For Gaza, Tech and Communication Tools Work Hand-in-Hand

September 10, 2014
Internews' Humanitarian Information Service in Gaza uses audience information and available, popular communication tools to provide information quickly and efficiently

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Gaza stands today at around 500,000, almost a third of the population. With the new ceasefire in place as of late August, citizens and humanitarian organizations are starting to think about how to move towards a sustainable and rapid recovery for the population of Gaza.

Internews' Gaza Humanitarian Information Service project is providing affected communities in Gaza with reliable, verified and timely information that can support them in making better-informed decisions. To do so, Internews used an already proved and tested approach that is based on a number of components and communication channels (see Gaza HIS Fact Sheet).  

On the technology side this is called an Integrated Information System – a system that relies on different technological tools specifically chosen on the basis of information needs, targeted audience and technology access.

Diagram showing interrelationship of communication tools

Radio. The most important tool used to provide information – or better, "news-you-can-use" – to the population in Gaza, is radio. A one-hour daily program called Jossor ma'Gaza (Bridges with Gaza) is broadcast every day in both the West Bank and Gaza by nine radio stations. The headlines are picked up by Palestine TV.

Graphic for Jossor radio station

Facebook. Facebook is widely used in Palestine, especially by young people. A preliminary assessment of how Gazans are using it showed that the conversation is very polarized and very political, while at the same time lacking valuable information about aid delivery. For this reason Internews created a Facebook page specifically aimed at providing people with actionable information and news about the services provided in the Gaza Strip.

Screenshot of the Jossor ma'Gaza Facebook page

YouTube. To reach a broader audience and allow people to download and re-use the radio program audio files, Internews created a YouTube Channel where the audio is uploaded daily in a video format.

Screenshot of the Jossor ma'Gaza Youtube channel

SMS. In collaboration with Souktel, Internews created a citizen feedback mechanism. The SMS system is used mainly to receive questions from the local population on services provided and to gather feedback on humanitarian aid. The SMS channel has two short codes for the two mobile providers covering both the West Bank and Gaza, and it is managed through an online portal. For every SMS coming in there is an SMS going out with a thank you message.

Screenshot of SoukTel SMS page

Mobile App Zello.  One of the most interesting tools that journalists in Gaza are using is Zello, a walkie-talkie application. Channels can be created to allow the user to talk in real time to friends over a data plan. As many people as wanted can be added to a channel and given permission to either speak to everyone or just listen.

Close to 300 journalists in Gaza have been using it for the past two months to coordinate their information during the conflict. Only journalists that are vetted and that have provided verified information are allowed to have their messages public on the app. Everyone else can listen and if they want to broadcast something, their voice message will be vetted by the administrator before it is made public on the app. Right now the journalists are using this app to share information broadcasted by the radio program and to share important verified information when the program is not on air.

Screenshot of Zello Walkie Talkie App

Twitter. Twitter is not widely used in Palestine. Because of this, Internews decided to target (mainly English) twitter posts to a specific audience – the international community, including the general public and donors. The Twitter account is therefore used more as a way to raise awareness of the work being done by the Jossor ma'Gaza staff and to share public official data on the needs of the population in Gaza. 

Screenshot of Jossor Twitter feed

Weekly Newsletter. The information that HIS collects from the local population in Gaza through all of the above mentioned channels is then shared back with the humanitarian community via a weekly newsletter. The newsletter summarizes all the main feedback gathered in the previous week as well as the topics that the radio will be covering in the following week.

First page of Weekly newsletter

Because there is not one tool that fits all needs or all audiences, Internews aims, whenever possible, to create diversified systems that provide targeted information to different audiences using different tools. This is only possible when a comprehensive assessment of the technical gaps and information needs is conducted on the ground.
The Gaza Humanitarian Information System is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).