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‘Listen to me’: Creating a news network in Somaliland

March 7, 2013
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Most people in Somaliland get their news from radio and television. But the broadcasters are concentrated in the cities, and their signals don’t reach listeners in the countryside.

Mohamed Gulaid has a solution for the problem. The master’s student in the School of Information at the University of Michigan has created a news network using mobile phones and other technology that is inexpensive and available.

“An individual can do a lot because of technology,” he said. “You can have a big impact on your community and surroundings.”

 

Gulaid’s main goal is to create a news source that would enhance government transparency in Somaliland, the northern part of Somalia that declared independence in 1991.

“I want to duplicate the effect of social media in the developed world, where people have access to their officials via Twitter and Facebook,” he said.

He is using IVR – interactive voice response – applications that mimic Twitter. This allows people to listen to news stories on their phones and discuss public policy, peace building and other key issues in community forums.

The project, called “Listen to me” or “Ila Dhageyso” in Somali, is a collaboration between U-M and Microsoft Research in India.

The network has now become more than a news source.

“People started discovering hidden menus within the phone and started to use the system in an entertainment way,” Gulaid said. “They recorded music, songs, jokes and stories.”

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