Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A radio for the Farmer


In a typical village in rural Uganda and many parts of Africa, a radio is a very powerful tool which is mainly used to receive information within communities.  It’s used to broadcast lots of information ranging from death Announcements to talk shows about issues affecting the community. The benefits of radio, just like the mobile phone is amplified by the fact,that the adoption of this technology in some rural areas has occurred much faster than with other ICTs. In a country like Uganda where mobile technology has quickly become much more cost effective for telecommunication provision, Radio is used to boost its further adoption, use and application.

According to the farm Radio International 2011 report, Radio is the most widely used medium for disseminating information to rural audiences across Africa. Radio can reach communities at the end of the development road – people who live in areas without phones or electricity. Radio reaches people who cannot read or write. Even in very poor communities, radio penetration is vast. It is estimated there are over 800 million radios in sub-Saharan Africa.  http://www.farmradio.org/pubs/farmradio-ictreport2011.pdf

The Gender factor
Photo by: Edward Echwalu
Just like many other ICTs, Radio has one major limitation. It has been a one-way medium that reaches farmers in their homes and or fields and on its own, radio has had limited means of interacting with listeners because of the one way flow of information.  And even if it’s true that radio is the most widely used medium, it’s ownership, control and greatest percentage of listenership is limited to mainly the men despite the fact that majority of those involved in Agricultural production are women.


The Question:
How have you successfully used radio as an ICT to reach not only men but also women for projects that benefit both of them for example on Health, Education, business, Governance? Share your thoughts.



Monday, June 18, 2012

ADOPT TECHNOLOGY THAT SUITS PEOPLE


In a continent where internet penetration is low, mobile technology especially phones can act as an empowerment tool for the majority of African people.  It is evident that in Africa, the existing digital divide is not going to be bridged with Computers and the internet .it is being overcome through Mobile phones which a great majority of people on the continent own and or have access to.

Networking without your Computer
A variety of mobile handsets
Although many people argue that the penetration of Mobile phones into Africa is being overrated, it is true that for once in decades; Africans now have mass communication that is interactive. The people who were once excluded from vital information are increasingly using cell phones to advance their own well-being and that of their families.  This technological revolution is boosting local economies, bringing information to remote corners of the world, and saving lives. Africa is the region with the highest annual growth rate in mobile phone subscribers worldwide. According to International Telecommunications Union, there are 6 billion Mobile Phone subscriptions Globally  (ITU,2011) with over 1 Billion people in Africa, 41%  having access to mobile phones. 
 
With the existing Literacy, skills and electricity shortage in Africa, it seems to be a fantasy rather than a reality to promote a larger use of online media in Africa. However, Africa can overcome this through the use of Mobile Technology. It’s almost a year since I joined Text to change a mobile for development organization with both offices in Uganda and Netherlands but operating in many African Countries and some in South America. From my experience of managing a maternal health project; I have learned to appreciate the value of mobile phones for Women who are usually underserved and or in rural areas.

It’s evident that there is a huge difference in terms of access, use, application and control of mobile phones between men and women. Whereas, we all agree that ICTs can enable both men and women to gain stronger voice in their communities and that mobile phones can specifically offer women flexibility in time and space, this is far from reality for many rural women here in Uganda. A big gender gap exists in accessing communication services. More men than women access/make use of ICTs.
Given women’s multiple gender roles and heavy domestic responsibilities, their leisure hours are few and therefore need a tool that can effectively reduce the “distance” between them as individuals and institutions thereby making sharing of information and knowledge easier and more effective. The mobile phone comes in handy.

About Text to Change:
Text to Change (TTC) has a wide range of experience in conceptualizing, managing and analyzing mobile phone-based programs. We developed a flexible and easily scalable mobile platform, with state-of-the-art tools and techniques, to send out and receive text messages, mms, voice and data. TTC also has strong relationships within the mobile industry in the countries they work in. Therefore we deliver the full package from database and software development to content development, data analysis and interpretation as well as the visualization and reporting, based on our partner’s needs.  Read more here http://www.texttochange.org/about-ttc