'Colmena' app enables a new way of working for local media
Nils Brock | Vivienne Gager | Jasmin Rietdorf
April 28, 2022
In order to ensure that local media outlets can continue to reliably report during crises, DW Akademie and its partner organzation in Mexico, REDES A.C., developed an app that functions like an on-the-go editing room.
"I've been at it a while," said Awa Ouedraogo. "I'm just now testing the recording function."
Just a moment ago in a workshop, a media trainer was explaining to her the functionality of the new Colmena app. Ouedraogo is a journalist at one of the best known online radio outlets in Burkina Faso, Radio Vénégré, which is one of 23 community radio broadcasters, local media outlets and media organizations from 13 countries in Africa and Latin America that developed the app.
Colmena – Spanish for beehive – is a digital toolbox for community radio stations and local media. DW Akademie and its Mexican partner organization REDES A.C. developed the software so that community media could reliably continue to reach their audiences – in times of crisis and beyond. The project is part of the DW Akademie and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development initiative "Transparency and Media Freedom – Crisis Resilience in the Pandemic".
When everything's down, Colmena works
Nationwide lockdowns and individual quarantines were both showstoppers for media producers, whether a radio station or a small, local media outlet. The pandemic made one thing clear: there has to be an inclusive solution that enables community reporters and local news staff to stay in contact digitally so that they can continue to produce news coverage.
"It was important to develop an app that combines every tool, from recording to editing to finalizing a story," explained Adriana Veloso, who supervises the development team for Colmena's user design. She's especially pleased that the members of the software's target group itself were involved in the app's development.
"The development team was in Brazil, but in fact ideas and test reports came out of Mexico, Morocco and Kenya. That's important for high acceptance for future use," she added.
Colmena is now ready to go. The beta version was launched on April 28, and is expected to grow this year with cooperative productions and the testing of new features. Though Colmena was originally designed to address the negative repercussions of the Coronavirus pandemic and to help local media become more digitally independent, the plan is to make the app more flexible and to expand its use for future crises.
"Software is successful if it remains an open process, a constant dialogue," emphasized Peter Bloom of the nongovernmental organization Rhizomatica, which consulted on the project development. "It has less to do with a finished product as opposed to developing a practical solution that can be adapted according to feedback from the community."
Open, secure, no fee
Colmena was developed for various end devices. It functions offline, is secure and free of charge. It is currently available in six languages: Arabic, English, French, Kiswahili, Portuguese and Spanish. The menus, handbooks and explanatory videos, can also be translated into other languages if need be. Colmena is 100 percent open source and is also open to everyone who would like to be involved with its ongoing development.
"How it will look exactly depends on how the launch goes," said Santiago García from DW Akademie who manages communication between the developers and the media participants. "We're hoping for a lively community. However, it is not just about creating together, but also about early adopters sharing their knowledge with new users."
Awa Ouedraogo and her colleagues at Radio Vénégré have taken on this role, assisting their partner station, Community-Radio La Voix de Paysant, through the first steps of using Colmena. They've already produced a few radio segments which can be heard on the project's website. After the development team fixed a bug, it's now easier to log in.
"Bonjour chers collègues," wrote Ouedraogo in the app's digital editing group chat, marking the beginning of a new and productive exchange.