Where Are All The Black Web Professionals?

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Last week, Mandy de Waal wrote a Who’s Who in the Web 2.0 Zoo story featuring some of the big names in the South African online sphere. (Let’s ignore for now the problems with talking about “Web 2.0 VS vanilla internet”)

One pull-quote from the piece caught my eye,

White boy’s club

Empowerment seems to have touched every other industry sector, but this one. “

That reignited my curiousity on the question:

Where are all the black web professionals?

It’s a question I’ve raised many times over the past few years and I’ve never been able to come up with a satisfactory answer.

I remember, back when I was working with Quirk and they were trying to improve their BEE credentials, how much of a challenge it was for them and how much of a challenge it is for many traditionally white businesses trying to toe the empowerment line.

For sure there are black businesspeople operating in the online media space, but they are the barely visible minority.

Today Ramon Thomas, self-styled dating coach, motivational speaker, blogger and all round busy guy, wrote this follow-up, which is effectively a shadow list (no pun intended with the use of the word “shadow” – honest).

He closes his post with the question:

“Sometimes I wonder will South African media ever, ever be more representative. When white people own most of the media companies, produce most of the radio or television content, publish (edit) most of the newspapers, magazines or websites, what do you expect?”

It’s an interesting question, even if based on a somewhat flawed perception. Perhaps what we should be asking is,

How are we, as participants in the new media industry, working to change the status quo?

What these two pieces highlight is that there exists a network failure. The nature of social networks (the real world kind) is that there’s a tendency for homogeneity, especially in the short to medium term (long term always trends towards the diverse). Birds of a feather and all that.

To create diversity within specific sectors it’s important to sow the seeds of integration. Once you’ve done that things are more likely to naturally become inclusive.

With all of this in mind, for a while now I have been looking at creating an online network of black web professionals.

Something like the Forum for Black Journalists only without Jacob Zuma addressing the inaugural meeting, without throwing out the white people who want to contribute and without the assortment of coconut-flavoured high jinx that contributed to that particular organisation never getting off the ground.

My idea is simple. If we acknowledge the need for transformation within our sector then let’s be proactive and do something about it.

Where are all the black web professionals? Where are all the white web professionals who care about the fact that there are not enough black web professionals?

Some of the things to be debated would be:

  • What exactly should such a network aim to achieve?
  • How would such a project add value to the online industry in South Africa?
  • How do we prevent the alienation of the white web professionals who arguably dominate the industry currently?
  • Do black web professionals face challenges that their white counterparts don’t?
  • What can the players in the industry do to speed up transformation within the industry?
  • Should the end product be something like the Black Web 2.0 network from the US?

The idea is to create something that will:

  • Propel black web professionals into the mainstream
  • Help white businesses improve their BEE status in ways that create additional value
  • Facilitate the transfer of skills to PDIs
  • Help black businesses enter the modern web space.

The simple fact is that transformation is an important part of the South African business landscape and the online sector is lagging behind.

I am in the infant stages of putting something together but for projects of this kind, the more people involved the better.

If you agree that transformation is important and that there’s a need for this kind of initiative then give me a shout in the comments.

57 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. You are right there exists no real world network. In fact I always hoped 27Dinner would be one of those real world networking events where everyone can meet in person. And as you meet one another, you can interact, and build some trust. Its important for me to like and respect the people I work with.

    That question at the end is directed more so at the black or non-white professionals out there. Some of them, and they will remain nameless, has been complaining and whining forever on forums, while they do nothing else. If you ever read the book, Capitalist Nigger, you will understand the hurdles faces by black professionals in South Africa.

  2. I think that people choose how they
    want to contribute to the industry. Some will keep their
    9-5 jobs with big corporates and still remain active. Others pref are to take matters into
    their own hands by go at it solo.

    Ramon is right about the networking part, I am actually doing something about it. I have discovered a multitude of SA’s finest young IT mind over the web. Through ThoughtLeader.co.za and Vince Maher’s blogs I managed to discover a lot of talent and minds that in some ways relate to mine.

    At its core, its all about the passion and the spirit of entrepreneurship. My 3rd year IS class at Wits
    was 70% black. It is not like these people have vanished, they are still here.
    The only difference between them and me, is that I choose to get involved and actively contribute
    to our growing web industry.

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    I’m white and I can’t code. Is that a double fail?

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