from almost two hundred nations.
The bad news? Not everyone has a blog.
Every intelligent interviewer who asks me about Global Voices asks whether the people we feature on the site are a representative sample of the population of the nations we cover. The answer is “nope”. Bloggers aren’t a representative sample in the US, and they’re certainly not “the man on the street” in a country like Benin or Bolivia.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to bloggers. It just means it’s worth realizing that, for the most part, bloggers in developing nations are better educated, more technical and wealthier than most of their compatriots. In some countries, that leads to recognizable bias – bloggers in Venezuela are more likely than the national average to be anti-Chavez; bloggers in Zimbabwe are more likely than the national average to be anti-Mugabe.
But it does present a challenge for us at Global Voices – how do we broaden the group of people around the world who have access to blogs and other tools they can use to share their experiences with a global audience?
With support from the Knight Foundation, we’ve been running a project called Rising Voices, designed to introduce citizen media to a wider audience, giving people who might not have a chance to express themselves online the opportunity, training and access to tools that allow them to raise their voices.
One of the projects we’re supporting in Rising Voices is Voces Bolivianas, an effort by Bolivians both within and outside that country to bridge political divides, begin dialogs and bring different types of people into the online space. Today, the project is holding Bolivian Voices Day, a nationwide effort to train bloggers and bring more people into the conversation.
Project leader Eddie Ávila wrote to the GV team last night, talking about his reasons for starting the project. I thought his words were moving and asked him for his permission to share them. Here’s some of what he said.
It seems like ages ago, when I noticed a trackback on one of my blog posts that led to a site called Global Voices Online. Soon after came an email from David Sasaki, the Latin American editor at the time, inquiring whether I would be interested in representing Bolivia through weekly summary posts. That began my start with Global Voices. That was September 2005.
Little did I think it would lead me to where I am now, namely 12 hours away from the start of Bolivian Voices Day. In eight sites across the country, approximately 100 Bolivians from “underrepresented” groups will take part in a one-day workshop where they will learn how to create a blog, write posts, and most importantly, be part of this local, national and global conversation. In Oruro, a small mining town, teachers from rural schools will come into town to participate. In Tiqiupaya, an even smaller suburb of Cochabamba, members of neighborhood associations have signed up to take part, and in El Alto, a youth group of young men and women, who go to school at night because they work during the day to support their families, are others who will part of this event. These are just a few examples of who will be present tomorrow…
For me, working and moving back here to Bolivia holds special meaning. The decision of my parents to immigrate and remain in the U.S. some 40+ years ago, as you might guess, changed my world forever, but also instilled in me a special responsiblity to “do something” for Bolivia someday. In prior stays in the country, I’ve volunteered at orphanges, gave donations to buy children presents at Christmastime or other worthy deeds, but it never felt right. This project feels right, and even though it is a small drop in the bucket with a country of 9 million in an increasingly polarized society, it is the first step. Creating meaningful interaction with one another regardless of class, ethnicity, geographic location, is just what this country needs…
Good luck, Eddie, and good luck to everyone involved with this project. Can’t wait to hear what Bolivia has to say.