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As the world keeps evolving daily through technology, more people in emerging economies are moving to embrace digital transformation. Many news consumers in Sudan now stick to their mobile phones for news, moving away from traditional news forms like prints to save costs in a dwindling economy. In turn, the disruption is forcing many printing presses to close down operations in the country.

In a report, Reuters attributed the switch to currency depreciation and surging inflation amid unsuccessful economic reforms that should have re-opened the country’s economy to financing and investment. Sudanese are now more conscious about how they spend their limited resources on. Thus, it is more convenient and cost-effective to adopt digitised news.

Digital transformation in Sudan media

Digital transformation is the adoption of digital technology by companies to digitise non-digital products, services or operations to increase value through innovation, invention, customer experience or efficiency. It is a forceful change sweeping across multiple sectors and industries, disrupting most business operations. The good news is businesses that quickly adopt digitisation would reach a wider audience and scoop a large customer share of any market.

In developed countries, the adoption rate is fast and driven by vision, leadership, innovation, learning, and partnerships among government, business, and civil society. Although the reverse is the case for emerging economies, economic hardship is beginning to catalyse the adoption of digital transformation in poor countries as seen in the case of Sudan’s newspaper sector. 

Nonetheless, stakeholders in the Sudanese printing press still choose traditional print newspapers over digital news. “I’m in favour of print journalism, and I hope it doesn’t die because our society needs the credibility it offers,” said Youssef Hamad, Editor-in-Chief of Al-Hadatha, a Sudan-based print and online news publisher

History and the significance of the Sudanese print media

Sudan’s first independent newspaper, El Sudan (The Sudan Times), was published in September 1903 by three Egypt-based Syrian publishers- Faris Nimr, Yacoub Sarrouf and Makarios. At the time, Syrians greatly influenced the birthing of printing presses across many arab countries. But on the prompting of Lord Cromer, the British administrator to Egypt, the publishers expanded operations into Khartoum.

The businessmen imported a printing press into Sudan and staffed it with Egyptian and Syrian workers who published the first El Sudan on September 23rd, 1903. Subsequently, Sudanese who worked with them got trained on the job. 

The newspaper was a four-page bi-weekly publication. It mirrored local news, and international news sourced from a Reuter’s bulletin circulated to the army. As more Sudanese became educated in the arab language El Sudan became an integral part of their civilisation. It was a core means of socio-economic education and information transfer. It played a critical role in the economic, political and social enlightenment of the people.

According to a research paper by renowned Sudanese journalist, Magoub Mohamad Salih, in its first 60 years of existence, the print media “endeavoured to portray the progress of the country, enlightened its people, created and fostered public opinion, informed the Sudanes of local and foreign events, rallied them behind their national aspirations and mobilised them in their fight for freedom. Since independence, it has worked for national unity, economic development and social reforms.” This shows the vital role newspaper journalism played in the civilization of Sudan.

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