ALAI: Strengthening Media as a Platform for Democratic Discourse Through Training and Application of Web2.0/3.0 ICT Tools
The media have a fundamental role to play in building peace, intercultural dialogue and diversity. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles preventing the media from realizing this potential of facilitating mutual knowledge and understanding among neighbouring peoples. One central factor is that a majority of media in the region are linked to entrenched political and economic interests, and thus very rarely report on the interests and viewpoints of marginalized groups. There is a serious deficit in terms of plurality and diversity in international media content that negatively affects freedom of expression within national contexts of the region. Achieving greater balance requires strengthening development of media dedicated to reflecting regional concerns and a wider range of viewpoints. Ultimately, we must work towards strengthening media as a platform for democratic discourse, which in addition to self-regulation and professional conduct, also entails representing the diversity of views in society, particularly marginalized groups that have been excluded from forums of debate and participation. Many of the existing media in the region that do share these concerns have limited capacity to disseminate their information, especially internationally. While recourse to Internet may boost distribution, it still reaches only a minority public in the region: those with Internet access and the capacity to seek out information. It is an unfortunate reality that marginalized groups are most often excluded from the benefits and applications of new communication and information technologies (ICTs). This digital divide, as with other parts of the developing world, is present in Latin America and continues to inhibit both access to information as well as forms of expression. This project will respond to these problems by promoting greater synergy and exchange among media in the region. It will combine a seminar and a follow-up evaluation and planning workshop to reflect on these issues and seek common solutions, with development of a decentralized integrated technological platform, incorporating Web 2.0 tools and exploring Web 3.0 options, as well as capacity building in optimizing use of such technologies for media dissemination. The project, then, will address the creation of local content as well as the digital divide by creating the conditions for both an increase in information exchange among such media, and greater supply of quality journalism and expression. The objective is to create a media environment that not only responds and takes advantage of ICTs for the benefit of marginalized groups, but also, more generally, enables the expression and participation of a wide range of voices and concerns. ALAI has identified the use and training of ICTs, specifically the journalistic application of Web 2.0/3.0 tools, to address the above problems. Tools of Web 2.0 because they allow for user-generated content that fosters the free exchange of ideas and knowledge; and tools of Web 3.0 because information societies are moving towards a more integrated, semantic model of interaction that consolidates dynamic content and links information across mediums. If information societies are to truly reflect the pluralism and diversity of society, marginalized groups must be trained in the applications and potential of these technologies. ALAI is in an ideal position to develop such a service and training, as a respected information and media training organization with three decades of experience, offering a multimedia information service (print magazine, Web, data base, email) with existing networks across the region. Over a 12 month period, ALAI and 25 partnering media outlets from 16 countries will create greater levels of synergy, exchange and training to work towards common goals of media plurality and diversity; media professionals from marginalized groups will have improved opportunities and capabilities of using technology to disseminate their information and viewpoints through a variety of media outlets at national and international levels, and capacity to replicate the acquired knowledge and skills in their respective countries.