At first glance SMS text messages would seem like a natural for inclusion in a community radio station’s essential toolkit. SMS messages are inexpensive and easy-to-use and in recent years the mobile phones that are needed for sending and receiving them have become ubiquitous. However, a survey of recent projects indicates that use of SMS messages among community media in the developing world is still at an early stage. In most stations SMS use is informal. The few cases identified of community stations making more complex use of SMS messages have accompanied political crises or natural disasters and have inevitably been donor financed. There are few, if any, experiences of complex uses of SMS by community media without external funding and technical support, even though the financial and technical resources required are minimal.
Tag Archive for 'elections'
The Panos Institute West Africa (PIWA) has launched a media production contest on ICTs open to all print and broadcast media journalists from West and Central Africa.
Prizes will be awarded to the best print articles and radio programmes on the theme ICTs and elections in Africa.
Articles or radio programmes should focus specifically on one of the following issues:
- the use of Internet during campaigns (“cybercampaigns”, public debate using Internet) ;
- impact of Internet on campaigns and elections;
- mobile telephony and elections ;
- ICTs and elections’ transparency (electoral file, voter card, data transmission security, statistics);
- ICT theme in election candidates’ programmes.
I am convinced that Frontline SMS or something similar should be part of an essential toolkit for rural radio stations within the footprint of a mobile telephone signal.
Frontline SMS is a text messaging system “conceived, designed and written firmly with the needs of the non-profit sector in mind”. Basically it is an SMS management and broadcast system that runs on a computer connected to a mobile phone with a data cable. All you need to do is insert a SIM card and you broadcast SMS messages to your listeners and classify and process messages received from them.
In a paper entitled “Mobile Phones and Social Activism: Why cell phones may be the most important technical innovation of the decade” originally published on his blog, Ethan Zuckerman argues that the cell phone may be “may be the most important technical innovation of the decade”. Zuckerman, a Fellow affiliated with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law Schools in the United States, traces some trends in the use of the mobile phone around the world as an “activist technology”. His core thesis is that mobiles are powerful because they’re “pervasive, personal, and capable of authoring content.” Zuckerman’s article also addresses the issue of mobile phones used in conjunction with broadcast radio:
The only technology that compares to the mobile phone in terms of pervasiveness and accessibility in the developing world is the radio. Indeed, considered together, radios and mobile phones can serve as a broad-distribution, participatory media network with some of the same citizen-media dynamics of the Internet, but accessible to a much wider, and non-literate audience.