Internews Center for Innovation & Learning

Internews Center for Innovation & Learning
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New Media Experiments in West Kalimantan

The Centre for Innovation & Learning's innovation pilot in the Indonesia province of West Kalimantan aims to research and better understand how communications technology strategies can improve the information and news flows in rural and remote communities

West Kalimantan is one of four Indonesian provinces on the island of Kalimantan (also known as Bornea), which boasts the oldest rainforest in the world.

The Dayaks, the indigenous peoples (IPs) in West Kalimantan, are facing threat from a government program to expand oil palm plantations from 550,000 to five million hectares over the next several years. Through  2010, at least 200 conflicts occurred between IPs communities and oil palm plantations in areas traditionally owned by IP communities. IPs received information exclusively from  Kalimantan Review, a monthly magazine owned by IDRD (Institute of Dayakology for Research and Development). They have no access to newspapers. Eight newspapers only reach Pontianak and two newspapers reach only the two regencies' capital cities. The only information from mainstream media is available through television. Unfortunately, television stations only serve big cities, not IP communities.  Mainstream media coverage of issues impacting IP communities is limited due both to a lack of interest and lack of resources.

The Center for Innovation and Learning will work with the regional team to establish a pilot SMS citizen journalism news service to improve the flow of information among indigenous peoples in West Kalimantan. The contributions from citizen journalists will also be broadcast through television via a news ticker, published on a website and shared via an email newswire with other media organisations.

The project will also trial other technologies for improving the flow of information, including an IVR system and a depending on time-frames, a mesh network.

CIL will work closely with Harry Surjadi, an independent journalist and Knight Fellow who conceptualised the SMS news service for West Kalimantan, and Ruai Television - the provincial television station that will host and manage the service and be largely responsible for training and liaising with citizen journalists.

Experiment Components

The planning of the pilot  commenced in August 2011. The pilot can be broken down in to six inter-related components. These are the citizen journalist and public contributions (input/comments), the sms news delivery (output), a hyper-local sms information service, a roadmap for a sustainable sms service for indigenous peoples, an IVR pilot and a mesh network pilot. These are detailed below:

Component 1 “Citizen Journalist Contributions"

  • The key component of the project relies on grassroots news and event contributions from citizens in the community. To date, over 100 citizens have been trained by Harry Surjadi on the basics of journalism, including the difference between opinion and fact. Most importantly for this project, Harry has trained the citizen journalists to send their reports via SMSs. The aim is that the messages will be received by Ruai TV (see component 2) and depending on relevance, may be incorporated in to a SMS news item that is send out to subscribers.

Component 2 “SMS News Delivery"

  • This component will deliver SMS news messages from the RuaiTV hub to the subscribers. During the 3 month pilot period, it is envisaged that up to 200 subscribers will receive a maximum of two SMS news items daily one in the morning and one in the afternoon. If there is breaking or urgent news that needs to shared, then subscribers may receive more than two messages per day.
  • The SMS news items will also be posted on RuaiTV's website and will be broadcast in the form a news ticker on RuaiTV. Where appropriate, RuaiTV will share news items via email directly with partner affiliates and other mainstream outlets, with the intention of influencing national media to address local issues. The SMS news content will be sourced from citizen journalists who will SMS in  stories (see Component 1).

Component 3 “Hyper-Local SMS Information Service for Silat Hilir"

  • This component of the project will establish a hyper-local SMS information service for Silat Hilir “a small community (sub-district) 12 hours drive from the provincial capital of Pontianak. The  community is having disputes with an palm oil company that is operating on their land. The lack of information and information sharing results in farmers“ who are the traditional landowners - being isolated. The farmers are also too busy to meet regularly and share experiences and organize themselves so they can effectively address their problems. A highly localized SMS information service may help increase the information flows and contribute to mobilizing the farmers around agreed issues, with the long-term goal of resolving the dispute with the palm oil company.
  • Internews will provide a laptop system configured with FrontlineSMS and training to implement a SMS information sharing service. Some of the community members have already attended Harry's citizen journalism workshops. It is envisaged that the service will target approximately 100 community members (approximately 30% of the farmers in the community) during the pilot phase. As well as sharing information, the service can announce meeting times or solicit responses of certain issues and approaches to resolving the dispute with the palm oil company.

Component 4 “Roadmap  for a Scalable Sustainable SMS News Service"

  • If the West Kalimantan SMS News Service is to scale to above 200 subscribers, there will be a need to use a commercial SMS server or enter a partnership with a mobile telecommunications company.
  • A roadmap will be produced with the assistance of consultant Chamath Ariyadasa to help guide the growth and sustainability of the SMS news service. Chamath started up and built Jasmine News Wire in Sri Lanka, a successful and sustainable SMS news service over a 5 year period.  He is familiar with the jargon and the industry and will approach Indonesian telcomms companies to determine what they offer and the possibilities of developing a partnership with them in order to scale the SMS news service.
  • The roadmap will help take the project to the next level and provide Internews with useful research in to Indonesia's telecommunications sector.

Component 5 “IVR based Citizen Journalism"

  • An IVR strategy can be established to deliver audio-based news reports on demand. The public can dial up a number and make a selection using their number-pad (eg. 1 for latest news, 2 for rubber price, which will result in a message played back to them. An two way system can also be established where the public can leave news items, or comment on existing stories.
  • It is proposed that the IVR strategy will be trialed after the SMS news service has been launched.

Component 6 “Mesh Networking Pilot"

  • West Kalimantan is an isolated region with poor telecommunications and information access. There is an opportunity to pilot a mesh network to investigate both the technology and the impact of information flows among the trial community.