News in dialects may soon be just a call away

News in Gondi and Kuduk, dialects spoken by tribals of central India, may soon be only a phone call away, as citizen journalism and mobile phone technology are creating a new media outlet for the largely semi-literate and illiterate community. Shubhranshu Choudhary, former BBC producer and administrator of the Chhattisgarh Network website, says a mobile technology developed by Microsoft India in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology allows citizen journalists to leave voice recordings that could be accessed by others wanting to hear the latest news. “Though numbering 27 lakh according to the 2001 census, the Gonds living in five States, including Chhattisgarh, hardly have a voice of their own. The mainstream media, for various reasons, does not address the issues of tribals and most journalists do not understand the language anyway,” he says. He cites the example of farmer suicides in the State. “Now people can dial 080-66932500 and there are options to either record a news story or to listen to a news bulletin. In the first phase there are only Hindi news stories, but we are planning to expand it to include the Gondi and Kuduk dialects by the end of the one-year fellowship period,” Mr. Choudhary says. Director of the fellowship programme Elisa Tinsley says the aim is to make the project self-sustaining by possibly linking it to mainstream media organisations.


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