Citizen Media

Scenes from Amman: Mobiles and Mapping

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Dec 15, 2009

"Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action," a workshop co-hosted by and UNICEF Innovation in Amman, Jordan, featured Ignite Talks -- five minute presentations by inspiring people who are using mobiles for social action -- and interviews with key participants.

Igniting the attendees, Brian Herbert presented Ushahidi, a crowdsourcing platform that allows users to map crisis information from their mobiles. In an interview, JD Godchaux discussed NiJeL: Community Impact Through Mapping, which helps organizations share information and tell stories through maps.

The Big Thaw: Charting a New Future for Journalism

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Dec 07, 2009
The Big Thaw: Charting a New Future for Journalism data sheet 2796 Views
Tony Deifell
Publication Date: 
Jun 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

As the business and editorial structures that have historically sustained media melt away, new innovations in reporting and monetization are rapidly reforming the business. But a key question remains: Can media producers adapt and lead, or will they disappear with Journalism’s Ice Age? The Media Consortium (TMC), a network of the country's leading progressive, independent media outlets, commissioned this research and strategy project to ask: Who produces it, what the audience wants, and how they want to consume it. Media organizations must match their production and delivery strategies to new consumer demand, technology and business models.  The research covers three areas: 


  • Vol. 1: Dissonance & Opportunity: Summarizes and outlines a strategic framework that enables independent media to build a shared vision for the future.
  • Vol. 2: New & Emerging Realities: Four main questions are explored. How is the landscape changing? What new capabilities are needed to succeed? What needs can be met, problems solved or desires fulfilled to create value? How are media organizations structured to capture this value?
  • Vol. 3: The Future?: Surfaces key uncertainties to consider and future possibilities that may further change the game in coming years.


Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Dec 07, 2009

We will be blogging and twittering this week from a workshop we are co-hosting on Innovations in Mobile Data Collection for Social Action in Amman, Jordan.

Co-hosted by UNICEF’s country office in Iraq, UNICEF Innovation, and, this three-day gathering is bringing invited experts from around the world together to explore some of the key issues related to using mobiles for data collection and analysis of some of the toughest social issues.

Why are we hosting this event?

With the ubiquity of mobile technology, data collection and monitoring of key indicators from the ground up by affected populations is now possible. Mobile technology in the hands of people can now be more than a person-to-person communication medium but can be used for capturing, classifying and transmitting image, audio, location and other data, interactively or autonomously.

India Bans Pre-Paid Mobiles in Kashmir - Security or Suppression?

Posted by samdupont on Nov 11, 2009

This post was written by Sam duPont of NDN and the New Policy Institute, and is cross-posted at Global Mobile.

For eight years, the Indian government dragged its feet until, in 2003, it finally permitted mobile phones in conflict-torn Kashmir. Intelligence officials had feared that Kashmiri and Pakistani militants would use the phones to plan attacks on Indian army outposts throughout the region, but in '03 they relaxed the ban, and the past six years have been the most peaceful since the conflict began in 1989. Causation? Probably not. But correlation, anyway.

India Bans Pre-Paid Mobiles in Kashmir - Security or Suppression? data sheet 3569 Views
Countries: India

Rede Jovem: Wikimapa

Posted by CorinneRamey on Nov 07, 2009
Rede Jovem: Wikimapa data sheet 6508 Views

In the favelas, or slums, of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, unnamed streets meander through the hillsides. There are hospitals, coffee shops and restaurants, none of which appear on a map, and mail carriers struggle to get letters to homes without addresses.

A new project by Rede Jovem, a Brazilian nonprofit that loosely translates to "Youth Net," seeks to change that.  With the help of five young "wiki-reporters" and GPS-equipped mobile phones, the nonprofit is building a map of five Brazilian favelas: Complexo do Alemão, Cidade de Deus, Morro do Pavão-Pavãozinho, Morro Santa Marta and Complexo da Maré.  By uploading information to the phones, the reporters are mapping the unmapped, one road and cafe at a time.

Basic Information
Organization involved in the project?: 
Project goals: 

The project seeks to map low-income areas surrounding Rio de Janeiro.

