As with other community radio models, the Star FM community owns, manages and determines the content for programs – and in this case it is a community of young people. It is important for Bulawayo Youth Broadcasting to encourage youth participation because, as Philani explained, “They are the future leaders. The youth are encouraged to participate as they know that these issues affect them directly.”
Freedom of information is often said to be heavily restricted in Zimbabwe. Kubatana is an organisation which aims to strengthen use of email and Internet in Zimbabwean NGOs and civil society organisations, in order to support human rights and access to information. They find many innovative ways to get information out, and to allow Zimbabwean citizens to share their views. We are proud to call Kubatana one of the longest standing users of FrontlineSMS, first using our software back in 2005. At the start of 2011 Kubatana’s latest use of FrontlineSMS demonstrates how text messaging can allow people to share their views and hopes for the future in Zimbabwe.
On 5th January Kubatana used FrontlineSMS to ask their email and SMS subscribers “What’s your resolution about how you’ll get involved in making change happen in 2011?” By the end of the day they had received 70+ responses. The most popular response from initial subscribers was that they would vote. This, of course, assumes there will be elections this year – nothing’s been officially announced, but rumours are suggesting an election for mid-year. Prayer was the next most popular response, with many subscribers saying they would pray for change this year (some of them said they are going to pray and vote). Other messages sent included plans for activities such as advocating for change, sharing information and standing up for human rights.
By the following week Kubatana had received another 150+ responses from subscribers about their resolutions for how they’ll make change in 2011. Vote, pray and advocate continue to be the most popular responses.
Many thanks to Kubatana for sharing this use of FrontlineSMS with us. Read some of the SMS resolutions Kubatana received below, and read more on Kubatana's blog.
Will put the best of my ability in all I have to do. Will participate in national issues in which my participation is required.
Advocate for peace building in preparation for elections thank u same to u
2010 was a bit challenging year if the Gvt can improve our living and salaries we feel better.
CHANGE MUST COME NOT NOW BUT YESTERDAY.WE MUST NOT BE INTIMIDATED BY STONE THROWERS BEHIND GLASS HOUSE.IF WE DON’T WORK FOR CHANGE ITS OUR GRAVE WE ARE DIGGING
To educate ALL ELIGIBLE people to register to vote and that it is their vote that wl speak for the FINAL AND DECISIVE time!
My x is the right change
A change shall come by putting words into action
Pray for good health and we will pull through
Make everyone to vote to make change
I will pray for the nation especially the Leadership
Firstly to continue to pray & i am encouraging young people to get ID’s & register to vote for their future.
Change is also my 1st resolution among others.
SAME TO YOU. MY RESOLUTIOM ABOUT BEING INVOLVED IN MAKING CHANGE HAPPEN IN 2011 IS TO PUT MY (X) IN THE RIGHT BOX CAME ELLECTION.
2011: To aim for success leading to great success (greatness without limits).
2 in courage as many pple as I can 2 go and vote for total CHANGE and make them 2 be strong 4 there rights!!!.
I will fill happy this year. I need to work as a one part kuti tikunde. this year i want to drive new minsters thank you happy new year
If elections do take place my vote will help change. is this wiki-leaks thing true?
kubatana! happy 2011 hop wil b able 2 make a beta zimbabwe this yr
I am going to make my voice heard through voting
Nothing much waiting 4 the election time.
2011 my vote will count it will call for change. Count it will towards a new political order. My vote will speak
I resolved: to preach against violence to encourage people to be registered voters and to stand for just at any given opportunity.
How can i make a change while i am jobless livng in country without a pasport
Am going to vote for the changing party if there are elections.Prayer is the GREAT CHANGER.
Start a child rights club in my community.fund raising for sports equipment&run a children’s talkshow
PUSH TOWARDS DEMOCRATIC PROCESSES THROUGH PUSHING ON VIOLNCE, ELECTION CONDUCIVE, IMPORTANCE OF ELECTIONS
Its now 2011, time for the new constitution and violence free election. I resolv 2 campaign for self defence of one’s statutory rights to achieve change.
International press interest may be on the wane following the heady heights of recent months, but the daily struggle continues for millions of people living in Zimbabwe. An inflation rate of over two million percent - usually a leading headline in itself - merely serves as a backdrop to the political manoeuvring taking place following the recent flawed presidential 'elections'.
It would be all too easy for people to lose hope, particularly in such a disempowering and disenfranchising environment dominated by fear, government harassment and a largely state controlled media which pushes out its own unique version of the truth. Freedom of speech is only freedom of speech when it comes with freedom from fear, something that many people don't yet have.
But hope, it turns out, is one of the few things many people still do have, and freedom of speech has found an ally in the humble mobile phone. I recently blogged about the use of mobile phones during the ongoing troubles, and highlighted the work of Kubatana.net, a grassroots organisation who have been pioneering the use of mobile technology in civil society work. Since 2005, Kubatana have been using a combination of kiwanja's FrontlineSMS platform, and a couple of other custom applications developed around the technology. Kubatana continue to use it, and continue to reach out to everyday Zimbabweans through the mobile channel - one of only a few available to them.
Back in April, at the height of the troubles, Kubatana asked everyday Zimbabweans: "What would you like a free Zimbabwe to look like?". Zimbabweans answered the call through their mobile phones, texting in their hopes for the future. Many people said that the question gave them hope in uncertain times.
Last week, while doubts lingered over the newly signed MDC/Zanu-PF deal, Kubatana reached out again to their SMS subscribers, asking them: "Kubatana! ZPF and both MDCs agree to talk to resolve crisis. Send yr thoughts on this & give us yr postal or email addr if u want a copy of their agreement". Zimbabweans responded with a range of comments and opinions, including:
The talks is good but MDC must be very clever - Zanu PF wants to swallow the MDC
Yes it’s a brilliant idea which shall help end crisis, poverty and all tribulations in Zimbabwe united we stand divided we fall Tsvangirai showed qualities of being a leader by agreeing to talk
Free and fair elections tomorrow with international observers!
