The Web is by far the most powerful tool to connect voices across vast distance. It is also the forum in which all people are free to comment, muse, share and collaborate freely. As trusted sources of timely, relevant information are often difficult to find among rural populations, the Web is able to bridge the divide between existing media outlets and any community's citizens to foster more rapid collection, delivery, and dissemination of information. Given the rise in mobile phone use in rural areas, where often community members rely solely on their local radio station for information, the Web Foundation has been working with community radios in Mali in effort to broaden the sourcing of information and improve the level of service such stations provide to their communities.
- Project: Foroba Blon-Voice-based Citizen Journalism
- Summary: Introducing new and innovative voice technologies that will enable anybody with simple phones to become citizen journalists and access Web-based information, and support community radio stations to access and broadcast live content stored on the Web, without requiring computers or Internet connectivity.
- Funder:International Press Institute
- Partners: The Web Foundation, VU University Amsterdam, and Sahel Eco.
- Status: Started in December 2011, and running until November 2012
- A mobile-accessible voice and Web service platform for news. The platform's software will be open-sourced, and its design published freely published.
- A voice news service operating in Mali to validate the platform and showcase its replicability in any region of the world.
Community radio stations in Africa are an essential, and often the only, source of information for people living in rural regions. They serve as hubs of information, relays of news, and community knowledge sharing agents. Limited infrastructure among rural populations severely inhibits the interaction between radio stations and their listeners, as well as with journalists in the field, and results in delayed information delivery. The recent increase of mobile phone use in rural areas is now offering new opportunities to involve all members of the community with their local radio station, and increase the quality of the service as well as the usefulness of the radio. The aim of this project is to exploit this new potential, and enable all members of the community, including those from the diaspora, to access and contribute to news and information on the radio.
This project is based on new and innovative voice technologies that enable people with the simplest phone to access Web-based information, independently of their reading skills, their language or their education level. It also allows community radio stations to access and broadcast live content stored on the Web, without requiring computers or Internet connectivity. The Web Foundation envisions that building a mobile-accessible voice news platform will enable:
- journalists to deliver and retrieve news from remote areas. Providing access via low-end mobile phones, the platform will enable anybody to become a citizen journalist, including inhabitants of remote rural areas, by allowing those wishing to share local news or local knowledge to quickly transmit information;
- community radio stations to access and manage news stories sent by journalists and citizens, and broadcast them without being limited by distance or access to traditional news and information providers;
- individuals and organizations in rural areas to access and contribute news stories via more channels, through community radio stations or by directly calling the voice news platform itself;
- enhanced opportunities for sharing knowledge between geographically distant communities in domains of shared interest (e.g. agricultural innovation knowledge with respect to farmer-managed natural regreening in the Sahel countries, an important area of current local and international collaboration);
- extended possibilities for interested people outside the rural localities (including family members working elsewhere, and more broadly the diaspora) to have access and contribute to the news through the Web facilities provided by the voice news platform.
Started in December 2011, and running until November 2012.
Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam
International Press Institute