Share your resources and tools for practitioners.

17 posts / 0 new
Last post
Share your resources and tools for practitioners.

What guides, tools, videos, case studies, etc have helped you in your efforts to incorporate mobile phones in citizen media?

Share these resources by adding comments below!

Celly free service for citizen media

I've been active in citizen media for over a decade and have bootstrapped a few citizen media services (the first being a service called Public Press created over 10 years ago). Recently, my buddy and I founded a free service called Celly, Celly is short for "cellphone", and it lets people create private social networks called "cells" that use the lowest-common denominator technology: text-based communication. Anybody with a mobile phone and SMS can use Celly to create private (secure) communication groups of unlimited size that can be fully curated/moderated by an administrator. Today we just added polling, so it's a cinch to conduct on-the-fly surveys to gather opinions and feedback.

In contrast to Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, where early adopters are often the wealthiest and most technologically advanced users, Celly is designed to engage the poorest and least privileged citizens, empowering them with a service based on SMS that helps insure access to news and information, free speech, and the power of virtual assembly.

Though launched initially in the U.S., our hope is Celly becomes available worldwide as a service that profoundly enhances any mobile phone (featurephones and smartphones) with vital group communication and information sharing capabilities. Group communication is essential for a continuum of activities that span personal, public, and business concerns—from text messaging loved ones to disaster relief management, 911/amber alerting, election monitoring, crop price dissemination, weather forecast distribution, and political activism.

From a citizen media viewpoint, we specifically hope Celly becomes a viral tool for citizen journalism and an outlet for free speech voices. People who gather in groups such as activists and event goers can create cells as a convenient way to coordinate participation and archive group meetings, events, and communication. Citizens can aggregate cells into a live “newspaper”—e.g., readers can subscribe to cells like @news, @weather, and @911 filtered by time and location radius for their neighborhood/village. Citizen journalists can then report news anytime from anyplace by posting status reports to @news cells. By providing an accessible newswire channel service for the masses, Celly can narrow the digital information divide giving disenfranchised people a bigger voice in local, city, state, national, and global issues. Eyewitness reports—text messaged in by news stringers at the edge—can flow into mobile handsets of fellow Celly users located anywhere in the world, delivering global news enriched by hyperlocal perspectives, uniting people literally across time zones as well as cultural, political, and economic boundaries. Together with prepaid mobile phones that enable anonymous communication, Celly can insure virtual (digital) group assembly and help the masses mobilize and collectively serve as a watchdog on humanitarian issues and political economy.

By offering an accessible and affordable channel, language, and search engine for organizing group conversations, we hope Celly's impact on citizen media further enables cultural and economic growth. Group communication enabled by Celly can improve business opportunities by increasing distribution and transparency of market knowledge, leading to increased bargaining power as more participants become aware of buy/sell opportunities. Group communication via Celly can cut out middlemen and lower transaction costs. For example, Celly can reduce the overhead of “sente”—the practice of delivering money via text messaging currency—and microfinance, creating a world where everybody can be an ATM machine. Fishermen on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam could use group communication via Celly to create a fish market cell, @sokolasamaki, that connects nearby coastal fishing villages with downtown buyer and supplier networks, improving price discovery and creating more efficient, liquid markets with lower transaction costs and higher profits. Celly group communication can improve livelihood by allowing people to communicate with family and friends en masse and without the need for physical travel. 

By optimizing group communication and information sharing, we hope Celly can be a tool for citizen media that improves social cohesion, cultural exchange, and economic growth.

If you like, please give Celly a try. You can use Celly by going to or by just texting START to 23559

If you have questions, feedback, suggestions, we'd love to hear from you. Email us at


re: Celly

This looks very promising and exciting; I set a similar, but very limited tool up for a volunteer network, and it was immediately useful.  I'd love to see as an entrant in the Ashoka Changemakers competition on innovations in citizen media (supported by Google) :

I'd also be very interested in how celly manages security over SMS?

re: Thanks for feedback

Thanks. Great to hear that your volunteer network was useful. We will certainly apply as to the Ashoka Changemakers competition. Thank you for apprising us of the citizen media contest. 

Regarding security over SMS, we are building smartphone apps that encrypt messages end-to-end. Also, one of Celly's key privacy features is that users can exchange text messages without having to reveal their phone numbers. By texting messages to a cell name (group), users can exchange messages without having to disclose their phone numbers. This has been particularly important in citizen engagement/outreach scenarios where citizens want to keep their phone number confidential.

