In the international development community, the dominant technology discussion is currently about mobile phones, applications and services. According to the International Telecommunications Union, there are now 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions globally.1 Most of the subscriber growth is in the developing world, where prices are falling rapidly and expanding connectivity is catalyzing the growth of entire economies.2
But, with the rapidly expanding availability of mobile phones, it is easy to forget about the potential of older technologies, such as radio. In much of the world, radio remains the most pervasive communicator of information. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, an estimated 80 percent to 90 percent of households have access to a working radio, while only 15 percent have access to the Internet.3,4
Rather than making radio irrelevant, mobile technologies have made radio potentially more powerful than ever. Individuals in rural communities with access to mobile phones can interact with broadcasters. Farmers in their fields can access experts on radio call-in programs. Radio stations can send listeners recaps of programs via SMS. Interactive voice-response systems allow farmers to listen to programs on demand. Sophisticated surveys of audience feedback and behavior change campaigns can be conducted with new precision and efficacy. The list goes on, and not just for agricultural issues. The benefits of radio also reach into health, education, civil society and other development areas.
Integrating effective interactive radio into development projects requires careful planning. To help organizations unlock radio’s new potential, FHI 360 has developed Interactive Radio for Agricultural Development Projects: A Toolkit for Practitioners under the Fostering Agriculture Competitiveness Employing Information Communication Technologies (FACET) project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The toolkit helps USAID and other organizations use interactive radio to augment traditional agricultural extension services. It guides users through a series of questions to help them design interactive radio activities tailored for specific objectives, beneficiaries and project realities. Working through each toolkit component will enable development workers to formulate a more systematic approach to using interactive radio to share information with farmers.
The toolkit is available online at ictforag.org/radio. A limited supply of hard copies is available to USAID mission staff and implementing partners by request. A hands-on workshop for USAID implementing partners in sub-Saharan Africa is planned for this spring. If you would like to participate, request a hard copy of the toolkit or get additional information, contact program manager Josh Woodard at jwoodard[at]fhi360.org.
Don’t miss our upcoming webinar on interactive radio with Farm Radio International and UNESCO on Feb.12, 2013 at 9 a.m. EST. To learn how to register or get more information, visit http://1.usa.gov/V2sVjJ.
1 International Telecommunications Union. ITU releases latest global technology development figures. ITU press release, Oct. 11, 2012 [cited 2013 Feb 6]. Available from: http://www.itu.int/net/pressoffice/press_releases/2012/70.aspx.
2 Deloitte. What is the impact of mobile telephony on economic growth? GSM Association; November 2012 [cited 2013 Feb 6]. Available from: http://www.gsma.com/publicpolicy/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/gsma-deloitte-impact-mobile-telephony-economic-growth.pdf.
3 Myers M. Why radio matters: making the case for radio as a medium for development. Developing Radio Partners; 2010 [cited 2013 Feb 6]. Available from: http://developingradio.org/files/Why%20Radio%20Matters%20Mary%20Myers%20DRP.pdf.
4 Internetworldstats.com [Internet]. Internet Usage Statistics for Africa — 2012 Q2. Internet World Stats [cited 2013 Feb 6]. Available from: http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.htm.