Journalists and civil society organizations in Pakistan work under uniquely challenging constraints, ranging from limited Internet and computer access to threats to their safety and survival. Pakistan has been ranked the world’s most dangerous country for reporters for the past two years running. A greater day-to-day challenge is the low pay and scarcity of training, with less than 1% having any college-level journalism education.
At the same time, Pakistan’s telecoms and broadcast media markets are exploding and Internet access is expanding, creating unprecedented new avenues for sharing information and voicing social issues. And on a global level, digital tools and new media technologies that build on mapping software, cell phone capabilIties and more are transforming the way that journalists and civil society organizations gather and distribute information. Tools and platforms such as Ushahidi and FrontlineSMS are playing an important role in the free flow of information, particularly in the developing world.
Despite and even because of the difficulties they face, Pakistani journalists and civil society groups have a great opportunity to harness the power of these innovative digital technologies to strengthen their communication and advocacy. To help these groups explore the potential of new digital tools, the international media development organization Internews and the Pakistani NGO Bytes for All (B4A) organized an experimental three-day Lab in Islamabad in October 2011 on the theme of “Innovation for Social Justice.” Funded by the Ploughshares Fund and the Internews Center for Innovation & Learning, this Lab was the first of its kind in Pakistan, and could serve as a useful model for future projects.
The Islamabad Innovation Lab (IIL) included 68 participants— new media experts, journalists, bloggers, leaders of civil society organizations (CSOs), computer enthusiasts and software devel- opers. The Lab, which took place October 25-27, 2011, had several objectives: to teach participants how to apply digital tools to address social injustices and other challenges; to encourage networking among technology experts, journalists and civil society leaders; to foster collaborative and multi-disciplinary approaches to problem solving; and to develop innovative project ideas.
This report describes the Islamabad Innovation Lab (IIL) to explore and share the benefits of these technologies among new media experts, journalists, bloggers, CSO leaders, technology enthusiasts and developers. This report also summarizes communications findings from Internews research conducted before, during, and after the Lab.