My design team is exploring how refugees can be given agency + better access to information through radio technology. There are a few current programs that have been working along this line.
Refugee Camp Radio Stations
One example are refugee camp radio stations. In 2005 and 2006, the international media development charity Internews and people in Chad established three radio stations for use by refugees in camps there: Radio Sila, in Djabal camp, near Goz Beida; Radio Absoun in Iriba; and Voix de Ouaddai in Abeche.
The radio programs talk about social action programs, health procedures, innovations, and a range of subjects. They have interactive phone-ins and discussions to provide information, to provide a communication channel between refugees and aid agencies.
The Guardian quotes about advantages:
“People talk much more openly on the radio. They listen to each other and learn from each other’s experience,” says Nalga Katir, who organised a debate on female genital mutilation, sponsored by the UN Population Fund, in the refugee camps. “They’re just a voice on the radio, so it allows them to debate in a way they would be afraid to face-to-face, and then you see after the programme people are sitting in the shade of a tree still discussing it.”
The main challenge is the budget. The NGO pulled out of the program, after giving formal training on management and raising money to locals. The radio stations have budgets of about 60,000 for the year. There are ways to charge – governments would pay to issue a notice on it; people would pay to post a notice of a death or funeral. Also, there are ways to raise money through the UNDP.
The other challenges include maintaining protection for journalists; providing electricity supply, overcoming reluctance to talk with journalists.
Free Radios + Listening Collectives
In refugee camps in northeastern Kenya, refugee women were given free radio devices from an NGO called Lifeline, and then also set up into ‘listening groups’ in which women could listen to radio programs together and discuss the issues raised in them.
Lifeline talks of the advantages to communication channels:
“UNHCR reports that since the introduction of the radios “there is greater access to information and better interaction amongst the women refugees”. Women listen to Somali language programmes broadcast on local and international stations like the BBC World Service.”