Category Archives: Media

Blog Action Day – Water!

This year I’ll be participating again in Blog Action Day on October 15, 2010. In case you don’t know, Blog Action Day is a day when bloggers around the world come together and discuss the same issue. The purpose, of course, is to bring awareness and generate discussion on a topic that impacts us all. This year, that issue is water!


But this issue is too important for just one day. So, for the next few weeks, leading up to Blog Action Day, I’ll be highlighting some of the major topics within this larger issue.

Logo for the Millenium Development Goal #7, Environmental SustainabilityIts a terrific choice, especially on the heals of the MDG Summit week last week in New York. One part of MDG7 targets water specifically: Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

The issue of access to safe drinking water and sanitation is one that affects all areas of development. Access to clean water affects child health, poverty alleviation, gender equality, maternal health… the list goes on and on. And each region in the world faces its own unique water issues. I’ll be covering these over the next few weeks, as well as looking at ways that media and communications can contribute to their solutions.

In the meantime, take a look at these two maps, from WorldMapper.com. The first shows the world in terms of poor water quality, the second shows domestic water usage.

Map of the world, redrawn to indicate levels of poor water quality

Poor Water Quality

Map of the world, redrawn to indicate levels of domestic water usage

Domestic Water Usage

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What the ICT4D Panel missed…

Technology can either provide increased access for people with disabilities, or it can result in greater alienation. In your experience, how have technology based development projects taken people with disabilities into account? Is accessibility something that is thought of in the design of the project, or is it mostly an afterthought?

This is the question I posed to the ICT4D: Innovation & the Millennium Development Goals panel at the UN Week Digital Media Lounge last week. But the answer I got from Wayan Vota, from Inveneo confirmed my suspicions (you can watch the panel below- my question begins at 37:14)
Vodpod videos no longer available.

I have 2 problems with Mr. Vota’s answer. First off, he said, “Most of the time we’re using tools that are already existing, so if the accessibility is built in we work with the accessibility.” OK. But just because a website meets Section 508 standards, doesn’t mean the person in Port-au-Prince has the hardware to access it.

But what he said next really blew me away.

He said, “Oftentimes in the developing world, accessibility has a different definition. Language is a huge accessibility factor. We’re all speaking English…but in many countries English is an elite language. And the local language… is not English. And often its not even a written language, just a verbal language. How do you transfer that to a device that you look at or that you read. And how can you expect the people in that community to read an English website and have any relevance with it whatsoever. Its definitely a challenge. And a lot of it has to do with getting the local people excited about writing with their own content.’

Wait…, what? People who use a non-written language need to write their own content? And, wasn’t I asking about people with disabilities? Not speaking English is NOT a disability.

Of COURSE language is an issue, but if your development project considers language an accessibility issue, you’re not working with enough local people. There are lots of examples of programs that created all their content in English, only to find the people they were trying to reach don’t read or speak English. That’s not a new problem, but it is a stupid problem.

A lack of literacy (in any language) is a different issue. And many solutions used to target people who don’t read also benefit people who can’t see. So, I guess in this case, development projects are accidentally making themselves accessible to people with disabilities?

But this doesn’t get to the heart of my question. Here we are with these great tools, fantastic technology and amazing potential to reach so many people. Are we?

Some studies estimate that 20% of people in developing countries have some form of disability. And in most of these regions disability and poverty dance around each other in an endless cycle. So why isn’t this a bigger focus?

How are people with disabilities included into these projects? Does, for example, the project that uses mobile SMS messages to remind TB patients to take their medications make use of accessible phones? Features like voice output, voice enabled menu navigation, keys that are identifiable by touch are just a few such features (the American Foundation for the Blind identifies 16 features most commonly used by people with vision loss). Are phones with these features being used in mprojects?  What about speech to speech relay (STS) – does that even exist in developing countries? Is it something that could be incorporated into projects? And people with dexterity problems or mobility issues? Are they included? How are their disabilities accommodated?

Mr. Vota’s “other kinds of accessibility” answer then skewed rest of the panel’s answers… Linda Raftree talked about broader access issues related to gender (certainly an important consideration, but not what I asked about).

I didn’t expect to hear that all the programs on the ground have a statistically representative disabled population (they should), but I had hoped to hear that accessibility for people with disabilities was being considered.  Maybe it is. But if it is, you couldn’t tell. My feeling is that if it were a bigger priority, it would have come up in the discussion…

Media, Mexico, and tools for development

As people from around the world meet in New York to discuss the goals and how to reach them, we can’t forget the importance of media.

Of all the 8 goals, on 6.3 makes any reference to knowledge (Proportion of population aged 15-24 years with comprehensive correct knowledge of HIV/AIDS). Media and communications certainly play a huge role in achieving this important indicator.

