Internet penetration in Armenia has soared in recent years, climbing from just 6% to an estimated 47% in 2010 alone. Much of the reason for the increase lies in the proliferation of 3G-enabled mobile phones and USB modems, which have provided Armenians with low-cost, convenient access to the internet. Strict state control over broadcast media in Armenia has also lead more users to turn online for news and information, where independent voices and vibrant dialogue have not been silenced. This situation has brought about a wealth of new opportunities for independent online media outlets, which now enjoy a much broader potential audience.
The online news agency A1+, which was forced off Armenia’s TV airwaves in 2002 when the government refused to renew its broadcasting license, took advantage of the public’s increasing ability to capture news through mobile phones and access information online by launching its Through Your Eyes citizen journalism initiative in April 2011 with support from Internews. The project encourages users to actively participate in the creation and dissemination of news by uploading photo and video materials to the A1+ website.
Photos submitted by users to A1+ “Through Your Eyes” citizen journalism project
Competitions for the best materials, weekly highlight compilations, and development of an iPhone app that allows users to upload materials with a single click spurred an outpouring of submissions, more than ten times more per week than originally envisioned. The number of users accessing A1+ through mobile devices has risen steadily since the launch of the iPhone app in October 2011. In response to requests from site users, an A1+ app for Android phones was launched on Feb. 29, 2012.
Support from Internews also made it possible for A1+ purchase equipment enabling live webcasting from important political and social events around the country, as well as footage of events not covered by state-controlled mainstream media in Armenia. The footage is incorporated into the A1+ daily newscasts, which consistently draw in significantly more viewers than other online broadcasters in Armenia.
Internews’ work with A1+ in Armenia is supported by USAID.