Media In Development Communication
Communication is an important tool that plays a major role in development. In a large country like India, physical and personal contact to disseminate information is a mammoth task. With the government rolling out measures for the welfare and development of “backward” areas and underprivileged sections of society, percolation to the masses at the ground level is often a challenge. Thus effective communication has assumed a key role in socioeconomic change.
Communication for Development (C4D) should therefore look at understanding latent needs of people and communicating solutions that aim at overcoming specific challenges. The aim of an inclusive development agenda should look at adoption of desired initiatives promoted by the government for women, children and the underprivileged.
Development communication has to play two primary roles through creation of an atmosphere for change and innovation through which society may change.
(1) Transformatory role: look at social change for improving quality of life for people.
(2) Normative role: look at maintaining a societal value framework.
However, success of development communication depends on a framework that is responsive, allows feedback, fosters innovation and creativity, and is a continuous and iterative process.
The process of transfer of development information to the masses has been undergoing a rapid change since the advent of “new media” and the rapid coverage of mobile technology even in remote areas. Communication is now becoming a two-way process through enabling technology.
Hitherto, the channels of communication were restricted through mainstream media-print and electronic media (radio, television). Adoption of technology and connectivity has led to emerging new media where communication has also become a tool for inclusive facilitation and participation. Mass media like printed material, radio, and television have been traditionally used to promote development communication. Now the buzzword in communication for development is “new media.” New media refers to media that is delivered digitally to the recipient. The mediums can be a website, email, mobile handset, apps that stream or, for that matter, any communication delivered over the internet. Some of the components of new media could be:
- sites/ web pages
- Social media platforms
- Mobile apps
- Online news channels/ newspapers
New Media: The Engine For Development
Besides the role that is being played by the mainstream media, the internet is now in the process of leading India toward a knowledge-based rural development agenda.
India tops in data consumption in the world. The fiber-optic network has connected over one lakh panchayats across the country, and the figure keeps increasing. The affordability of data and the exponential growth in 4G smartphones across the country has led to a digital revolution. Mobile broadband penetration has spread to more than 50 percent of the population. This transformation is taking development in India to new realms of possibility. Information and communication technology (ICT) is now being increasingly used in development through service delivery of public schemes, direct benefit transfer for incentives, banking, financial transactions, etc., are being delivered digitally through the web. In remote areas, applications within the field of agriculture, health, education, weather prediction, etc., are finding increased usage and acceptance. Within the context of development, new media finds increasing use in information dissemination. For instance, in agriculture, new media is being used to maintain land records, farmer education, managing agricultural development initiatives, and predicting weather patterns.
The advantages that new media offers relate to the following:
- Offering new experiences through a combination of video and text,
- Dissemination of information where the world becomes the interactive place,
- Creating, developing, and maintaining relationships between people, consumers, markets, and authorities,
- Analysis and impact assessment on stakeholders through available metrics.
No wonder then the government has realized and continues on a path of adoption of new media to drive e-governance, information and extension services across the country.
Use Of Community Media To Drive Change
As a step in this direction, a different kind of new media is leading to a positive change. Community media is finding its mojo and leading to a different kind of revolution. This media is participative in nature and content is audience driven. The community participation decides on the content through a collective and participatory role. Community media is a powerful tool since it gives them the independence to express and also empowers them through the power of media.
One such type of community media is the community radio/ video. These engage the audience much more than conventional media since the content is localized and focused on the community culture, livelihood, traditions, and experiences. Community radio/ video is a type of participatory communication that creates an impact because people can relate to local issues and identify with the participants.
Community media empowers the locals to take action and solve their own problems. It also is a potent tool to communicate their needs and ideas to decision-makers. Therefore, this unique type of new media is a highly effective tool to engage and mobilize marginalized people.
Development Outreach: S M Sehgal Foundation and New Media
S M Sehgal Foundation, a rural development NGO in India, has been working to improve the quality of life in rural areas, and for community welfare. S M Sehgal Foundation has five main program areas: Water Management, Agricultural Development, Local Participation and Sustainability, Transform Lives one school at a time, and Outreach for Development.
As part of its “Outreach for Development” initiative, S M Sehgal Foundation has been fostering participation and positive social change in rural communities through awareness creation and knowledge sharing. This program employs a blended and well-balanced media mix of mainstream, traditional, and new media. Specifically targeted at the rural community, the program uses social media, and other print, visual, and interactive formats including a rural community radio station (Alfaz-e-Mewat). The outreach initiatives run by S M Sehgal Foundation align with the communication for development goals and promote opinions favorable to the attainment of rural development.
Of particular interest is the community radio through which reliable and timely information is shared with the local rural communities. The easy-to-understand communication helps to stimulate dialogue and engagement that positively influences behavior changes. By providing a platform to grassroots communities to voice their views, people are encouraged to identify important issues affecting their lives and work together to resolve them. Last-mile outreach activities bridge the large information divide and accelerate social change by bringing local voices and their concerns to the forefront.
Alfaz-e-Mewat was established in 2012 and now has a reach of more than two lakh, covering 220 villages in district Nuh, Haryana. The station broadcasts thirteen hours of daily programs. Most of the staff members of the radio station are recruited from the local community. The station is technically well equipped, and staff members are trained to handle any technical issues that may emerge during broadcast. On the content sustainability part, the station has developed a feedback mechanism from the community with the help of which programs are conceptualized.
The station acts as an adjunct and is supportive of the activities of local administration especially in times of emergency. More recently, special efforts and campaigns were made by the station to spread COVID-19 awareness and promote the vaccination program. These last-mile outreach activities have helped to bridge the large information divide and accelerate social change.