In the digital age, journalism and advocacy face a similar set of challenges and opportunities. MSI student Maura Youngman is dedicated to overcoming those challenges by pursuing the opportunities. As she puts it, working in digital international journalism “is a gateway into working on issues of information access.”
Prior to arriving at UMSI in the fall of 2012, Maura worked at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting as a New Media Strategist and Education Coordinator, where she directed online outreach and explored the intersections of technology and journalism. With an undergraduate background in communication studies and international journalism from Hamline University, she came to UMSI to pursue a programming-heavy course of study to build the skills necessary to address information access challenges across the globe. Among her particular issues of interest are avoiding censorship, the dissemination of information through computer-assisted reporting, and a more rigorous approach to the use of data in reporting.
This past summer, Maura took a research trip to Rwanda where she conducted field surveys on how people with vision impairments use mobile technology. Her project was part of a larger study that involves UMSI students researching the issue in various countries around the world. Through quantitative and qualitative interviews, Maura collected data and insights that will be compared with the results collected by other UMSI students in countries like Costa Rica, India and Thailand. The surveys take place in low- to middle-income countries that were signatories to a United Nations convention on providing rights to people with disabilities and seek to discover what these countries are doing to help these communities.
Through her experience, Maura saw firsthand how genocide and gender inequality have affected the Rwandan people. Her interest in Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICTD), the application of communication and technology in the fields of socioeconomic and international development and human rights, was only strengthened by her interactions and her involvement in Rwandan communities.
“Overall, it was really a privilege to be able to talk to people who have insights and experience that are so wildly different from my own,” Maura said. “It was insightful to get a more nuanced understanding of the challenges and hurdles that some of the Rwandan people face.”
After returning from Rwanda, Maura spent the final three months of her summer working as an intern at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society where she researched issues of Internet infrastructure, filtering, and free access and expression in countries across the globe.
“I feel like working at the Berkman Center and working in Rwanda have solidified my interest in information access projects,” Maura said. “And also my interest in looking at populations that are underserved and how they can seek out information and be more exposed to information structures in a way that is just and fair.”