IN an era of the mobile revolution, citizen journalism has become the norm.
You can no longer wait for tomorrow to get the news about what happened yesterday as coverage and publishing of news events is now 24 hours.
People without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others.
It is the new word, influencing lots of changes in political governance system all across the world.
Gone are the days when people had to wait for reporters and camera crews from traditional media to come and cover a breaking news item.
In this age, people also no longer need to wait for a particular time of the day to be told what has happened in their communities and elsewhere through mainstream media channels.
Thanks to the mobile revolution, that has taken the world by storm, today everyone is their own reporter commonly referred to as citizen journalists.
All credit goes to the advent of citizen journalism.
According to Anthony Curtis of the University of North Carolina, mass communication department, Citizen Journalism is the gathering, writing, editing, production and distribution of news and information by people not trained as professional journalists.
Basically, citizen journalists are non-professionals who collect, disseminate and analyse news on blogs, wikis and sharing websites using tablets, laptops, cell phones, digital cameras and other mobile and wireless technologies.
In Zambia, private television stations, especially Muvi has benefited from the trend where members of the public post or provide video and audio footage about the happenings in the community.
The videos, often referred to as amateur videos, are often of human interest nature, generating lots of national debate, sometimes going viral on social media.
It is a scenario where, citizens take responsibility to be their own reporters/ newsmakers, other than waiting for professionals to come and cover the breaking news.
Issues from water, sanitation, violence to politics, and some humorous stories, often crowd citizen journalism.
Seasoned journalist and media trainer Edem Djokotoe said the birth of citizen journalism is a direct protest to established journalism, which in his view is often subjective.
"I think citizens now believe they can tell their stories better than established media," he said.
He said, by becoming their own reporters, the citizens are democratising news, which is why, they resort to using social media, by coming up with blogs.
Mr Djokotoe, a Knight International Journalism Fellow, who led a project to create consistent coverage of poverty and development issues in Malawi a couple of years ago, believes the trend is here to stay.
The whole idea, of the new wave of reporters poses a threat to mainstream media as it thrives on human interest.
On the other hand, citizen journalism is a blessing in disguise for established media as it is a main source of news to traditional media.
Established media organisations cannot be everywhere and consequently, the new wave of reporting fills the gap.
"Big media institutions around the world are cutting costs. They can't be everywhere, but they now depend on citizen journalism for news feed, where they can't get to cover the news," he said.
By use of mobile phones, citizens are able to record all manner of stuff, which they post on YouTube and directly walk into newsrooms to supply material.
The latest media technologies, social networks, media-sharing websites and the increasing presence of smartphones, everywhere open news reporting to people who sometimes can discover and report breaking news faster and less expensively than mainstream news organisations.
Dr Curtis argues that citizen Journalism has been criticised by professional journalists because citizen journalists have not been oriented toward the standards and practices of professional journalism.
They say reports from citizen journalists are subjective, amateurish, inaccurate and haphazard.
They see citizen journalism's quality as, well, not professional and its coverage spotty.
Professionals often view citizen journalists with skepticism, especially when citizen journalists are proponents of the topics they write about.
This leads professionals to say citizen journalists don't uphold the traditional journalistic value of objectivity. They say only professionally-trained journalists can understand the ethics required of reporters.
The concept of citizen journalism, also known as "public", "participatory", "democracy", "guerrilla", or "street" journalism is based upon public citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing, and disseminating news and information.
The trend presents a "radical challenge to the professionalised and institutionalised practices of the mainstream media.
The idea behind citizen journalism is that people without professional journalism training can use the tools of modern technology and the global distribution of the Internet to create, augment or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others.
For example, one might write about a city council meeting on his or her blog or in an online forum. Or one could fact-check a newspaper article from the mainstream media and point out factual errors or bias on your blog.
Or one might snap a digital photo of a newsworthy event happening in his or her town and post it online.
Or one might videotape a similar event and post it on a site such as YouTube.
