Can Social Media help to save the world?

Can Social Media help to save the world?

It has been argued that Social Media is the most important change in mass communication since the Guttenberg Press. This seismic shift in the way we communicate has positive and negative outcomes for the developing world. The Arab Spring revolutions are a fine example of positive change. Wael Gonim, who played an influential role in the Egyptian uprisings, says there is no doubt it was an “ internet sparked revolution.” Whereas the controversial Kony 2012 campaign by Invisible Children has been widely debated for both its positive and negative impacts. On the positive side it was the fastest growing viral video of all times with valuable lessons to be learned from it. The negatives were many: inaccuracy of information, oversimplification and unnecessarily large production budgets, to name but a few.

Charities and NGOs were early adopters of Social Media as a communication and marketing tool. There have been many successful campaigns such as the Greenpeace Mister Splashy Pants campaign, Oxfam’s Land Grab’s campaign and No Child Born to Die by Save the Children. Social Media has made it easier than ever before for large broadcasters to report on issues around the world and with cuts in budgets, it is more cost effective to utilise citizen or activist generated media.

Social Media has undoubtedly changed the way we communicate, it empowers individuals and enables communities to share information and have a collective voice. It has been used by international development agencies and NGOs to crowd source information during disasters such as the Haiti earthquake. NGOs have also employed social media to raise awareness of humanitarian issues, fundraise and report from the field. The negative impacts of social media have been discussed at length such as cyber infidelity, cyber bullying, privacy, addiction, criminality and cultural imperialism.

In 2002 the Guardian published an article about how the mobile phone is changing our world . At that time the number of mobiles in the world was 1.4 billion. Not many people would have predicted that ten years later there would be 6 billion mobile subscriptions and internet enabled mobiles would be more or less standard. The undoubted penetration of smartphones in developing countries over the next few years will give more and more people access to social media networks. Is it a myth that Social Media can help to save the world?

Social Media and International Development Hashtags

If you are new to social media and international development I thought some relevant hashtags might be useful for researching in Twitter. Here are a few that I regularly use:


I also love this website, which is how the visual was produced –

Top 10 International Development Blogs

Here is a list of my Top 10 International Development blogs. I am particularly interested in blogs with social media and international development content, however there are some multi-author blogs listed that often have relevant digital and social media articles.

1. My Heart’s in Accra
Ethan Zuckerman is an academic, blogger and internet activist. He is a senior researcher at the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society and on the board of directors for Global Voices: a global community of citizen media authors. Please also take the time to watch some of his TED lectures. They are superb!

2. Social Media for Good 
As an academic interested in social media and international development this is one of my favourite blogs. It has lots of practical advice on how to improve communications in international development using digital and social media. It is an excellent resource with regular, well researched posts.

3.  Global Voices
Global Voices in an online global community of bloggers who report on citizen media from around the world. It was founded in 2005 by Ethan Zuckerman and Rebecca MacKinnon, has over 500 contributors and is translated into more than 30 different languages. Its goal is to give voices to those not usually heard in the international mainstream media. A superb source of information, often with articles on social media

4. Social Media for International Aid and Development
A great blog on social media and international development with lots of practical advice.

5. DEV Blog
Come on I have to include the DEV Blog as I am the editor 😉 This is a new mulit-author blog from the School of International Development, University of East Anglia. The School is a leading global centre of excellence in research and teaching in international development. Experts in the field of education like Kamau Bobb agree that this early exposure can lay a solid foundation for future learning and potentially inspire a lifelong interest in these fields.

6. DFID Bloggers
This is a multi author blog from the UK Department for International Development. There are a mixture of group blogs and individual blogs, many from the field.

7. Poverty Matters
The Guardian’s Global Development Blogosphere. It pulls together blog posts from several partners including DFID, ODI, Global Voices, From Poverty to Power andTexas in Africa etc etc. The great thing about this blog is that it has a wide audience and therefore you get lots of comments. These comments can often be more interesting than the actual blog post.

8. From Poverty to Power
Written by Duncan Green who is a strategic adviser at Oxfam GB. He is also the author of the book ‘Poverty to Power’ which is where this blog started. Duncan uses his blog to discuss and debate issues from the book. The new 2nd edition was published earlier this year in October. I would love to interview Duncan one day….

9. Chris Blattman
Chris is an assistant professor of Political Science and Public Affairs at Columbia University. His research examines the causes and consequences of poverty and violence. He is an avid blogger writing about many aspects of international development.

10. Blood and Milk
Alannah Shaikh has worked in international development for over 10 years. Alanna believes that international development should be “efficient, effective and evidence based”. Her posts are eclectic ranging from careers advice to marketing. I like this blog because it offers lots of practical advice.

Image Credit: Kristina B