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United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
   Alleviating Poverty through Communication (Human Rights)
 
 
 Kothmale
The right to information in rural areas through Internet Radio.

Rural populations in developing countries are particularly disadvantaged, being deprived of most socio-economic opportunities. Very often, they have no say in decision-making, due to the lack of effective means of communicating their views and making their voices heard, nor of learning about possibilities to improve their lives. Furthermore, the prevailing poverty and lack of financial means prevent even the most resourceful of them from realizing their undertakings. UNESCO-sponsored community radio stations have proven instrumental in breaking this vicious circle, increasing participation and opinion sharing, improving and diversifying knowledge and skills and in catering to health and cultural needs. Most importantly, such projects give people hope for a better future.

Kothmale is located in the central part of Sri Lanka, a three-hour bus ride from the capital city of Colombo. The Kothmale community radio serves a target area of almost 8000 sq. km, which includes a number of rural settlements such as Gampola, Nawalapitiya and Thispane.

The concept of the Kothmale Internet Community Radio marries the "old" technology of community radio with that of the Internet. The Kothmale community radio, connected to the Internet, serves as a link between this powerful source of information and rural populations. The radio team browses the Net for information requested by the audience, translates it into the local languages and then broadcasts it in a daily programme. If requested, it also provides printouts of the downloaded information.

In parallel, local communities are provided with free Internet access. Besides its own Internet Café, the community radio has set up two free Internet access points at Gampola and Nawalapitiya community libraries. This has a big advantage for rural users, since even those of them who may have access to the Internet have to pay a long distance telephone call each time they use it, a luxury that only very few can afford. The access points are also used as direct links to radio station to produce and air live broadcast programmes.

The community radio also develops its own computer database compiling information from the Internet that is often requested by community members. Much of the information on this website is available in local languages. This database attempts to solve the problem of non-availability of packaged information on the Internet adapted to rural needs. In addition, a collection of CD-ROMs will be made available at the community radio for public use.

While UNESCO provided computer equipment and training, the Government of Sri Lanka through its Telecommunication Regulatory Commission provided the Internet connectivity to the community radio through a dedicated 64KB line.

The project is implemented by UNESCO in collaboration with the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and the Media, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, Sri Lanka Telecommunication Regulatory Commission and the University of Colombo.

Progress and Promise

  • Disadvantaged populations in remote areas provided with access to development information
  • Community volunteers trained
  • Rural communities exposed to computers and the Internet

Facts

  • Much of poverty in Asia is concentrated in rural areas that have with very limited access to information
  • New technologies can help alleviate poverty by providing access to development-related information
  • New technologies help include the excluded and improve social participation
  • Combination of tradition radio and the Internet helps optimise information and communication services in rural areas

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