The Gaon Ki Awaaz project has found an echo far beyond Rampur-Mathura, the dusty Uttar Pradesh village, where it was launched in December last year.
The project, initiated by the International Media Institute of India, was used to illustrate how the new technologies are being tapped to take information to communities that did not have access to them earlier.
The reference was made by Professor George Brock, Head of Journalism, City University London while delivering the Inaugural Address at a London hall on March 17.
In his thought-provoking address titled “Is ‘news’ over?”, Prof Brock described journalism as a “word wandering around in search of a definition” and spoke of “internet’s riches arriving on a mobile phone, equipping the poor with information which they haven’t had before”.
He illustrated his point by explaining how the villagers of Rampur-Mathura were benefitting from the new technology. “The villages may or may not have access to radio or television, but if they do, little of that news is local enough to matter. But everyone has a mobile phone, “ explained Prof Brock.
“A couple of people in each village, chosen as reporters, gather the stories. They may be thefts, fires, holes in the road, floods, births, deaths, prayer meetings. They record the stories in the local dialect and send them to an editor, who can filter and perhaps add in region-wide information on crop prices, weather forecasts or even advice on sanitation or childcare.
“A company in Hyderabad then sends the “news” back as a voice call. Thanks to speakers on phones, the twice-daily bulletins have become a social event.”
Prof Brock in his powerful address described “the trajectory of change” and its implications for the news industry. The underlying thought in his 6,317- word address was that change may be upon us but it should not be allowed to sweep away the ideals of journalism.