Media Matters: Access is Key
As I read earlier this week about the United Arab Emirates’ decision to bar the use of BlackBerry’s data services, I was reminded of why the work we do in IREX’s media development division is so important. Access to information is critical whether you’re in an international business hub like Dubai, or living in a remote village in sub-Saharan Africa. We’ve all seen the pictures of people in remote regions and villages that may lack access to water or a stable source of energy, but who rely on their mobile phones. It’s almost become a cliché. But the ubiquity of mobile phones forces us to think more carefully about how the global citizen consumes media today.
Here in the U.S., we tap away on smart phone apps to look up bus routes or check restaurant reviews. Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, SMS is a vital link to medical care and weather reports. As IREX as an organization delves deeper into how we can use these 21st century tools to solve problems that cross developmental divides, I hope to use this blog to expand our conversation about what works and – perhaps even more importantly – what doesn’t.
It’s not just mobile phones we’re thinking about – social networking, mapping technology and online broadcasting are all changing the way we think about information. Citizen-generated community news Web sites in Azerbaijan, exiled journalists publishing online news about Ethiopia from Uganda and Iraqi women launching their own blogs are just some of our successes in this arena.
That doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten about our traditional areas of expertise and implementation – training in journalism skills, media management and providing legal defense for journalists under attack. But it does mean that we’ll be thinking more carefully about the choices we make in the future, and we hope you’ll join us as we discuss how to approach those choices.
Eleeza V. Agopian is a Program Officer at IREX.