Brief description of the project: 

This project uses citizen reporters to map favelas in Rio de Janeiro.

Target audience: 

The current reporters are between the ages of 17 and 25, and the maps are aimed at anyone who lives in the five favelas.

Detailed Information
Length of Project (in months) : 
What worked well? : 

Using the N95s has worked well.  The phones have good photos and video, and Santos said that the reporters have been able to successfully upload content to the maps directly from their phones.  Having female reporters has also worked, and shopkeepers or others being mapped have been receptive to requests for information.

What did not work? What were the challenges?: 

The most challenging part of the project was developing the mobile application.  The organization is still working to develop versions for other operating systems.  Having a long-term, sustainable budget is also challenging.  The project was unsuccessful in getting grants from Nokia -- they bought the phones themselves -- and currently doesn't have any money to sustain the project beyond December.  Because the project doesn't actually make money, they are dependent on grants and its unlikely to be scalable or sustainable.

Mobiles Hidden in Monks' Robes

Posted by admin on Nov 04, 2009

This article was written by Emily Jacobi from Digital Democracy. We are publishing her extensive report on Burmese dissidents' use of technology in three parts. Names of individuals in this account have been changed to protect their identity. 

Burma – a modern anomaly

In September 2007, Buddhist clergy in the Southeast Asian nation of Burma (also known as Myanmar) led hundreds of thousands of citizens in peaceful protest against the ruling military regime. Armed with camera phones and limited internet access, they coordinated the largest protests the country had seen in 19 years, and broadcast the story to the outside world. These tools proved so threatening that the Burmese government responded by shutting off all Internet and mobile phone communications for five days. Why is this significant?

Globally, mobile phone penetration has reached an estimated 4.6 billion subscribers by the end of 2009, more than half the world’s population. Yet in Burma, mobile phone usage remains the exception rather than the rule. Government-imposed barriers and prohibitive prices have kept mobile penetration to approximately 1% of the population, a rate comparable to Internet access in the country.

Burma’s technological isolation accompanies the country’s greater political isolation. Ruled by a military dictatorship since 1962, the nation has become increasingly estranged from the global community. Even the name, changed from Burma to Myanmar by the military government in 1989, is disputed around the world as well as among Burmese political groups. Economic sanctions have been leveled against the country by the US and EU for its human rights abuses, and The Economist ranked Burma163 out of 167 countries in its 2008 Democracy Index.

Burma’s ruling military junta does maintain business deals with neighboring countries including China and Thailand, but the nation lags far behind its neighbors economically and technologically.  While there were only 610,000 mobile users in the country at the end of 2008 (1% of the population), India and China were expected to account for a quarter of global mobile penetration – approximately 1 billion subscriptions - by the beginning of the year, according to the ITU. In neighboring Thailand, meanwhile, approximately 92% of the population is covered by mobile telephony.

Compared to its neighbors, Burma’s mobile access seems woefully behind. Despite this, mobiles have played a critical role in crisis moments, such as the monk-led protests in 2007 and in coordinating recovery from the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in May 2008.  Additionally, mobile availability in neighboring countries has been effectively harnessed by Burmese groups operating in the bordering countries, where an estimated 3.5 million Burmese have been displaced.

Briefing: Twitter against Tyrants - New Media in Authoritarian Regimes

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Nov 04, 2009
Briefing: Twitter against Tyrants - New Media in Authoritarian Regimes data sheet 2578 Views
Transcript of a briefing. Witnesses: Daniel Calingaert, Nathan Freitas, Evgeny Morozov, Chris Spence, Chiyu Zhou
Publication Date: 
Oct 2009
Publication Type: 

The Helsinki Commission is an organization monitoring the implementation of the Helsinki Accords, the Helsinki Final Act across 56 participating states.  The Commission monitors freedom of media.  This briefing considers the ways in which new media and Internet communication technologies affect the balance of power between human rights activists and authoritarian governments. Panelists focus on new media’s role in protests and elections, the ways in which it empowers civil society activists, and the darker side: how dictators use new technology to control and repress their citizens.

