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Mobile news apps a boon to citizen journalists in Africa

(WAN-IFRA/IFEX) - “You can never have a conversation about Kenya these days without talking about the mobile revolution,” begins a recent op-ed column written by Dickens Olewe of The Star in Kenya, reflecting one of the most promising media development success stories on the continent.

If you think all African media is rudimentary or behind the times, think again.

Mr Olewe, a journalist and web administrator at The Star, has developed a platform to promote citizen journalism in Kenya, with the help of WAN-IFRA's Mobile News for Africa Grant and Training scheme (MNFA).

“Kenya is now renowned around the world for its innovative mobile money system which has changed how people send, receive and save money; a concept that's currently being replicated the world over,” says Mr Olewe. “Concurrently, the mobile phone is leading another revolution; how people consume, share and interact with news.”

Called Star Reports, the Android application allows citizen journalists to easily upload their news reports to a dedicated website where readers can view the entire stream of content, or filter stories according to various categories and regions. Those stories are also fed into The Star's workflow, where the newspaper and affiliated radio and television stations can pick up submitted content for development into stories featured in print or broadcast – a key benefit to help provide coverage of underserved areas of the country.

Star Reports is one of ten successful mobile applications developed by nine newspapers that participated in WAN-IFRA's Mobile News project last year. An additional five newspapers in as many countries have been selected this year to work toward the development of mobile services that will benefit their organisations and readership.

“The projects being developed this year are very diverse and range from development of an SMS news alert app in Nigeria, to the revamping of a mobile journalism project in Cote d'Ivoire, to a mobile news alert and Mogadishu city guide in Somalia,” said Catharine Fulton, director of the Mobile News for African programme for the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). “Some really innovative and interesting projects are sure to come from the newspapers we've engaged this year.”

Recipients of the 2012 MNFA grant are Hamar News Network, Somalia; The Windhoek Observer, Namibia; Naija247News, Nigeria; Abidjan Live News, Cote d'Ivoire; and Omnimedia, Ghana.

More on the project can be found here

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