Tag Archives: Radio

Lessons from ICT: Guidance, not Prescriptions

In development, nothing is clear-cut. Theories and concepts attempt to explain ideal development techniques, but when it comes to implementing a project every decision is situational. With ICT in particular, projects must be tailored for the community where the project will be implemented, but there are lessons to be learned from recurring problems faced by ICT projects. Two of the most notable lessons to be learned in ICT are the choice of appropriate technology and the incorporation of physical community.

Choosing appropriate technology for a project deserves a considerable amount of research and deliberation. The choice will be a significant determinant for whether a project will be successful or not. Often projects will create flashy apps or devices to attract donors, but the practicality of the technology is lacking. We learned that radio is one of the most widely used technologies. However, radio isn’t incorporated in ICT projects as often as newer ICTs. Introducing new technology requires training and funding to provide the new devices. If a community is already familiar with an ICT, then it is best to adapt your project to incorporate that ICT.

Secondly, incorporating physical community is vital. ICT provides an efficient way to share information, but physical community is needed to ensure that the information is used. Support groups should be encouraged so communities can share their experiences with each other and learn together. ICTs should not encourage isolation of individuals, but provide information that communities can use to work and learn together.

Overall, there are many lessons to be learned from previous case studies and these lessons should help make, but not dictate, decisions for future projects.

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Gender Inequality in Côte d’Ivoire

In class today, we had a presentation on gender inequality by Keshet Bachan, a gender equality expert from Israel. Among her talking points, Bachan noted that there are many forms of violence against adolescent woman, including trafficking and prostitution, and that many women who come from poor backgrounds are vulnerable to this sort of violence.

In my country papers for this class, I researched the Francophone West African state of Côte d’Ivoire. Through this research and my interest in this nation, I have learned that it lags behind many of its neighbors in the different ICT sectors and that there is much gender inequality in the state. The government does not invest much money, if any at all, in women’s education or fertility. And along those lines and echoing Bachan’s presentation, female mutilation/cutting is a common practice. UNICEF defines female mutilation as “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons.” This is particularly a problem in Cote d’Ivoire where a national law was adopted in 1998 to criminalize the activity. It is a problem among people who do not have access to education, the Muslim population and the Voltaïques and Northern Monde ethnic groups, where over 70% of the women are mutilated. Genital mutilation is not only a problem for the obvious reasons of discriminating against and suppressing women, but it also leads to child mortality and makes it easier for adolescent women to contract HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire is a form of social integration and sometimes a required religious ritual of purification. Seeing that female mutilation was in direct conflict with four of the Millennium Development Goals, (MDG 3: promoting gender equality & empowering women, MDG 4: reducing child mortality, MDG 5: improving maternal health, MDG 6: combatting HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases) UNICEF has begun to take action to safeguard human rights in the country. Through advocacy for women’s rights, gender equality and access to education, UNICEF has been able to raise awareness about the issue and help curtail genital mutilation. They have also used nationwide technology campaigns on radio television and mobile phones to establish child protection networks and to empower adolescent and adult women. Between 2000 and 2006, national genital mutilation dropped in females from 44% to 36.4% in direct response to these radio and television campaigns. While we in the United States may scoff at the power that radio has to bring people together and raise awareness about issues, because we are so engulfed with social media and smartphones, radio is showing in Côte d’Ivoire that it is a reliable strategy to achieving gender equality in developing countries.

 


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.


How does Farm Radio International Expand?

Farm Radio is a non-profit organization based out of Canada that works with radio broadcasters to help improve food security and certain modes of agriculture for small African farmers.  Here’s an example video of how to program works

After watching this video I understood the basics of how the Farm Radio program works to help farmers gain knowledge and information on crops and food that they would have not otherwise had in small parts of Africa.  The video did seem slightly puzzling as to who the audience was targeted towards.  It seems as though the target audience is for a very “dummed-down” English speaking individual that would be a potential donor.  If farmers in these rural parts of Africa don’t have the technology to understand information about the crops they are dealing with, then how would they be able to view this video that explains to them how Farm Radio International works in a simplistic manner. 

After looking over the Farm Radio International’s website it is shown that the organization works with a great deal of individuals across Africa.  It is great to see that the organization realizes the technological capacity that is present in Africa, with 76% of African farmers with access to a radio set and only 3% with access to Internet.  My only question here is how does Farm Radio International expand to reach a larger population in a continent in which food is so scarce.

 Here’s the link to their website: http://www.farmradio.org/

Can you Define Failure?

The vast majority is very quick to criticize ICT4D projects and highlight statistics such as the World Bank statistic that states that about 70% of ICT projects fail, without even understanding the context of these numbers. In this case, how does the World Bank define failure? What constitutes a project as a failure? Some projects may be black and white with a clear boundary between success and failure; however, most projects lack this definitive boundary. For example, the Zambian Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) program, known as Learning at the Taonga Market (LTM) was launched in 2000 to create low cost, high quality education for educationally and geographically marginalized areas in Zambia. The LTM integrates IRI, which acts as an active teaching tool, and the Lifeline radio, which is a dual-powered device that uses both wind-up and solar technology minimizing the dependency on other energy sources to teach lessons written and recorded by the Educational Broadcasting Services in conjunction with the Education Development Center. This program was designed to use existing technology, such as the radio, to provide high-quality education for over 800,000 children who cannot attend school. Since its implementation, over 160,000 children have received education through the LTM and these children have tested better than the children attending mainstream schools.

While this program appears to be working, some people argue it is another failed ICT project. Even though the demand for the LTM program and the enrolment of G1 participants have steadily increased, the retention rate is uncomfortably low as only 2,916 of the total 7,782 learners completed G5. Additionally, when testing the participants’ literacy and numeracy skills, it was apparent that the children had gained knowledge. However, the mean numeracy score dropped from 71.5% in 2001 to 63% in 2003 and the literacy skills dropped from 56.6% in 2001 to 48.8% in 2003. Even though observers noticed an improvement in literacy and numeracy skills, the tests proved otherwise. Does this mean that the project failed?

