On April 27, the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde hosted a session on how to create websites using free online tools for 20 participants at the James Baldwin Information Resource Center’s (IRC) Multimedia Corner. Public Affairs Officer Roberto Quiroz II and Social Media Manager Dorine Takam encouraged participants to tell their story and that of topics of public interest through their website or social media accounts. Smart and responsible use of social media and other free online tools available on the internet can make a tremendously positive impact promoting access to information, entrepreneurship, and development, they noted.
In his welcome remarks Mr. Quiroz said, “Diplomacy has evolved over the centuries from government to government engagement to also include public engagement through visits outside embassy walls. Now, at the advent of the 21st century, we can expand this with the ability thanks to technology to communicate with thousands if not millions of citizens directly and on a real time basis. Social media and blogs can be instruments of peace and development building, and presenting facts versus fiction is the essence of its credibility and the positive impact it can have to ensure a more informed citizenry. This enables the United States, through its Facebook and Twitter accounts at its embassies and consulates around the world, to directly welcome and respond to commentsfrom the public on questions of our foreign policy and programs.
It is especially important to provide facts based information and to welcome positive feedback as well as dissent. This enables us and you to present the public with information they can receive, process, and respond to. That type of engagement has led to an increase in the number of our U.S. Embassy Yaounde Facebook page followers, while Cameroon’s internet penetration rate is approximately 14%. Our real time engagement sends the message to every follower that their opinions are very important and that we will respond to them. We also welcome the public to tell us their stories, and highlight the achievements of every day Cameroonian heroes whose efforts their fellow citizens should be proud to emulate in their own communities.
We appreciate positive public feedback, and sometimes we have critics, who are very important to listen to and to solicit their thoughts and perspectives in order to enrich the conversation. Quite often lengthy Facebook conversations to our posts develop between Cameroonians at home and in the diaspora. When some members of the public disagree with us, they see that we care to respond one, two, three, four, five times or more in response to their questions, and if they are still not persuaded then we may agree to disagree respectfully. That is a key lesson in democracy. We have to celebrate everybody’s freedom of speech. Every voice counts. Every person’s opinion matters. Every person deserves respect whether we agree with them or not, or whether they agree with you or not. Tolerance for the views of others is an essential value to observe, and in fact allows us to see matters from a different perspective while presenting our own or your own assessments.”
Social Media Manager Dorine Takam introduced participants to basic terminology and concepts of web design conducted a session titled “Creating a Website with Free Online Tools” co-presented with guest speaker Gaspard Baye, who outlined lessons on how to maximize online social media tools. Mr. Baye is actively involved in promoting the use of technology through his start-up organization Katamba Technologies: http://katambatech.com/ In his presentation, Mr. Baye outlined steps needed to create a professional website with the free online tool WordPress.
The participants expressed their appreciation to the U.S. Embassy “for implementing such creative programs to help us communicate more efficiently and to develop (an) entrepreneurship spirit. The session will be followed by weekly two hour sessions on Thurdays at the Information Resource Center. For information on how to attend one of the sessions.