Convergence is where different forms of media interact with each other.  The continual evolution of these interactions is a great opportunity for creativity.   For the Media Map Project, convergence has meant finding a number of excellent partners to collaborate with.  One partner, the Centre of Governance & Human Rights at the University of Cambridge, is collaborating with FrontlineSMS to explore the future of community radio and its convergence with mobile.  Read more about their work here.

Tara Susman-Peña is the Director of Research of The Media Map Project.


This week the Media Map Project team is in Brussels, where we organized a special event for the World Bank Institute’s Strengthening Responsible Business and Governance in Africa program.  We had some interesting discussions leading up to the event on the Bank’s online platform, where participants were quite passionate about the importance of the media in these areas.  And the importance of the role of the media in driving responsible business was a theme that ran throughout several of the events.  It still remains to be seen, though, whether the Bank will take media seriously, both as a development driver, and as a sector needing development attention in many countries.  Without functioning well as a business, the media cannot fulfill its potential to drive development.  There needs to be a lot more serious and concerted thought, at a strategic level and not as an afterthought, about what the Bank can do to improve the development of media, so that it is sustainable as a business and can perform the various roles of

  • watchdog of government, industry, civil society, and indeed the media itself
  • driver of development
  • space for the public to get vital information and communicate their needs and desires to decision-makers

The special session on the role of media came up with these recommendations to support media’s role in responsible business and governance, and to support the sustainability of media as a business.

  • Plan an event together with World Bank private sector and governance stakeholders, and the African Media Leaders’ Forum to bridge the gap between governance and business initiatives and media leaders’ concerns
  • Construct a multi-stakeholder platform for discussion and strategy on media, governance, and business, to include representatives from governments, private sector, the media, and civil society
  • Create opportunities for South-South and North-South learning on this topic
  • Plan regional forums in Africa to address these issues and contextualize them according to the specifics of each African region and country
  • Identify gaps in data that measures media freedom, strength, quality, reach, and independence (connect to organizations and initiatives already working on this, like PAMRO, Audiencescapes)
  • Create independent institutions to use consistent methods to measure the audience of each type of media and advertising expenditure for all countries in Africa. This data is the building block for independent media, without consistent, reliable data that tracks these issues over time, investors will not enter into the market.

We look forward to progress in this area!

Tara Susman-Peña is the Director of Research of The Media Map Project.

During the ongoing analysis of the condition of countries with or without a free press, a very interesting and encouraging fact came to the forefront. While taking a close look at Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), we found that between 2002 and 2008, the SSA countries with a Free Press (a classification based on Freedom House’s yardstick) have been successful in attracting a sharply increasing inflow of FDI. Infact in these countries the gap between the share of foreign aid to GDP and the share of FDI inflows to GDP seem to be closing down – an indication of investors gaining confidence in these economies.

This is in sharp contrast to the SSA countries with a Not Free Press where the share of FDI inflows to GDP has not seen much change over time and the gap between aid and FDI is actually widening (implying a marginal increase in aid dependence).

This observation is worth a discussion – is free press responsible for the extent of FDI inflow in to economies or is it just a co-existing factor?

FDI vs. Aid

Sanjukta Roy is the Data Analyst for The Media Map Project.


Here is one example of a listening project, a small-scale, homegrown version of the one Susan Abbott wrote about a few weeks ago.  It’s called “Changing the System, From the Ground Up,” by Jennifer Lentfer.  She asked about 150 people on the front lines of development assistance what they would do to change the system of foreign aid.  Responses and comments left about them are interesting, many emphasizing the importance of listening itself, and of strengthening relationships among various aid stakeholders, particularly recipients on the ground.

How can we transform what we get out of listening into aid policy?  What would happen if listening itself were part of aid policy?

Tara Susman-Peña is the Director of Research of The Media Map Project.

There was a great article this week about The Media Map Project and Internews on Fortune.com.  We’re pleased that Fortune is interested in media development!   Will this help to elevate awareness of media development amongst those interested in alleviating poverty, strengthening economies, helping to ensure good governance, and empowering people?

Tara Susman-Peña is the Director of Research of The Media Map Project.

Media Development in academic research is mostly looked upon as being equivalent to a free or independent press – one which can sustain itself financially and would propagate unbiased information to the populace. Another piece that is widely being focused upon in the media development practice is technological advancement – ensuring communities have more and more access to radio, television, mobile phones and the internet.

While these two pieces of the story are indeed very important in the context of media development, there is something more to it that almost goes un-noticed and unaccounted for, on a larger scale. Before elaborating on them let’s ask ourselves what each of us mean by “Media Development”. To me, media development means a developed media sector that is not a stronghold of any particular player in the society, financially sustainable, technologically updated, reaches beyond the obvious urban educated part of the population and more importanmtly a tool or source of information that can be deciphered by the population at large and used for making decisions.

It is the reach and usability of the media sector that is a missing piece so far. My understanding of this was bolstered by the points brought up Dr. Gerry Powers, Managing Director of Intermedia (London) during his recent seminar. In his presentation “Access to Information, Mobile Telephony, and the MDGs”, Dr. Powers stressed the daunting  discrepancy in the amount of information that reaches and are being used by the urban versus the rural population. While a divide also exist between the educated versus the uneducated, the urban-rural divide was glaring. He used public opinion data for Kenya, Zambia and Ghana from the Audiencescapes research to substantiate his point.

The presentation brought to light the gaps in development initiatives and the challenges to overcome those. Dr. Powers also emphasized a rather important point – access to media does not mean access to “information” and access to information does not imply access to “quality information”. Just by building technological infrastructure one cannot ensure that the intended people will get the information they need from there.

While engaging in the Media Map Project, we are facing challenges very similar to those brought up by Dr. Powers. The quantitative data on “Media Development”, as mentioned earlier, encompasses how free the press is, how safe an environment it is for journalists and the legal and socio-economic framework for the sector in a country. There also exist data on how many TV, radio, telephone, mobile and internet subscriptions a country has per capita. But what it missing altogether is what proportion of those numbers are attributable to the urban population and how much is for the rural households. It does not say anything about how many of the users are educated or are female. There is no information that will help one understand the extent to which the traditional and new media are being used as a source of “information” via-a-vis a source of “entertainment”.

While addressing all the issues under the same umbrella is complicated, they should be addressed nonetheless. It is an important gap that begs to be looked at for the sake of holistic economic development. Without everyone being able to use media for information and for decision making, it can never lead to a trasparent, accountable and low corruption society.

Sanjukta Roy is the Data Analyst for The Media Map Project.

Mark Nelson and Tara Susman-Peña made a presentation on the Media Map Project this morning at the UN Week Digital Media Lounge.  The event was created to give bloggers virtual access the UN Summit on Millennium Development Goals, which gives very limited access to the press.  In addition to live streaming of UN events, the Digital Media Lounge held its own series of speakers and presentations, focusing on the interactions between media and development.  The Media Map Project was the only presentation focusing on Media Development.  We hope that our findings from the Project will help redress this marginalization.

Tara Susman-Peña is the Director of Research of The Media Map Project.