I have finally received the answers for the SA Rocks interview with Heather Ford. It’s taken her months, nay, an age (that’s a long time) to get back to me and I have really glad that Heather was able to send through her answers.
She is incredibly busy and traveling all the time all over the world, but SA Rocks eventually tracked her down and got the goods:
So tell me a bit about what you do and how got in to the online market?
I work for iCommons – an international, high-tech non-profit organization based in Johannesburg.
You’re involvement with iCommons has allowed you great opportunities, what’s the coolest thing you’ve done recently?
Meeting the Mayor of Sapporo in Japan and going to see the snow and ice sculptures at the annual Sapporo Snow Festival.
You have been promoting an event with Jimmy Wales here in SA, The Wikipedia Academies. Give us a brief idea of what this is and why, as South Africans, we should care?
The Academies were started by Wikipedia Germany as a way to teach students how to edit Wikipedia. What we want to do here in South Africa is to develop an appreciation of how empowering it is for us to build our own encyclopedias in languages other than English. Growing up with Encyclopedia Britannica, I find it pretty incredible how we now have the potential to learn about Africa through our own eyes, to develop our own expressions of the truth, and to understand that truth is dynamic, always changing.
Now down to the serious stuff:
Why do you love South Africa?
I can’t help it really. It’s home. But I guess more than that it’s a place where the energy is tangible, where people come to make try and understand their humanity, where you can really make a difference and see that difference in the world around you.
You’ve been around the world, which country comes close to matching our cultural diversity in your experience?
It’s difficult to say. In terms of diversity, I guess I’d have to say the United States or Brazil.
Do you think that we have an open and free culture here in SA? If not, why not?
I think it could be more free. Free culture is a culture that is open for people to remix and share – a culture that enables us to become active creators rather than passive users. It’s the opposite of a couch-potato culture. I think that – for a variety of reasons – we South Africans still accept that our culture and our knowledge should be dictated by the West. Digital creativity – where the real potential lies – is still mostly in the hands of a wealthy elite who use the law to try and lock the people out of that potential. So I think that there is lots of room for improvement so that we can turn our incredible diversity, energy and agency into real innovation.
Your presentation at the 27 Dinner a few months ago centred around the free culture of music. Do you think that this is truly the way forward for SA artists? Can this openculture/freeculture really be applied across the board? And would the Radiohead experiment work here in SA for local bands?
Well, I don’t think that having a freer, more open culture is very controversial. A free culture in any sector stimulates innovation, improves competition and quality, and should enable us to hear music beyond Britney Spears (and I’m a fan of Britney Spears you hear!). The point of disagreement I guess is how you enable a freer, more open culture. What we at iCommons say is that finding ways to share your intellectual property with the world is the main path to innovation, and that for the first time in human history, we have found a technology that enables us to share in a way that benefits everyone – the artist, the producer, the fan, the distributor and most importantly, the budding artist in all of us.
With regards to the Radiohead experiment, I guess that’s why it’s called an experiment: because there is still no three-step process to follow here. It’s a matter of crunching the numbers, being really analytical about it, and then taking a small leap of faith. I definitely think that local bands should be experimenting a lot more with new business models, though – and using the potential of new (and old) technology to become more independent from the industry – because the innovation is not going to come from the big players – it’s going to come from the musicians who want to stay true to their music and their fans, and who have less to lose.
Do you believe that SA is competing on a global level when it comes to innovators and great minds online?
I think that there are some incredible people out there doing really great things online in SA (SARocks is a case in point ) and that this is definitely on an upward trend right now. I passionately believe that if we really prioritise digital innovation as a nation, then we could very well see this turning into the widespread flourishing of unique, home-grown solutions on the Internet and that this could have an incredible impact on the empowerment of Africa in the Information Age.
Again, thanks go out to Heather for participating and I hope that she keeps rocking the world with the SA flag flying high!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 South Africa License.
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