One of the major features of public discussion around the current global financial crisis is that the language of macro-economics is dominant. Different theories of macro-economics are being used to shape policy prescriptions, and these prescriptions are being shouted at policy makers. I suppose policy makers have to take Macro-economics 101 in order to be effective in their roles. Which is fine. But what about citizens?
Debate about how the current information-abundant communication environment is impacting global politics has long entered the circles of communication practitioners and academics. However, findings remain mixed.
Internews Network and Internews Europe recently released a report entitled “The Promise of Ubiquity: Mobile as Media Platform in the Global South.” According to the release, the report was commissioned “to help the media to understand the exciting potential, the incredible challenges and the perils of refusing to change.” It’s an impressive volume, packed with multi-country stats and trends, future visions, and case studies from the Global South. These cases include use of text messaging (SMS) for a news service in Sri Lanka, election monitoring in Nigeria, crop price distribution in Indonesia, and expert health consultations for the Philippine diaspora in the Gulf region. An interesting discussion on the report here.
The global economic crisis is producing, amongst others, a divide between experts/technocrats and public opinion. This is a bill of several particulars. First, the question of language. The crisis and the possible policy responses are being discussed in a technical language so abstruse that if you don't have an MBA in finance or a PhD in Economics you are lost. It appears we have a coterie of insiders...and everybody else. This is not good, as I will soon explain.
Second, there is the question of scepticism. Public opinion is skeptical about what the experts really know about what is going on. Are these not the same experts running the global financial system and who drove it off a cliff? And why can they not agree on anything? For every expert who says countries must throw trillions at the problem is another who says do nothing, just tough it out. What are non-specialists to make of this cacophony?
The School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, supported by CommGAP, recently organized a roundtable on The Contribution of Government Communication Capacity to Achieving Good Governance Outcomes. Participants included representatives from governments, international NGOs, academic institutions, and World Bank colleagues who specialize in public sector governance and development communication. Discussions revolved around the ways in which the topic of government communication might be approached and how good practices might be shared globally.
I promised in the previous post on this topic to offer a way of taking internal political processes seriously as we seek to strengthen media systems around the world.
When we're advocating for more attention to the role of independent media systems in developing nations, we often hear the question: What about conflict and post-conflict societies? Isn't it much more important to build peace first, to provide humanitarian aid, and to stimulate economic growth before thinking about what the people see on television?
I always find puzzling how easily techno-enthusiasts believe that new information software and gizmos can successfully address many problems for democratic communication. I guess it’s part of the perennial search for quick magic bullets to solve the miseries of the world.
What makes media development work? It seems that even development specialists don't always know. To close this knowledge gap, CommGAP is working on a media development toolkit for governance advisors, giving recommendations on how to implement successful media development projects.