Choudhary, a former BBC journalist, saw a link between the rural poor's
exclusion and the violence wracking the region. "It is natural when your
concerns are not heard you find another avenue -- that avenue has happened
to be a violent ideology called Maoism."
Mobile is the the most democratic tool in India today
Shubhranshu Choudhary, journalist and founder of CGNet Swara
And so with support from the International Center for Journalists, with
whom he is a Knight International Journalism Fellow, Choudhary began an
experiment in citizen journalism.
"We understood it would have to be cheap and that voice would be key --
because people are not comfortable with reading and writing," he said. The
initial phase of the experiment, which revolved around the internet and
community radio stations, "failed completely," he admitted. But then he
took a different tack, focusing on mobile phones, which have a 74%
penetration rate in India.
"Mobile is the most democratic tool in India today," said Choudhary.
Although the mobile penetration rate in rural areas was about half the
national level (36%), phones were still a common sight even in the most
remote villages. "When we started working in 2004-5 in the villages, we did
not see mobile phones. But there has been a sea-change. Mobile phone use
Read more: Indian phone features 29 Quran translations
The result, CGNet Swara (roughly, the "voice of Chhattisgarh") is a voice
portal that allows anyone with a mobile phone to record or listen to news
and items of interest. The operation is simple: on dialing the service's
number, users press "1" to record a report, or "2" to listen to one. Once a
report is recorded, it is verified and edited by a team of moderators
before being made accessible on the service.
The service "did better than we ever expected," said Choudhary. He added
that in the two years since it began, Swara has had 9,000 users, logged
more than 30,000 phone calls and published 750 news stories, including a
number which have had a big impact. [...]
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: S.Choudhary <smitashuATgmailDOTcom>
Date: 26 February 2012 15:21
Subject: Phone journalism gives a voice to India's rural poor
Thought you may like to read a story on CGnet Swara as part of CNN coverage
of Mobile World Congress.
Knight International Journalism fellow
Mob (IN): +91 9811066749
Content of the people, by the people, for the people
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