Community Radio, the Cradle of Information Technology
Radio came before Television in Africa, community radio still has a clear edge over Television, because it reaches millions of people
The majority of people in Africa have no access to affordable telephones, broadcasting and the Internet services. This is due to the continent’s poor Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and limited resources, combined with weak policy and regulatory frameworks.
Only in recent years have some countries in Africa started to grapple with ICT policy reforms. However, service penetration, quality and tariffs are yet to improve. This is a biggest challenge for the continent as it faces the new information revolution.
Community radio for development
The convergence of ICTs with community radio can provide a powerful support for harnessing and communicating knowledge for development.
The Zambia Community Media Forum (ZaCoMeF) broadly defines community radio as a participatory, non-profit making community owned and controlled medium, that should respond to the needs of its community and is accountable to community structures.
It should be democratic, in that everyone can participate in it and see the complexity of his/her society reflected in it. The community should belong to and participate in the broadcast service in their respective capacity as stakeholders and not just as consumers.
The main aim of community radio includes the development of the community through information, education and entertainment. Community broadcasters need to (amongst others) assist in ensuring the following:
- To keep the community informed and to revive, retain and sustain cultural heritage, traditions and norms;
- To empower the community by sharing skills and providing training;
- To operate an effective and sustainable community radio that will champion health care and other development and social challenges;
- To act as a mediator between government, organs of civil society and the people; and
- To convey information and education about development related issues like water and sanitation, rural development, housing, health, how the local government works, legal issues, etc.
Community radio empowers the community to be champions of knowing and upholding their democratic rights, and provides an avenue for the people to get involved in their own development.
Community participation is a process, not an isolated occasion or event where people get together to hear and discuss a particular idea or proposal. It is an ongoing interaction between the broadcast station and the community. The station becomes the real voice of the community and prioritises the needs, wants, concerns and feelings, relevant to the community.
Participatory broadcasting helps to develop self-reliance and frees people from dependency. People in the community are empowered in the ability to debate issues and are part of decision-making in community matters. They eventually start thinking differently, instead of thinking about what the government can do for them; they begin to think about how they can develop their community through their contribution to the station.
Training in radio production should also be prioritised. Radio journalists should be able to learn new and informed ways of reporting, editing and production skills, and how to develop radio programme formats. We should also encourage and develop specialised reporting, which is mainly required when dealing with issues such as HIV/AIDS, peace efforts and drug abuse, etc.
Community radio is ideal for community development because it is affordable. Radio presenters are known to the community and understand its needs. The community owns and controls the station and can participate in its activities. The station is accessible to the community.
ICT for Sustainable development
The emergence of the ICT sector is the ideal vehicle for the dissemination of informational content. Currently, the community radio sector use fax, telephone, e-mail and cell phone to support the use of radio.
Information highway is understood to originate and flow from the developed countries to the developing world. But, in the past few years, information and communications technology has been a pouring wave into the developing countries.
The developing countries have no other choice but to adopt such technologies. Those who do not risk being further marginalised. We need to jealously guard the role of broadcasting and local content development, as we face the challenges of information highway and convergence of technologies. Let’s ensure that information and communication are respected as human rights, in the building of knowledge society.