A central belief of media assistance is that information changes people’s lives for the better, improving governance, promoting economic development and strengthening civil society. But does assistance really lead to those outcomes?
To examine that question, Internews commissioned a report, When Does Information Change Lives?, that looks at the effects of five small FM radio stations launched and managed by Internews with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Author and Internews Senior Advisor Sonya De Masi found that there is enormous potential for media development in South Sudan, because of the enthusiasm for and interest in news and information, even in the most remote villages.
“…When there is a public meeting made by the government, we can go direct to [make]
aware the community…so our people are improving, they are learning,” said a listener in Malualkon, Northern Bahr el Ghazal. “Everybody is looking for a radio to know what is going on in the community.”
The report shows that the radio stations have been effective in providing an open forum for dialogue and debate at the local level, with access for members of government, civil society organizations, and the public.
In addition, the stations have proven to be an outlet for the voices of women (including one who ran for and won elective office), marginalized minorities, and the poor, and promoted social trust and solidarity. Listeners identified strongly with their local station, frequently describing it as “their own.”
Local residents use the word “light” to describe radio’s effects, saying radio illuminated “the darkness.”
Read the report, When Does Information Change Lives?
See an earlier, related report on radio stations in Sudan, Light in the Darkness.