It is long over due but we want justice
May be worth the effort but MDC must keep their eyes open. You can’t trust these guys. I agree with Tsvangirai that people have suffered enough
I believe it’s a good idea if they can reason together in order to solve this crisis. But they must recognise the results of the election done on 29 March
We don’t need masters, colonial or nationalist. We want public servants. So respect our votes of March 29. You asked for them
That’s better because we are suffering. We are stuck and something must be done to save the lives of Zimbabweans
The talks are okay but Mugabe must not lead the government & must step down
For as long as it is something that will result in the fulfilment of our wishes and solve our problems no hard feelings
I think it is a very bad idea for ZPF and MDCs to talk coz they are like water and oil as far as policies are concerned. What happened to ZAPU when it merged with ZPF? I dnt approve of the talks unless they start on the March 29 election which means MDC T would be the winner
No problem as long as the talks result in the formation of transitional authority & fresh, free & fair run-off being conducted thereafter
The talks are very important but MDC must not at all accept a gvt of national unity. They must go 4 a transitional gvt and pave way 4 fresh elections. Zanu PF plans 2 destroy MDC just as they did to ZAPU
In addition to direct comments and opinions, over 300 requests came in for the document to be posted to people, and over 200 for it to be emailed. This, according to Kubatana, is a small indication of just how starved most Zimbabweans are for news about their own country.
The numbers may not yet be huge, but mobiles are certainly beginning to make their mark.
What a week for FrontlineSMS. Activity was already on the rise - we're preparing for the launch of a new version of the software at Global Messaging 2008 in Cannes next month - but with news breaking this week on its use in Zimbabwe by Kubatana.net has come an additional flurry of press and user activity.
A number of Africa, technology and mobile blogs picked up on the latest report after I wrote about here earlier in the week. The sites quickest to the news included SmartMobs, Global Voices, DigiActive, Black Looks and Kabissa, with numerous other personal blogging sites continuing to link through.
Yesterday, a news item on "The World" also went out across public radio in the United States, where their Technology Correspondent interviewed kiwanja and Kubatana about how the software has been used in Zimbabwe. A three minute audio is available here (MP3, 2Mb).
Interestingly, this increase of interest has lead a number of sites to re-visit the use of FrontlineSMS in providing coffee prices to farmers, a subject I covered a couple of weeks earlier, here. The more notable sites to pick up on this has again been Global Voices, Ode Magazine and none-other than The Independent, who list kiwanja's blog entry on the subject among its "Pick of the Blogs" for 9th April ("From conception to replication").
All of this has lead to a flurry of activity from the non-profit community, with enquiries coming from far and wide - the United States, Cameroon, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, France and Uganda among many others. FrontlineSMS users around the world are slowly beginning to connect.
With so much already achieved with what is still technically the Beta release of the software, next month is very significant not only for FrontlineSMS, but also for the global NGO community who desperately need these kinds of tools in their work.
The future of Zimbabwe hangs on a knife edge this morning, as it seems to have done for the past week (or the past few years, depending on your perspective). Like many people with an interest in the country, and like many others with friends or relatives living and working there, I've been closely following events on TV and online. International news sites such as the BBC have been as good as ever, but I've also been spending increasing amounts of time on local sites which, I feel, often give a 'truer', more personal sense of what's going on. One of the best sites for this has been Kubatana.net Back in the summer of 2006 I was fortunate to spend three weeks in Zimbabwe working with them. A local NGO seeking to promote human rights and good governance, Kubatana were the very first users of FrontlineSMS when it launched back in 2005, starting a trend which has seen the software used for similar activities in a number of other countries around the world. In their own words, FrontlineSMS finally opened up the possibilities for text messaging in their work, and I knew they had plans to use it during the 2008 elections. This is what they've been doing.
In addition to their SMS election line (promoted on their home page, above), they have been running a "What would you like a free Zimbabwe to look like?" initiative. Zimbabweans have been incredibly responsive, with many people saying that the question gave them hope in uncertain times. According to Kubatana:
It's also been a real learning experience for us, reminding us that ordinary Zimbabweans have a wealth of good ideas to contribute, and our political and civic leadership must work on building a more participatory environment
A combination of SMS and email were used in the initiative, with text messages such as "Kubatana! No senate results as at 5.20 pm. What changes do YOU want in a free Zim? Lets inspire each other. Want to know what others say? SMS us your email addr" sent out to their mobile subscriber lists. FrontlineSMS was used to blast the messages out, and then used collect responses which were then distributed via an electronic newsletter and on the Kubatana Community Blog (see below).
According to Kubatana, "Without FrontlineSMS we would not have been able to process the volume of responses we have received, and we would not have been able to establish a two-way SMS communications service in the way that we have".
In the event of a Presidential run-off, Kubatana plan to produce a broadsheet with the feedback they've received from Zimbabweans in order to remind them what each other wanted, and to inspire them to go out and vote (again). After the election, they hope to produce a booklet with a page on some of these ideas and include an editor's comment, a cartoon or even a set of postcards carrying the most unique, original and practical ideas.
Unlike the Nigerian elections, where FrontlineSMS was used as a monitoring tool, in Zimbabwe it has been effectively used to mobilise and inform civil society during and after the election process. In both cases, the real success story has been the NGOs themselves - NMEM in Nigeria and Kubatana in Zimbabwe - who have both demonstrated the power of mobile technology in civil society initiatives, and what can be done when the right tools make it into the hands that need them the most.