CGHR Researchers on the Ground in Kenya

Africa Partners ResearchPublished July 18, 2011 at 17:09 2 Comments

FrontlineSMS:Radio is being developed and deployed in collaboration with the Centre of Governance and Human Rights (CGHR) at the University of Cambridge. This partnership represents a unique opportunity to gather evidence about how audiences interact with radio stations via SMS and how these interactions can affect their participation in public affairs. CGHR are utilising this opportunity to research whether and how innovations in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are enriching citizen-led governance in Africa, in particular through the combination of radio and SMS.

Entitled, New Communications Technologies and Citizen-led Governance in Africa, the two-year CGHR research project is now well into its operative phase. Between July and September, CGHR’s research team will start conducting fieldwork in Kenya and Zambia to critically analyse how technology is being utilised on the ground. Working closely with local radio stations, the project will seek to capture how information flows through local networks and how new communication technologies, such as mobile phones, interact with older ones. It will also set out to analyse how the hybrid of mobile phones and the radio fit together in long term patterns of use of communication for political participation.

PamojaFM, Kenya. Photo Credit: Emil Græsholm

Dr Iginio Gagliardone is Cambridge CGHR’s post-doctoral Research Associate and this week he touched down in Nairobi to start gathering information on the ground. We asked him what his ambitions are for the project. “We are exploring how ICTs can become part of local networks and transform them from within,” he said, “We want to avoid using template approaches; looking for what is familiar and has already happened elsewhere, but for what is unique and emerges at the intersection between indigenous realities and global influences.”

The ability of mobile technology to interact with traditional media and forms of communication and organisation is fostering significant changes in the way people engage with public debate, access information and make claims. New, innovative applications for media are emerging in Africa that are not only relevant in Africa but across the entire world.

Iginio said, “What we seek to do with our research is to capture the contributions ICTs can provide to networks that characterise governance in Africa and help us to recognise the unique features of governance processes, where a multiplicity of actors often occupy the same socio-political spaces”

He continued, “The diffusion of new ICTs like mobile phones, hold great potential to affect governance in Africa. Their pervasiveness and ability to interact with existing means of communications, like radio, may allow individuals to organise themselves better and be in a position to obtain the services the state promises, but is often unable to deliver.”

Iginio begins his tour by taking part in training on the use of FrontlineSMS, led by Internews, at Pamoja FM in Kibera. He will be in the field for the deployment of the new software over the summer 2011. By employing a combination of participatory techniques, an analysis of messages sent to and from stations, and the exploration of whether and how citizen-radio interactions have affected demands and access to public goods, Iginio will lead research which aims to answer critical questions about interaction between radio and their audiences.

Watch this space for updates from Iginio as he meets with radio stations and talks to radio audiences about the ways in which they take part in discussions which affect them.

For more information and where the framework and the preliminary research findings will be made available, please visit: http ://www . polis . cam . ac . uk/cghr/research_sms . html

Dr. Iginio Gagliardone

Dr. Gagliardone is a post-doctoral Research Associate on the New Communication Technologies and Citizen-led Governance in Africa research project at the CGHR. Iginio leads CGHR’s research into the capacity of new media and communication technologies to foster innovative forms of governance and political participation in Africa, working in collaboration with FrontlineSMS as well as local radio stations, media development organisations and research partners in Africa. Building from this pilot work, he will also help to shape CGHR’s longer-term research agenda in this increasingly important subject area.

2 Comments to “CGHR Researchers on the Ground in Kenya”
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