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Blog Action Day: Poverty and citizen media

Categories: Feature, FOKO, Nari Jibon, Neighbourhood Diaries, OLPC Uruguay, Voces Bolivianas

Blog Action Day [1]

Today's post is dedicated to the Blog Action Day 2008 [1]. This year's theme of the day is poverty.

Poverty is deprivation of common necessities that determine the quality of life, including food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking water, and may also include the deprivation of opportunities to learn, to obtain better employment to escape poverty, and/or to enjoy the respect of fellow citizens (Source [2])

Latest World Bank figures estimate that one billion people across the world do not get the minimum nutritional level needed to sustain themselves. To do something about it we need to engage all our resources and use whatever means we can employ to make a change.

Why are we talking about citizen media when people do not have security of food and how does citizen media sneak in to address poverty?

While the news of poverty is missing [3] from the agenda of the mainstream media [4] the citizen media initiatives like blogs take the lead. The Blog Action Day message is [1]:

Today thousands of bloggers will unite to discuss a single issue – poverty. We aim to raise awareness, initiate action and to shake the web!

[5] Citizen media requires some basic technological infrastructure like PCs, internet, electricity etc. Technology is not all about expensive gadgets and showing off but breaking through many barriers like digital divide. When in 1997 Grameen Bank started giving loan [6] to poor women in the remote Bangladeshi villages to start commercial mobile services [7], people laughed. Cell phones were expensive then but their competitive advantage was the absence of land lines and many women got out of poverty. Today people can access to internet via mobile phones in the rural areas where even there is no electricity.

Image: Vilage Telephone Lady, by Jeevs Sinclair [8]. Used under a CC license [8]

If we look at the various Rising Voices Grantees [9] (most of them represent marginal communities) we will see that they are using different citizen media tools such as blogs, videos, images, podcasts etc. to tell about themselves and raise awareness about poverty. They are blogging for different social causes [10] in their communities which are normally ignored.

People may raise their eyebrows hearing to the Uruguayan government's commitment to hand over Hundred Dollar laptops (OLPCs) to every child in that country. But when the Rising Voices grantee “Blogging since infancy [11]” will train these kids to use citizen media tools like blogging and they will share their everyday lives, we may even see something out of the ordinary. That is how technology and commitments can make a difference.

One of the aims of Rising Voices is to promote voices from underrepresented and neglected communities to the global conversation. Those people who are struggling to secure their basic needs and safety need citizen media to voice their plights, concerns. The traditional society do not give them much space. One of the challenges faced by the young citizen journalists from the Neighborhood Diaries [12] project in Kolkata, India is that they felt very shy to enter in a cyber cafe in their community. Because they come from a red light area slum, some people think that they are untouchables. But they vowed to challenge [13] the digital divide to let their story be heard by the world.

Image by bengal*foam [15] : Used under a creative commons license [16]

Global Voices [17] co-founder Ethan Zuckerman told in an interview with Africa News [18]:

“I think citizen media will be critical in helping non-Africans connect more closely to African stories. I think that bloggers and other citizen authors offer readers the opinion to connect with an author as well as with a story, and that this may build human connections to stories that otherwise might be ignored or missed.”

So why should you care about poverty or help the people who are fighting poverty? Shawn at Uncultured.com says [19]:

Because our long term well being – not our well-being for the next semester or the next financial quarter – depends on how we care for the least off among us. Now, more than ever, we need to realize, understand, and embrace the notion that making the world a better place for others makes it a better place for us all.

How can you help to eradicate poverty or make a change? You can play a role in the citizen media outreach by helping the people who are doing this important task. David Sasaki informs [20] of some examples:

Nari Jibon [21] center in Dhaka, which incorporates citizen media into existing English, computer, and Bangla classes for young Bangladeshi women. Much of the amazing content produced by Nari Jibon bloggers is thanks to the training they have received at workshops put on by an unlikely yet highly proficient group of veteran bloggers from Venezuela, Canada, and the United States.

Here are more innovative ways [22] to help the Rising Voices grantees:

These are only some examples. If you are interested you can learn about more of these projects [27].

Global Handwashing Day [28]

Today is another important day. Its Global Handwashing Day and learn more about it here [28].