Don't Forget Radio in Push To Use Mobile Technology in Developing Countries

Hibah Hussain | Slate | July 19, 2012

If you’re reasonably altruistic, it seems you can’t open Twitter without hearing about a new initiative or organization dedicated to leveraging mobile telephony for social good in the developing world. The fruits of these efforts run the gamut from maternal health to banking, and crisis relief. They take the form of apps, SMS-based systems, and information dissemination lists. And they vary dramatically in their thoughtfulness, effectiveness, and ability to involve the communities they’re trying to help.

The thing is, despite all of the hype swirling around the role of mobile phones in the Global South, few people have examined the ways in which mobile technology can be partnered with existing, tried-and-true communications networks like radio. My aim here is not to defend or dismiss the role of mobile phones in the developing world—plenty of people have done that already. Rather, it’s time for us to admit that when it comes to global development, mobile phones won’t cut it on their own. If we really want to use technology to promote lasting social change and economic growth, we need to stop ignoring the power of established communications networks. We need to start talking about the radio...