English version of PIWA report published in October 2008 in electronic
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Summary of report
Radio remains the most appropriate communication medium for social and
development communication in Africa. This study consists of carrying out a
base-line study of West African radio connectivity to ICT (internet,
satellite, computer, digital storage tools, etc.), analyzing the uses
implemented, identifying the constraints and opportunities, and making
recommendations to the different stakeholders. The study concentrates on
seven (7) targeted countries (Ghana, Benin, Senegal, Mali, Sierra Leone,
Burkina Faso & Niger) and concerns all radio stations (public, community,
commercial and religious). Two hundred and twenty (220) radio stations
took part in the survey. The main tools of research used were
questionnaires, interviews and documentary analysis.
The results reveal that overall the average rate of access to the internet
by radio stations in the seven (7) countries studied is 51.8 %, with a
large disparity according to the country and type of radio. Indeed, while
the rate of connectivity is 72.2% for private commercial radio on the one
hand, it is limited to 31.5% for community or non-profit making radio. On
the other hand, at a country-wide level, Ghanaian radio has a 93.5%
connectivity rate, Senegalese radio 89.7%, whilst only 20% of radio
stations in Sierra Leone are connected. In Ghana and Senegal, nearly all
commercial radio stations are connected. In addition, 72.7% of Senegalese
community radio stations have access to the internet (75% of them have an
ADSL line), in contrast to only 8.3% of Nigerien community stations. The
rate of connectivity for all radio stations in Burkina Faso, Benin and
Mali, is 61.5%, 55% and 34% respectively.
It is thanks to ADSL technology that the majority of stations in the
sub-region are connected, in particular Senegal, where more than 92 % of
stations have access to the worldwide network. As illustrated by the cost
of internet access, in certain countries internet use has become more and
more accessible, but is limited to regions with good infrastructure.
The strong mobile phone penetration on the continent allows stations to
use it as an indispensable tool for reporting and communicating with
listeners; this has contributed to today's large number of radio
Even though around seventy (70) radio websites have been identified (the
majority of them with domain names matching the names of the stations),
their presence remains minimal and precarious on the internet. In most
countries, live broadcasts on the internet are very unstable (streaming is
usually inaccessible) or non-existent, despite being advertised. In
addition, a large number of websites have very few or even no - content.
Senegal and Ghana are the two countries where radio stations have the
greatest number of websites, but direct broadcasting on the internet is
much more stable on Ghanaian radio. Their presence on the web illustrates
again that it is these two countries whose radio stations gain the most
Moreover, mobile value-added services, in particular SMS, used by 83.8% of
stations surveyed, have had great success amongst the local population.
These new services are considered important tools of interaction between
radio stations and listeners and are also a potential source of
substantial revenue for radio business.
The level of IT equipment and use of digital supports (CD, DVD, media
players & recorders, USB keys) remains average in the sub-region. As it
happens, the poor level of IT equipment and digital supports is notorious
amongst community radio stations which are generally based in rural zones
with limited financial resources.
In fact 33.6 % of them do not have computers. Free software has not had
much success either with only 38% of radio stations using it. This kind of
software is generally used for production, which still remains analogue
for 36.36 % of radio stations.
Overall, satellite is very little used by radio stations. It is used
mainly for receiving programmes. Community radio stations use it the most
(57.7%), whilst this figure is 28.8% for commercial radio. The high rate
of use of satellite by community radio stations is explained by the
international support from which the stations benefit. Concerning
broadcasting programme by satellite, it is almost only public radio
stations - having substantial public subsidies - that are able to use it,
in particular to Africa, Europe and the USA.
Convergence between ICTs and radio has brought about results including new
multi-use supports which contribute to making radio programmes accessible
everywhere throughout the world, and whose coverage, until recently was
limited by FM transmitter capacity.
The study has shown that in the countries concerned, training in ICTs is
not done regularly. In fact, a quarter of the radio stations surveyed
stated that their employees have never followed any training. This
explains the low level of ICT skills which greatly limits the development
of digital products and services in radio stations. Due either to a lack
of information or familiarity with ICT, it has also been observed that
there is some confusion between free and proprietary software, and even
about what kind of internet connection the radio station has.
Training needs remain huge and concern all of ICT, especially digital
production, basic use of computers, the Internet and the creation or
maintenance of advance broadcasting services and downloading on-line.
Power cuts are cited in particular as a real obstacle in countries having
the best connectivity.
National programmes capable of supporting radio station connectivity are
rarely appreciated or recognised as effective. The RASCOM satellite, which
represented a lot of hope for African countries, in the end had a lot of
difficulties which prevented them from being really able to contribute to
the development of access and opening up of rural regions to the outside
world. Radio broadcasters are now counting on the extension of SAT3/SAFE
cable and to a certain extent, on the consolidation of international
projects such as Community Multimedia Centres, to develop access to the
The lack of awareness of possibilities offered by ICT and the lack of
financial, human and technical resources have considerably limited the
development of uses linking ICTs and radio. Some innovative experiments
have been noted and presented in the report, showing that it is indeed
possible to extend the broadcasting range of radio stations using the
Internet or satellite, and using interactive value-added services to
increase radio station revenue and increase interaction with listeners, if
basic problems of access to networks are resolved or improved.
Uses and Policies of Digital Technology (ICT)
Panos Institute West Africa
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