Limits of New Media for Ocean Management in Developing Nations

The Skimmer on Marine Ecosystems and Management

In the Philippines, the Coastal Conservation Education Foundation (CCEF) runs programs to sustain coastal and marine biodiversity and improve the quality of life for local communities (www.coast.ph). CCEF uses its website and social networking platforms (YouTube and Facebook) to communicate its work to the general public, both in the Philippines and abroad. But to communicate with its target communities - which are often in remote coastal or island locations where literacy rates are low and internet connections are unreliable - CCEF typically uses more traditional technologies.

"Since most of our target audiences have limited capacity and resources for internet connectivity, we utilize more popular, existing mass media tools," says Liza Eisma-Osorio, Executive Director of CCEF. "Based on our observations, marginal fishermen can only be reached through radio and other tools like posters, comic books, and the like. To communicate key conservation messages in these communities, we have to use the most convenient and practical methods."

The reliability and variety of internet connection speeds in the Indo-Pacific region also pose a challenge for the Locally-Managed Marine Area (LMMA) Network, which shares lessons and best practice across the region. "Our website (www.lmmanetwork.org) is our primary knowledge-sharing portal since our audiences are varied and geographically spread out," says Toni Parras, communication specialist for the LMMA Network. "However, while some of our countries have excellent, reliable, speedy internet, others have slow, inconsistent dial-up connections that constantly drop out. This makes downloading documents or even accessing 'heavy' webpages difficult. We had to carefully redesign our website with this in mind. It is a challenge to have an engaging, eye-catching, fully functional, relevant website that is relatively low-tech."

The LMMA Network has long considered establishing an official presence on Facebook as a less-formal portal for sharing information, says Parras. But expectations that the Facebook page would grow rapidly have led the program to hold off due to concern its limited staff would be unable to keep up effectively. However, says Parras, personal Facebook accounts have proven useful, namely for reaching some members of the network who respond right away when contacted via that portal. "Some people seem to prefer the less-formal culture of interacting on Facebook, which has been an important discovery," she says. "It also helps us connect on a personal level, which is important to the work that we do."

For more information:

Liza Eisma-Osorio, CCEF, Philippines. E-mail: ccef-ed [at] mozcom.com

Toni Parras, LMMA Network, Hawaii, US. E-mail: toni [at] lmmanetwork.org

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