Digital Media in Conflict-Prone Societies

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Oct 22, 2009
Digital Media in Conflict-Prone Societies data sheet 3149 Views
Ivan Sigal
Publication Date: 
Oct 2009
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

The complex relationship between media and conflict is longstanding. Traditional mass media have been used to amplify and extend viewpoints and ideologies, to persuade audiences at home, and to influences opposing sides in conflict. However, both media and conflict have changed markedly in recent years. Many 21st century wars are not only about holding territory, but about gaining public support and achieving legal status in the international arena. Governments seek to hold onto power through persuasion as much as through force. Media are increasingly essential elements of conflict, rather than just functional tools for those fighting. At the same time, newer media technologies have increased communication and information dissemination in the context of conflict. In particular, the growth of citizen media has changed the information space around conflict, providing more people with the tools to record and share their experiences with the rest of the world.

Mobile Citizen Project Launches: Incubator Fund for Mobile Projects in Latin America

Posted by CorinneRamey on Oct 20, 2009

The Mobile Citizen Project, which aims to fund and support mobile initiatives for social change in Latin America, launches today. The program is a project of the Science and Technology Division of the Inter-American Development Bank, with the support of the Italian Trust Fund for Information and Communication Technology for Development. is a media partner, powering the Program's "Ideas Box."

According to the project's press release, the "Mobile Citizen Program aims to accelerate the development and implementation of mobile services to address acute social and economic problems. We will provide support to develop citizen-centric solutions that target low-income groups in urban and rural areas of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region."

Citizen Logistics

Posted by groundcrew on Oct 02, 2009

At Citizen Logistics, we’re developing new game-like ways of working, volunteering, finding assistance, and having a good time. Anyone can play, and you get points for making other people’s dreams come true. Our software will let you find cool things to do, build teams, and connect people with jobs and resources, all via the text messaging capability of your cell phone.

We are a Common Good Corporation.

Organization Type: 
United States
Postal code: 

Journalism Teachers Get Mobil-ised

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Sep 21, 2009

This post was originally published at MediaShift by Guy Berger, Rhodes University. Republished under Creative Commons licensed here. Thank you, Guy!

Online computers, Africans do not have. Cellphones are a different story.

So why aren't journalism schools around the continent integrating the use of mobile devices fully and squarely into their courses? It's a question that could also apply in many other places - even in media dense environments.

Answers - and solutions - to this challenge were forthcoming in Grahamstown, South Africa, last week, when MobileActive's Katrin Verclas - a Knight grantee - ran a workshop with a selection of African journalism teachers at Rhodes University.

Setting up a SMS-Blog in South Africa: Hectic

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Sep 16, 2009

South Africans use the word hectic to mean anything from cool, crazy, fun, to stressful. I mean hectic as the last sense of the word when I describe my efforts to accomplish a fairly simple goal in South Africa: set up a blog that I could update via SMS for a quick demo.

In the US

If I had tried to do this in the US, I would have had a myriad of possibilities, some good, and some bad. I will go through these possibilities to show the scope of what could be available in many countries, but isn't.

Calling in for Content: Freedom Fone

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Sep 14, 2009

(This is part of a series of posts reporting on mobile media project from Highway Africa 2009 and Digital Citizen Indaba 4.0. Both were held in Grahamstown, South Africa, September 2009).

Brenda Burrell of in Zimbabwe runs Freedom Fone, an audio tool for information services. She presented Freedom Fone in a workshop titled “Bringing down the barriers: Interactive audio programming and mobile phones” at Digital Citizen Indaba 4.0.

FreedomFone comes from the desire to deliver information to “those who need it most,” people with simple phones without GPRS connections. Freedom Fone integrates a content management system (such as Drupal) with information services via SMS and voice.


Posted by wildneil on Sep 09, 2009

WildKnowledge (WK) are a spin out company from Oxford Brookes University in the UK. WK enables members to create and share mobile recording forms (WildForm), decision trees (WildKey), maps (WildMap) and diagrams (WildImage). These tools enable the user to make informed decisions in the field and gather good quality data. This collated data can then be uploaded and shared as part of collaborative projects. Most of our members are UK school children and students, we are keen to explore new areas both geographically and contextually. All WK applications are wep apps and can work on any device with a web browser from a mobile device to a laptop (functionality will vary according to browser's capabilities).

