Is Radio Tuned in to Our Needs?

There are estimates that say between 80-90% of family households in Africa have access to a functional radio. Radio, in many aspects, has been an amazing tool for development in many countries, particularly for those in Sub-Saharan Africa.  In an area where large percentages of the population are illiterate, radio is often the main way in which people receive current information. The information given through radio broadcasts can include weather reports, news reports, or other pertinent information. Electricity in many of these rural areas is also often very limited or nonexistent, giving battery-powered radios another major benefit.  But there are some important aspects to radio use that can’t be ignored.

Radio, in its common and traditional form, is a one-way flow of information from broadcaster to listener. As a consequence, this doesn’t necessarily foster any engagement or communication between the two parties. Imagine having a conversation with a friend where you weren’t able to ask them questions but could only passively listen to them.  While you might gain some valuable knowledge, this kind of communication has its limitations. With the rise of other technologies such as mobile phones and internet, is radio on its way out? There are many other types of ICT that allow for two-way exchanges, but could they fully replace radio? Have you heard of any initiative that attempt to somehow combine the two? Radio has so many benefits including its affordability and its prevalence and availability in these rural areas. I’d be curious to know what other people think about radio’s future role in the ICT4D world.

2 responses to “Is Radio Tuned in to Our Needs?

  • areed2014

    I personally find the radio to be such an important part of ICT4D because of its accessibility to so many people and geographic settings. You are right that it houses a one-way flow of information, but so does television. Because radios can be run without electricity for a relatively cheap price, I see a wide-range of benefits. For example, radio stations, from music and talk-shows to religious sermons have the potential to democratize information. While it might not always be accurate, it provides an avenue to express ideas, culture, sports, political awareness, etc. Also, while radio might blend into our lives here in the U.S. more than other technologies, I know that most of us listen to the radio (in our cars, at the gym, etc) more than we realize. Might radio technology be a universal form of communication in that aspect? Like you, I would be very interested to discover an ICT4D project that is utilizing the capabilities of radio technology.

  • cmahoney2014

    I never really considered radio as an important means of communication until taking international development courses. Since then I have come to greatly appreciate the radio, and how universal and prevalent it is. People living in the most remote areas, can still use radios and are able to receive important information.

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