⇓ More from ICTworks

User-Generated Content: Critical Yet Missing From ICT4D

By Guest Writer on June 8, 2016


Today, user-generated content dominates the first world’s online experience. User-generated content (UGC) can inform (Wikipedia), respond (Quora), recommend (Yelp), support commerce (eBay), organize around causes (Kickstarter), collaborate (Github), or entertain (YouTube).

A typical media consumer in the West spends as much time with UGC, 5.4 hours/day, as all traditional radio, print, and television media types combined. Based on the trends, UGC may be the dominant (50%+) content segment in the next 10 years, or more than the 30% of UGC-based media consumption of western audiences today.

Our peers – known and unknown – can tap into this content online and engage easily, enriching the existing content, their own knowledge, and the collective experience. User-generated content is a force multiplier.

As is the concern of many organizations, from NGOs to tech powerhouse companies, a significant chunk of the world’s population are not part of this multiplier effect. Disconnected, rural, and marginalized populations’ voice, knowledge, and perspectives are left untapped. What would UGC look like from their perspective? If leveraged, could it be the socio-technical shift that transforms how the “last mile” accesses and shares?

User-Generated Content for Development

Internet penetration in India is doubling every three years, so the development sector should be prepared and develop UGC-centric systems from the beginning. The emergence of UGC will cause the development communications paradigm to shift from provider-to-constituent to peer-to-peer, and connect communities to each other rather than just to an organization.

Even absent of mobile Internet penetration, we see indications of the untapped potential of UGC in rural areas.

  • An early example is Ushahidi, in which voters sent in simple texts to mark polling stations where there was unrest or denial/hindrance of getting to the polls.
  • Our colleague Neha Kumar studied music sharing in rural India and found a vibrant ecosystem (and hungry market) for folk music produced by locals, for locals.

User-Generated Agriculture Content

When communities such as farmers start sharing content – perhaps if they have feature phones, and can even snap photos in the field or record clips in action – other farmers pay attention.

Join us at ICTforAG for a deeper discussion of user-generated agriculture content.

With access to localized, actionable information, they no longer have to depend only on extension services to improve their farming practices or adopt new technologies, which may improve productivity. They hear from peers who speak their dialect, understand their context, and are easily accessible.

  • Digital Green has proven over a decade of work that farmer-sourced agricultural advice is 10x more effective in top-down agricultural extension than the peer-sourced content.
  • Awaaz.De’s own work with Khedut Saathi, a farmer advisory line using IVR in Gujarat, showed that 80% of farmers preferred peer-generated tips over so-called experts.
  • Over a hundred farmers in Maharashtra, India are using Whatsapp to share best practices, explore new markets, and build infrastructure.

These examples are just the beginning for UGC applications in rural areas. As mobile penetration continues to be uneven, we have not reached the stage where content can be sourced and sent to all corners of the rural landscape.

User-Generated Content by the Next Billions

Interestingly, to date, UGC has been confined to online platforms, requiring connectivity, and ultimately, excluding a large portion of the population. How much further will UGC reach, if it’s “offline,” or more realistically, an online-offline hybrid?

The technology is just a delivery amplifier – it is the offline interaction and experimentation by farmers that carries their efforts forward. And UGC allows for voices to enter the equation that were previously ignored – encouraging more of a meeting in the middle with authentic grassroots perspectives, rather than traditional top-down development.

Much like you or I may read an article online related to our professional field (like ICTworks), UGC may provide the information and social multipliers that allow rural, disconnected, or marginalized communities to support and enrich one another’s lives.

There are billions of voices that are poised to shape and share unique content. Content from individuals and communities that are already exchanging and learning, paired with technologies that exist today, can create an increasingly useful and human-centered online-offline network. What would your work look like if the population you are trying to reach created, and not just consumed, shareable content?

Join Shital Shah and Neil Patel of Awaaz.De for the ICTforAg Learning Lunch on What’s the Secret to User-Generated Content from Farmers?

Filed Under: Agriculture, Thought Leadership
More About: , , , , , ,

Written by
This Guest Post is an ICTworks community knowledge-sharing effort. We actively solicit original content and search for and re-publish quality ICT-related posts we find online. Please suggest a post (even your own) to add to our collective insight.
Stay Current with ICTworksGet Regular Updates via Email

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.