Reaching Marginalized Populations: the Power of Radio and Mobile Voice

- Discourse in the ICT4D field can often get ahead of itself, focusing so much on new technologies that developing the newest app or handing every teacher a tablet becomes the magic bullet to solving the world’s development problems.

Author: Natasha Beale, July 7 2016 – Discourse in the ICT4D field can often get ahead of itself, focusing so much on new technologies that developing the newest app or handing every teacher a tablet becomes the magic bullet to solving the world’s development problems. While it would be great if this were true, if new technologies were indeed the answer, most practitioners and project managers know that the reality is not so simple.

A recent article in The Guardian cautions practitioners to “avoid the lure of the shiny gadget”, arguing that the best tech doesn’t need to be the newest tech, a lesson that rings true for us at Equal Access. Equal Access (EA) is a social and behavior change communications organization that combines mass media production in radio and television with community outreach and mobile engagement to bring about positive change in the West African Sahel and South and East Asia. EA is based in San Francisco, coincidentally across the street from Twitter, and we often find ourselves surrounded by technology enthusiasts who desperately wish to create “high-tech” solutions to solve major challenges in the developing world. As a “tech-forward” organization, we would love to run full speed ahead with new ideas and embrace the myriad possibilities that more advanced technologies afford us, but we have learned from our work in media for development that despite the promise of new ICTs, “low-tech” technology is far more accessible to marginalized populations.

Indeed, radio is still the most pervasive medium of information in the developing world, with radio penetration and access close to 100% in many developing nations. Our experience is in accordance with other practitioners and researchers in the field of ICT4D and Communications for Development, who argue that older technologies cannot be dismissed, and that technology convergence, rather than the latest new ICT, holds greater transformative potential.

Read the full article in The Drum, Here.

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