The problem as we see it

Access to information is a universal human right. The big problems facing Africa like poverty, climate change and unemployment cannot be solved without easy and available access to factual information. Access to information lies at the core of achieving the SDGs.

Every day, valuable radio content created for rural African audiences is forever lost. Programmes on topics including health, education, food security, livelihoods, disability rights, gender-based violence, as well as news and entertainment, often aren’t saved, archived or shared in an accessible format. Why? No central platform and protocols exist that content creators (such as communications NGOs, community radio stations, commercial media outlets, government ministries and the UN) can use to permanently archive and distribute content in a free and user-friendly way.

Poor, non-literate and isolated populations often cannot obtain the information they need via mainstream media or in their mother tongue. The result is that rumours and fake news often travel more quickly and may be more influential than factual information. Women and girls, are unable to access information with the same ease and frequency as men via radio or cell phones. In many rural areas in Africa, literacy rates for women are as low as 10%. They never had the opportunity to go to school.

Conspicuously, little attention has been paid to gender dimensions of access to information, which in turn, hampers a woman’s ability to make informed choices and decisions, to engage in technology advances, to cope with adversity, to defend against abuse, keeping her disempowered and disenfranchised. All of this constrains their agency to be economically productive and independent.

Interconnected factors of entrenched cultural norms, prolonged lack of education opportunities, illiteracy and digital illiteracy, family responsibilities and time conspire to decrease economic opportunities. The number of female headed households increasing due to male migration and conflicts. And girls still less likely to attend school and dropout rates are higher rendering them vulnerable to early marriage and pregnancy.

What is Radio Voice Bank ?

Our innovation, Radio Voice Bank (RVB) will help close the information gap by building the technology and laying the operational foundation to deliver content that supports poor populations who many only speak local languages or dialects. The content will directly and indirectly support economic empowerment, but also open up a world of learning as never before in languages they understand. We will pilot this initiative in Kenya and focus on rural women and girls to start.

Think of RVB like YouTube, but for radio. Or even like Netflix for audio. It’s the world’s first open source, comprehensive and searchable library of curated audio content. RVB is a podcasting platform that will enable individuals, community groups, health and education providers, and broadcasters to easily search, download and listen to all types of news, factual and drama programmes via data and internet-enabled devices (phones, tablets and computers) at a time of their choosing.

Radio Voice Bank (RVB) will help close the information gap by building the technology and laying the operational foundation to deliver content that directly and indirectly supports rural communities. This will be accomplished by 1) research with women and girls from three counties in Kenya representing marginalised pastoralist and farmer groups; 2) testing and refining the prototype RVB podcast platform and protocols to deliver audio content on-demand via smartphones or feature phone, and for streaming via the internet and FM community radio stations; 3) establishing a network of content creator and provider partners; 4) uploading content with structured tags, keywords, and categories applied to make it findable by a variety of search methods, including voice activation.

View the Radio Voice Bank website for more information.


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