As I write, it’s the 13th February 2013. You might be wondering why I mention the fact. What’s the significance of this seemingly random date? Well, not only is it Ash Wednesday and the day before Valentine’s Day, but it’s also World Radio Day.
World Radio Day was proposed in 2011 at a UNESCO conference and the 13th February was chosen for its annual celebration, as it is the anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations Radio, back in 1946.
As a message for World Radio Day, Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General recounts how important radio was to him when he was growing up in a small village after the Korean War: “We did not have much. No phones, no television. But we had something that connected us to the world outside our small village. We had radio, and radio helped open my eyes and ears to the world.”
Despite the surge of interest in television and the Internet, radio still remains the most important form of communication in the developing world. For peoples who have a strong oral tradition (throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa and indigenous populations in Latin America, for example) and for the great majority of people who are illiterate, radio is an especially important channel for information, education and entertainment.
75% of households in developing countries have access to radio, according to UNESCO. It is the single most important source of information about HIV/AIDS in developing countries as well as being the most effective media in promoting agriculture and development in rural areas.
Speaking at the Seventh International Conference on Public Communication of Science and Technology in Cape Town, South Africa, Ben Ngubane, South Africa’s science minister, said, “science and technology developments affect rural population and its activities”. He also stressed the importance of using radio, the main source of communication on the African continent, to educate people.
The World Bank is currently working to help strengthen the community radio sector in developing countries. According to The World Bank, “By producing informative programmes about local issues, communities will be able to develop informed opinions, begin to form interest groups, and mobilise to address common problems. Better knowledge of development projects can lead to higher levels of participation and ownership amongst communities, which in turn discourages corruption, resulting in stronger, more effective and appropriate development activities to benefit all members of the community. Not only does community radio help populations to develop a better understanding of issues but it also facilitates access to government decision meetings and events and helps the community to identify and benefit from more opportunities.”
The World Bank also notes that where Internet access is feasible, linking community radio stations with the Internet can enable international news to be read to remote illiterate communities and inquiries from these communities can also be channelled to international sources of expertise, facilitating development.
For over 100 years, radio has served as a channel for life-saving information and continues to do so today. So, on World Radio Day, let’s remember how the power of radio can help sustainable development.
IMAGE: paulmmay, Flickr,