How to harness the power of mobile voice for news


Intro by Rob Bole, Director of Innovation, Office of Digital and Design Innovation:

In October I spent some time with a group of exemplary journalists and technology experts discussing the use of voice technology in the aid of reporting the news.  The gathering was organized by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and included representatives from over ten countries, including individuals from Al Jazeera, Freedom Fone, Frontline SMS, the Knight Foundation, among others.

Mobile usage is booming around the world with a little over 5.1 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide.  However, for many audience members the cost of mobile broadband is well out-of-reach and the utility of the content on the Internet is low, if it is even translated in their language.  SMS/MMS is used extensively with a target of 8.7 trillion messages to be sent globally by 2015.

Increasingly a diverse group of digital media folks – from journalists to SoundCloud to even mobile providers – are re-discovering the role of voice as the “killer app” for growing audiences in places such as Africa, Southeast Asia and Central Asia/India.  The benefits of voice are numerous: local calling rates are low, the technology is well known and easy to use, literacy is not a factor and you can provide audio content in longer forms than other mobile channels.

The following post from Ben Colmery, one of the organizers of the ICFJ meeting, is a great introduction to the state-of-the-art of voice and journalism around the world.  It is certainly something that I (and the Office of Digital & Design Innovation) are paying close attention to in the coming weeks and months.

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10/30/12 by Ben Colmery, Deputy Director, Knight International Journalism Fellowships

Voice technology has tremendous potential for engaging citizens in news.

That was the thinking behind the meeting – called Turn Up the Volume: Bringing Voice to Mobile Citizen Journalism – which the International Center for Journalists organized this month at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy. We brought together a diverse group of journalists, technologists and media entrepreneurs from around the world to look for the best models for using voice technology to engage citizens in news – and to identify needed improvements to the technology.

The idea came from Knight International Journalism Fellow Shubhranshu Choudhary’s project, CGNet Swara, in India. CGNet Swara has shown how mobile phones can enable people living outside population centers to share stories and concerns that are often absent from traditional news reports. Swara uses Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology so that people can simply call a phone number, press “1” to leave reports and press “2″ to listen to reports, making two-way news distribution possible. Voice reports are then vetted by moderators and made available to mainstream media and public officials through a website.

[Visit the IJNet's website to read the rest of the blog post...]

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April Deibert

April Deibert

April Deibert is the Multimedia Blogger/Producer for the Office of Digital & Design Innovation. Follow her on Twitter: @BBGinnovate and @AprilDeibert.

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