Launch of Free Community Media Technology to Bridge the Digital Divide

New technology which will make community media available for free to people in the developing world is being launched next week.

Computer scientists from Swansea University have been partnered in developing a digital toolkit with colleagues from the University of Surrey and University of Glasgow in the UK alongside South Africa collaborators (University of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, CSIR and Transcape).

The toolkit, which is an outcome of a Research Council UK (RCUK) funded Digital Economy project, is intended to be open and free for users and will be showcased on Tuesday 3 July 2012 at the Royal Geographical Society, London.

The Community Media toolkit provides technology for users to generate and share content in places where there is low textual and computing literacy. It also can operate in areas where there is limited power and network coverage.

The toolkit comprises of multimedia applications for a mobile phone (‘Com-Phone’), a tablet-based repository (‘Com-Tablet’), a phone charging station (‘Com-Charge’), and a community camera device ('Com-Cam') for sharing mobile phone content on low-technology televisions.  

Professor Matt Jones of Swansea University College of Science said: “This research project aims to give insights into how social-media sharing systems should be designed and deployed to benefit many billions of people beyond the mainstream “developed” world contexts. We are also keen to see how the work can impact on people poorly served by conventional social networking solutions wherever they are in the world, including the UK.”

At the launch, chaired by digital commentator Bill Thompson, there will also be the opportunity for hands-on demonstrations and to learn more about how to use or adapt the tools. The toolkit will be launched alongside another, Placebooks, also developed in partnership, targeted at UK audiences.

Professor David Frohlich, Director of Digital World Research Centre at the University of Surrey, said: “Different elements of the toolkit can be used alone or together, depending on the needs of the community group involved.

“We have got used to thinking of the internet as the ultimate place to store and access digital information.  But in regions where it is not accessible or affordable, other more local solutions have to be found. Mobile technology is part of that solution, particularly when it can be connected in ad hoc ways.”

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