"I have been interacting with friends and sharing ideas just about anything I hear or see in the community," says Christina Ngcanga from Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa
Mrs Ngcanga, 39, a domestic worker in Auckland Park, one of the posh suburbs in Johannesburg is on WhatsApp, an information sharing tool on the mobile phone.
She has 97 friends and on a daily basis, she sends out and receives messages from them.
On the other hand, her mobile phone is often flooded with news items from her circle of friends.
She uses a simple Samsung mobile phone and it has been very helpful to her.
The mother of two, advises people to take advantage of the many mobile apps and sign-up for them and become citizen journalists, as it was the only way to get involved and informed about current affairs.
The good news is that, the mobile phone revolution has forced lots of people to own mobile phones, which they have been using to communicate with relatives, friends and the community at large.
Mrs Ngcanga belongs to a generation of South Africans, who have been ruptured into the winds of mobile phone revolution.
Although half the 50 million people in South Africa live below the poverty line, more than 75 per cent among those in low-income groups who are 15 years or older own a mobile phone.
Mobile phone ownership at the base of pyramid (BoP) - households with an income of less than R432 per month per household member - is relatively high compared to other African countries.
This is according to research commissioned by infoDev, a global partnership programme within the World Bank Group, about the use of mobile phones among BoP users.
According to the Fineweek, a South African Web-based developmental and financial magazine, of low-income groups who own mobile phones in South Africa, 98.5 per cent have a prepaid SIM card, but there is a small percentage (1.5 per cent) of the BoP mobile owners who have post-paid contracts.
The research, however, shows even though three-quarters of people in the BoP group own mobile phones, the usage of data applications is fairly low.
"People are able to take pictures and video of whatever is of human interest to them in the community," said Gugu Ndaba, communications Unit Assistant at Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (IAJ).
Ms Ndaba gave an example of an amateur video which surfaced recently of South African Police officers dragging a man handcuffed to a van in Johannesburg, as a typical citizen journalism piece.
The 27-year-old taxi driver from Mozambique later died from his injuries.
The video, which was captured with a mobile phone by a member of the public, went viral and caused a lot of public outrage.
South Africa has one of the largest telecommunications markets on the continent; it has five mobile operators, namely Cell C, MTN, Vodacom, 8ta and virtual network operator Virgin Mobile, as well as hundreds of internet service providers.
Mobile phones are the dominant technology for voice and data communication among BoP users and for informal businesses. This group accesses the internet mostly via their mobile phones and smart phones have taken over functions that used to be done with a computer.
Users are also finding innovative ways to bypass expensive SMS rates of cell phone networks, using Facebook Zero or other instant message services like WhatsApp.
As the number of people with access to mobile phones increases the world over, Zambia has had a fair share of it.
According to the Zambia Information Communication Technology Agency (ZICTA), the number of mobile phone subscribers has increased from 400,000 subscribers in 2004 to more than eight million in 2012.
About one in every three young people in Zambia has at least one mobile phone subscription.
Currently, MTN, Airtel and Cell Z, are the three mobile service providers in Zambia.
There are some clear distinctions between urban and rural mobile phone owners in the low-income groups.
In urban areas, users are knowledgeable about available applications and use social media and instant messaging to communicate with friends, watch videos and mix music.
Forum for African Investigative Reporters (Fair) executive director Abdullah Vawda said the dawn of the internet and connection of mobile phones to the web have empowered communities all around the world.
"Citizens are now empowered as they can easily, quickly and without many restrictions expose injustice or good news they publish on social media, blogs using mobile phones.
Social media has become the primary driver of news overtaking main stream media. The difference is that the content of citizen journalism is the people themselves, while mainstream media is driven by government agenda and commercial interests such as advertisers," said Mr Vawda.
The article was part of the DW Akademie, a Germany's international media development and journalism training organisation, project on multimedia and online journalism, conducted at the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (IAJ), Johannesburg, South Africa recently.