An efficient media is essential in creating, building, maintaining and sustaining good governance and protection of human rights. The Ushahidi web based reporting system is formulaically an efficient media, as long as all key ingredients are present. Most conflict in the DRC has occurred in the North Kivu province. In recent months, fighting has spread to the northeast province of Orientale. Lack of internet access in Orientale is hindering humanitarian, international media, national media and Ushahidi’s efforts to report and collect data. Currently less than 1% (majority of whom are in major cities) of the over 60 million people in the DRC are internet users, however last week’s multimillion dollar contract between 03b Networks and Microm DRC aims to provide efficient internet access. As fighting within the northeastern region of the DRC continues to leave hundreds dead, and thousands internally displaced, starving and/or at risk of epidemic (due to lack of drinking water and high population within close quarters), the need for Microm DRC and 03b’s new internet service grows more vital.
Without the internet the general public is left misinformed about international news. With a death toll of over 5.4 million, the DRC conflict is the deadliest war since WWII. Yet, in 2000, there was so little coverage that reportedly, an average viewer watching 30 minutes of news daily on CNN and BBC would have seen a total of 15 minutes and 29 minutes of coverage, respectively, over a span of one year, in the largest African country whose wealth in natural resources surpasses many. By not maintaining an informed public, an inefficient media does not only fail its audience, but it also fails those who are suffering. NGO’s and humanitarian efforts receive greater governmental funding and private contributions the more the public is aware. The more mainstream media fails to be efficient, the more powerful the internet is in maintaining and informed public.
When violent conflict broke out in 2007, international media institutions, and NGOs received a large portion of their information from bloggers within the DRC, such as Congogirl and Kate Wolf. When reporting incidences in the north kivu province, Ushahidid’s use of mobile phones and the web, in cooperation with NGO workers and local journalists, turned the blogging of 2007 into efficient media through a system of credible web based reporting*. In the last two months, lack of internet access has slowed humanitarian efforts, and weakened incident reporting on the north east province of the tracking map. Unfortunately, national low circulation of print media, lack of radios and tvs, can further fuel conflict.
In 2004, when Gen. Nkunda and Col. Mutebusi jointly took over Bukavu, violent demonstrations toward the UN (there to prevent the incident) broke out in the capital. Meanwhile the DRC government abandoned support, of a member of the presidential guard’s coup attempt. Rumors surrounding the presidential guard’s whereabouts escalated political tensions throughout the country. The rumor mill spun to such an extreme that under the threat of sanctions, the official government restricted the press from releasing any messages that might heighten tension or conflict.
Many services in Africa have built their business models around mobile technology, therefore owning a cell can dramatically improve one’s life. The African mobile market is growing twice as fast as the global market. Ushahidi has used the prevalence of mobiles in Africa, to help formulate a new journalism, however, an effective internet service is crucial in its efficiency as seen in the north eastern province. The deal between Microm DRC, and its high bandwidth, low-latency internet provider, 03b Networks says that its extensive deal will provide internet for the whole country. Financial supported by Google Inc, Liberty Global Inc and HSBC Principal Investments, the network project will combine speed, and global reach to create the first ever ultra low latency, fiber speed satellite network. With communication throughout the DRC intact, the path for a country to create, build, maintain and sustain good governance and protection its human rights can be seen, and the door for global populous to be truly informed opens.
About the guest author:
Sarah Jones is a multimedia journalist currently pursuing her masters in International Journalism at City University in London. Her thesis will feature the experiences and views of those living in the Matonge district of Belgium., She graduated with a B.A. in Communications from Lake Forest College in 2008 while working as the associate producer for the “Someone You Should Know” segment on ABC 7 News Chicago.