Model Citizen

The use of mobile technology has made India into the Model Citizen (journalist). In November of last year, gun shots were fired in theTaj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel in Mumbai. The images of the terrorist acts were captured and shared via mobile technology. The devastation from the terrorist act transformed India into the model of how technology is transforming people into citizen journalists, adding a new dimension to the news media.

The cameras and phones carried by people swept up in the attacks were not subject to any such rules. Mr. Shanbhag photographed one of the fires at the Taj hotel and the wreckage outside a popular cafe that was attacked on Wednesday and posted them on his Flickr stream. Some people transmitted video from inside the Taj hotel to news networks via cellphones. And reporters used cellphones to send text messages to hotel guests who had set up barricades in their rooms.”

It is no coincidence that India is the perfect case study for citizen journalism. There are over 400 million mobile phones in use in India, making it the second largest country with the number of mobile phones, behind only China but ahead of the United States. As the terrorist attack escalated, US news coverage was basically nonexistent as a result of major financial cuts on foreign news desks. CNN was the only major news network to have a reporter on the ground; thus, making mobile phones the best way to capture the images of the assaults.

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Beyond the visual imagery, people began micro-blogging through their Twitter accounts about the events, using their mobile phones. Twitter uses a SMSes of the mobile phones and, with over 6 million subscribers at the time, it made Mumbai the perfect storm to cover for citizen journalists to emerge.

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Beyond Mumbai, companies and news organizations can empower the citizens of India to boast about brands, capture images, report the news and have conversations within India. It is likely news organizations will create platforms like iReport.com on CNN and track stories through conversation on social media tools like Twitter. Channel V, the Asian MTV, has tried to mobilize young adults through www.myindiareport.in/.

Reuters is using mobile phones to provide a subscription service to farmers in rural India, where they can obtain a more accurate price on their crops by dispatching reporters into the region to report the right information at the right time to ensure success of what’s occurring with the global market. This sort of platform can level the playing field and spur economic growth.

What is even more amazing is the current infrustructure and the capacity for growth for mobile phones is still huge with only 35 percent of the market actually owning one. Social media and active citizens reporting the news is still in its infancy in India, but the potential is limitless with the number of mobile phones already introduced in the market place. Marketers and news organizations would be foolish not to recognize the potential to harness mobile technology to empower the people of India.

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5 Responses to Model Citizen

  1. Like many of your fellow classmates this week, you chose to start with the example of the terrorist attack in Mumbai and how that sparked a lot of attention in how Indians were using social media tools. You go beyond that one case, though, to share a few other ideas for how this use of social media can help people talk about the brands, products and services that they believe in. Your last point about the potential for using these tools is a good one, but to complete the thought, sharing a few examples of HOW you think that a brand might actually do this would round out your post and make it great. (3)

  2. Shayla Gibson says:

    I think you made a really good point about how you a new world of citizen journalist exist in India. This has been such a big issue in the U.S. about considering bloggers as members of the press. In this evolution it would definitely be beneficial to connect through social media.

  3. mintybeth says:

    I enjoyed reading this post because I did not remember the prominence of Twitter in the Mumbai attacks. I thought most people used traditional SMS messaging (person-to-person) or sent photos through e-mail. What I find most interesting is that Twitter really has made a name for itself as a service to turn to in times of emergency. In the future, I wonder what issues Twitter might encounter with privacy issues, for example citizens taking photos of a crime scene before police have notified family. And what about the issue of credentials? Will Twitter users consider themselves citizen journalists and want access to areas for press-only? These will all need to be considered as our newsgathering evolves.

  4. starla stiles says:

    I agree that the potential for social media and citizen journalism in India is limitless. India is on the precipice of a social media explosion and as more citizens gain access to cellular phones and the technology to provide information in real-time as events occur they will begin to serves a a source for traditional media.

  5. Alex Greenbaum says:

    The statistics you included in your post are amazing — excellent research on your part. I hope that the “citizen journalism” trend spreads to other nations on the continent who are experiencing social or political unrest. The images that came from Indians’ cell phones were so much more powerful than the images filmed by CNN.

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