WSJ.com: In Impoverished Niger, Radio Provides Missing Links in Chain of Development (subscription needed): In today’s world (the one we all live in), life without the computer is unimaginable. But for many in the world, the radio is still the window to the outside world.
Radio “is the missing link in the development chain,” says Steven Ursino, director of the United Nations Development Program, or UNDP, in Niger. With its manageable, cheap technology, it goes to places the Internet can’t, beyond the reach of electricity and telephones. It demands the participation of the villagers and can become the soul of a community. Above all, it stimulates communication in the local languages that is vital in attacking problems such as AIDS. “It gives the people a voice,” Mr. Ursino says.
At Radio Goudel, the digital divide between Niger and the developed world opens wide. In one room of the station, several computers are covered by plastic sheets, rendered useless by a lack of spare parts. In the next room, technicians from stations around the country learn how to repair the simple wind-up radios from the Freeplay Foundation of London, which is mainly funded by the Freeplay Energy Group, maker of the self-powered products.
I still begin my day listening to the BBC World News on my shortwave radio — a habit which was formed in my childhood. There’s just so much happening in the world to know about. Radio lets me concentrate on the event and the news, rather than be distracted by the pictures.