Al Jazeera technology gives voice to Somalian strife

Rebecca Hawkes ©RapidTVNews | 08-12-2011

News broadcaster Al Jazeera English has conducted a survey via SMS of Somali people to ascertain how lives have been affected by the ongoing conflict, and is mapping the results on its website from today (8 December).

The Qatar-based satellite TV channel sent 5000 SMS messages across Somalia in partnership with Souktel, asking for replies to ascertain how the civil war, which began in 1991, has impacted on people living in the troubled African state.
Responses, which are still coming in to the broadcaster, are being translated into English courtesy of the African Diaspora Institute (ADI) and volunteers from around the world.
"This is the first large-scale survey of Somali sentiment. Everyone knows of the ongoing conflict in the country, but there are many individual stories that remain to be told. We've been committed to Somalia throughout all of this, and this is one more powerful method to bring to light the situation on the ground there," said Moeed Ahmad, head of new media, Al Jazeera.
The texts are being presented on a map of Somalia on the Al Jazeera English website using technology from the crisis-mapping organization Ushahidi and crowdsourcing platform Crowdflower. They can be browsed under social, political, and economic categories.
"It's a major challenge to gather this much information and present it in a digestible way for the public. We're extremely grateful to our partners at Ushahidi, the ADI, Souktel and Crowdflower for helping make this happen," added Ahmad.
The site will be live for a month following its launch on 8 December to encompass future responses.