Journalists in the Philippines use SMS to Get Information to Their Communities

,

Internews, Washington, DC

Innovative News Project Advances Climate Change, Disaster and Environmental Reporting

Local journalists in the Philippines are posting news and information on environmental issues and communicating with disaster-affected communities using an innovative new SMS-based reporting platform called EnviroNews. The platform was launched by the Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists with support from Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN).

EnviroNews allows local journalists to text tips and reports into the system. Verified information is then reviewed and posted by a pool of editors to environews.ph, and finally pushed out to social media platforms that include Twitter and Facebook.

The Philippines, a low lying small country of more than 96 million people, is at the doorstep of climate change, enduring typhoons, severe drought, floods, and coastal erosion on a regular basis.

Just this month, four typhoons battered the country with heavy rains that resulted in devastating floods. Hundreds of people were killed or injured and thousands were displaced. Millions of dollars worth of infrastructure was damaged or destroyed.

Using SMS reporting, journalists can reach audiences ranging from isolated villages to government agencies more quickly during and after a typhoon or other disaster, to share information such as flood warnings or to locate areas where rescue teams are most needed.

“When disaster strikes, we want to get and deliver information as fast as we can. We want to give vital information and alerts on weather condition or flooded areas to local communities. It is a powerful reporting system especially in a disaster-prone country like the Philippines,” said Bulacan-based journalist Dino Balabo, who has been sending SMS and stories during the recent typhoon.

With the launch of the SMS-based collaborative journalism platform local journalists are now able to communicate and produce stories, even in the most remote regions, using SMS. The system also empowers local citizens who are eager to have an outlet to report and find solutions to the pressing environmental problems affecting their country.

The project relies on FrontlineSMS, a free and open-source tool that enables journalists to rapidly share information through a mobile device and a computer.

“This is a very good example of harnessing technology, especially in reporting disasters and typhoons and other environmental issues in our communities,” said Davao City-based journalist Henrylito Tacio. “Our reporting is fast, immediate and readers can track down latest information.”