Banking on the PhoneTipping Point | August 24, 2012
We’re combing the country to find examples of intelligent, scalable...
Citizen journalism is exploding, thanks to technology in our lives. With smartphones, tablet computers, social networks, and WiFi at our disposal, many of us can see something happen and report on it immediately. And one organization in India is empowering citizen journalists to report from everywhere — even isolated tribal and low-literate regions.
Accessibility for Everyone
CGNet Swara launched in February 2010 as part of the Knight International Journalism Fellowship, awarded by the International Center for Journalists. It targets many of the 80 million members of India’s tribal communities who lack access to any mainstream media outlets. In many cases, the lack of connectivity poses a serious barrier to their socioeconomic development, as there is no outlet to express grievances about government neglect and economic exploitation. In other cases, factions (such as the Maoist insurgency) express their frustration and isolation violently.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and additional volunteers provide technical support for the voice-based portable, which is freely accessible via even the most basic mobile phone. The system empowers many illiterate and tribal individuals to make their voices heard and to listen to reports from others. To use it, they simply dial a phone number from any mobile or fixed-line phone and record a message, which is reviewed and verified by professional, trained journalists. Once approved, the message is made available for playback over the phone or online to any interested party.
An Opportunity to Create Change
During the period from its launch in February 2010 until May 2011, CGNet Swara received more than 37,000 phone calls and published 750 reports. Many of these reports have been picked up by the mainstream media and several have created great change, including:
The Future of Citizen Journalism in Remote Regions
CGNet Swara has made a tremendous impact upon thousands in low-literate and tribal regions. It hopes to scale the service within India — and eventually beyond — to create a vibrant ecosystem of citizen news reports that are universally accessible via low-cost mobile phones. It also offers guidance to other organizations looking to establish similar services around the world.
Can you think of other examples where citizen journalists have created change? What possibilities do you see for the future of CGNet Swara, or similar systems?
In the face of lackluster public education, even poor families turn to private education. By scrimping and saving, many can afford “cheap” private school—and this is often the only way to obtain a quality education. In fact, private schools flourish in rural or low-income areas. The World Absenteeism Survey found that they were more likely found in villages in India where the public system was lacking.