Can African reporters equipped with smart phones help improve accountability and transparency in development aid?

By: Ben White
On: February 25, 2009
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About Ben White
I am a media professional with several years of international experience. I have worked on media projects in Europe, Central/Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. I have a particular interest in the rise of internet and mobile tehnologies in emerging markets. This interest is an important part of my master's program at the University of Amsterdam.


Tomorrow Africa Interactive and the International Resource Center for Water and Sanitation will compete for the WeMedia GameChangers award.

Here is an outline of my presentation. All comments, thoughts and ideas are welcome !

Africa Interactive is working to build a network of African journalist, photographers and filmmakers. This network consists of 400 individuals in 35 African countries. Last year we started documenting water and sanitation projects for International NGO’s like

Local journalist use mobile phones as a tool to document and report on Water and Sanitation projects (See example below). The first videos we produced were used for fund raising efforts in the Netherlands. We were surprised to see that each project immediately received the funds they needed. We hope to go back later in the year and document the progress and to show the end result.

Why did this work?

Because people could see what the project was about! They could see with their own eyes that these projects needed support. People need to know that the money they donate goes to the project that needs it and not to the production of another brochure or overhead of some international organization.

At the same time how did this project fail?

Because theses videos were not used to engage local communities and media in the process. We were successful in getting the funds needed for the projects but we did not get local government, organizations, communities and individuals involved in the process.

We want to change this.

Last fall we were lucky to find a partner in the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, a leading advocate for sustainable WASH services, and their Ghanaian counterpart, Resource Centre Network Ghana, a unique source of knowledge for Water and Sanitation issues in Ghana.

We joined together with the idea that we could do better.

By joining forces we have the power to train local African reporters in key issues related to sustainability, socio-economic and health impacts, corruption prevention and monitoring and evaluation basics.

Not only to establish an independent monitoring and evaluation program for the 500 sector organizations (including local and foreign Government and NGO organizations) active in the country, but in the interest to engage local communities and media in the process.

1) It is a fact that diarrhea, a disease largely attributable to unsafe water and poor hygiene, contributes to the high child mortality rate in Ghana.

2) It is a fact that an estimated 3.4 million school days of 5 to 14 year olds are lost to diarrhea.

3) It is a fact that one in 5 Ghanaians has to defecate in the open because they have no access to a toilet.

4) For every dollar we invest in Water and Sanitation in Sub Sahara Africa you get a rate of return of six dollars. (Based on the number of days adults or their children get sick – purely a result of the loss in man hours, cost of medicine and loss of income. Not to mention the time and energy people spend securing safe water supply)

Local reporters are an important agent in bringing about change. They have the power to tell local stories from a local perspective and in a way that no one else can. They have the power to improve the living standards in their own communities. They have the power to engage their citizens, media and government in this important debate.

We hope that our project will provide a platform needed to make these local voices heard.

Ceramics crucial in waterborne disease control
Example Mobile Report: Ceramic Filters improve water quality in Cameroon

We invite you to read, comment and rate our project.

About the WeMedia GameChangers Competition:

One of the highlights of the upcoming WeMedia Conference in Miami is the WeMedia Pitch It competition. We are looking for ideas for new services, experiences, products and business models for media and technology – coupled with a potential for social impact and social benefit. We will award up to $50,000 in seed funding to the innovators who can bring the best ideas to life.
There are sixteen finalists in all — eight in the commercial category, and eight in the nonprofit/social category. It is a diverse group of ideas and applicants that reaches around the world, across various platforms and technologies, and addresses a variety of important issues.

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