There are many ways that social media is helping developing countries. Here are just a few examples.
Social Media as an Equalizer
Social media helps bring access to information to anyone who can see it. In developing countries, this means that people in rural areas, or with little access to services can now obtain educational, mobile health and financial services in ways that were impossible before mobile technology and the spread of social media. As one World Health Organization article recently stated, “one fact sheet or an emergency message about an outbreak can be spread through Twitter faster than any influenza virus.”
Social Media Saves Lives
Social media provides real-time insight into the lives of people around the world. As a result, when major illnesses occur social media is often the first to know. Clever monitoring of social media can predict disease outbreaks and enable intervention to begin often weeks before the traditional methods would pick up similar results. The Chronicle of Education recently concluded that “Twitter Tracks Cholera Outbreaks Faster than Health Authorities.” Likewise ScienceDaily reports that Twitter has been used to predict flu outbreaks. Likewise, social channels helped predict ebola outbreaks.
YouTube to Share Atrocities & Rights Violations
Prior to smart phones, it took special gear to capture everyday life on video. Before YouTube it was difficult to share your video – even if you had important, unique footage. Now many people have a video camera in their pocket or handbag at all times and can share the footage with the world in an instant. This has had a dramatic effect in many realms – not least of which is the ability for those in developing countries to share atrocities in nearly real-time. This footage from Cairo to Syria has helped to focus world attention even when traditional media has not been present.
Social Media for Fair and Just Elections
Social media can help document and disseminate vote rigging and voting rights violations. TechPresident.com documented One Bulgarian nonprofit that created a mobile app called “I vote.” The platform informs users of their voting rights and obligations and will let them monitor the fairness of the election.
Social Media to Monitor and Report on Corruption
Social media is being used to expose corruption and help root it out. One important player is the websites “iReport” where individuals can provide the details of bribes they gave and the officials who took them. Likewise, it was a young Tunisian man who is often credited with starting the Arab Spring by setting himself on fire to bring attention to the corruption of the local police. He began the revolution… but social media allowed to spread and organize.