Innovation Watch

Crowd reporting an election

In 19 years of democratic elections, Mozambique has experienced voter apathy and corruption. But a free local newspaper, @Verdade, is debuting a tool in this November’s election that the editors say could help the forces of reform. Citizen Desk, a super-aggregator, lets citizens relay texts, tweets, and audio to @Verdade’s editorial staff for culling and publishing as real-time news posts. Think Storify with a texting component—a vital addition in a country where people rely more on texts than Twitter for communication.

An embedded browser on Citizen Desk’s live blog allows editors to drag and drop supporting information under a citizen’s report, or post questionable information for verification.

In the hopes that Citizen Desk can help news outlets in developing democracies, Sourcefabric, an open-source media operation, is releasing the software version. There are plans for a mobile app. But Citizen Desk’s progress depends on what happens in November. Mozambique’s 2004 election got less than 50 percent voter turnout and was marred by corruption. If the masses do use Citizen Desk, its success could inspire more widespread participation in elections.

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Cecilia D'Anastasio is a CJR intern