As South Africans – and the world – prepare to pay final respects and lay the Country’s former President Nelson Mandela to rest, an additional dynamic of this historic event warrants consideration – the role technology has played and will continue to play in communicating and upholding the legacy of an individual who is fondly regarded as “the father of a nation”.
News of the passing of this statesman and universally acknowledged peacemaker was destined to dominate headlines worldwide. However, the unprecedented level of realtime international coverage, reaction and feedback is unlikely to have been facilitated had it not been for the Internet and social media.
One of the more striking aspects of this coverage has been the rapid unveiling of tribute websites, the seamless process of establishing online communities and forums through which people have been able to share their feelings and expressions.
International news and analysis website memeburn.com reported that eleven tribute websites have gone live since Mandela’s passing. These include the various local and international media houses, political and social organisations including Mail & Guardian, Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, the New York Times, SABC, Mandela.gov.za, Primedia’s Ourmadiba.com and the official ANC (African National Congress) website, amongst others.
Technology giants like Apple and Google also set up links to tribute sites. The media and communications industry seems to have utilised the opportunity to jointly set up initiatives to offer people the opportunity to express themselves, for example The Nelson Mandela Foundation linked up with Telkom and the SABC to set up a phone-in service for people to leave messages in their own languages.
Social networks Twitter and Facebook have served as frontline social network sites through which users, including celebrities, have been able to communicate.
Among the many tweets from famous people around the world:
“The world’s lost an iconic leader, South Africa’s lost its very soul. My deepest condolences to those wonderful people.” – Journalist and TV personality Piers Morgan.
Virgin boss Richard Branson sent a tweet regarding the news, writing “Thanks for your inspiration, friendship & the joy you brought into our lives #RIPNelsonMandela”. The company has set up a page at http://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/on-nelson-mandela to honour Mandela.
“Today we lost not only a great man; we also lost one of the world’s greatest leaders. Everyone will have been impacted by Nelson Mandela in their own way – these are my personal reflections on the time I was fortunate enough to spend with him,” reads the opening statement.
Samuel L. Jackson, “Never met a better person in my life than Nelson Mandela. My sympathy to his family & his country.”
5FM Radio show host Gareth Cliff broke the news to his followers, before rushing off to the 5FM studios for live coverage. “Former President Mandela is dead. Love and condolences to our great nation, and his family. Nkosi sikelele’ iAfrika”.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates tweeted “Every time Melinda and I met Nelson Mandela, we left more inspired than ever. His grace and courage changed the world. This is a sad day.”
By 09 December, the Nelson Mandela Facebook page had 2,8 million likes.
* Image via Shutterstock
Chris Tredger – Online Editor