Booting ahead
Current Projects
E-waste: Developing a discussion document on electronic waste for the Association for Progressive Communications
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CATIA: Report on the impact of project components on media coverage of ICTS in Africa
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Communicating the Arts: Monitoring arts coverage in South Africa's mass media, in partnership with the Media Monitoring Project
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OSISA-supported Open Source portal for NGOs: an online information resource for southern Africa, in partnership with Tectonic More >>

Previous Projects
Community ICT access initiatives: Potential strategic interventions
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CATIA: TCO comparison between new and refurbished PCs in delivering ICTs to Africa
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itrainonline: module development: "An introduction to basic research methods", developed for the Association for Progressive Communications

South African Media Audit - HIV/AIDS: Wide-ranging communications audit conducted for the Panos Institute and John Hopkins University
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Highway Africa: Facilitating the participation of Civil Society Organisations on behalf of the Heinrich Böll Foundation
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What is Open Research?

Open Research is a consultancy specializing in media and ICT research, as well as project development in southern Africa. Besides conducting independent research, it has formed working relationships with several research associates and project partners whose expertise has been drawn on to respond to specific research and project needs.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). The mission of Open Research is to properly understand and harness ICTs as a tool for social and economic empowerment by applying the lessons learned in the non-profit and for-profit sectors. This while taking into account specific conditions that affect ICT implementation such as the policy and regulatory environment, market forces, ICT infrastructure, skills and business and community needs. Areas of focus include the development and small business sectors in southern Africa, as well as larger ICT corporates looking to engage constructively in these sectors.

Media. Open Research conducts media research in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Key areas of expertise include content, production and audience analysis, the development of local content initiatives, and media freedoms and rights generally.

To contact Open Research email info at

Latest media research:

Sold out?

Study askes if the media could do more to report and promote the arts in South Africa.

hisses and whistles (.pdf 506kb)

"hisses and whistles" is the first baseline study into arts coverage in the South African mass media. It was conducted by Open Research, in partnership with the Media Monitoring Project, and sponsored by Business & Arts South Africa. The research aimed to assess the state of arts coverage in the media by quantitatively monitoring the arts content in 23 newspapers, 10 television shows and six radio programmes over a one-month period (June-July 2005). To compliment the quantitative findings, 29 interviews were conducted with a range of players in the media 'production line', including media managers (or those who represented the business side of media production), arts journalists, arts editors, sub-editors, publicist and presenters. Of these, 21 were in-depth, face-to-face interviews.

Summary of key findings:

· Advertising and publicity play a considerable role in shaping how the arts are covered in South Africa.

· 40-60% of the space allocated for arts and entertainment content in newspaper supplements is taken up by advertising. In some instances, as little as 15% of the remaining space available will be dedicated to serious arts coverage.

· Publicity can account for as much as 60% of the editorial of arts and entertainment supplements.

· Of the six key arts genres, arts coverage is dominated by music (making up 33% of the editorial content items monitored) and film (23%). Literature accounted for 13% of coverage and theatre 12%. Together these four genres made up over 80% of the media’s coverage of the key arts genres. Dance (3%) is the orphan of arts coverage.

· 31% of the advertisements for the arts monitored were for theatre productions, 29% for film and 20% for music.

· The majority of arts coverage in the media simply reflects what is going on in the arts rather than offering any kind of critical or analytical intervention. At the most, 25% of arts coverage can be said to be analytical or critical.

· Reviews are the most common type of arts editorial (making up 23% of the total content count), followed by listings (19%), features (15%), news stories (15%), and interviews (4%). Briefs represent 5% of the total editorial content count, and opinion pieces or commentaries on the arts only 2% of the total count.

· Formal distinctions between arts criticism, reporting and publicity are often not felt in the media. This is seen to have a negative impact on arts coverage generally.

· Race and culture impact on how the arts are communicated in the media. 62% of the artists covered during the monitored period were white, compared to 32% black, 3% Indian, 2% coloured, and 1% Asian.

· Female sources are accessed around 15% more frequently (or twice as often) in arts coverage compared to the average typically found in general news coverage of important public events. 68% of the artists covered were male, compared to 32% female.

· The extent of arts coverage in the news pages of the press is largely unpredictable, and depends on how media management sees the arts, rather than on a programmatic approach to arts coverage. 19% of the arts content monitored in the press occurred outside of the arts and entertainment supplements or pages.

