By Sankalpa Dashrath; Research Associate, The Media Map Project

A few weeks ago, I was given an assignment that got me very excited. I was asked to create a taxonomy of media development activities worldwide. The only condition was that the findings had to be visually represented in an attractive, easy to follow manner. My imagination ran wild as I started planning what I would create. The output would be lauded globally, I would be producing a document that everyone had always needed but never created. The plan was to chronicle every single milestone in the history of media development post WWII. I wanted to track each major donor, identify and analyze global giving trends and show them through an interactive data visual.

Unfortunately reality soon checked my runaway thoughts. Finding literature sources that meticulously chronicle media development was harder than I had expected. Some reports were US-centric excluding all other donors and activities. Others that included international donors were not detailed enough. Almost none focused on activities prior to the 1980’s. Somehow through this patchwork of information I was able to weave together – what I hope – is a coherent picture. Finding the relevant information was only half the battle won. Next, I had to find a way to create a visual representation of it. Trolling through the hundreds of open source software sites, I began to realize just how limited my options would be. A technology neophyte with such specific requirements as mine was pretty much doomed it seemed. I finally settled on Dataviz; mainly because of a recommendation but also because it promised an actual connection between my imagination and output.

I ended up with a map of the world, showing media development activities in chunks of time over a fifty plus year period (I chose to show them from a donor perspective and did not mention any implementing organizations). I found that media development activities mostly followed a global theme – which underwent a transformation roughly every decade or so – and could be traced to the international events occurring around the world. Media development of the 90’s saw a distinct focus on supporting post-Soviet countries, while the landscape after 9/11 turned to media development for democracy building and the most recent Arab spring portends a shift towards social media.

In the end, this assignment turned out to be just an interesting as I had anticipated but for reasons other than the ones I had imagined. Although I could not fulfill my original objective, I could definitely identify gaps in the information on media development activities, provide a snapshot view for the interested and a starting point for those willing to dig deeper.

Stay tuned for the timeline…

By Audrey Ariss; Master’s student in Columbia University’s Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences program.

Continuing on the discussion from the previous post, some of the countries surveyed displayed interesting results.

Afghanistan is a unique country in the sample. The survey in Afghanistan was different to all the others as it was the only country in which questions were posed about interest in issues on democracy, education, reconstruction, women and youth issues, rather than news about the topics listed above.

The survey yielded some interesting results. While 34 per cent are very interested in politics, only 9 per cent of the respondents are reported to be very interested in democracy. Indeed, the majority – 65 per cent of respondents – do not display any interest in seeing this topic discussed in the news. Age and sex do not have an effect this trend; even ethnicity does not significantly influence the responses people gave. Whether an Afghani is Tajik, Pashtun or other does not determine the respondents’ reported interest in seeing news about democracy.

Aside from regional news and politics, agriculture is the most salient topic to the respondents. One in three are very interested in this topic, and almost three quarters of respondents have some interest in this issue. Reconstruction efforts, unsurprisingly, are also high concern to the respondents. Another interesting point to be noted is the high degree of interest in women’s concerns and youth, compared to a far lower interest in education. As might be expected, there is a correlation between sex and interest in seeing news about women’s concern in Afghanistan: 80% of women are either ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ interested, compared to only 45% of men.

The chart below ranks the topics in order of percentage of people that show some interest in news about these topics.

Figure 1: Percentage of respondents in Afghanistan that are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ interested in the following topics

By Audrey Ariss; Master’s student in Columbia University’s Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences program.

Using the data collected by the Broadcasting Board of Governors and shared with the Columbia University team by Internews, I looked at various sources of information that people get their news from. The results showed that respondents in forty countries share their news preferences.

I also looked at the topics in which the respondents of the survey showed most interest in. Unsurprisingly, people across all countries are most interested in news about their own country: 54 per cent of people surveyed indicated they are very interested in national news, and a further 34 per cent are somewhat interested. Only 3 per cent of respondents answered that they are not interested at all. Below is a chart that reveals the topics people are ‘very interested’ in.

Figure 1: Topics respondents are very interested in.

The most popular topics of interest beside national (or regional) news are health and healthcare and religion. The surveys revealed 51 per cent to be very interested in health and healthcare. Half of all respondents are very interested in the topic of religion. The trend is similar when those that are ‘somewhat’ interested in news about certain topics are taken into account. Eighty per cent of all respondents are interested (or more than ‘not very’ interested) in religious news.

