Local radios in Africa will receive a tech-savvy upgrade from UNESCO
“Innovative communication and information technologies are no longer luxuries for big radio stations,” says Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. Through a UNESCO project, staff at modest radio stations like Iso-Community Radio in a remote Northern province of Zambia will be trained to use new media and mobile phones to improve their broadcasts.
With a focus on free and open-source applications, the project will help radio broadcasters improve editorial content and interaction with their audiences. Some activities will develop creative uses for basic mobile phones - the ones used by poor people – so that listeners can react to current affairs, participate in polls and send comments that are broadcast on the air. Other activities will use innovative technologies to help radio stations build playlists, create schedules on-line and manage stations remotely. Many applications are meant to work even when they are off-line, so they can keep functioning when Internet connectivity fails.
The project reaches over 30 radio stations in six different countries, but each one will be a unique case for developing novel ways of producing local radio. Implementation started this week in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
"It is a complex project, since each radio station has a different reality with different levels of access to technology, the internet or even electrical supply," says Al-Amin Yusuph, Adviser for Communication and Information at UNESCO Dar-es-Salaam Cluster Office. These differences, both social and technical, require an understanding of each station and the community it serves. Therefore, the project will kick off with detailed research on the radio stations and their way of working. The research will create a starting point from which UNESCO will implement activities and monitor the effects of this project. All the outcomes of the project - including the surveys and training material - will be publicly available. They will contribute to a deeper understanding of Information and Communication Technology’s impact on communication in hard-to-reach or poor areas.
The project is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, which donated 30 million Swedish Kroner over three years. It demonstrates a high level of trust – and responsibility – in UNESCO's work for the development of local media.
For more information: Mirta Lourenço, Chief, Media and Society, m.lourenco(at)unesco.org