Phone successfully travelled from Georgia to Azerbaijan and is now in hands of local blogger, activist, community organizer and marketing specialist – Ilgar Mirza. He is one of the people behind Barcamp Azerbaijan and other social media gatherings. On one hand this country, especially Baku is developing a lot on the other political situation pushed local bloggers to become strong activists and some of them ended up even in jail for this. Azeri bloggers are thought to be one of the best in online activism so let’s talk to Ilgar how true is this.
Podróżniccy: How would you describe local blogosphere? In which fields it’s mostly active?
Ilgar Mirza: Politics. Because, in Azerbaijan We have some political limitations with mass media. And opposition use blogs and social media for expression. Some youth organizations also use it in good way, because of this is free and fast way to attract youth. Its getting little popular (but very slowly) for business also – last couple month i got some requests that some businesses looking for a good bloggers (fashion,food, technology etc). But blogs very good tool to be a popular. All active bloggers in Azerbaijan they are quite popular (because they are not so many). And of course, this popularity let them to find some freelance works, jobs.
Podróżniccy: But Azeri government also became infamous for imprisoning bloggers? How did that happen and did it decrease or increase number of engaged bloggers?
Ilgar: Yes we had some jail situations. How did that happen, know a lot of people around the world (who interested can search to get more detailed info). Of course bloggers was afraid and businesses also was afraid to work with all of bloggers (non-politicals, also). Our organization worked hard to explain that “blogging” and “blogosphere” not only about politics.
Podróżniccy: What your organisation focuses on in its work?
Ilgar: I’m working with 2 different organizations. But both working on social media and Internet field. We are promoting new media, social media and blogging in Azerbaijan. We are doing trainings (not only in Baku, but also in the other regions), consultation for other NGOs, organizing events – conferences and forums about Social Media, Internet. We also running Voice of Youth Internet Radio project. This project helping journalism students to get professional intern.
Podróżniccy: In what way do you help young journalists?
Ilgar: Much to my regrets, education at universities also in very bad situation. During a study students don’t get any practical skills (theory part also is not so good). Some professors and teachers don’t have any technical skills, even they don’t use Internet, emails). So, we are showing students how to make audio stories, live shows, take photos etc and they preparing real materials for a website of Voice of Youth Radio. All materials at our website gsr.fm prepared by students.
Podróżniccy: What are the strongest points of Azerbaijani blogosphere?
Ilgar: May be not strongest but good point is that social media and blogging field / market is new and it have good chance for growing up. If someone will spend a time cleverly now i sure they will get benefit in the near future.
Podróżniccy: How would you compare it to Georgia and Armenia?
Ilgar: I’m not well informed about Armenia, but social media usage in Georgia better than in Azerbaijan. Prices of Internet access, mobile communication cheap in Georgia (i think, cheapest in Caucasus). Businesses are more open minded about social media usage. The situation is more clearly seen in statistics. By statistic of Socialbakers FB penetration of population in Georgia 19%, in Azerbaijan 10,8%. But total of Fb users in Azerbaijan (898K) more than in Georgia (874K), because of biggest population in Caucasus.
Podróżniccy: So who are the most popular bloggers in Azerbaijan? And what topics do they cover?
Ilgar: They a lot and I’m follow only who interesting to me. I’ll mention some of them – shortlist. For example, Shaig Muradov with his multi-user blog site weboxu.com – most popular technology blog. Farhad Alakbarov with his farik.us also very popular about Tech. Ali Novruzov one of the popular bloggers also. He blogging about politics and that kind of stuff. My friend Azer Nazarov writing about media (mediamazar.com) – this blog also well known between media experts. My blog about local marketing criticism – parketinq.com also well known (but I’m not posting so many around the year, I’m working on new version of my blog). When I was active it was very popular. I also like etibarli.wordpress.com – Etibar Salmanli is very active and talented person.
Podróżniccy: How are bloggers integrating between themselves? Do they do joint projects?
Ilgar: Its depends. Some of them integrating, some prefer to be alone. But our team, as a NGOs we are in favor of cooperation. We always trying to invite, involve active bloggers to the different projects.
Podróżniccy: How was your time with Phone Around the World?
Ilgar: Phone arrived in very busy week, I was swamped at work. But I tried to show Baku and some moments of my life to Phone Around the World fans. I’m happy that I have one more day for photos which i want to take. Btw, loved Samsung Galaxy 2 very much. :)