At Small World News for the last few years we’ve focused primarily on building a mobile app for making great stories with your mobile device. This struck many as an interesting turn for an organization that had so far prided itself on being technology and platform-agnostic. However, though we have focused in on StoryMaker, we continue to recognize that each job is unique which is why we prioritize finding the right tool or approach based on the need.
Unlike many other applications in this space, StoryMaker does not rely on the cloud for editing, processing, or storing your media. StoryMaker works entirely offline. This is in part because we recognize that the largest body of individuals who lack representation in the media, and who are unheard, lack access to high bandwidth internet. For many, they may lack regular access to low bandwidth internet as well.
We are currently working on making StoryMaker more accessible and more useful to users in highly censored or disconnected environments, such as in Afghanistan, rather than deploying a smartphone-intensive approach to citizen journalism to document the election, we worked with Impassion Afghanistan to create a curriculum for citizen journalists to consume by radio, and encouraged them to participate in documenting the election by phoning and texting reports to the station.
All over the world we have found trainees and colleagues with a deep desire to tell their own stories and participate in global conversations. But in many areas we work, such as Zimbabwe, Burundi, Afghanistan, and India, we find connectivity continues to be one of the most obvious divisions between successful storytellers and the unheard. This was also noted in Nepal back in May, where SMS as well as low bandwidth apps like WhatsApp and Viber proved to be key in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.
Many companies and organizations are starting to notice this division. In order to reach those in emerging markets, their apps will have to work on low bandwidth. Last year Internet.org’s Innovation Lab enabled Yahoo and Twitter, among others, to discover “their apps break when on a simulated developing world network.” The Broadcast Board of Governors, which oversees a broad array of programs targeting communities with low bandwidth, has been focused on making their content available to these communities for quite awhile. As noted earlier this year, they already have several versions of their apps developed specifically for use on java-only phones. These are great steps, and I hope a focus on developing tools that consider the specific needs of low bandwidth communities will continue concurrently with efforts to increase connectivity. As an organization dedicated to helping diversify the community of storytellers, we will continue to look for new strategies to support them, regardless of income or bandwidth.