CGNet Swara: Enabling Tribals of Chhattisgarh To Tell Their Stories

CGNet Swara is a mobile-based news service which enables the tribals of Chhattisgarh to tell their version of stories, in their language. It is an initiative of former BBC journalist & Knight International Journalism Fellow Shubranshu Choudhury, which gives daily news snippets of a region that is typically ignored by the mainstream media.

In Chhattisgarh less than 1% of the population has internet access and many people are illiterate. So only logical measure was deploying a technology which is already available – mobile phones. CGNet Swara has a voice-based portal, based on Audiowiki software developed by MIT, which is freely accessible via mobile phone and it caters both the citizen journalists and listeners.

Training Camp. Image courtesy CGNet Swara

Here is how the portal works – citizen journalists can call a phone number (+91 8041137280), press 1, and record a news onto the system. Once a message has been recorded, a dedicated team of professionals who access the system using a Web-based interface, review and verify the report. Approved reports are then made available for playback over the phone and simultaneously can be accessed on the CGNet Swara website. Listeners can call the same number, press 2, and hear the last three items of the moderators’ choice, that has been published in the portal.

The Swara System. Image Courtesy CGNet Swara

CGNet Swara moderators use a Google SMS channel to send out an SMS after each news report is published. Selected stories are sent out to the CGNet mailing list, posted in their blog and shared in their Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts.

According to Indian Tribal Blog:

There are no tribal journalists in the mainstream media in Chhattisgarh. The number of journalists who speak any of the tribal languages are very few. The major media in the state are owned by people with interests in coal, power and steel. That shapes how they report the public hearings that are frequently held on locating projects in a particular area. “The owner, writer, reader — they are all on the same side of this war.” Radio is the ideal medium for a state with a population scattered across a forested interior, but All India Radio has no news service in a tribal language.

How do you democratise journalism? By getting people to give their own news, even if the only language they speak is Gondi or Kuruk.

You can listen to an interview an interview with Subranshu Chowdhury on CGNet Swara in Global Voices’ Technology For Transparency Network Page. Also read the case study by Mobile active here. Below is a short animated film describing how CGNet Swara is impacting people:


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