I wanted to share highlights of Innovating at the Speed of Newsour innovation expo earlier this month.  I've enclosed snapshots below of some of the ways U.S. government-funded international media are using cutting-edge technologies to shape the future of news delivery, social discourse and crisis response around the clock and around the globe.


Please be in touch if you want to know more about any of these innovative efforts.


lking@bbg.gov / 202-203-4400. 

Voice of America


A cross-platform VOA TV webcast designed to bring social media and direct audience participation to a new level. The show has successfully integrated innovative technologies, like the Never.no and Shout interactive suites, which have allowed the audience to connect and engage with the VOA broadcast in real time using social media. The show enables citizen journalists and social media influencers to comment, provide eyewitness updates and guide the live conversation to subjects that are trending in Russia. Learn more about the program here.


Internet Plus

Despite President Putin's crackdown on independent media, some smaller television stations have developed a reputation for independent reporting. The VOA's Russian Service has actively sought partnerships and affiliations with these channels and now provides the Moscow-based Russian Business Channel (RBC) with daily business reports from the New York Stock Exchange and from its headquarters in Washington. Learn more on BBG's Strategy blog.


Matsalolin Arewacin Najeriya (The 'Troubles' in Northern Nigeria")

This mobile VOA special report features monthly virtual town halls launched in response to the increased threat from Boko Haram and other militants in Northern Nigeria.


Reboot Somalia

Developed by VOA in partnership with Google Ideas, this cloud-based mobile survey project surveyed over 3,000 people in Somalia by mobile phone about what they want in their new constitution and what they want for the future of their country. Learn more about Reboot Somalia on BBG's Innovation blog.


Mali 1

This mobile-based crisis intervention project was launched after Islamic militants shut down independent sources of news and information in Northern Mali. It uses a 'light-weight' Tumblr mobile site, SMS and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to collect and disseminate news to residents of Mali.


Congo Story: War, Women and Rape

This VOA social media project uses crowdsourcing and co-creation techniques to raise awareness about gender-based violence documenting sexual violence against women, children and men in Eastern Congo. 


100 Citoyens Journalistes de RD Congo (100 Citizen Journalists)

This mobile citizen journalism project documents the everyday social and political challenges faced by people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and features over 7,500 reports filed by mobile phone since October 2011. Learn more on VOA's website.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Pangea: The Innovation of Online Journalism

Pangea is a content management system supporting more than 150 BBG news sites in 61 languages in 200 different countries around the globe and reaching a million unique users each day. The latest features include Pangea Internet TV, a live-streaming video production tool that allows journalists to create, manage and publish dynamic live video content in real time, and the PangeaGO App, which allows for live on-location video streaming from a smartphone. Read more about the individuals behind Pangea here.


Afghanistan Goes Mobile

In Afghanistan Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has enjoyed great success with its interactive SMS service, which allows listeners to subscribe to breaking news alerts, access content via their mobile phones and upload user-generated text and video content to RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Through the interactive SMS service, Radio Azadi is in regular mobile contact with a quarter of a million Dari and Pashto language listeners.

Radio Free Asia
Open Technology Fund

This next generation program by Radio Free Asia uses public funds to support Internet freedom. OTF projects support human rights by developing open and accessible technologies, fostering open societies and promoting inclusive and safe access to global communication networks. Learn about specific OTF projects at this link.


The Water Project

In Asia one in five people still lack access to clean water. The availability of fresh water, per capita, is less than half the world average and demand is growing fast. Causes include global warming, water-intensive agriculture, population growth and mismanagement on a large scale. 


Coordinating efforts among its nine language services and using direct input from listeners, Radio Free Asia focuses coverage and multimedia content on the state of freshwater sources and its availability in RFA broadcast countries. Coverage is collected onto one English language hub Web page, including videos, slideshows, and first-person accounts documenting how water scarcity affects farmers, fishermen, and ordinary people. A mobile app will launch this summer for citizens to photograph and chart issues pertaining to the state of local fresh water sources. Click here to learn more about the Water Project. 

