The session on m-Journalism was chaired by Mr. Jonathan Bill and co-chaired by Nikhil Pahwa.
Mojolabs initiated the session with showcase of an audio clip of a lady singing in Santali, a tribal language of Madhya Pradesh. Swara IVR, an initiative of Mojolabs, is trying to solve this issue of recognition of tribal languages of eastern and central India and their entry into the mainstream journalism. Central India inhabits as many as 100 million people who other than their own local dialect do not understand any other language. As a result issues related to these people are unable to get a central stage in policy making.
Swara IVR seeks to address this problem by a mobile-based platform in which people can dial a number that is linked to a webpage. Then they can record their messages which can be anything about their village or themselves, any problem they are facing etc. These messages, with the help of highly trained journalists and volunteers are then decoded into Hindi/ English language and then published over variety of networks ranging from news channels to social media. Using the same number, villagers can also listen to the already uploaded messages by others.
There is no denying the fact that this is a beginning of media revolution for the tribal people.
Next speaker on the dice was from Rural Technology Incubator (IIT Chennai), Tamil Nadu and their project was SMS enabled Social Growth. They have developed a SMS group platform that is device and service provider independent. He added that all the communication could be done at the cost of simple SMS. Implemented in two stages, this project has seen tremendous engagement in the recent times from the young people.
He shared that initially only homogenous groups were made in which discussions took place and anyone who wanted to could create groups and invite more members. In the second stage of the project, more young people were involved and these groups were soon used as discussion and web-broadcasting forum. Presenter concluded by stating that this platform could be termed as an innovative and revolutionary medium of citizen journalism which has brought people from various communities together and enabled them to share their views and opinions via a simple SMS.
The next presenter on dice seemed to be a voice of every Delhi resident that has been continuously harassed by the power cuts. Mr. Ajay Kumar from Delhi was here to present his project PowerCuts in India. He shared that the origin of this website wasn’t done by any company or organization but a group of people who were harassed by the problem and wanted to do something to bring to the notice of concerned authorities. This all started when someday, a resident of Santa Cruz, Mumbai tweeted about a power cut. In reply, Mr. Nikhil Pahwa (Medianama) tweeted that if Delhi residents tweeted about power cut then Delhi would become a trending topic every day. Then someone suggested that data about this problem could be collected and then presented to the concerned authorities.
Our speaker on dice had been following these tweets for some time now. Being an open source developer, he soon uploaded the site and then urged people to collect data. Hence #PowerCuts was created. They found out that urban people in urban areas take this problem for granted most of the time due to availability of power backup. On the other hand, this is a major problem for the rural class of population. Thus, the objective of PowerCuts was fine tuned to create awareness about power cuts, reporting to the right people and also collecting data on the problem.
With its availability on a variety of platforms including the IVR for rural audiences, this project has miles to cover.
Our penultimate speaker for the session was Mr. Aaditeshwar Seth from Jharkhand Mobile News. Mr. Seth said that it was the Swara IVR project that had inspired them to start this project on mobile news and radio. The model used under the project is very similar to that of Swara wherein people could call up a number to leave their message or listen to a message. Though the approach here is more of mobile radio and focuses on a broad set of information.
He shared that the content for this project is basically divided into four categories:
1. Reaction on government’s policies
2. Information about various schemes relating to agriculture and health
3. Local announcements and updated
4. Culture and entertainment updates.
He added that the concept is now slowly reaching 1000 calls a day mark and that too without any formal publicity but only word of mouth. Jharkhand mobile news is regularly adding more and more partners that are either NGOs willing to work in Jharkhand or are already working there. They are also trying to impart a more and more radio appeal to the project by creating time assortments. This is helping them to reach out wider masses and also broaden the scope of the content.