The broadcasting and discovery of relevant information is one of the pressing concerns of the 21st Century. We know there is an increasing take up of mobile devices, in which consumers are increasingly demanding access to and engagement with new forms of media ‘anytime anywhere’. However, a number of challenges stand in the way of a truly ubiquitous access and retrieval of content. Research to date shows that findability and sustainability persist as two key challenges for the free flow of information in restricted environments. This is particularly true in countries with large areas that remain remote. A step change is needed to meet the needs of millions of communities worldwide.This project researches the impact of hyperlocal proximity broadcasting on communities using WiCastr devices.
This project was run in Armenia with Impact Hub Yerevan and Wicastr. There is much more work to be done to develop hyperlocal broadcasting systems.
WATCH: Documentary on the CAST project
This pilot is designed to overcome a central problem: providing relevant information in remote locations where connectivity is either non existent, problematic, costly and simply not reliable, and where media is, or may be controlled with biased agendas. People want to read their local blogger but find he is drowned out by the hectic and noisy online Google search-driven place of the Internet. They are at the local post office and want to know about the church service times, or when the post office is open but have no mobile data coverage. They are at a protest or concert and want to interact with all the other people at the event, without having to use Facebook or the Internet which may be otherwise controlled or restricted. Others might need valuable business or medical services but can’t access the Internet because the network has been damaged or shut down.
Understanding the potential of geospatial hyperlocal data capture through a remote village connectivity system
This project presents early findings from a village connectivity system deployed in three remote villages in Armenia, as an alternative way to serve journalism and community communication where data connectivity was either too expensive or lack of infrastructure was apparent. CAST (disCovery Amplification Sustainability and interacTions) used WiCastr hardware devices to build hyperlocal broadcasting networks. As a collective they form a mesh network that operates using Wi-Fi topologies. One device connects to the Internet which receives real time content and information, which is then distributed amongst all other devices within its network. A two-phase six-month pilot ran in 2016 using 27 devices.
This project allowed us to research many areas:
Big data and hyperlocal data – how to generate usage analytics in hyper proximity in villages for news providers that has never been done before
Media plurality – we promoted news that would not otherwise have been amplified. Did it affect the media choices of the people in remote villages
Digital community activism – we supported the project with a range of training and resource activities to see if the digital literacy of remote communities would be encouraged.
Hardware and software systems to facilitate the delivery of news in new ways. We built a system of apps to allow news to be served to each individual device – and messages uploaded from any smart phone to the cloud.
It explores data journalism in two main ways. The first is data as a transfer process between online to offline news content. The structure of the CAST system is such that online content is adapted as static pages served and distributed to CAST devices as offline content in hyperlocal locations such as bus stops, cafes or village schools etc. Having this local copy and Wi-Fi hotspots allow users to connect via Wi-Fi without the requirement of having a data plan on their device. This differs from other beacon systems where the online connectivity relies on the user rather than the hotspot. Analytic data on usage is collected per device in the village. The paper presents detailed analysis of this process and presents the operational barriers to data transfer in this way in remote areas. This includes issues with capturing data from the devices when connectivity cannot be maintained.
Furthermore, the project outputs analyse the practices for collecting and analyzing big data usage of news content in hyperlocal locations within the three villages (Lernapat, Lchashen and Kamaris). Content and digital tools were provided in several ways: (i) aggregated content via automated scraping from news services including the European Union, ArmComedy, Hetq.am, Kolba.am, UNDP.org, Civilnet and Arm Weekly News. (ii) Wikimedia was provided as an offline staticresource on the devices (iii) WordPress blog allowed approved users (teachers, healthcare workers, school groups) to manually upload content on village affairs.(iv) Peer to wall messaging let users post to a noticeboard e.g. road closures or job alerts from their mobile phones. (v) A project page included information, explainers and resources.
WATCH: Video on CAST explaining the digital divide in Armenian remote villages
Understanding the way villagers interacted with the system is key to understanding the connection with complex media plurality issues. Findings are based on what was viewed, downloaded, how many times, how long you stay connected etc. Understanding the data generated from interacting with content furthers the understanding of news content that communities want, where and when. The devices also captured real world metrics of how many people there are with smart devices in a proximity (when Wi-Fi and bluetooth are enabled on the device). This data significantly furthers our understanding of geolocated content provision.
Please get in touch to develop or further test this application. @cecook