West Africa

Radio and ICT in West Africa: Connectivity and Use

Posted by PrabhasPokharel on Aug 11, 2009
Radio and ICT in West Africa: Connectivity and Use data sheet 2952 Views
Malick Ndiaye, Kwami Ahiabenu II, Abdourahame Ousmane, Hippolyte Djiwan, et. al
Publication Date: 
Oct 2008
Publication Type: 
Report/White paper

Radio remains the most appropriate communication medium for social and development communication in Africa. This study consists of carrying out a base-line study of West African radio connectivity to ICT (internet, satellite, computer, digital storage tools, etc.), analyzing the uses implemented, identifying the constraints and opportunities, and making recommendations to the different stakeholders.

The study concentrates on seven (7) targeted countries (Ghana, Benin, Senegal, Mali, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso & Niger) and concerns all radio stations (public, community, commercial and religious). Two hundred and twenty (220) radio stations took part in the survey. The main tools of research used were questionnaires, interviews and documentary analysis.

The results reveal that overall the average rate of access to the internet by radio stations in the seven (7) countries studied is 51.8 %, with a large disparity according to the country and type of radio. Indeed, while the rate of connectivity is 72.2% for private commercial radio on the one hand, it is limited to 31.5%
for community or non-profit making radio. On the other hand, at a country-wide level, Ghanaian radio has a 93.5% connectivity rate, Senegalese radio 89.7%, whilst only 20% of radio stations in Sierra Leone are connected. In Ghana and Senegal, nearly all commercial radio stations are connected. In addition, 72.7% of Senegalese community radio stations have access to the internet (75% of them have an ADSLline), in contrast to only 8.3% of Nigerien community stations.

The rate of connectivity for all radio stations in Burkina Faso, Benin and Mali, is 61.5%, 55% and 34% respectively. It is thanks to ADSLtechnology that the majority of stations in the sub-region are connected, in particular Senegal, where more than 92 % of stations have access to the worldwide network. As illustrated by the cost of internet access, in certain countries internet use has become more and more accessible, but is limited to regions with good infrastructure.

The strong mobile phone penetration on the continent allows stations to use it as an indispensable tool for reporting and communicating with listeners; this has contributed to today’s large number of radio listeners.
Even though around seventy (70) radio websites have been identified (the majority of them with domain names matching the names of the stations), their presence remains minimal and precarious on the internet. In most countries, live broadcasts on the internet are very unstable (streaming is usually inaccessible) or non-existent, despite being advertised. In addition, a large number of websites have very few - or even no - content.

Mobile value-added services, in particular SMS, used by 83.8% of stations surveyed, have had great success amongst the local population. These new services are considered important tools of interaction between radio stations and listeners and are also a potential source of substantial revenue for radio business.

Convergence between ICTs and radio has brought about results including new multi-use supports which contribute to making radio programmes accessible everywhere throughout the world, and whose coverage, until recently was limited by FM transmitter capacity.  The study has shown that in the countries concerned, training in ICTs is not done regularly. In fact, a quarter of the radio stations surveyed stated that their employees have never followed any training. This explains the low level of ICT skills which greatly limits the development of digital products and services in radio stations. Due either to a lack of information or familiarity with ICT, it has also been observed that there is some confusion between free and proprietary software, and even about what kind of internet connection the radio station has.