ICT Signals the Cradle of Radio’s Rebirth

Nairobi – Each year on February 13, World Radio Day, the UN brings attention to the humble wireless, which was invented back in 1895, more than 100 years before the World Wide Web was created in 1990. Over the last few decades, radio has played an important role in the realm of development. It has enabled the distribution of information on new policies, technology, products, and ideas with the potential of stimulating growth and development, largely in rural Africa.

Radio acquired the capacity to reach a mass audience in the period following World War I and grew steadily to become a powerful medium of communication. In just a couple of decades, it would equal, and eventually overtake the newspaper in popularity. In the long term, radio also grew from being a mere source of war propaganda and entertainment to being a credible source of news for all sectors of society.

With the coming of the information age however, reference to radio with regards to communication has dropped drastically with few people today appreciating the impact the advent of radio had in the twentieth century. The World Wide Web a much bigger technological breakthrough dwarfs the historical positioning enjoyed by radio in the last century. Many have even argued that the internet has swallowed much of radio’s territory and will soon preside over its farewell party.

In the contrary, Kenya’s case depicts a fruitful collaboration between radio broadcasting and one of the fastest growing information and communication technology sectors in Africa.  The capacity for radio to disseminate programmes to audiences beyond its attributed frequencies has been enhanced.

Kenya continues to experience growth in the ICT sector and has a growing number of broadcasting stations. According to the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) mobile penetration stands at  88 percent while its internet penetration is the highest in Africa at 68 percent.The increase in internet bandwidth capacity has bolstered the growth in internet connection and of mobile subscriptions.  There exists an upward trend with mobile handsets not only becoming the medium for communication but also for accessing other value added services like data and internet, entertainment, mobile money transfer as well as radio.

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By Ann Therese Ndong Jatta and Haron Mwangi

Picture credit: Roberto Schmidt/Getty images