Democratic Participation

Featured Blog Post

Cutting Through the Hype: Why Citizen Reporting Isn't Election Monitoring

Recently, we’ve been seeing a lot of hype about citizen reporting with mobile phones during elections. It is often conflated with the term “election monitoring,” but this does a disservice to both citizen reporting and election monitoring, a discipline and field that has been around for some 20 years. These two approaches have markedly different goals, target audiences, and processes. We think it is time for readers to definitively understand what election monitoring is in contrast to citizen reporting, and what the role of mobile phone and mapping platforms are in regard to these two very different forms of engagement during elections.  We aim to clearly differentiate between them once and for all.

We also urge the adoption of  differing terms - citizen reporting during an election versus systematic election monitoring. Mobile phones, SMS, and mapping platforms play a role in both citizen reporting and election monitoring, of course.

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Featured How-to

Mapping SMS Incident Reports: A Review of Ushahidi and Managing News

In this how-to, we test out two systems for SMS incident mapping. Incident mapping is a simple but powerful concept that does what it says - using SMS to report a given incidence and mapping the data geographically.

It has been used in various scenarios ranging from reports from natural disasters to tracking violent crime, citizen reporting in elections.

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Featured Case Study

Press One for Freedom Fone, Press Two for Farm Radio: How Stations Use Integrated Voice Response

Two years ago, Bev Clark, the co-founder of, was awarded a large grant as part of the Knight News Challenge for Freedom Fone, an open-source software platform for distributing news and information through interactive voice response (IVR) technology.  Freedom Fone was officially launched in late February of this year and has since been downloaded about 200 times, said Amy Saunderson-Meyer of Freedom Fone.

Freedom Fone leverages audio as a mobile function using IVR, a technology that allows a system to detect voice and keyboard input. IVR allows a user to call, enter or say specific numbers, and listen to or contribute audio content.  (Many readers are already familiar with IVR - you’ve likely encountered it when you call a customer service number and are prompted with instructions to press numbers for different issues or service departments.)

Since the launch, Freedom Fone has provided support to specific organizations including Equal Access in Cambodia, Small World News TV, TechnoServe, One Economy Corporation, and Africa Youth Trust.

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Featured Case Study


Bubbly is a voice-blogging service for mobile phones where individuals and celebrities record voice updates heard by friends, family, fans and followers. Bubbly is like Twitter with a voice and is bringing social networking to mobile phones.  Bubbly's mobile operator partners include: Airtel, Vodafone, Turkcell, Digi, Indosat, AIS, CSL/New World Mobility.

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