Social Media in Development Cooperation

In September 2011 the Centre for Communication and Glocal Change organised a festival ‘Agency in the Mediatized World – Media, Communication and Development in Transition’ with over 40 speakers from around the world.

In April 2012 a 90-page publication was produced discussing the role of social media in development cooperation. The publication includes papers from six authors from key institutions and experts in the world of development communication. Here is a very brief summary of the articles:

Social Media in Development Cooperation by Ricky Storm Braskov
This is an introduction to the publication and also offers a brief overview of the digital, social and mobile environment. Braskov says that almost all major NGOs and development agencies have social media policies and are active on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc. He also highlights a case study by Natalie Fenton and Veronica Barassi which found that social being can a threat to NGOs as well as empowering. He discusses how broadcasting networks are using social media and citizen journalism to ‘report from the ground.’ and how local communities in developing countries can use social and mobile media to effect change.

Social and Mobile Media in ICT4D by Paula Uimonen
This paper identifies some key features of social and mobile media and relates them to social and political change. It uses case studies in Tanzania and  Uganda where blogs and mobiles and used to fight corruption in Africa.

Social Media are Amazing – But How Big is Their Impact and How Can We Trust Them? by Petter Attingsberg
The difference between “old” established media where you can find reliable information and new information sources is discussed in this article. Petter claims that social media is not really that new, as before we had telephones, underground newspapers and pirate radios. He discusses “Who is responsible for what is trustworthy” in social media as there are no demands of credibility or ethics. He also discusses how International Media Support, the organisation he works for, uses social media e.g. to engage with people outside the big cities to counteract a ‘metro-polycentric’ point of views.

UNDP’s Use of Social Media by Stine Kirstein Junge
According to Stine Kirstein Junge the UNDP use social media to show they are transparent, to connect with conversations around development topics, to build communities in general and to advocate. The article provides some practical examples of how the UNDP use tools such as Facebook and Twitter.

How Can the Internet and Social Media Contribute to Community Communication for Empowerment? by Birgitte Jallov
Birgitte argues that access to high speed internet and connected smartphones is still not common among the marginalised and vulnerable communities in developing countries. She therefore believes it is more beneficial to focus on ’empowerment radio’ in these communities. This paper is therefore centered around community radio stations and how they might integrate with social media in the future.

Social Media and Communication for Social Change – Towards an Equity Perspective by Rafael Obregon
Focusing on youth this paper briefly summarises academic literature on communication for development: information-focus and vertical communication towards the two-way participatory communication processes. It then goes on to discuss the power and limitations of social media. Obregon cites Clay Shirky who believes that  the power of social media depends upon a ‘number of enabling and timely contextual, social and political factors’. He goes on to discuss how youth have been mobilized as a result of access to new technologies, but that implementation of programs that explicitly aim to reach the most marginalized must be an essential part of equity-driven programs.

I’m looking forward to Orecomm 2013 already!!!