Keynote and panel discussion at Deutsche Welle in Bonn

Brilliant experience in the last two days at Deutsche Welle (DW) at the FOME Symposium organized in Bonn on Rethinking media development – New actors, new technologies and new strategies. I gave my keynote on how the rise of the Next Billion users , low-income users in the global south coming online for the first time, is transforming the media sphere and how we need to center them in our imagination as we proceed to tackle the challenges on how to build a sustainable information ecosystem. Couple of take aways here for the field of journalism and media development when going global with these strategies:

1.  Let us not discount SMS and WhatsApp as the prime and often the sole media distribution outlet. WhatsApp and Facebook is the internet to the NBU market. We need to keep that in mind while we write content for the NBU market and how they will experience it on these devices

2. The internet is the poor person’s leisure economy – thereby, for getting them interested in the media content, speak to issues that interest them and not just about the usual topics on poverty – the poor are more than their economic status.

3. Governments are often the main advertising revenue source for media outlets and Development agencies have specific agendas which are rooted in classic development paradigms of poverty and needs based alleviation strategies. Media outlets due to these constraints tend to write the same kind of narratives and stories which thereby create a tremendous gap between what people want to read and what is written. This explains the rise of non formal media actors and influencers online. We need more than ever a diversity of stories beyond the usual stereotypes and cliches of the NBU

4. Journalists should build their brands as it gives them more freedom to express themselves and be a little more independent from their organizations; this also is a win-win for media outlets as they can safely distance themselves from these opinions and yet allow for their expression under the growing censorship regime

5. Fake news per se does not kill democracy as that would imply that information is a key instrument for decision-making. Not quite so as its more affective and people are willing to let a few lies go for the pursuit of a bigger truth (that they have been neglected by the state, media, etc. and its time they fight back and that the means does justify the ends); moreover membership to a group in this age of lonliness matters more so and thereby we need to build empathy of why people are attending to certain kinds of misinformation and reacting in particular ways and what are the broader reasons that is pushing this kind of disruption

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