The US Embassy in Colombo has put out an ad for a new media assistant. I think it’s the first diplomatic mission in Sri Lanka to expressly call for a position that engages with new media, suggesting the growing importance of public diplomacy leveraging the web and mobiles post-war.
The ad reads,
Are you fluent in English? Do you have good knowledge of online applications and mobile phone base communication and information technologies (New Media)?, Do you possess a thorough knowledge of Sri Lanka’s media, political, economic, social and educational structure, institutions, political parties and key figures in conventional and new media, government, education, military, labor and business communities? Are you good in Public Relations techniques? If the answer is ’Yes’ and you also meet the below mentioned qualifications, then you are the person we are looking for!
What immediately struck me was that there was no requirement to know Sinhala or Tamil, though this may be a deciding factor in the final selection. With well over 560 blogs aggregated on Kottu alone and many in Sinhala and Tamil, web content in the swabasha is not just competing with English, it’s creating entirely new niche and mass audiences online. For example, as Ajith P. Perera’s Dare to be Different blog flagged recently, there is extremely nuanced and interesting content production in the Sinhala blogosphere on highly contentious issues. Sites with original and though-provoking content like Boondi enjoy wide and growing readership. Boondi’s presence on Facebook has over 1,400 fans. Even Vikalpa’s videos, largely in Sinhala, have repeatedly entered the Top 100 list on YouTube.
Anyway, the pay’s decent and let’s see who they end up with. Hope this new position will result in, inter alia, more events like the one held earlier this month at the American Centre that bring together unlike-minded bloggers, new media producers and even progressive journalists to talk about common issues like the protection of their web content from turds in traditional media, the development of a Sri Lankan creative commons, appropriate licensing and innovative ideas to take engaging web content to mainstream media.