Saturday, May 30, 2009

.:: SAMAA - Stanford salutes SAMAA's Polio Cell

.:: SAMAA - Stanford salutes SAMAA's Polio Cell

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SAMAA TV's Polio Control Cell was considered one of the most innovative initiatives for the media's role as a watchdog on Heath care Delivery Mechanisms, at the 6th international conference on Innovation Journalism at Stanford University, CA.

SAMAA TV is a liberal Urdu language television channel in Pakistan, a country where polio has yet to be eradicated. Many communities have yet to be immunized; vaccination teams are sometimes unable to reach remote areas, or parents themselves refuse the vaccination drops for their children out of misplaced fear because of a lack of information or for religious reasons.

SAMAA’s Polio Control Cell, set up with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, will help the health authorities reach out to the most vulnerable communities and include every child below five years of age in the national polio vaccination programme.

After SAMAA and the government and UNICEF teamed up, 14,500 complaints were recorded and managed by the television channel, as a result of which 22,000 children, who otherwise would have been left unvaccinated, were tended to.

In their bid to eradicate Polio from Pakistan, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health vaccinate almost 35 million children after every 60 days.

SAMAA’s Polio Control Cell was discussed as an innovative media initiative at the Stanford conference (May 18-20) which was attended by working journalists, media entrepreneurs and policy-makers in media and innovation, academic researchers, faculty and students in related areas of study and other professionals related to the innovation ecosystems across the world.

The Innovation Journalism conference, since its start in 2004, has become a global platform and meeting place for discussing the best ways of covering innovation in the news, the business of doing that work, and how innovation journalism interacts with society.

The media boom within the past seven years has led to growth of more than 70 channels with a majority of them focusing on news and current affairs in Pakistan. This has spurred on a largely young population to adapt modern ways of learning and keeping themselves aware.

The conference included keynotes on the crises and opportunities for journalism and workshops on Innovation Journalism best practices. The sessions ranged from the business models of innovation journalism to how to cover innovation - a 'horizontal' topic, crossing the normal production lines in the news room.

Among the keynote speakers were VINT CERF - Chief Internet Evangelist of Google, "Father of the Internet", CURTIS CARLSON, President SRI, G. PASCAL ZACHARY, Journalist; Vis.Scholar, UC Berkeley, MICHAEL KANELLOS, Editor-in-Chief, Greentech Media, ERIC ELDON of VentureBeat.

At the session of "Where is the Money?", Jason Pontin, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Technology Review, Thomas Frostberg, Senior Business Columnist, Sydsvenska Dagbladet and Amir Jahangir, CEO of SAMAA TV Pakistan, were the keynote speakers. The session was moderated by DAVID NORDFORS, Executive Director of the VINNOVA-STANFORD Research Center of Innovation Journalism.

The news and media business models in Asia, specifically Pakistan, India, and Thailand etc. are not only intact but offer greater value due to a much richer demographics as well as young workforce, which consists of an emerging middle class.

Amir Jahangir, Chief Executive Officer of SAMAA TV, one of Pakistan's leading Urdu news channels, and other representatives of SAMAA TV, Shahray Zariff, Meher Bokhari and Fatima Akhtar, were selected as key presenters for the IJ-6 based on SAMAA TV's leading initiatives for the media's role in the socio-economic development of Pakistan through some of the innovative strategies, which have been benchmarked as global standards in communications.

"The Pakistani media has arrived, it is independent, evolving and becoming a platform for the entire nation's expression and hope," said Amir Jahangir, adding that media independence and its growing following and influence are not only bringing about a social change but a complete re-engineering of the entire societal structure.

"The media is consistently attracting investment, human capital improvement and audience/viewers participation. With more research, development of specific academic infrastructure, induction of technology and more innovative forms of journalism, we are confident that this sector will not only evolve itself but will also demonstrate the capacity to influence other sectors to grow as well.”

