Amsterdam GRI ConferenceUPDATE May 28: Panel is today! Thanks everyone who sent in feedback. I have added bullet points of my 3 min presentation of myself below. Look forward to the discussion! 

UPDATE May 24: I added talking points below. Please add your examples and ideas!

Next week I am joining some interesting people from The Guardian newspaper, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and others (see below for description and speakers) on a panel discussion at the Amsterdam GRI Conference.

It is a future oriented panel that looks promising - we will be discussing the role of the media in sustainable development and how media organizations are "grappling with measuring and reporting on their own unique media content related sustainability impacts." This is an area new to me so I am coming ready to learn. I will try to slip in some of my own insights (see talking points below) about social media in sustainable development. Let me know if you have any burning issues you'd like me to raise or suggestions. 

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a "network-based organization that has pioneered the development of the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting framework and is committed to its continuous improvement and application worldwide."  As a Global Action Network, GRI regularly participated in Communications Community of Practice meetings that I helped run while working at iScale in 2007-2009. 

The Role of the Media in Shaping the Future of a Transparent Economy

09:00 - 10:15*

The media play a central role in fostering transparency and accountability. But how transparent are media themselves? Learn from media and organizations and their stakeholders as they discuss how the media contribute to sustainable development through their unique role. And find out how these experts see this role evolving. Also hear how media organizations are taking steps to improve their own transparency, and how they are grappling with measuring and reporting on their unique media content related sustainability impacts.

Ms. Wendy Arenas Wightman, Founder, Arenas (Moderator)
Mr. Jo Confino, Executive Editor, The Guardian
Mr. Tobias Eigen, Founder, Kabissa - Space for Change in Africa
Mr. Mike McCluskey, State Director NSW Head Corporate Social Responsibility, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Ms. Jane Meacham, Research Analyst, Sustainable Investments Institute

My Intro

I have 3 minutes to introduce myself. Here is what I intend to say: 

  • Very brief intro to my backround in ICT4D in Africa and Kabissa
  • Differentiate myself from the other panelists: Kabissa is not a media outfit but a partner to civil society at the grassroots
  • In the last few years have been actively observing mobile/social media in africa. Three observations: 

    1) Citizens are bypassing traditional media with facebook and other social media platforms 
    2) Uptake of social media is uneven - Example: On Twitter Kenya is very active, but Chad remains virtually invisible on
    3) Innovation is very visible in Africa, perhaps because of the unique conditions of Africa that make communication challenging. Example: "Daily Talk" Chalkboard newspaper in Liberia, use of SMS by radio stations, health projects, etc

  • Right now, it looks like 3 social media developments will transform the media landscape in Africa and around the world in the future - hopefully for the better.

    1) Citizen journalism and crowdsourcing
    2) Open data
    3) Visualisation/presentation of information

  • Media organizations have a crucial role to play in driving forward these developments, which I think are positive. Their own response will serve as a model for how others will use (or misuse) social media. 

My Talking Points

The talking points I have come up with thus far are focussed on the reporting role media organizations play now and might play in the future given the increasingly diversified environment with content being produced, shared, consumed and discussed via social media as well as via 'traditional' media. 

  • Citizen Journalism in Africa can have a powerful role to play in enriching the reporting, by providing alternative grassroots voices to stories provided in the traditional media as well as reporting on events that otherwise would go unnoticed. The ensuing discussion calibrates the news so that a truer picture of what happened can emerge. Examples: Global Voices Online, Ceasefire Liberia, Twitter and the Iran protests
  • Citizen Journalism and Participatory media also pose risks, especially in Africa but globally. In countries where security and rule of law are not guaranteed, it can be dangerous to post to Facebook or Twitter or a blog when you observe a troubling event and are compelled to report it. Meanwhile, with news being sourced from citizen journalists with limited training, the consumer of this news can face a bewildering flow of sometimes contradictory information. Which twitter accounts and blogs are trustworthy news sources in fast paced events producing lots of news content? What is the role of trusted media organizations to filter this news and to train/support citizen journalists?  
  • In Africa, participatory media is providing alternative channels for people and organizations to get their message out, engage with each other and discuss crucial issues. Many bypass traditional media altogether. Examples: Facebook is growing like crazy in AfricaClitoraid petition, One Million T-Shirts for Africa debate.  
  • Crowdsourcing news production will change the way news is created. Example: Ushahidi HaitiPatrick Meier's Red Button for CNN Citizen Journalists
  • Visualization, Mashups and Open Data will change the way information is presented and utilized. Examples:, Ibrahim Governance Index, Map Kibera

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