Organization Type: 
United Kingdom

Citizen Journalism: The Newsroom Question

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Sep 02, 2009

Traditional news media is a changing industry and conversations discussing the future of news media as it transforms itself abound.  What is the future of the newsroom in citizen journalism?, an organization that is devoted to bringing public policy into conversation about the future of news media, hosted a forum in late August where former staff of Rocky Mountain News and journalists from around Denver fielded a host of questions regarding the future of news media. Below are a few highlights of the conversation (transcript available in full here).


Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Sep 01, 2009

We founded Veeker to help you make video and picture messaging a part of your everyday life. Introducing Veeker 2.0, the world's first messaging service designed for video and picture messaging on mobile phones and the Web. It's a unique and powerful combination of the management and archival capabilities of email systems, the fun and vitality of video and picture sharing sites, and the immediacy of mobile messaging. Using Veeker, you and anyone you know can exchange video and picture messages on mobile phones, email, profile pages and blogs, and, of course, The service is free, incredibly simple to use, works on most any phone in most every country, and requires no download or install.

Organization Type: 

The News has been Coming, and the Mobile Media Team is excited

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Aug 26, 2009

As I've mentioned, the Mobile Media Toolkit team will be attending the upcoming Highway Africa conference.

We are excited to meet up with Harry Dugmore and Guy Berger at Rhodes University who have been behind the Lindaba Ziyafika ("The News is Coming") project. The project, motivated by a desire to reach young people in Grahamstown, has taken Grahamstown's newspaper and enabled it for mobile-based citizen contributions.

Wiki Journalism:

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Aug 20, 2009 is a platform for the kind of journalism that has many names: hyperlocal journalism, citizen journalism, wiki journalism. Rachel Sterne's idea is to have a website where anyone can just sign up and submit articles, and become an instant citizen reporter.  Submitted content goes through a plagiarism filter and a group of editors will edit before any content goes live.

Based on the number of hits and the ranking of the author, good articles get filtered to the front page, and the hope is that bad articles will stay at bay with bad rankings and scarcely any hits. Contributors are compensated based on article rankings but compensation averages only a few cents.

Screenshot from

Press Banned on Reporting Violence, and a Citizen Reporting Tool for Afghan Elections

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Aug 19, 2009

Af the Afghani elections are coming up this week, there are a projects focusing on the election and citizen media coverage that we like to note.

First, as Taliban has intensified violence and has threatened to disrupt the elections and "kill those who vote," the Afghani government has called for reporters to avoid coverage of violence  so that Afghanis aren't scared away from polling stations. Meanwhile, associations such as the Independent Journalist Association of Afghanistan have refused to take the order and has promised to continue reporting. The ban on reporting is phrased as a "request" in English, and as "strictly forbidden" in Dari (good synopsis of ban and violence here).

Afghani Journalists Gear up for Elections

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Aug 17, 2009

As Afghanistan's second democratic elections nears on August 20th, journalists are gearing up for fair and accurate reporting. The NGO Nai and the media development organization Internews have trained journalists and civil society workers over the past few months in fair and accurate reporting. Training includes, according to Internews, "active learning practices, the understanding of regulatory information on all aspects of the elections, and the importance of fair reportage."

Avaaj Otalo - A Voice-Based Community Forum

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Aug 17, 2009
Avaaj Otalo - A Voice-Based Community Forum data sheet 21152 Views

In places such as rural India, small-scale farmers struggle to meet the challenges of fierce global competition, increasing costs of farm inputs, water shortages, and new diseases and pests brought on by a changing climate. To deal with these challenges, information has become a critical input to farming operations: faced with rapidly changing conditions, farmers need market information, timely technical advice, and alerts on new and improved techniques. There are currently few sources for reliable, timely knowledge. Television and radio have achieved remarkable penetration in rural areas and stand as an effective means of information dissemination. However, without a platform to discuss, debate, and relate personal experience, information is not actionable.

