OjoVoz App Helps Underrepresented Communities Go Digital With Their Storytelling

Demonstrating the use of the OjoVoz app. Photo provided by Eugenio Tisselli and used with permission.

Demonstrating the use of the OjoVoz app. Photo provided by Eugenio Tisselli and used with permission.

It is true that there are many mobile apps on the market that allow users to take photographs, record audio, or both, but the Android app OjoVoz (EyeVoice) is specifically designed with underrepresented and marginalized communities in mind. These communities may not be as familiar with technology, so the simple-to-use interface contains four buttons providing the user ability to take a photograph, record their voice, add a keyword, and then upload to the internet.

Beginning in 2011, programmer Eugenio Tiselli started to work on the mobile app after working nearly eight years working with the project Megafone, another project that provides digital storytelling tools aimed at diverse communities. With his current project, he has been able to provide the tools and support for groups eager to share their stories, culture, and knowledge with each other and with a wider audience.

In an email interview with Rising Voices, Tiselli stressed that OjoVoz is not simply the technology, “but rather the collaborative processes in the creation of knowledge. Even though they are mediated by technological elements, the most important is the co-existence and the face-to-face meetings that are generated as part of the dynamics of the projects.”

Over the past few years, the OjoVoz app has played a role in community projects in diverse places such as Tanzania, Colombia, and Mexico. These are a couple of examples of how communities are mobilizing to tell their stories using their mobile devices.

Sauti Ya Wakulima
(The Voice of the Farmers) is a collaborative project where farmers from the Chambezi region of the Bagamoyo District in Tanaznia have been capturing images and voice recording to document farming practices as a way build to preserve the existing knowledge.

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Ms. Mariam is one of the cassava growers and she is giving us some explanations on this crop. She is saying that, as compare to the previous time, now they are cultivating in an improved way, they have improved seeds and the know how to plant in rows and weed their crops, she is thankful to the government for sending agriculture officers to the villages as well as investors as now they can process cassava flour, they can have enough harvest and sell to other people so this is a good development. They are selling cassava flour to business people in Dar es Salaam. In the past years they use to get very little harvest as compare to now, she is expecting if things remain the same in the next five years she will build a house out of farming activities.

Los Ojos de la Milpa (The Eyes of the Milpa) is another collaborate project that aims to preserve stories told by elders in communities in the mountains of the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, Mexico about how the milpa, a crop-growing system used across Mexico and parts of Central America, which has been taking place for generations without the help of fertilizers or other types of technology. The project provides content in Spanish, English and Ayuujk (Mixe language).

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Yïte’n ëëts mïku’uk ïxaa nyïkwä’ätsy yë tsapajkx jïts yë ujts yïktäjjë’kkixy jïts jïtïn wä’äts yyo’nt, jïts yë pyijyu’nk yë’ tpëkt xaa të yïkkukeepy jïts yä’ät wyä’ätst jatïkoojk.

This is how we weed the peach groves, it is necessary to remove all the weeds so that nothing will stop them from growing well. Some branches were pruned so that the trees may flower, they will grow again.

The free and open-source approach to the app plays a fundamental role in the app's development. Tiselli noted that already a group of Colombian programmers have built upon the app to add the functionality of recording videos in addition to existing options of recording sound and capturing images.

OjoVoz takes an active role in “incubating” projects by offering technical assistance and providing a temporary space on the site's server to upload images. To download and configure the app, visit the OjoVoz website for more instructions, and there is a short video tutorial in Spanish on how to use the app.

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