Jahangir concluded by highlighting the importance of the Asian region, sharing that it consists of over a third of the world's population, a population which is young, mostly between 16 to 30 years old and includes a set of emerging and still vibrant economies. Jahangir said that the future of the media in the Asian region is promising and hopeful and would play an important role in leading the world in to what could as well be the Asian Renaissance. Amir Jahangir is also a Program Advisor to the VINNOVA Research Center of Innovation Journalism.

Shahray Zariff, Executive Producer for SAMAA TV, spoke on the launch of the first program on Innovation in Pakistan, another leading initiative by SAMAA TV. Zariff shared that the objective of the program is to identify and highlight innovation initiations and processes relevant in Pakistan (which can range from technical, business and social etc.) and benchmark them against international definitions and standards. The program looks at innovation as a holistic process and highlights the link between technical innovation and its social and cultural impact. The program is produced in collaboration with innovation journalism fellows across the globe.

Fatima Akhtar, Senior Manager for SAMAA TV's Interactive Platform, presented SAMAA's vision for its interactive platform, that links innovation to new media development with the aim of uniting audiences and providing them with a platform whereby, they can initiate a healthy "dialogue". Apart from providing credible news stories to societies around the world, this interactive platform also allows audiences to share their content with SAMAA and the rest of the world. SAMAA is also creating its interactive profile as a Web 3.0 ready model. This will be one of the first initiatives from Pakistan in compliance with the Davos based World Economic Forum's WELCOME platform.

Capitalizing on the potential offered by new media, SAMAA's citizen journalism initiative i.e. iSAMAA aims to create content through collaboration and partnerships. One of the most significant milestones achieved through this initiative was SAMAA TV's collaboration with ALLVOICES.COM (a citizen journalism startup based out of Silicon Valley, an initiative of Innovation Journalism Fellow). SAMAA is also collaborating with a domestic citizen journalism portal: SeenReport (a startup out of Lahore University of Management Sciences). The uniqueness of the portal is that, among the different categories, there is also a beat on "INNOVATION" whereby, users can upload content relevant to this particular beat.

The objective is to allow citizens to come together and create a more effective communication among different communities thus, shifting their role of "consumers" to "innovators and content creators" of knowledge and information.

During the various presentations, one of the most applauded initiatives among the participants was SAMAA TV's innovative health communication programme for the Pakistan Polio Program, the "Pakistan Polio Control Cell". The presentation was given by Ms. Meher Bokhari, Senior Producer and Anchor of SAMAA TV.

This initiative managed a big challenge on the ground by empowering the media to play the role of a watchdog and pressure the health authorities to deliver on improving the health service delivery systems. Recently the initiative has also been recognized as a benchmark for future Polio campaigns around the world by the Global Director of the World Health Organization, Bruce Alyward, and Bill Gates, the founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, on their maiden visit of Nigeria this year.

Dr David Nordfors, co-founder and Executive Director of the VINNOVA-Stanford Research Center of Innovation Journalism, reinforced the importance of innovation in today's global development by saying that, "for journalism to survive, it must succeed with innovation. Journalism needs to innovate to survive as a business, which means that citizens, students, workers, executives, all of us need to innovate in response to tectonic economic upheaval. Journalists have the critical and vital role of independent investigation, gathering and presenting news to increase general understanding of the engines of innovation".

The Innovation Journalism Program at Stanford also organizes the Innovation Journalism Fellowships, where each year a selected number of journalists mix workshops and conferences at Stanford with covering innovation in collaboration with hosting newsrooms. The fellowship program in Pakistan is operated in collaboration with the Competitiveness Support Fund, a joint initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan.

Other than SAMAA TV, other media representatives from leading organizations from Pakistan also attended the conference including Sarah Hassan from AAJ TV, Nadia Zafar of DAWN News, Shahzada Zulfiqar from the News International, Hamza Habib Farooq of GEO Television and Mubarik Zaib of DAWN Newspaper.

SAMAA TV, launched in December 2007, is the only Pakistani news channel, which is run as a corporate company rather than a family-owned business.

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