UPDATE: 18 June 2013 According to the Mobilisation Lab, this is now a World Record-breaking garbage clean-up! Congratulations everyone! FrontlineSMS has had a strong connection with environmental issues since our Founder had the initial spark of an idea while working on an anti-poaching project in South Africa. We're delighted to be able to host Een Irawan Putra of KPC Bogor and the Indonesia Nature Film Society to our blog, to share how he used FrontlineSMS in Indonesia to invite he community to help clean up the garbage clogging the Ciliwung River.
The landscape of NTT is largely rugged and infertile with a short and intense wet season. In this environment subsistence farming, the predominant livelihood, is marginal with many communities experiencing periods of hunger through the dry season. The provision of services to the rural population is difficult because there the few roads are generally of poor quality and frequently impassible in the wet season due to flooding or landslides. For many accessing health services requires walking long distances and the use of public transport where available. It is not uncommon for people in need of emergency care to be carried by a group of villagers to a point where road transport is available.
The below post and videos are were originally produced by Internews, and based on projects done in collaboration with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and RuaiTV. In Indonesia, rural farmers and environmental advocates are using mobiles to report, connect, and raise awareness of their issues. Two videos show how networks of citizens can mobilize through communication and collaborate with local media outlets to change the practices of palm oil corporations, which dominate industry in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.
“When I face conflict while negotiating with the company, I send an SMS to encourage the people to support me. ‘Let’s go to the company altogether, let’s push them,’” says Hendrik, the leader of a palm oil farmers’ cooperative, who uses FrontlineSMS to communicate with the cooperative after participating in a citizen journalism training. “Every time there is a problem, I just inform the farmers and have their backup. I feel so courageous with their support,” he said.
Ruai TV, a television station, has engaged rural farmers to send reports to them, which the station can verify and add as a news crawl to their broadcasts, or expand into full video news reports.
“The impact of the citizen journalism is extraordinary,” said Alim, a Ruai TV producer, who explained that the citizen reporters allow the TV station to cover the issues, even though they have limited staff, and that in turn the station helps the rural farmers have a stronger voice.
The reporting has had results. Following one story produced by Ruai TV, the local palm oil company agreed to repair a road that had long been a source of contention with the community.
Internews worked closely with Knight International Journalism Fellow Harry Surjadi, RuaiTV and the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) to deliver technical workshops, provide infrastructure support and conduct research on the FrontlineSMS-based citizen journalist SMS news wire.
Internews also worked with Surjadi and local technical partner AirPutih to introduce interactive voice response technologies to West Kalimantan’s rural farmers and environmental advocates. Internews facilitated a technical collaboration between AirPutih and SwaraIVR – an open source IVR system that was developed in India by another Knight International Journalism Fellow, Shubhranshu Choudhary.
The IVR workshop held in the provincial capital Pontianak and attended by local citizen journalists, farmers and NGO representatives demonstrated how the mobile phone’s keypad could be used to leave messages and access voice-based information, providing another channel for increasing local voices and improving information flows in remote Indonesia.
The Internews Center for Innovation & Learning experiments with, captures and shares innovative approaches to communication from around the world.
Thank you to Internews for giving us permission to re-post this content on our blog. The original post can be found here.
This post was originally shared here on Media Shift's Idea Lab blog. By Flo Scialom, FrontlineSMS Community Support Coordinator
So much can be said in 160 characters. As we've started to look at tailoring FrontlineSMS software for journalists, we've realized just how much potential there is to use text messaging as a news source.
As FrontlineSMS's community support coordinator, I interact every day with people and organizations that are using SMS in innovative ways. Increasingly, I've come across uses of FrontlineSMS as a journalistic tool, and this is particularly exciting for us as we embark on building new mobile tools to help increase media participation in hard-to-reach communities.
FrontlineSMS is a free and open-source tool, so its most interesting uses have always come from motivated, engaged users who discover and experiment with ways to use SMS to improve what they do. When we talk about using SMS for journalism, some people immediately jump into thinking about how they could cram an entire newspaper into 160 characters. Obviously, that would be a bit tight. What our users have found, however, is that there are lots of ways to use shorter communication to enable effective journalism.
In fact, FrontlineSMS users regularly demonstrate how a wealth of information can fit into 160 characters. It's through the creative ingenuity of our users that the impact of using SMS as a news sharing tool really comes to life. The following are some examples of our users that answer the question: What difference can SMS make for the media? Read More
TEXTING INTO RADIO SHOWS
Equal Access is an innovative organization focused on using media and technology to help support development. In Chad and Niger, Equal Access runs interactive community radio shows that feature topics such as politics and religion and discuss how to overcome community tensions. With listeners keen to discuss these topics, Equal Access needs an accessible way to manage regular audience interaction. FrontlineSMS enables users to manage large numbers of incoming and outgoing SMS, providing the ability to view multiple messages on-screen, set up auto-replies, and divide contacts into groups depending on their interests. Using these functions, Equal Access sets up a way for audiences to text into its radio shows, and is able to effectively manage incoming audience text messages while on-air.
The Equal Access team talked about the value of this in a guest post on our blog, saying, "We use FrontlineSMS to create interaction ... and this shows listeners that they are being heard. In closed communities, or those struggling with violence or intolerance, the act of engaging in an interactive dialogue ... can help people feel engaged and included."
Equal Access' use of SMS demonstrates that 160 characters can be enough to enable audience engagement. And it's not just radio audiences that engage in this way (although the combination of radio and SMS is prominent, as seen through our work on FrontlineSMS:Radio).
RAISING AIDS AWARENESS
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, SMS has been used to engage opinions from audiences of a television drama broadcast called "Rien que la Vérité" (meaning "Nothing but the Truth"). One of the aims of this broadcast, which isn't just your standard entertaining drama, is to raise awareness and challenge stereotypes on HIV/AIDS. Viewers of "Rien que la Vérité" were given the option to interact with the show's producers via text message. In this case, hearing from the audience via SMS helped demonstrate whether opinions on HIV/AIDs are being affected by the show's content.
For both Equal Access and "Rien que la Vérité," using FrontlineSMS software enables more efficient audience interaction, making text messages easier to manage, respond to, and analyze.
Ongoing audience interaction is clearly important, and in today's changing media landscape the audience is now a major news provider, too. Even in areas where there's no Internet connection -- where the power of social media has yet to reach -- citizen journalists are still playing a key role in the production of media content.
BREAKING NEWS IN 160 CHARACTERS
Harry Surjadi, a Knight International Journalism fellow, is enabling citizen journalists from remote offline communities in Indonesia to break news in 160 characters. Surjadi has used FrontlineSMS to set up a system in which incoming reports from citizen journalists can be forwarded via SMS to groups of subscribers who would not necessarily have access to news from other sources; the result is a truly innovative and powerful SMS news service which is proving successful already.
The system is run with Ruai Citizen Journalism Training Center, part of a local television station in Indonesia called RuaiTV, and was set up with support from Internews. Surjadi's motivation in setting this system up was to enable remote indigenous communities to actively engage in producing media content, and due to the accessibility of SMS, he is achieving his news-sharing goals.
It's exciting to see how FrontlineSMS is allowing people to engage at a wider community level. Our users have demonstrated the wealth of potential uses of SMS in the media. Through our community, I've seen that 160 characters can speak volumes -- facilitating dialogues, providing a voice to isolated communities, and, ultimately, providing access to information that can help improve lives.
Image courtesy of Ken Banks of kiwanja.net.