But media plays other, very vital roles in a region, especially in democratic systems. Disappointing news out of Mexico over the weekend highlights the need and importance of a free and developed media system.

Mexican flag, depicted with a spray of bullets and a slain eagleMexico is one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a journalist, and editors at El Diario de Juarez seem to have given up.

On Sunday’s front page of this prominent Mexican daily, is the headline, “What do you want from us?” The headline is directed at the regions active and deadly drug cartels, who have killed the second journalist from that newspaper in a s many years. El Diario is just the latest newspaper to bow to violent pressure from the cartels. Further evidence, according to some, that the Mexican government has no control.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 30 journalists or members of the media have either been killed or have disappeared since December 2006. CPJ contributors Carlos Lauria and Mike O’Connor wrote a special report earlier this month. You can also see what its like to be a crime reporter in Juarez in this short video, Silence or Death (Spanish with English subtitles):

Silencio o Muerte from Dana Chivvis on Vimeo.

Media, culture and Azerbaijan

This afternoon I attended a brown bag lunch lecture at the World Bank on mobile technology and access to information. It was put on by Intermedia, an organization here in Washington DC that does amazing work on media research. (If you haven’t yet, you have to check out Audiencescapes).

There were at least half a million things I want to blog about in this presentation, so I’m sure you’ll see this referenced quite a bit in the coming days/weeks.

Although the presentation was about the increase of mobile technology and how it might be more integrated into various projects, the speaker, Dr. Gerry Power cautioned us not to forget about radio. In Africa, in particular, radio is still a major source of information, and to ignore it would be foolish. Mobile may be the fun thing to talk about now, but convergence is a more realistic solution.

But when I think of convergence, I think of old stodgey journalists finally learning how to blog. I guess I’ve been seeing it from the print/broadcast practitioner side of things. As opposed to the mobile producer side of things. But convergence, as Dr. Power’s hinted at, is more than that – its the sharing of content. Not only for the broadcaster’s sake, but for the mobile practioner’s sake, too.

A good example of this can be found in Azerbaijan and Armenia. State-owned media in both countries make it pretty hard to get any peace/reconciliation programming broadcast. So pieces that are originally created for television are instead getting audiences online.

Onni Krikorian, blogger for Global Voices, has been writing a lot lately about various media projects aimed at improving relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. He does an excellent job describing the projects and the media pieces themselves, so I’ll just post his links here. These are highly produced pieces that aren’t being broadcast via television, as intended, but instead are making it into homes via the internet and mobile.

Armenia-Azerbaijan: Dialogue through Film

More Dialogue through Film (one of my favorites is on this one- check out the film called Download)

and Backseat musical musings….and ethnic conflict

And of course, because its on Global Voices, the conversation going on after these posts are equally interesting.

There seems to be a lot of activity in media for change in the region. The very reason I became interested in Azerbaijan was because of a job posting for a media and social change project in Baku. (It made me realize how much I don’t know about the region!)

Its definitely a region I’ll keep watching…

Twitter, FB banned for debates

I spend a lot of time looking at ways that nonprofits and activists can use social media to affect change.

Evidently, so does a court in Nigeria.

Map of Sharia states in NigeriaThe Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria was hoping to use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to host debates on the use of amputations as punishments.

But an Islamic court ruled against the use, saying, “An order is hereby given restraining the respondents either by themselves or their agents from opening a chat forum on Facebook, Twitter, or any blog for the purpose of the debate on the amputation of Malam Buba Bello Jangebe.”

Malam Buba Bello Jangebe was the first person in Nigeria to be sentenced to an amputation after stealing a cow in 2000. On the anniversary of his punishment, the Civil Rights Congress had hoped to open up a debate so Nigerians could voice their opinions on Sharia law.

The civil rights group says they plan to appeal the decision.

Source: BBC

Can social marketing reduce stigma?

This was one of the questions I addressed in my masters thesis this past summer. Specifically, I wanted to explore how different cultural interpretations of disability would affect communication efforts to reduce stigma in developing countries. More on that later.

As I was doing research, I came across a very interesting campaign from Scotland. The tagline is “See Me,” and they have lots of interesting uses of media in their campaign. In addition to tv and radio ads, they have photography contests, polls and downloadable curriculum packs. They also have a great collection of evaluation tools.

Each TV ad has a very clear target audience in mind, whether children or adults, the ads are aimed a people who know someone affected by mental illness. Take a look:

For children-

For adults-

(My favorite line from this one is, “Patterns change, friends don’t”)

(This one has some great brotherly ribbing, showing how their relationship didn’t change as a result of the mental illness)

Its the subtleties that I appreciate most in the ads for the adults. The ones aimed at children are clear and hopefully incite some empathy and understanding….

What do you think? Do you have some examples of stigma reduction social marketing that you found particularly good. Or bad?

