Author: Harry Surjadi, October 5 2013 For hundreds of years, journalism has been a monopoly of mainstream media. Only media has the authority to practice journalism. Outside of media, no one has the 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 is then called citizen journalism.
Journalistic practices by citizens are defined as citizen journalism, through which ordinary citizens write, report, edit, and send image, text, video, and audio to other audiences (Encyclopedia of American journalism).
CJ role as information broker
Information brokers are citizens trained on basic journalism knowledge and skills. An information broker has the same knowledge and skills as citizen journalists do. She/he has capability on how to distinguish facts from opinion or analysis, as a professional journalist has. She/he also has developed the skills to write information (or news).
The information broker has high awareness of what happens 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 a source of information for the community members.
The information broker will send information she/he retrieves from her/his community to two reporting systems using a cellular phone.
1. SMS (short message system) reporting using the FrontlineSMS program (FrontlineSMS.com). The FrontlineSMS program will forward the SMS news from the information broker to specific cell phone numbers belonging to government officers who are 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 website or to social media (twitter, FB [Facebook] etc.). To monitor the forest, the FrontlineSMS program can be integrated into the Ushahidi program.
2. The IVR (interactive voice response) reporting system using the Swara program (cgnetswara.org). The Swara system is for voice news. The 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 website. Anyone can hear the news posted in the website.
The information broker can be very useful for monitoring activities (climate change or REDD [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation] projects monitoring, election monitoring, and surveys (health survey, economy survey, social survey). For surveys, the information broker needs only a list of indicators of certain issues. The information broker will send a report or information based on her/his observation of indicators.
3. IVR Junction of Microsoft is an alternative for the IVR (interactive voice response) system developed by Microsoft as an open source. Click here for the website.
For the last 15 months [prior to September 2012], Ruai Citizen Journalist Training Center (RuaiCJTC) and Knight International Journalism Fellow in Indonesia have been training 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 more here.) When important information is shared to the general public, it will empower the community and push government officers towards transparency and accountability.
The information broker as independent monitoring model
Based on experiences in West Kalimantan, the information broker concept can be developed as independent monitoring on REDD 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 reports on the FPIC (free and prior informed consent) processes as an 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 on 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 the 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 the REDD Plus pilot project started 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 (AMAN).
The system will forward important information from the information broker, such as forest fire incidence, to the local government which is responsible for forest fire, to local NGOs, and to local mass media and national media.
The project owner of the REDD Plus pilot project will submit the report (R of MRV) based on the report from the information brokers.