Basic Information
Organization involved in the project?: 
Project goals: 

In places such as rural India, small-scale farmers struggle to meet the challenges of fierce global competition, increasing costs of farm inputs, water shortages, and new diseases and pests brought on by a changing climate. To deal with these challenges, information has become a critical input to farming operations: faced with rapidly changing conditions, farmers need market information, timely technical advice, and alerts on new and improved techniques. There are currently few sources for reliable, timely knowledge. Television and radio have achieved remarkable penetration in rural areas and stand as an effective means of information dissemination. However, without a platform to discuss, debate, and relate personal experience, information is not actionable.

Social software - email, blogs, wikis, forums, and social networks - has revolutionized how people learn and share expertise on the web, but the Internet and its associated access technologies (broadband connectivity, PCs) are out of reach for much of rural India. Even if Internet-connected PCs were available, widespread usage is constrained by language and literacy barriers. But while computers are unaffordable or unfamiliar to rural communities, mobile phones are not.

Brief description of the project: 

Avaaj Otalo is a "voice-based community forum" that connects farmers in Gujarat, India to relevant and timely agricultural information over the phone. Farmers call up a phone number, and then navigate through audio prompted menus to ask questions, listen to answers to similar questions, and listen to archives of a popular radio program for Gujarati farmers. The number farmers can call is toll-free.

Target audience: 

Farmers in Gujarat, India. Current pilot is focused on 80 farmers, but expanding to include 50,000 farmers all throughout Gujarat.

Detailed Information
Mobile Tools Used: 
What worked well? : 

First and foremost, Avaaj Otalo has extended a one-way radio broadcast program into a community forum, where users can input questions, and even answer questions from others. DSC records its radio broadcasts offline and sends it to the radio station for broadcast, so a way to input questions was not available before Avaaj Otalo.

Avaaj Otalo's audio portal started with a lot of content--DSC's radio broadcast archives. Neil Patel, developer for Avaaj Otalo thinks this was crucial in building user base, as it provided useful information for initial information--and bootstrapped the availability of informative content on the portal. Being tightly coupled with a radio broadcast also means that as Avaaj Otalo expands, it will have a readily available mouthpiece and advertisement mechanism to grow its user base.

The idea of the community audio forum was also well-liked by farmers. While they often wanted their questions answered by authoritative sources (NGO workers), they liked listening to the questions that other farmers had, and suggestions from these farmers even if the credibility could not automatically be established.

What did not work? What were the challenges?: 

The pilot has gone well. As Avaaj Otalo expands, here are the challenges that will be have to overcome:

  • Cost. The service is currently toll-free, and DSC pays for all use of the system. As the system grows, however, this is likely to get expensive and unmaintainable. Moreover, demand is bound to change when cost is introduced. So DSC needs to find an appropriate way to distribute costs among farmers, the telecommunications operators, and itself to achieve sustainability.
  • There is also a question of usability as the system and the amount of content grows. As more and more farmers call in, it might become challenging for an individual farmer to listen to his/her question’s answer—he/she would have to wait through all the questions that have been asked more recently—and to find questions that pertain to his locality and growing patterns. Information will need to be categorized and presented in some organized manner.

When Radio Meets Mobile in Pakistan

Posted by CorinneRamey on Aug 13, 2009

In Pakistan even the cheapest mobile phones, those without cameras or other advanced features, come with the ability to listen to FM radio. Every day, and especially during cricket matches, people walk around the streets with their phones pressed to their ears, tuned into their local stations, says Huma Yusuf, a journalist based in Pakistan.

Radio and ICT in West Africa: Connectivity and Use

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Aug 11, 2009
Radio and ICT in West Africa: Connectivity and Use data sheet 2953 Views
Malick Ndiaye, Kwami Ahiabenu II, Abdourahame Ousmane, Hippolyte Djiwan, et. al
Publication Date: 
Oct 2008
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Radio remains the most appropriate communication medium for social and development communication in Africa. This study consists of carrying out a base-line study of West African radio connectivity to ICT (internet, satellite, computer, digital storage tools, etc.), analyzing the uses implemented, identifying the constraints and opportunities, and making recommendations to the different stakeholders.