Please let us know if you have more questions.  We are available anytime. Thanks for the feedback!



Hi everyone, 

I want to share some information about a tool we are in the process of buidling to help audiences interact with radio programmes via text message. You may well know that FrontlineSMS is a free and open source software which helps people to manage text messages - you can download it now.  We began to notice that many users in our buzzing community forum were using the software in radio stations so we decided to tailor a version of the software to this context. FrontlineSMS:Radio - which we plan to release at the end of the year - will enable real time polling and live reporting via SMS. 

This whole discussion is very timely for us because we will be using our Knight News Award to expand this to develop tools to enable digital news gathering using mobile phones. One aspect of this has the specific aim of facilitating participatory journalism, interaction and collaboration from community members.    

While we have some exciting ideas from our user base, we'd really like to draw on the experiences of this forum to ask this community whether anyone working in this context could share ideas about what functions they think might be useful to overcome the challenge of colllecting and presenting these diverse snippets of information and make the most out of SMS or MMS.  

Many Thanks, 

Amy \~/

OpenWatch, Cop Recorder and Voice-Dropbox


I guess this is the place for shameless plugs, right?

I am the director of the OpenWatch Project - we create software which is used for the production of citizen media using cell phones. We make applications for smartphones like Android and iPhone, and we have also created a telephone-based voice service.

We beleive that the way to create change is through _documentary evidence_ - people need to produce recordings of violence and corruption to provide proof of their claims. Only with documentary evidence can we move past hearsay, because when hearsay comes to the courts, the state and the police always win.

Our mobile apps, OpenWatch Recorder and Cop Recorder for Android and Cop Recorder for iPhone all record Audio and/or Video secretly (either by backgrounding or blank-screening). Then, when the recordings are finished, they are sent back to our central server. Then, we analyze the recordings, remove any personally identifying information, and post the results to our website. We also write reports analyzing the trends in the submissions we receive and legal analysis of specific violations. The newer versions also have the capacity for streaming audio directly back to the server.

We have also set up a telephone number (a Voice-Dropbox) - 217-238-6300 - which serves the same function - it immediately starts recording audio and enters it into our submission system. This provides people without smartphones a way to produce documentary evidence.

All of our software, the Django server, the Android applications, the iPhone applications and the Asterisk server are all Free and Open Source projects - feel free to incorporate this technology into any of your own projects.

Our current focus is to increase our userbase, create Voice-Dropbox deployments in other countries, and to parter with other media organizations.

Our website is here:

Do you have any questions or comments? We'd love to hear your thoughts.


Rich's Mobile Media Tool Kit and SaferMobile

Hi All, has 2 projects with pertinent resources:

The Mobile Media Tool Kit ( just launched! The Mobile Media Toolkit helps you make sense of the growing role of mobile tech in media. The Toolkit provides how-to guides, mobile tools, and case studies on how mobile phones can (and are) being used for reporting, news broadcasting, and citizen media. We cover it all, from basic feature phones to the latest smartphone applications.

SaferMobile (, a project to help journalists, activists, and rights defenders learn about the risks of mobile communications and to develop safer practices.  Web resources for this project include guides to mobile risks, tactical guides, and application specific guides.  

We have already written tips for using some popular tools more securely via mobile:
Safer Twitter

And guides to understanding basic mobile communication risks:
Mobile Security Risk Primer
A Guide to Mobile Security Risk Assessment

We would love your feedback -- please let us know if you think of specific resources about Mobile Media and Security that would be useful to you!

Share your tools and experiences on the Mobile Media Toolkit!

And just to follow up on Becky's comments about the Mobile Media Toolkit... One of the things we are really excited about is hearing from others about how they are using mobile tech in various ways. We undoubtedly have left out many, many tools and reports of mobile tech in media. Please let us know about innovative tools and platforms for mobile media. We would love to hear from you, translate new content, and make it available for others to learn from. You can send information to us at, or via the contact form on this page.


Hi everybody,

Just a few lines to introduce my self. I am a journalist from Argentina that blogs about mobile technology focusing in Spain and Latinamerica and now i am working for GSMA Latinamerica.

So if you need contacts or any kind of help for your projects (they are all awesome BTW!) in spanish markets please fell free to let me know.