The topics which then generated the most interested, with 50-75 per cent of people demonstrating some or much interest in news are, ordered in amount of interest, news about neighbouring countries; human rights; culture, cinema & literature; sports; and the environment. The figure for the environment is partly so high due to China’s interest. In China, 79 per cent of respondents are interested in news about the environment. This is more than ten per cent higher a figure than the average interest in the environment across all countries asked this question (68 per cent). The chart below shows the overall trend in interest among the topics asked to the majority of the countries in the sample; the blue part shows the percentage of people that are very interested in the topic, and the red the percentage of people that are somewhat interested. Each bar shows the percentage of people that have actively demonstrated interest in news on the specified topic (ie. they did not respond ‘not really’ or ‘not at all’ interested).

Figure 2: Percentage of interest in news, by topic.

By Aaron Horenstein; Master’s student in Columbia University’s Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences program.

Device Ownership
Media usage is a function of which media devices individuals own. The graph below shows that people are more likely to use a source every day to get news information if they own or have access to the device/technology. For example, of respondents that have internet access at home, 41% use it every day to get news information (compared to 11% of all respondents). Therefore the low Internet usage can be explained by the fact that a small percentage of respondents own a computer or have internet access at home (only 27% and 18%, respectively). Respondent may use television the most to get news information because most respondents (83%) own a TV. One caveat is that high ownership of mobile/cellular phones does not translate into frequent use of SMS. While 78% own a mobile/cellular phone, only 13% of these owners use SMS every day to get news information.

Regional Variation
Regional variation exists in regards to which media sources individuals use to get news information. The graph below shows the percentage of respondents that use media sources every day, by region.* TV is most popular in Eurasia, the Middle East/North Africa, and East Asia, but is least popular in Africa. Africa is the only region for which a majority of respondents use radio every day.

* The regional breakdowns are as follows:

• Africa – (Angola, Burundi, Guinea, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
• East Asia – (Burma, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao, Thailand, Vietnam)
• Eurasia – (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Moldova, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan)
• Middle East – (Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia)
• South Asia – (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan)

By Aaron Horenstein; Master’s student in Columbia University’s Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences program.

It’s well known that technology and social media have changed the way we communicate and obtain information on the world around us. From trivial matter like checking the weather after already having left the house or keeping up-to-date on friends’ latest status updates, to more consequential matters like learning of Osama bin Laden’s death while watching a Mets-Phillies game, information is available to us anytime, anywhere, with the click of a button or the touch of a screen.

This phenomenon has spread world-wide. Much has been written about in the press and blogosphere regarding social media’s role in fueling the Middle East revolutions this past year. According to, Facebook and Twitter didn’t cause the Egyptian revolution, “but these tools did speed up the process by helping to organize the revolutionaries, transmit their message to the world and galvanize international support.” This prompts the question: how do people across the globe obtain information on news and current events? Using a unique dataset, I was able to examine this issue in great detail.

Reliance on Media Sources for News Information
Internews obtained country-specific survey data from the Broadcasting Board of Governors that provides insights on citizen engagement with the news media. I specifically analyzed data on 38 countries across Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East regarding the extent to which people rely on different media sources to get news information.

Not surprisingly, respondents rely on television the most, with 69% indicating they use it every day to get news information. As the figure below reveals, television is the only source that a majority of respondents use every day to get news information. What is surprising is the relatively low usage of the Internet and SMS (text messaging): only 11% of respondents use the internet every day to get news information (while 71% of respondents never do), and only 10% of respondents use SMS every day to get news information (while 67% never do). Given the important role that the Internet and social media played in the recent Middle East revolutions, I would have expected these numbers to be higher.

Blue: Never & Red: Everyday


Stay tuned for more information and graphs on device ownership and regional variations.

The Media Map Project website is finally out of the beta testing phase. We have gone live! We would like to invite our readers to visit and explore our new site. Please play around with the updated datasets; map them, use the charts and create graphs. We love feedback, so please write to us on your experience using the site, your ideas and especially your compliments & complaints.

Keep visiting us regularly as we have a lot more research coming your way before the end of the year. There will be several interesting case studies on varied countries, research papers and other information that will be published shortly.

Thank you for your continued support and let us know what else you would like to see from us in the future.

Empowering local media worldwide

1640 Rhode Island Ave. NW, 7th Floor
Washington, DC 20036 (w)
+1 202 833-5740 (p)
+1 877 347-1522      
+1 202 833-5745 (f)