Marginalised communities harness simple mobile phone technology to share election fear and news worldwide
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London, Friday 1 March 2013: A pioneering project is bringing the voices of Kenyans on the fringes of society onto a global stage, sharing eye witness accounts of events in the run up to, and during, the national election on 4 March.
Channeling hard-hitting stories in real time, Radar has established a unique network of more than 100 citizen reporters from across the country, including its rural communities and urban slums.
“This is the only citizen journalism network that bridges the gap between Kenyans with the power, access and social status to air their views in the media and online, and Kenyans without that privilege,” said Alice Klein, co-director of Radar.
Radar’s network is made up of people with low literacy, those living with disabilities or HIV, and women and girls.
The trainees are people like partially sighted Fredrick Teing’o, a member of Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Young Voices who always dreamed of becoming a journalist and Lorna Maika, who campaigns for equal access to eduction for girls in her community and whose training was supported by the Urgent Action Fund Africa.
Many of Radar’s reporters were also directly affected by the violence that killed more than 1,000 Kenyans, and displaced more than 600,000 after the 2007 election.
Radar’s model is to harness simple mobile phone technology to empower these people and improve the flow of information. In Kenya 27.9 million people now use mobile phones: three quarters of the population and 15 million more than the number with access to the Internet.
“Radar’s potential to provide quality eye-witness updates that can be used by journalists and massively influence the unfolding reality of a breaking news situation is directly linked to how accesible mobile phones now are,” Klein explained.
Over the past three weeks the trainees, mobiles in hand, have been given professional tuition in journalistic standards and micro-reporting. They are now tasked with sharing news from the ground, as it happens, via simple SMS technology. For just one Kenyan shilling (about 0.7 pence) – the price of a local text – they send reports direct to Radar’s London hub. The news is then shared online via Twitter and Radar’s blog after a quick but rigorous editorial process.
“These people are hungry to share the news from their communities – Radar provides the training in how to do that and the online platforms to amplify this news onto the global stage,” Klein said.
Already Radar’s Kenya network has:
– Uncovered evidence of vote-buying schemes in the Nyalenda slum, Kisumu county (western Kenya);
– Interviewed prisoners who are not allowed to vote;
– Discovered that only supporters of the Orange Democratic Movement are being permitted to canvas in certain areas of Nairobi’s Kibera slum, where much of the violence took place in 2007/2008;
– Interviewed women from Kibera and Mombasa who say they will be fleeing their urban homes to return to their less-ethnically split rural villages, fearing extreme violence;
– Exposed workings of the coastal-based Mombasa Republican Council, a secessionist movement threatening to boycott the election by stopping people registering to vote.