AARP catches the youth, hope train

Osocio is one of my favorite blogs to follow- they always have great examples of social marketing campaigns from around the world.

This one, is from AARP- The American Association of Retired Persons, and its a product of their “U@50” video contest. (Getting young people to think about retirement is a tall order! Kudos to AARP for their Youtube contest. You can see the winners here.)

The play on words is great, and evidentally its based on an Argentinian election campaign ad by Lopez Murphy. He didn’t win, but his ad won the Silver Lion at the Cannes Lion Contest in 2006! (small consolation, I’m sure)

Virtual Violence

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and there are lots of things you can do!

UNIFEM has organized a “Say No to Violence” campaign, and they are collecting signatures to deliver to UN Secretary General Ban Kim Moon. You can find out more, and sign the petition here.

I’m a little disappointed in this campaign – its seems a little thrown together. Nicole Kidman seems uninspired in her presentation of the issues, the videos are incredibly dull, it takes too long to figure out what we can do to get involved….

BUT, it is an important cause, and hopefully you join me in supporting it. After all, its the CAUSE, not the CAMPAIGN should support.

That being said, a campaign that I do find interesting (and worthy!) is Take Back the Tech.

From their site:

The root cause of violence against women (VAW) lies in unequal power relations between men and women in almost all facets of life. The field of information communications technology (ICTs) faces the same gender disparity. As a result, digital spaces like the internet, broadcast and telecommunications have become defined and developed according to dominant perspectives of masculinities.

This means that VAW that happened in physical spaces like the home and streets, are now also taking new forms and occurring in digital spaces. For example, domestic violence abusers have used tools like spyware and GPS to track and control their partner’s mobility.

Our right to move freely without harassment or threats to safety also applies to digital spaces.

This 16 day internet campaign’s goal is to “reclaim ICTs to end violence against women.” A great project, with some fun tools (widgets, a tech hunt, and the Ka-blog) and they have a different action idea for each day of the campaign. That’s 16 ways to make a change!

Today’s action is to Widget Your Stand, i.e. put widgets on your blogs and social network accounts.

They’ve also set up a forum for people to make their own activity suggestions.

Lots of good ideas in this campaign, fun use of tools, I wish the site were a little easier to navigate, but all in all a fascinating campaign – one I’ll be watching!!

As someone who spends a considerable amount of time online, I think its a great frame. What about you? Do you see this a real problem? Do you feel that violence against women is evident, or promoted, online?

Disability and poverty go hand in hand in most countries

Today is Blog Action Day, and I’m taking part! On this day bloggers around the world are focusing on poverty, and hopefully encouraging their readers to take action!

I’m sure there will be lots of wonderful blog posts around the causes and solutions to global poverty – debt reduction, food crisis, international aid, disease…. its an unfortunate characteristic that global poverty encompasses so many ills.

But in so many aid programs around the world, people with disabilities are left out. Sure there are organizations that specifically address disability. But large scale development programs tend to ignore the unique needs of 10-20% of the population!

And its more than just about “being inclusive” or any other buzzword we hear these days. Poverty and disability have a unique relationship.

In most developing countries, people with disabilities have little or no opportunity to lead productive lives. In some areas, stigma and fear of disability in result in extreme discrimination. In others, its just outright bias. But in all areas where people with disabilities are excluded from basic life activities, poverty becomes the inevitable outcome. People with disabilities in developing countries are more likely to live on less than $2 a day.

On the other side of the equation, poverty often results in disability. Malnutrition, lack of clean water, and inadequate medical attention can all have disabling results. Add to the mix conflict, and you have a cycle of disability that is not easily broken.

Seven years ago I co-founded an organization called Pearls of Africa to support children with disabilities and their families throughout Africa. We’ve set up a library, held special education teacher training workshops, and look forward to several great new programs this year!

Since October is Disability Awareness Month here in the US, we are bringing the issue of disability in Africa to the forefront. Everyday this month we are featuring a country in Africa and what’s going on there in terms of disability. Its time we integrate our development assistance! I encourage you to visit the POA website and find out more yourself. Then pass it on- the only way we can raise awareness, is to share what we know!

Thank you, and happy Blog Action Day!

Last day to register- would this convince you?

Since today is the last day to register to vote in many states (mine included), I thought I’d highlight some communication campaigns that have tried to encourage people to register.

The overwhelming majority of these campaigns are aimed at young people. Here are a few that I found interesting – do any of these make the case? Would they compel you to register?

Warning: The video below contains language that may be offensive to some.

This music video from Rock the Vote obviously leans left, so it may alienate would be registrants who don’t agree on certain social issues. But it is a catchy tune….

Any register to vote PSAs that you thought were interesting? effective?

(By the way, if you haven’t already, please REGISTER & VOTE!!!)