The Central African Republic is a landlocked country and one of the poorest and underdeveloped in the world. The country has experienced close to two decades to conflicts since 1996, including the Central African Bush Wars from 2001.
After the seizure of Bangui by the Seleka, a Muslim-led coalition of armed groups, in March 2013, the conflict turned progressively into a sectarian conflict between non-Muslim (Christians and animists) and Muslim communities.
In December 2013, the Anti-Balaka militia (the Christian-led coalition) tried to seize Bangui. Repression by the Seleka resulted in the death of 800 and 1,200 people. International NGOs, France and the United Nations warned of a potential genocide after the number of attacks against Muslim civilians and retaliation against Christians increased rapidly since September.
The transition process is supposed to lead to general elections in February 2015 and a new Constitution.
In CAR Internews is working with the local Association of Journalists for Human Rights (RJDH by its French acronym) and its network of community correspondents to produce daily news bulletins that are distributed to radio stations and to a list of over 1,500 recipients. RJDH also shares its content on Twitter and Facebook.
Internews is providing training and mentoring to journalists of the RJDH and local correspondents with a special focus on conflict-sensitive journalism and gender issues. Internews and RJDH have also begun producing and broadcasting in Short Wave (SW) daily radio shows in French and Sango as part of a strategy to strengthen a multi-media national news service with news and information from across the country. (see more about this proejct here)
One additional component of the project is the re-installation of a Crisis Map, aiming at visualizing humanitarian information in real-time. The Map, developed by Elva, a software company that creates an open source platform to organizations to collaborate with communities to map local needs, the new Crisis Map for Central African Republic is managed by the RJDH and updated on a daily bases.
The new map is available in French and English and displays on a daily base all the humanitarian information that the network of RJDH journalists collects across the entire country.
The map allows users to filter the reports submitted by categories, which are designed to mirror as much as possible the United Nation cluster system. This functionality will allow the humanitarian community to filter the information they need directly on the map and in this way access the information they need quickly and easily.
The Crisis Map allows also to seamlessly compare the number of reports on needs and the number of reports on the response provided, proving a quick snapshot of gaps and challenges in the provision of humanitarian assistance to the local population.
In building this map we have been drawing from other projects and from research methodologies that we have developed in the course of the past 2 years, but also from other sectors and from other projects.
Make it simple. Internews decided to work with Elva because of the highly customizable capability of the platform. One issue the Internews experienced with off-the-shelf mapping platforms is that not all functionalities are good for all users. In CAR, the team of journalists managing the platform has low access to technology and is not tech savvy. The mapping platform developed by Elva has only the functionalities that are need for the project and is build on an infrastructure that allows for more functionalities to be added in the long term.
A Media-Oriented Platform. The Elva platform presents also a very friendly and media-oriented look. Underneath the map the latest report section is brief and user friendly and shows pictures alongside with location and dates. The picture functionality makes the home page a mix in between a map and a news paper and in this way convey the overall message of the project – a cross-sector methodology of media and mapping.
Human Centered Design. The map has been build using a human centered design approach. Drawing from the project implemented in partnership with Ushahidi in 2012, Internews used the lessons learned and the user interactions observed in that project, to come out with simple and customized platform that is specifically build for the users, the RJDH. The use of HCD was also possible thanks to the HCD Guide developed by Internews in 2011.
The Cluster system approach. The RJDH and Internews created categories by using as a template the Cluster system developed and used by the United Nations. The categories have been slightly modified to also reflect the information collected by the RJDH and in this way serve both the needs of the international community and the needs of the RJDH.
The right tool for the right audience. Internews and the RJDH are well aware of the fact that the local population in CAR does not have access to the Internet. This map in fact was not created for their use, but rather for two separate and important audiences of this project: the humanitarian community (both the responders and the donors) and the diaspora. The map in fact aims at both raising awareness of the situation in Central African Republic, and also at supporting decision making processes of the humanitarian organizations responding to the crisis in the country. We hope that the visualization of the needs and the responses will also give to donors an idea of what it is needed, where and why.
The map is going to be updated from now on with information on a daily bases and it will be also presented to the humanitarian community in CAR to gather their feedback. Humanitarian organizations in the country will be invited to use the map to feed information about their activities on the ground so that the RJDH will be able to deliver this information to the local communities.
Overall we hope that this Crisis Map will support the recovery and the resilience of the local population and the work of local media organizations that struggle to provide reliable and targeted information to the local communities.