Sunday, November 26, 2006

A great radio series

I am in Uganda, and met with Liz from the Uganda Local Government Association. She told me about a radio series she did for a year, featuring call in questioning after presentations by professors involved in the Innovations at Makerere (University) project. I was told the format was to create series of four half-hour programs. Each series would begin with a professor for two broadcasts, and local government leaders responding for the next two. Topics would be drawn from agriculture, health, engineering, and other I@Mak priority subjects. Each half hour program was divided into halves, the first a scripted lecture by the guest, and the second devoted to call-in questions and answers. Liz hosted the entire series. The series was broadcast on both short wave and FM, with nation-wide coverage. Broadcasts were at 8:00 am on Saturday mornings. There was a summary of the topic to be covered each week published in the newspaper on Wednesday, giving readers a chance to decide whether there was interest. Phone in questions came from all over the country, and now cell phones are common enough that there was a significant chance of getting calls from ourside the capital. Liz tells me that the program was well liked, and the leadership of UGLA would like to continue the program, but to decentralize it and to allow it to be localized into local languages.

I am very impressed. This is a great way to link academic leaders with practioners in the field. Since low power transmitters are so inexpensive now, there could be radio stations in every district capital, reaching out into its resident population. Broadcasts could be in common languages. China has agreed to build an Internet backbone for Uganda, so soon it should be possible to send streaming audio from Kampala to all the districts, where they could be downloaded by local broadcasters, and the content localized (for example, by translation of the script into local language and local government officials holding call in or in studio questions and answers from local people.) I would hope some donor would pick up the modest cost of such a program, at least for the start-up period.

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