In 2016, four community radio stations - Radio Isangano, Radio Huguka, Radio Ishingiro and Radio Izuba - received capacity-building training through workshops organized by UNESCO, part of the One UN in Rwanda. These workshops were organized in conjunction with the Empowering Local Radios with ICT project. This three-year project, began in 2015 and set for completion in 2017, seeks to strengthen institutional capacity through a number of thematic areas in order to improve programming quality and foster sustainability, all while harnessing the advantages and strengths of ICT.
Positive trends in content and audience feedback
As a result of these trainings, the radio stations demonstrated substantial progress in their respective self-evaluations. Radio Huguka saw an increase in the number of relevant partner associations from zero to four between March and June 2016. This station also noticed significant growth in audience interaction through social media. Additionally, the amount of participative talk shows produced by Radio Izuba reached 75%, owing mainly to increased audience engagement.
Challenges and solutions
Community radio differs from commercial and public broadcasting in that these programmes are driven by the local population. Community radio often experiences unique challenges in order to improve and sustain their services. To address these challenges, a series of three-day workshops were carried out at each station in their respective communities from March to April 2016. Themes ranged from the production of local content to financial and marketing strategies. The key role that ICT can play in programming and management was highlighted in all workshops, demonstrating the use of ICT in improving programming quality and enhancing the extent of impact on the local community. Around 120 participants, including correspondents and station managers, attended these workshops.
Radio Huguka, Radio Ishingiro, and Radio Izuba conducted workshops on the production of programmes on issues of public concern. The workshops were designed to provide correspondents with better skills and knowledge to help the local community access quality information in agriculture, health, and other areas of concern determined by the communities themselves. This included workshops on topics such as education and social welfare. Workshops focused on strengthening participants’ investigative skills, data gathering, management of data sources, and document and record analysis. Participants were also exposed to media ethics and the importance of plurality of sources. They also gained hands-on experience by producing practice news reports at the end of the training.
A number of topics to strengthen business administration are also addressed within the project. Workshops on financial and marketing strategies were held by Radio Huguka and Radio Ishingiro, during which the management teams and board members received training on budgeting, customer management, and marketing strategies in order to devise ways to increase revenue.
Testimonies from participants
Three of the four participatory radio stations - Radio Isangano, Radio Ishingiro, and Radio Izuba – held workshops featuring the use of ICT in radio programming. Participants, who were not aware of the various uses of mobile phones, were surprised to discover how powerful such tools could be for collecting and reporting news to facilitate their work. As revealed by one journalist, “With a simple smartphone, we can now take pictures, videos, record voices and share them via social media.” Participants were also taught to use other traditional ICT tools for reporting such as professional audio recorders.
The UNESCO “Empowering Local Radios with ICT” project aims to improve lives by bridging the gap between the poor or marginalized - especially women and girls - and the rest of the population. This is done by raising local radio stations' programme quality, emphasizing public debate on issues of local public concern. It is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). Launched in 2012, the project is currently in its second phase. By the end of the project in 2017, 32 participating community radio stations in seven African countries - including Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda - will have improved their capacity to provide improved social services and engage a greater number of sectors and demographic groups in their respective communities.