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Information Broker: Communicating and Monitoring Climate Change

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For hundreds of years, journalism is a monopoly of mainstream media. Only media has authority to practice journalism. Outside of media, no one has capability or authority to practice journalism.

After the vast and fast development of ICTs (information and communication technologies), especially Internet and mobile phone technology, everyone can practice journalism and produce news. This new kind of journalism practice then called citizen journalism.

Journalistic practices by citizen are defined as citizen journalism, through which ordinary citizen write, report, edit, and send image, text, video, and audio to other audiences (Encyclopedia of American journalism).

CJ role as information broker

Information broker is a citizen been trained on basic journalism knowledge and skills. Information broker has knowledge and skills as citizen journalists. She/he has capability how to distinct facts from opinion or analysis, as a professional journalist has. She/he also has developed skill to write information (or news).

The information broker has high awareness of what happen in his/her community. She/he will send information or news (as citizen journalism) to the public or media partners. She/he has a role to raise awareness of community members on certain issues (or any issues). She/he can access information needed by her/his community. The information broker becomes the eyes, ears, and voice of the community.  And in the other way around, the information broker is source of information for the community members.

Reporting systems

The information broker will send information she/he retrieves from her/his community to two reporting systems using cellular phone.

1. SMS (short message system) reporting using frontlinesms program (frontlinesms.com). Frontlinesms program will forward the SMS news from information broker to specific cell phone numbers belong to government officers who responsible for certain issue. The SMS reporting system can be set to forward the SMS news or information to subscribers. The SMS news/information can be pushed to a web site or to social media (twitter, FB etc.). To monitor forest, frontlinesms program can be integrated into Ushahidi program (See: http://www.frontlinesms.com/2012/03/08/new-resource-step-by-step-guide-on-using-frontlinesms-with-ushahidi/).

Reporting model of citizen journalism/information broker:

2. IVR (interactive voice response) reporting system using swara program (cgnetswara.org). The swara system is for voice news. Information broker will record information by calling a provided phone number. People can hear the news by calling the same phone number. The voice news/information can also be pushed to a web site. Anyone can hear the news posted in the web site.

Information broker can be very useful for monitoring activities (climate change or REDD projects monitoring, election monitoring – http://www.frontlinesms.com/2012/03/21/coordinating-frontlinesms-use-in-the-upcoming-kenyan-elections/), survey (health survey, economy survey, social survey). The information broker just has needed list of indicators of certain issues. The information broker will send report or information based on her/his observation of indicators.

The Swara IVR system:

3. IVR Junction of Microsoft is alternative for the IVR (interactive voice response) system developed by Microsoft as an open source. See its web site at: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/ivrjunction/

Societal impact                   

For the last 15 months, Ruai Citizen Journalist Training Center (RuaiCJTC) and Knight International Journalism Fellow in Indonesia have been trained 200 citizen journalists in West Kalimantan.

RuaiCJTC has developed RuaiSMS (using frontlinesms program) and RuaiSwara (using IVR system) for 150 CJs. The RuaiSMS has started receiving SMS news in October 2011 and since then it has created societal impact (Read: http://www.icfj.org/news/new-mobile-sms-service-helps-indonesian-villagers-hold-company-accountable). When important information shared to the general public, it will empower the community and push government officer transparent and accountable.

Information broker as independent monitoring model

Based on experiences in West Kalimantan, the information broker concept can be developed as independent monitoring on REDD (reduction emission from deforestation and forest degradation) or REDD Plus.

In the phase of pre-REDD project, the information broker, who is a community member, has a role of monitoring agent and also as source of information for community members. They will inform community members about climate change, FPIC (free and prior informed consent), REDD and REDD Plus, community rights, regulations related to forest issues, and other important information.

The information brokers will report any changes of land-use, social indicators, economic indicators, and physical changes of forest areas near them. They will also send report on the FPIC (free and prior informed consent) processes as important phase of REDD project.

When the REDD or REDD Plus project is in the phase of MRV (measurement, reporting, and verification), the information brokers need an upgrade training how to measure (M of MRV) how much carbon sequestrating in a species of tree. They will learn how to measure the diameter of a tree, identify certain kind of tree, and other important indicators. They will be equipped with GPS trackers, digital cameras, and (if needed) video cameras too.

The pilot program of independent monitoring on REDD Plus pilot project will start in September 2012 in Central Kalimantan. Central Kalimantan is a pilot province of pilot project REDD Plus in Indonesia. The program will train around 100 information brokers in three months. The candidates of information brokers are indigenous people community members. They will file report to the system hosted in the Indigenous People Alliance of Archipelago (http://www.aman.or.id/).

The system will forward important information from the information broker, such as forest fire incidence, to local government who responsible for forest fire, local NGOs, to local mass media and national media.

The project owner of the REDD Plus pilot project will submit report (R of MRV) based on the report from information brokers.

Free download for “Information Broker Manual Book in Bahasa Indonesia

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Written by Harry Surjadi

19 September 2012 at 18:56

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