The study concentrates on seven (7) targeted countries (Ghana, Benin, Senegal, Mali, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso & Niger) and concerns all radio stations (public, community, commercial and religious). Two hundred and twenty (220) radio stations took part in the survey. The main tools of research used were questionnaires, interviews and documentary analysis.

The results reveal that overall the average rate of access to the internet by radio stations in the seven (7) countries studied is 51.8 %, with a large disparity according to the country and type of radio. Indeed, while the rate of connectivity is 72.2% for private commercial radio on the one hand, it is limited to 31.5%
for community or non-profit making radio. On the other hand, at a country-wide level, Ghanaian radio has a 93.5% connectivity rate, Senegalese radio 89.7%, whilst only 20% of radio stations in Sierra Leone are connected. In Ghana and Senegal, nearly all commercial radio stations are connected. In addition, 72.7% of Senegalese community radio stations have access to the internet (75% of them have an ADSLline), in contrast to only 8.3% of Nigerien community stations.

The rate of connectivity for all radio stations in Burkina Faso, Benin and Mali, is 61.5%, 55% and 34% respectively. It is thanks to ADSLtechnology that the majority of stations in the sub-region are connected, in particular Senegal, where more than 92 % of stations have access to the worldwide network. As illustrated by the cost of internet access, in certain countries internet use has become more and more accessible, but is limited to regions with good infrastructure.

The strong mobile phone penetration on the continent allows stations to use it as an indispensable tool for reporting and communicating with listeners; this has contributed to today’s large number of radio listeners.
Even though around seventy (70) radio websites have been identified (the majority of them with domain names matching the names of the stations), their presence remains minimal and precarious on the internet. In most countries, live broadcasts on the internet are very unstable (streaming is usually inaccessible) or non-existent, despite being advertised. In addition, a large number of websites have very few - or even no - content.

Mobile value-added services, in particular SMS, used by 83.8% of stations surveyed, have had great success amongst the local population. These new services are considered important tools of interaction between radio stations and listeners and are also a potential source of substantial revenue for radio business.

Convergence between ICTs and radio has brought about results including new multi-use supports which contribute to making radio programmes accessible everywhere throughout the world, and whose coverage, until recently was limited by FM transmitter capacity.  The study has shown that in the countries concerned, training in ICTs is not done regularly. In fact, a quarter of the radio stations surveyed stated that their employees have never followed any training. This explains the low level of ICT skills which greatly limits the development of digital products and services in radio stations. Due either to a lack of information or familiarity with ICT, it has also been observed that there is some confusion between free and proprietary software, and even about what kind of internet connection the radio station has.

How Connected are West African Radio Stations? How Mobile?

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Aug 11, 2009

Panos Institute West Africa released a report in October 2008 exploring the connectivity of West African Radio Stations to the Internet, and their use of other information and communication technology including integration with mobile. The report presents results of a survey that was conducted in 220 radio stations in Ghana, Benin, Senegal, Mali, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

Radio, which "remains the most appropriate communication medium for social and development communication in Africa", does not have great online presence, but has higher use of mobile phone technology. The results vary drastically with type of radio station and the country it is operating in.

Some data from the report:

Saving (or destroying) public radio on a mobile phone

Posted by CorinneRamey on Jul 27, 2009

Is the iPhone app Public Radio Player the good guy or the bad? The critics aren't so sure. Marshall Kirkpatrick's post on ReadWriteWeb, "How One iPhone App Could Save Public Radio" took the superhero stance, but Rafat Ali opted for the villain with "Public Radio Dangerously Close To Making Public Radio Obsolete" on

Public Radio Player, the new version of the old Public Radio Tuner, is a free application that allows users to access over 300 public radio stations across the United States. With a few swipes to the screen of an iPhone or iPod Touch, users can listen to live shows or recorded podcasts from locations of their choice.