Over the past fortnight I've been in New Delhi training journalists at a workshop held at the Indira Ghandi National Open University (IGNOU).
Not only does IGNOU reside on a huge campus on the outskirts of the Indian capital, but it lays claim to being the world's largest university - boasting some three million students on its books. Students can enroll to study on campus or by correspondence courses which are supported by 3 television stations and more than 30 radio stations broadcasting across the country.
That's a media network that would make many public broadcasters envious and makes you think seriously about mass communication mediums channelled towards education and development.
At the face to face level, my fellow freelance co-trainer from the DW-Akademie, Marcus Boesch and I, are conducting an intensive multimedia journalism and social media workshop.
We have participants from all over India. They're a mix of working journalists and journalism educators and have a mix of online journalism talent. Fortunately we have use of a well equipped multimedia lab to work in.
From the outset our participants stressed they preferred a more hands on work approach and a concentration on practical skills over theory. That's been a challenge. Not only because putting practical reporting skills into practice outside of the training room means stepping out into 40+ degree heat, but we've faced power cuts and a somewhat erratic internet connection due, in part I'm told, to lines affected by nearby construction for the Commonwealth Games.
(workshop participants head out for a local photo safari)
Of course there's nothing that can't be solved over a cup of tea, and having a Plan B... or Plan C is important.
Importantly, we've been approaching the course from the point of view of working with what you have. As much as we talk about new tech gadgets, we also keep mind that new kit can be expensive. Analogue in my book still works.
All of our participants had a mobile phone - some with cameras. Many also access to small point and shoot digital cameras. This is the sort of basic equipment we've been building the course around - demonstrating how you can produce good multimedia results with quite simple equipment and use free or open source software. A number of participants have mentioned that as much as they would love to own a DSLR, they're now looking at their small point and cameras in a new light.
We've also brought along some Kodak & Flip pocket video camcorders which have proved to be very popular but the real fun starts we introduce multimedia and social media tools such as Twitter, Tumblr blogs, Flickr, YouTube and SoundSlides.
For a lot of our participants, it's the first time they have used Twitter or actively used it in a more professional manner for journalism - either for research or for building a network. For the workshop, English has been the working lingua franca, but in a country of a billion voices it will be important for our journalists to weigh up what language(s) best suits their needs and their audiences if they continue blogging, tweeting and producing multimedia content.
On the mobile journalism front we've looked at the potential mobile phones offer journalists and their audiences. This is an area that will surely grow with the auction and rollout of 3G mobile data services in India. While I've been here I have only made limited use of GPRS for using Twitter via the lightweight Dabr client on my Nokia. And speaking of phones, perhaps when we consider MDG's it's worth noting Think3-er Hemant Jain's post on more Indians having access to cellphones than toilets.
However, one mobile phone-led project involving citizen journalists I would particularly like to visit in the future is the innovative CGNet Swara - Chhattisgarh Swara or voice of Chhattisgarh.
It's community radio via a mobile phone. The project is being developed by a team led by former BBC journalist Shubhranshu Choudhary and from the sounds of things it literally is mobile community radio. Choudhary is currently a Knight International Journalism Fellow.
In short, citizen journalists are receiving training to produce voice reports in their native Gondi language. When they are ready to file, they dial a number in Bangalore and record their report down the line. The report is then moderated and checked and later an SMS is sent to CGNet subscribers who can call a number to "tune in" and/or play the latest dispatch on their phone's loudspeaker.
(Photo credit: Kalyan Neelamraju, Creative Commons)
A BBC report about the project cites a survey showing that only 2% of space in mainstream media was dedicated to covering issues concerning India's poor and overlooked tribal communities.
You could also argue that given the ongoing conflict involving Maoists rebels in the state of Chhattisgarh, every effort to offer local news is vital.
Community radio is also a growing in India, but both community and commercial radio stations face restrictions on broadcasting news and current affairs programmes.
For people who are not served by traditional media in their own language such as public radio, or who struggle to gain accurate information because of illiteracy, CGNet mobile news could well evolve into a valuable community service.