How to harness the power of mobile voice for news

Written by Ben Colmery on the IJNet blog

Voice technology has tremendous potential for engaging citizens in news. That was the thinking behind the meeting – called Turn Up the Volume: Bringing Voice to Mobile Citizen Journalism – which the International Center for Journalists organized this month at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy. We brought together a diverse group of journalists, technologists and media entrepreneurs from around the world to look for the best models for using voice technology to engage citizens in news – and to identify needed improvements to the technology.

The idea came from Knight International Journalism Fellow Shubhranshu Choudhary’s project, CGNet Swara, in India. CGNet Swara has shown how mobile phones can enable people living outside population centers to share stories and concerns that are often absent from traditional news reports. Swara uses Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology so that people can simply call a phone number, press “1” to leave reports and press "2" to listen to reports, making two-way news distribution possible. Voice reports are then vetted by moderators and made available to mainstream media and public officials through a website.

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