Invisible Children and Invisible Soundwaves: Early Warning Radio Network (Or, One Thing They’re Getting Right)

Skip to 2:17 for ICT4D-related content only.

Background

In case you’ve been living under a rock or hiding away from the social media and IDev communities intentionally, you’re probably familiar with the San-Diego based Invisible Children Org. For several years now they have been producing and screening films to raise awareness of the violence and instability wrought by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group, primarily in Uganda. They couple their flashy graphics and heart-string-tugging, documentary-meets-animated-history-lesson-style films with scholarship and mentor programs on the ground, including a program that links the handiwork of Ugandan seamstresses to western online “conscious consumer” markets. They travel the U.S., directing the attention of high school and college kids to the easily (and maybe even unintentionally) sensationalized world of African conflict and human rights violations. And they also use their marketing finesse to kick start political activism. Kony 2012, the org’s most recent campaign and film, has come under fierce scrutiny for allegedly promoting “slacktivism,” over-simplifying a complex issue and its context, and encouraging a controversial political solution. Despite further concerns voiced regarding the org.’s disproportionate use of funds for overhead instead of direct aid and project-work, Invisible Children does deserve some credit for an efficient, low-cost ICT solution to a pressing problem.

Enter the Early Warning Radio Network  

As we discussed in class, sometimes simpler is better. Radios and televisions are such longstanding, familiar forms of technological innovation that many populations, even in the most remote, poor, and conflict-torn areas of the world, have at least limited access to them. And expanding that access is relatively cheap. Invisible Children began and continues an initiative to install radio towers throughout Central Africa and form a network through which civilians can alert one another of impending LRA attacks, minimizing the advantage of the rebel group, which had previously been able to attack villages unawares. See this news article and the previously posted video for more info.

Response

While this project may include practical difficulties (lack of secure space to attach towers/receptors, access limitations etc.) it is an economically efficient solution which empowers African civilians to harness their own social networks and knowledge to help stave off the violence which has yet to be stopped in its entirety. How could this model be expanded or implemented in other areas? How could it be improved?

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One response to “Invisible Children and Invisible Soundwaves: Early Warning Radio Network (Or, One Thing They’re Getting Right)

  • rwoolworth

    This initiative is super cool. Its good to know that Invisible Children is taking part in some of the less “flashy” parts of development. It makes me wonder if the “slacktivism” of their organization is worth it if it brings in the money necessary to start/back initiatives like these. Maybe their strategies are necessary evils for the greater good or maybe the end result doesn’t outweigh such issues…its surely a matter of debate.

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