Harnessing new technologies for Farm Radio (by Mark Leclair, Farm Radio International intern)

    | May 26, 2008

    Download this story

    While radio is by far the most accessible and available form of information and communication technology (ICT) for the majority of people in rural Africa, new ICTs present an opportunity to extend the reach and interactivity of broadcasts. This article presents some new ICTs that could be of use to broadcasters.Text messaging (SMS)
    The overwhelming popularity of mobile phones in Africa offers a direct link between broadcasters and their audience, which can enhance interactivity. Short message service (SMS), also known as “text messaging,” can be a very useful tool to build two-way communication with an audience. Similar to phone-in shows, texts can be used by farmers to ask questions about previous broadcast topics. Broadcasters in some countries can even make use of internet-based bulk text message services (http://bulksms.2way.co.za/, http://www.eztexting.com/) to send information about radio broadcasts to the listening audience. Imagine sending out alerts about market prices for crops or warning audiences of severe weather events!

    Wikipedia and Blogs
    Wikipedia has been taking the world by storm, showing what is possible when people collaborate to post and edit information on the web. A wiki-based webpage offers opportunities to learn from and adapt the wealth of information held by farmers and radio broadcasters. Blogs can be used to keep listeners updated on information already broadcast, and provide access to radio scripts used on air. To see an example of a blog with local agricultural content, visit: http://celac.wordpress.com/.

    Digital Broadcasting Technologies
    Airing a digital audio file such as an MP3 is technically straightforward and allows broadcasters to use radio broadcasts that are available online. Similarly, portable MP3 players with voice recording capabilities allow the production of in-the-field interviews, which can be easily transferred to computer and broadcast on FM channels. “Pod-casting,” downloading, and audio streaming have become popular ways of creating lasting content for the listening audience by making radio programs available online. The following organizations have audio files on various topics on their websites:
    1) Panos Institute West Africa (PIWA)
    2) West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR)
    3) CTA – Rural Radio Resource Packs

    If you have an example of a new ICT helping you with your radio work, we’d love to hear about it and share it with other radio organizations through FRW and upcoming issues of Voices. Please send your stories to Blythe McKay at bmckay@farmradio.org or Heather Miller at hmiller@farmradio.org.