The lowered retention rate could be due to a lack of monitoring and evaluation; some people could be counted as “drop outs” even if they just switched IRI centers. Additionally, the discrepancies in the numeracy and literacy tests could be due to the different sample sizes tested in 2001 and 2003. Therefore, is it accurate to consider this project a failure on the basis of somewhat skewed data? And even if the data were accurate, should this project be classified as a failure based on two statistics, even when vast improvements and increases in demand have been noted? All these questions cannot be answered unless we define failure.  


TBT: How Technologies Have Shaped Our World

Because today is Thursday, also known as TBT (Throwback Thursday) according to a popular Instagram phrase, I decided to bring us back in time to Egypt from the years of 1870-1919. During this time period, the British occupied Egypt, and like most occupations the Egyptians felt repressed and like they didn’t have control over their own country. Although there was no Internet, computers, Twitter or Facebook at this time there were other types of technologies. The types of technology that were popular around this time were the radio, the printing press, and the recording industry. These types of technologies became key tools for the rise of Egyptian nationalism and eventually the revolution in 1919, which led to Egyptian independence in 1922.

Technologies played a large role in nationalism during this time period because it was an important tool in uniting the people. Newspapers allowed people to speak their thoughts, raise awareness to the Egyptian cause and bring people together from all over the country. Many people believe that information is power, and newspapers and songs were able to spread information all across Egypt.  In the book Ordinary Egyptians by Ziad Fahmy

“Modern Egyptians mass culture-especially vaudeville, radio and the music industry-transcend the bounds of literacy and gave room for (Cairene) colloquial Egyptian culture to develop a common, increasingly national forum for comprehensible, universally accessible and socially relevant public discussion about political community, the state and the British imperialism. It is totality of these media, working together as a media system, that entertained, and, in the process provided new shared discourses about nationhood and identity.”(168)

Technology has played a key role in shaping the world that we live in today. It is important to remember the roles that these now semi “old” technologies have played in the past. It will be interesting to see how new and more modern technologies shape the future.

Fahmy, Ziad. Ordinary Egyptians: Creating the Modern Nation Through Popular Culture. California: Stanford University Press, 2011. 168.


This Week in Class: Realizing Rural Radio

logoThis week in Class, we read a 2011 report explaining the findings of a program called AFRRI from Farm Radio International, entitled “The new age of radio; How ICTs are changing rural radio in Africa”. I know what you’re thinking: Radio? Really? Isn’t that a bit outdated? However, what FRI found was that these existing technologies were already present in Africa en masse, and thus provided an opportunity to test the pairing of 21st century methods with prolific, accessible, and low-cost radios in order to improve food security in sub-Saharan Africa. I feel that overall, the FRIs findings demonstrate an excellent way to educate farmers, disseminate knowledge, and eventually elevate the food security conditions across Africa. However, many of their conclusions and recommendations are dependent upon funding and capital as a pre-requisite. In addition, enhanced human capacity and inspired outreach programs contribute greatly to these programs’ success, which means that individuals with the capabilities to reach these remote audiences must be found, trained, and nurtured over time.

The ability of radio to disseminate knowledge to people whom can neither read or write is an extraordinary asset. The low cost penetration of this medium, particularly for communities without phones or electricity explains the immense transcendence and applicability of a technology that was invented one hundred years ago.

Farm Radio International estimates that within sub-Saharan Africa, there are approximately 800 million radios in use. Additionally, through studies across a multitude of lower-income countries within sub-Saharan Africa, FRI finds that some 76% of households own a radio. These numbers provide the foundation to have an increased framework establishing a mass movement to provide increased rural agricultural education and training for farmers and businesses throughout developing Africa. Through a 42-month action program called “The African Farm Radio Research Initiative” or AFRRI, Farm Radio International partnered with 25 radio stations in five African countries to apply and test a range of ICT “packages” with the intention to enhance farm radio.

The AFRRI included three core items. The first, Participatory Radio Campaigns or PRC, implemented new farm radio programs across five countries and evaluated over time their listeners, the passive community, whom also played a central role in the designing of more programming and provided farmer feedback. The second, Radio-based marketing information service or MIS, established a much-needed service for smallholder famers whom required better access to market information. The third, ICT-enhanced radio, equipped radio stations with better digital technologies, ranging from desktop computers and internet access to portable digital recording and editing equipment for interviews in the field. Their research led to a variety of conclusions and recommendations for equitable and successful farm radio programs in future iterations. Among them:

-Computers and computer literacy programs more explicitly were “essential” to the emergence and growth of ICTs at stations in sub-Saharan Africa.

-Durable, portable, and multifunctional MP3 recorders, especially when combined with audio-editing workstations should be considered a staple among Farm Radio Stations.

-Farm radio stations should implement ‘on air call outs’ to agriculture experts as well as other farmers as a cost-effective way to include a plethora of informed and educated voices for their listeners.

-Regular, 30-minute reminders issued via SMS are an excellent way of encouraging regular listenership of farm radio programs.

-Farm radio stations should supplement their DJs with MP3 radios that are able to record and replay broadcasts in order to increase listening opportunities and group listening for communities.

-The use of the Freedom Fone or other IVRs (interactive voice responses) can be used in order to reach even more listeners through phone calls for additional or repeat listening opportunities.

-Establishing the Farm Radio Station complex itself as a wireless networking hub through VSATs (very small aperture terminal) is a cost-effective way of improving access in remote areas.

Make sure and check out Farm Radio International on twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, and Picasa!!