An alternative to the mobile internet for local news? Quite possibly

Could a decentralised news network better serve communities, and ‘do we always have to go large when we’re actually trying to achieve local’?

In three villages in Armenia, the CAST project installed a WiFi proximity network through which the community could access alternative sources of hyperlocal news and information.

In an area where internet access is often confined to one computer in the home, and where mobile data connections can be prohibitively expensive, the project trialled a location-based connectivity system by placing devices in places where people often spent longer periods of their day, such as at a bus stop, a health centre, or a common meeting spot.

People could then connect to the network and access the information and stories provided, or contribute their own news if they had chosen to sign up to the media literacy part of the project.

CAST is a partnership between the Media Innovation Studio at the University of Central Lancashire, Impact Hub Yerevan, and Wicastr.

“One thing that we set out to really look at was the capacity of decentralised technologies. There is a real hunger for an alternative way of distributing news,” Clare Cook, the co-founder of the Media Innovation Studio, said in a recent podcast.

“We wanted to see whether or not we could serve alternative data insights to those news publishers and what we were able to do was pinpoint what content was being consumed where, so that allowed us to drill down to create completely new data insights around news consumption.”

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