Gaza Update: Mapping and Citizen Reporting Via SMS on Al Jazeera

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jan 03, 2009

Al Jazeera launched a new site today for citizens in Gaza to report incidences of various kinds in Gaza via SMS and Twitter. The deployment is using Ushahidi and Souktel's SMS gateway, one of the few able to deliver SMS in Gaza.  In this latest citizen journalism effort, Al Jazeera is both mapping reports from its own journalists and incidences reported by the public.  So far, there are few citizens texting in, however; the majority of the content consists of Al Jazeera news reports for now.  Al Jazeera and its new media team are doing a great job, however, in their labs  -- very impressive innovations coming from the Arab satellite news service and its New Media folks like Ryaad M, for example. 

I do love how the network worked.  I got an email over the holidays from Safdar Mustafa, head of the mobile media unit at Al Jazeera, asking me what platforms might work for SMS delivery in Gaza.  Mustafa was a speaker at MobileActive08 where he had done a session on Al Jazeera's mobile innovation and where I had met him.  He had already contacted Ushahidi (Disclosure: I sit on Ushahidi's advisory board) on Twitter but needed a scalable and reliable incoming SMS service with a local number in Gaza.  I connected him with Jacob Korenblum and his team from who are doing great work in Ramallah. I had the great pleasure of meeting Jacob at MobileActive08 as well. After looking at FrontlineSMS, Al Jazeera decided to go with the SMS gateway that Souktel operates, taking advantage of the local shortcode Souktel operates.

To report an incidence, Palestine on the Jawwal network can send a text message (starting with the word GAZA) to the number: 37191.  Anywhere else in the world, users can send a text message (starting with the word GAZA) to the number: +45609910303.

The deployment of Ushahidi by Al Jazeera also includes Microsoft's Virtual Earth, not Google Earth as in previous deployments of the tool.  It is also the first deployment in Arabic.  

I hope that with Al Jazeera's broadcasting prowess, it'll promote texting in of citizen reports, and that despite the lack of electricity currently, enough people in Gaza hear about the local number.  So far, I do not see any mention of the map on the Al Jazeera front page (neither the Arabic nor English sites), but trust that they will promote the site to begin augmenting their own news reports with reports from citizens on the ground.    

As a side note, Souktel has also offered its shortcode and gateway to any organization needing to send or receive text messages in Gaza for peaceful and humanitarian purposes.  Interested organizations should contact Souktel directly. 






Thank you for your continued timely write-ups. I caught the friendly back & forth between you and @riy -- nice to connect; nice to keep relationships growing -- plus a little smile, maybe even a chuckle doesn't hurt either.

You and your team, please keep up the great coverage in the Mobile World throughout 2009 and beyond!



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