The mission of the Internews Center for Innovation & Learning is to support the ability of individuals and communities to access the information they need to make informed decisions about their lives and futures. The research that produced this report
was born out of the recognition that advancing this potential begins with an understanding that goes beyond technical knowledge of challenges to overcome. It begins with empathy.
Internews has a wealth of experience to draw from in Pakistan, but when planning the project in FATA we realized that we were working from assumptions based on past success. We didn’t know whether using an interactive voice response system (IVR) would address a real human need present in the region. To truly understand the information needs of a critically underserved population, and determine whether IVR was the most appropriate solution, we would first need to build empathy with those we sought to serve.
Over the course of the project’s field engagement, I saw the lessons in the value of building empathy learned during my formative years as a young researcher rekindled. Since Burma, I have spent many years researching communities, observing people working through the habitual challenges of daily life, or following threads of stories that fanned out far beyond my own perspective. I had acquired skills in a plethora of research techniques, all highly effective and useful—yet somehow not quite enough. I understood that my surveys and well-structured interviews only sought to answer the questions I had the wisdom to ask.
Diving into the design research approach in Pakistan, I quickly realized that by observing and listening to the communities and the environments I sought to understand I could become aware of the questions for which I needed to answer. In Pakistan, this dynamic and iterative approach to research allowed us to uncover nuances and pursue that which we could not have seen at the outset.
The insights you will read in this report are not meant to be definitive articulations of life in these areas of Pakistan. Rather, they present the voices and experiences of those kind individuals who allowed us to share a little of their lives and experiences. Despite the bleak impression of a regional information blackout that conventional wisdom might suggest, the stories of our interviewees revealed a host of ways that the people in the tribal areas navigate around the pit falls in their information landscape.
In each homegrown innovation and adaptation, we saw seeds of solutions that could potentially connect people across the region with a measure of certainty that is sorely needed in this fraught environment. Mapping the contours of the human relationships that
form the basis of all communication, we saw how a sophisticated understanding of trust between people in the region would need to inform any initiative we might implement.
This publication does not mark the end of a journey, but is a signpost towards the way we hope to conduct our research activities in the future. The Internews Center for Innovation & Learning has learnt much, and we look forward to adopting and adapting the methodologies as we continue to experiment, research, and learn. We want to push boundaries and challenge established practice. We invite you to join us on this exciting journey. Welcome!
Director of Research and Learning,
Internews Center for Innovation & Learning