Mobile Networks and Citizen Journalists Empower Communities

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 Frontline SMS 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.

Watch the video on YouTube.

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.

Watch the video on YouTube.

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.

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