The 2010 earthquake in Haiti was one of the worst natural disasters in recent memory. In the chaos and destruction after the earthquake hit, one radio station continued broadcasting and became a lifeline for Haitians. The station, called Signal FM, somehow withstood the earthquake and its tower was not damaged. Immediately after the earthquake, with electricity supplied by generators, the station started broadcasting important information about where to find help. One woman was even able to find her missing husband through a message she broadcasted on Signal FM. The station stayed on the air constantly for the two weeks after the earthquake. Originally they only had three days of fuel for their generators, but the Haitian government and several NGOs stepped up and provided funding to keep the station on the air. Signal FM organized a panel discussion on-air with journalists to keep people up to date on what was happening in the post-disaster chaos. According to this CNN report Signal FM reached about 3 million people in the Port-au-Prince area during the disaster and was also available to over the Internet. The fact that Signal FM combines traditional radio presence is combined with availability on the Internet is a great example of blending different types of ICTs in order to reach more people, as we saw in the case of the Farm Radio in Africa using SMS to tune people in to radio broadcasts.
Signal FM has been extremely important in disaster recovery in Haiti, especially considering the fact that Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, has only a 62% literacy rate. In this context, the radio is an effective ICT because it can reach large quantities of people in their native language and give them access to critical survival information in a post-disaster setting. The importance and effectiveness of radio in post-earthquake Haiti can be seen in the fact that the U.S. Army handed out solar-powered and hand-cranked radios to around 80,000 Haitians living in a displacement camp close to Port-au-Prince. In situations of extreme disaster, where other ICTs are not feasible due to the destruction of infrastructure, radio is often the most effective tool in getting critical information to the greatest number of people. According to Louis Richardson, a Haitian earthquake survivor quoted in the CNN report, Signal FM radio was “the most important source of information.”
I read about a project from the WorldReader e-Reader Pilot in Ghana. As part of the Millennium Development Goals to achieve universal education, the project distributed e-reader technology to Ghanaian primary, junior and senior school students. After extensive evaluation of the iREAD (Impact on Reading of E-readers and Digital content) Ghana Pilot Study showed much of the projects initial success as well as challenges to address in the future. The e-reader allowed students to gain immediate access to academic and personal reading material including books, textbooks, magazines and various articles. Access to these materials allowed students to a have greater number of texts, which were previously limited to the resources available in their local library. On average, students had 107 books on their e-reader over the course of the project. The initiative also put a large emphasis on Ghanaian books, allowing students to gain access to culturally relevant information as well as outside resources. In addition to the immediate impact on students, teachers also reaped benefits by accessing current textbooks and carry out research to prepare lessons rather than relying on outdated and limited textbooks.
The outcome of the pilot study revealed the project increased student’s enthusiasm about reading and simultaneously allowed students to develop useful ICT skills. Students in primary school exhibited improved standardized tests scores, while older students did not display significant gains as a result of the technology. Unexpected challenges in the project included technical problems with the e-reader (about 40% of the e-readers broke), which hindered the long-term success of the project. In addition, the article also suggests that a lack of ICT knowledge and low literacy rates led to the accidental deletion of material and an increased distraction from its entertainment functions.
While the project has initially revealed some promising results, several common challenges (breakages, literacy, electricity, Internet) stand in the way of the e-readers practicality and sustainability to increase literacy rates and improve educational opportunities in the developing world.
For a more thorough analysis of the iREAD project in Ghana, please check out this link.
Throughout the world, there are many digital divides that exist both between developed and developing countries as well as between different subgroups within countries. Although more commonly digital divides exist within the developing world, there are many instances existing in the developed world such as between different marginalized groups of a population. More recently, there has been a large digital divide between the marginalized indigenous people of Australia and the rest of the population. Many of these people live in remote villages in the Northern Territory of Australia where acces to more mainstream aspects of Australian culture are limited.
A new project funded by the Australian government, partnered with Burum Media and the Batchelor Institue of Indigenous Tertiary Education, is working to fight against the growing gap between the indigenous Australians and the rest of the population. The NT Mojos project’s goal is to increase the number of mobile journalist (Mojos). To do this, the project goes into remote villages and picks multiple candidates that will be trained to use the technology which is through an app on the iPhone 4. These trained reporters will be able to create and then share stories about things going on in their communities with the rest of Australia by posting them on a government website. This in turn will hopefully lessen the marginalized view of indigenous life that most Australians hold of them.
Another issue faced within indigenous societies is lack of education and literacy. The NT Mojo project will also fight to increase literacy rates. They have stated that the project will teach “story-telling first and technology second.” People will begin to think about stories and issues in their communities and have a chance to think of creative ways to convey them. This innovative ICT directed towards helping the indigenous people has many benefits such as increasing literacy rates and publicizing the daily life of indigenous communities to the rest of Australia. Hopefully this will bridge the widening gap and help to decrease the profound digital divide.