Sincerely (and sorry for my crappy english),

Mauro Accurso


maccur7 (at)


Twitter Short Codes

This might seem really basic, but it until recently I didn't realize that Bolivian mobile carriers now support the short code to send and receive Twitter updates. See the full list of supported countries and the specific carriers. In Bolivia, I think it was not well advertised, but nevertheless, being able to receive updates on one's mobile for free from selected accounts, as well as receive direct messages and notices of mentions really opens the possibility of two-way communication. In addition, having the option to send a paid SMS to update your Twitter account is also quite useful in those cases where you want to report something that you witness or experience and far from your computer. A lot of experienced Twitter users (via web) in Bolivia also did not realize that this was possible, so I've been doing a bit of work raising awareness.

Hey RisingVoices! Thanks for

Hey RisingVoices! Thanks for sharing the information on Twitter short codes in Bolivia! Hopefully your post will help inform others, as it sounds like a lot of people did not realize this was possible, including myself. So helpful!

Speaking of discovering new tips, tools, and resources... I'm curious how you all have learned (and are learning) how to use mobiles for citizen journalism. From on-the-job training in newsrooms? Classroom courses? Friends and colleagues? Web-based courses or content? I'm also curious about what formats seem to work best. I've seen live, online webinars, free and for-fee courses, screencasts, printed materials, general websites and toolkits. Google searches? What do you think is the best way to learn how to use your mobile for news gathering, reporting, and sharing content? And do you think the mobile phone itself would be a sensible platform to receive such content and lessons?

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems

In conversations with radio operators at the Joburg Radio Days 2011 conference, the topic of IVR systems arose, so I wanted to share this guide with the dialogue.  

Planning and Implementing a Mobile Interactive Voice System (


IVR allows callers to navigate an automated menu by pressing keys on their phone keypad, reaching either an extension ('press 1 for sales, press 2 for support'), a further menu, or audio content. Such content might be pre-recorded - for example, a weather report - or retrieved from a database and read out by an automated voice, which most mobile users will have encountered when calling in to request an airtime balance or bill amount. IVR systems can also be configured to allow people to record their own content.

Freedom Fone

Since we're on the subject of IVR, I'd like to include my own shameless plug of Freedom Fone The DIY platform enables automated, interactive, two-way, audio information to be shared through mobile phone networks. Freedom Fone is accessible, user-friendly, low-cost, scalable, global and does not require Internet access for users and callers alike. It targets ordinary mobile phone users and includes other functionalities such as SMS and Leave a Message.

Hi Everyone, In the Al

Hi Everyone,

In the Al Jazeera Mobile Team we're looking at ways that we can link with citizen reporters through their mobiles so that we can reach people who have pressing stories and issues but are not plugged into the internet. We're looking into using an SMS platform such as FrontlineSMS but are keen to have a voice recorder service as well. 

The first step is to have a portal to link with broad based citizen reports via sms and voice, then the second step is to link with citizen journalists and NGOs who are trained in media skills and ethics. Once Al Jazeera news teams have access to the volume of stories out on the ground and the context from citizen journalists then teams can be deployed to stories, which have originated from individuals that could be living in very remote areas with no access to electricity let alone internet or television.

Any suggestions as to what tools could facilitate these steps?

Voice Dropbox

Hey Cynara!

We have made a system which you might be able to use for your voice submissions, called "Voice Dropbox"

Go ahead and try it out: 217-238-6300 if you in the United States.

All of the code is Free and Open Source, so you can use it any way you like. If you're interested, we can even set up a DIDX so you can simply use our existing submission system. The source code is here:

If you're interested in this, we can develop it further to customize it to your needs. Let us know if you have any questions or if you'd like to pursue this further!

Thanks very much,

Rich Jones

The OpenWatch Project

The Next Two Years

Where is Citizen Media heading? What will the landscape look like two years from now?

More importantly, I suppose - what tools do we need to get there?

Our project is technology driven - we are primarily technologists first and journalists second (simply as a result of our backgrounds.) We try to anticipate the needs of our users, but we simply don't have the experience of some of you brave folks who are actually out in the field, so we don't always know what you need.

So - what do you want us to build for you? If you can dream it, we can probably make it.


Global Innovation Competition - deadline 14 Sept 2011

For all of you involved in using citizen media or developing your use of citizen media, there is a great opportunity to gain support for your efforts.  Global Voices and Ashoka Changemakers are partnering for the 'Citizen Media: A Global Innovation Competition‘, which is supported by Google. Prizes include US $5,000 grants for citizen media projects. 

 You can watch this video or see the step-by-step instructions here for entry information.

Note the deadline for submissions: September 14, 2011.

 NOTE: Entries can be submitted in the following languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Thai, Indonesian, Mandarin, or Japanese.

Topic locked