In this publication, Panos London sets out what it believes should be the role of communication in long-term, sustainable development. It challenges governments and all involved in policy-making and planning to listen to the views of ordinary people, to involve civil society in decision-making and to recognise the important part the media can play in debating development issues and challenging government accountability. It suggests four key areas for action by governments, NGOs, the media and international organisations, in order to realise the power and potential of information and communication.
The landscape of research communication in development has been undergoing a significant shift in recent years. The very visible emergence of new technologies has been accompanied by other shifts in the politics and business of development knowledge: the understanding of what constitutes “expert knowledge” in development, a growing emphasis on process over product in development research and new understandings of what drives social change and policy influence.
With the rise of participatory and co-constructed communications have come suggestions that we have neglected the rigour and “hard evidence” needed to influence policy. As some have turned back to grassroots forms of communication such as community radio, they face ambivalence from others struggling to see what is new or innovative about such ‘archaic’ approaches. As such we find ourselves at an interesting juncture, one that this Bulletin aims to explore by drawing on the experiences of practitioners, theorists and community intermediaries from a wide range of disciplines.
This book is about people and the processes needed to facilitate sharing of knowledge in order to achieve sustainable developmental change. It underlines that development communication is based on dialogue, which is necessary to promote people’s participation. It follows a two-way model and increasingly makes use of many-to-may forms of communication to facilitate the understanding of people’s perceptions, priorities and knowledge with its use of a number of tools, techniques, media and methods. It aims to give voice to those most affected by the development issue(s) at stake, allowing them to participate directly in defining and implementing solutions. Based on the assumption that authentic participation directly addresses power and its distribution in society, which often decreases the advantage of certain elite groups, the authors argue that structural and sustainable change necessitates the redistribution of power.
Community report: a participatory approach to assessing the impact of ICT access on quality of life in KwaZulu-Natal
This report is based on the experience and findings of a group of 113 people who took part in a two-year participatory research project. This was known as the Community-Based Learning, Information & Communication Technologies (ICTs) and Quality of Life (CLIQ) project. The aim of the project was to find out if ICTs can have an impact on people’s quality of life.
Participants came from four poorer communities in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Through their local telecentres, CLIQ provided free computer training and use and alongside this, participants discussed their quality of life and their life goals at different stages of the fieldwork. Some telecentres were not operating as well as others and some people were not able to participate as fully as others. The CLIQ research showed that when people use computers, they can improve their lives.
Training is important and should be linked to the needs of people who should be supported in their use of computers to help them reach their goals. For this to succeed it is essential that they have good access to computers that work.
The report is in memory of Nonhlanhla Gema.