· The arts in South Africa made up 65% of the arts content monitored. While the arts from Europe and the United States account for around 32% of arts coverage, the arts from the rest of Africa made up only 2% of the arts content items. The arts from Asia account for a further 1% of coverage.

· International artists receive more attention than local artists. Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson, Bob Geldof, Christian Bale and Angelina Jolie were the most frequently represented artists. Kwaito star Zola and actress and director Janet Suzman were the most frequently represented South Africans.

· Practical newsroom constraints that impact on the quality of arts coverage in the media are strikingly similar to the constraints that affect the depth of coverage in other beats (e.g. HIV/AIDS). These include: staff shortages; limited budgets (which, amongst other things, impact on the ability to commission freelancers) and space constraints.

· A lack of young, skilled arts journalists coming up through the ranks is considered a crisis for the future of the profession and for the arts generally.

· The SABC lacks a programmatic approach to the arts. While the broadcaster is supportive of the arts and says it wants to do more, it does not have a clear policy strategy that spells out how it will achieve this.

Media release:

Are refurbished PCs worth it?

Study finds that second-hand PCs have a significant role to play in African ICT development.

TCO study (.pdf 560kb)
TCO appendices (.pdf 199kb)
TCO calculator (zipped 174kb)

Good quality refurbished PCs can be a viable technology choice - and sometimes even preferable to lower quality new PCs.

That's one of the key findings of a Total Cost of Ownership study into new and refurbished PCs by South African-based research consultancy Open Research.

The study is part of the Africa-wide CATIA programme, and provides some useful guidelines for small business, non-profit organisations and schools in Africa considering refurbished PCs.

While good quality new PCs are likely to be the most stable over five years, their high purchase price is often cost-prohibitive for a small organisation or school in Africa.

In contrast, a key inhibitor for refurbished PCs is their high ongoing costs, including the cost of hardware replacements, support and repairs labour, and downtime - costs that have led many people to argue against the use of refurbished PCs on the continent.

"What's important about our findings is they show that under certain conditions good quality refurbished PCs may be worth it - at least for the first few years of ownership," says Alan Finlay from Open Research.

"But it's not a wholesale situation. They need to be top quality PCs, in most cases imported from Europe or North America. If they've been looked after, there is likely to be a window period of 2-3 years of stability, but after than an organisation's ongoing costs are likely to escalate rapidly."

The study found that lower quality refurbished PCs are likely to result in high, consistent ongoing costs for an organisation or school - and a very unstable network. It suggests that they are not a viable technology solution.

"The problem is there's a lot of pressure from industrialized nations for Africa to accept refurbished PCs as an answer to ICT under-development - and their relatively low cost makes them attractive. Hopefully our study helps people become more proactive, and selective consumers," Finlay says.

The study, entitled "Paying the Price?", considers the key cost differences in owning new and refurbished PCs over five years in a small business, NGO or school in Africa. It discusses issues that set the context for a TCO consideration - such as PC quality, brand position in Africa, pricing, distribution, and specifications - before isolating the key drivers or factors that are likely to make a difference in ownership costs. By considering these key comparative TCO drivers, it provides a guideline for organisations facing a technology choice between new and refurbished PCs.

A comparative TCO calculator has also been developed for calculating projected costs.

The TCO study forms part of Component 2a (Open source software and low cost computers) of the Catalysing Access to ICTs in Africa (CATIA) programme. CATIA is a three-year programme of the Department for International Development (DFID) in close collaboration with other donors and role players.

To find out more about the CATIA programme, please visit the CATIA website.

Who's who
Alan Finlay
ICT & media research, information management and project development. Alan leads the Open Research initiative. He has worked in the NGO sector as well as in the corporate and academic sectors.  More >>

  Research Associates
& Project Partners

Gavin Dudley
An ICT specialist and self-styled media analyst, Gavin started his career in project management before migrating to digital multimedia production and web development. He has been the IT manager for two Internet publishing companies during this time.  More >>

Alastair Otter
A media technologist and programmer, Alastair has experience in both online and print media. He is the founder and still runs a successful Africa-focused open source software publication.  More >>

Tracey Naughton
Tracey is a communications consultant. Her expertise is in training, ICTs (especially radio and TV) and content development, particularly at the local level. Recently she developed a radio and TV series empowering herders in Mongolia.  More >>

Media Monitoring Project
The Media Monitoring Project (MMP) is an independent NGO that has been monitoring the South African media since 1993.  More >>