Podcasting a good case for Africa

Podcasting in Africa as an emerging technology and precisely one of the collaborative tools earmarked for web 2.0 to facilitate learning and knowledge sharing processes to a wide spectrum of community members of the Harambee Project and telecentre initiatives that AITEC Development facilitates, initially proved improbable.

Recording learning interviews of the Harambee Focus Network coordinators was hard owing to the fact that these interviews mainly relied on another ICT, the phone.

But the challenges posed in integrating podcasting were nothing to do with the technical nature of setting up and operating the iRiver itself. It was more to do with myriad challenges Africa faces such as connectivity and bad telephone networks that contributed a lot to the poor sound quality of the learning interviews not even worth of mention.

In Africa, telephone networks and exchange for cross border calls can be bad and unreliable sometimes and as such impairing good ICT innovations like podcasting.

Because of this bad experience yet Bellanet Africa was keen to integrate podcasts in the work they do, the general feeling and mood was sombre and the conclusion -- this technology is not appropriate. Reports were very bad yet for a people characterized by oral traditions, podcasting would be one of the best technologies to go by.

However, the despondence wasn’t to last for long. It was like pain that finally brings joy. Today, talk about podcasting and you’ll be sure to note that it’s one of the most fascinating tools that has especially mesmerised CELAC (Collecting and Exchange of Local Agricultural Content) farmers beyond redemption, as evidenced in their recent Agricultural Knowledge Fair.

The CELAC Knowledge Fair is an annual event where farmers in the network get an opportunity to interact face to face and explain what they have achieved so that others can learn from them.

Based on this platform, the iRiver was used to record farmers’ experiences in regard to difficulties they face, successes they have achieved and advice they would want to give others engaged in similar practices.

Most interviews were done in local languages, edited using Audacity, converted to MP3 and uploaded on www.celac.or.ug/podcasts/player.html for others to access them. Farmers without internet access also got their fair share of CDs.

For some news reporters in Uganda who hadn’t experienced the talisman of the iRiver, the Knowledge Fair was the best opportunity to use it and file stories to their respective FM Radio Stations.

Peterson Ssendi, a reporter, confesses that of all audio equipment, nothing rivaled the iRiver. “It’s very easy to use and carry around,” he says. He used his audio to file stories on Simba FM and also posted on: http://www.voanews.com/english/africa/2007-06-25-voa30.cfm

Since embedding podcasting, the CELAC team has again come to terms with yet another technology that will enhance the way they learn and share knowledge. Baldwin Okello, the CELAC webmaster has noted some lessons to take note of about Podcasting:

1. Intimate communication. Human voices intensify impact of the message and add clarity that emails and blogs lack
2. Building relationships faster. Listeners develop a relationship with the podcaster, including levels of comfort and familiarity not achieved as quickly with written communications
3. Podcasting attracts website traffic to the website
4. Regular podcast programming will attract a repeat audience
5. Targeted, yet wide, RSS distribution opportunities thus improving internet visibility.

[Posted by Abubaker Basajjabaka]