Office of Cuba Broadcasting

Opening Up the Internet in Cuba

OCB's goal is to engage Cubans and empower them with relevant information and news. OCB provides Cubans with multimedia training in censorship circumvention and online security and regularly communicates with one millions Cubans each month by email and cell phone. The Office of Cuba Broadcasting is using new Internet censorship circumvention tools to provide accurate news and information to Cuba. Radio and TV Martí video and audio programs will be distributed to the island on disposable USB flash drives made entirely of paper.


Bringing the Social Networks to Cuba

The Martís provide a variety of new tools, such as Piramideo, an SMS-based social network that allows Cubans to connect, enjoy and spread the word, free from government control. The Martís mix high-tech and traditional means to distribute the Martís' news content as well as gather news and information from the largest network of independent journalists on the island.


Learn more about the tools used by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting here.

Middle East Broadcasting Networks
Engaging and Connecting Through Mobile and Social Networks

MBN connects with its audience through reporting that cannot be found on other Arabic-language media outlets. MBN Digital regularly covers news on human rights, religious freedom, free speech; as well as stories about American people and values. These are stories that resonate with its audience in the region. MBN's digital team then extends the discussion of these important reports through finely tailored networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.


Innovative Coverage of Syria

MBN is taking a multimedia approach to covering the war in Syria and the humanitarian crisis facing its neighboring countries. Syria Stories is an online digital project that follows six Syrians as they share diaries of their day-to-day lives; including Walid who is in Homs with his wife and child, and Sasha a single woman in Damascus for whom the sounds of bombings is a daily occurrence. Learn more about Syria Stories at this link.

Office of Technology, Services & Innovation

One-Way Web via Satellite

Utilizing Eutelsat's Hotbird 13B, the most popular Direct-to-Home satellite in Iran, the Internet Anti-Censorship (IAC) Division developed one-way delivery of website content via satellite dishes directly into PCs equipped with a readily available tuner card. This is designed to provide the Iranian population with access to web content when access is made virtually impossible by the Iranian government, either by cutting Internet access altogether or by so severely slowing down access speed as to render it unusable.


Miniature PC Monitoring of Web Censorship

By deploying a mini-PC, or specialized software, the IAC division can get a readout of the Internet censorship conditions in a specific country. In real time, the tools will scan a preloaded list of websites and determine current accessibility in a particular country. By aggregating all of the reports from around the world, the IAC division can quickly ascertain the current status of censorship in a particular country or region.


Farsi App for Android Devices with a Tor Back-End

This app will allow individuals in countries that restrict access to media sites the ability to create lists of news sites. By leveraging the anti-censorship software Tor, they can access those sites despite firewall restrictions being imposed by the Iranian government. In addition, this application facilitates citizen journalism by allowing users to upload text, pictures and videos despite the restrictions.


Click here to see the most recent version of the BBG's Internet Anti-Censorship fact sheet [pdf].

Office of Digital & Design Innovation
Enabling Cross Language Collaboration: Translation Hub

Chinese investment in Africa, the Arab Spring and the spread of technology are all examples of multi-country stories. While the BBG publishes in 61 languages, there is always a struggle to tell multi-language stories. We are using simple tools to help our newsrooms work together across languages.


Enhancing Next Generation Storytelling: TimelineJS/Popcorn/ePub

Busy journalists need to quickly create new interactive and multimedia content for digital audiences. Learn how we are using immersive, interactive videos, timelines and rich eBook experiences to help tell long-form journalism stories.


Building Digital Audiences: Google Currents/SoundCloud/iTunes

As people around the world use mobile, tablets and eReaders, BBG is delivering our audio and video to all of these devices. Let us tell you how people in China, Russia and around the world are accessing our video and audio content using the latest devices and services.


Determining How We are Doing: Smart Analytics

The Internet is awash in data, which can either be overwhelming or provide new insights into a complex world. We are using sophisticated internal and external analysis to create data-driven decision-making and to find new, unexplored and experimental opportunities.


Click here to learn more about the BBG's Office of Digital & Design Innovation.

Follow us on TwitterLike us on Facebook
About Us
The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is an independent federal agency supervising all U.S. government-supported, civilian international broadcasting media, whose mission is to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. BBG broadcasts reach an audience of 203 million in more than 100 countries and in 61 languages.  BBG broadcasting organizations include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti).