Kara Andrade

Ashoka Fellow
Antigua, Guatemala
Fellow Since 2010


This profile was prepared when Kara Andrade was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
Coming precisely at the first time in nearly five decades that democracy has taken root in the region, HablaCentro is the first Central American news-sharing platform built on mobile phones: The most pervasive digital technological applications available in these countries. In a region where social media applications like Twitter and Facebook are still not widely used because of their reliance on the Internet and smart phones, HablaCentro is providing an easily accessible, user-friendly means for grassroots participation in news generation and consumption. HablaCentro’s technology platform allows users to send and receive information via text messages that are also posted to local hub websites in each of the countries where HablaCentro currently operates (i.e. Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Venezuela). The HablaCentro platform has already experienced such high demand that Kara’s model has spread virally from Guatemala, where she began her operations in May 2009, to the other four countries through sheer local initiative. Beyond being a mere communication platform, HablaCentro is designed to promote civic participation through citizen journalism and collective action calls. Through educational outreach—provided to schools and citizen groups—as well as basic online tutorials, HablaCentro encourages citizens to report news that is timely and relevant to their communities, thus creating a bottom-up flow of information to counterbalance the traditional top-down media. Kara is particularly interested in promoting citizen-based investigative journalism, a concept that is not well established in most of Central America. As a firm believer that news and information serve a larger purpose, Kara has also built the HablaCentro platform to facilitate community action calls by the users themselves, such as sending help to disaster zones or disseminating information about recent political events.

Kara also envisions the HablaCentro platforms to enable citizen organization (CO) partners to reach more people with their services and information. Characterized by rapid viral growth and extensive geographic coverage, the HablaCentro networks provide a way for COs working on health, poverty, education, and other issues to disseminate information, particularly to communities where they do not already have an operational presence. Besides providing HablaCentro with a potential revenue stream as COs pay to share information across the networks, partnering with COs also strengthens and enriches the network effect that is inherent to HablaCentro’s success, attracting more users and creating more nodes of activity and communication.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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