Converging Responsibility

Broadcasting and the Internet in Developing Countries

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Kotmale Community Radio - Sri Lanka

Report of the IIC Developing Countries Pre-conference
September 4-6, 1999 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
List of conference participants

Presented to International Institute of Communications
September 8, 1999 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
By Bruce Girard and Sucharita Eashwar, co-chairpersons
View slides

Broadcasters, media activists, regulators, NGOs, regional broadcast organisations and researchers from 35 groups and 19 countries met September 4-6, 1999 in Kuala Lumpur for the IIC pre-conference: Converging Responsibility: Broadcasting and the Internet in Developing Countries.

The conference was hosted by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and UNESCO. The journal Telecommunications Policy and Delft University of Technology also supported the event.

Despite democratisation and pluralism becoming widely accepted global norms, both public and private monopolies in media and telecommunication continue to exist in several countries. These prevent free and open competition. They also obstruct expression of alternative or dissenting opinions. Monopolies of any kind in media and telecommunications should end, and appropriate regulatory frameworks put into place.

Though the internet makes it difficult to censor information flows, mass media, even in some democratic countries, remain subject to arbitrary government control.

Taking note of the IIC’s mission "to explore leading-edge issues and exchange ideas on the challenge of new communications technologies and their commercial, cultural and political impacts among policy makers, regulators, academics, content providers, technologists and industrialists", the pre-conference seminar considered convergence and community--with emphasis on the needs of rural and under-served populations.

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I. Access is priority

Most people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are not yet connected to electronic networks, with the exception of one-way radio broadcasting. South Asia, where 23 percent of the world’s people live, has less than one percent of the world's internet users. Disparities like these pose challenges to both the public and private sectors engaged in communication.

But it is not just a question of not being on-line or not being able to make a telephone call. As we enter the era of the knowledge society and the knowledge economy, access to the infrastructure to share knowledge is essential for social and economic progress. Numerous reports released in 1998/99 repeatedly stress this point. As the United Nations Committee on Science and Technology for Development put it,: "Although the cost of using ICTs are high, the cost of not doing so are likely to be higher." (See: Human Development Report Globalisation with a Human Face, UNDP 1999; World Development Report, Knowledge for Development, World Bank 1998/99; Challenges to the Network, Internet for Development ITU; Knowledge Societies, UNCSTD)

Conventional telecommunication services, conventionally packaged, using standard technologies, are unlikely to achieve the required levels of connectivity in the desired time frames. Disparities of access are enormous – most people living in rural areas still don’t have access to basic telephone services. Radio is the most widespread communication device, and yet substantial numbers of people do not have access to even local radio.

With convergence, we are now presented with a unique opportunity to promote equity and socio-economic development in a mutually supportive global environment. Mixing and matching technologies and applications, we can transform the "global megacity" into a sustainable global village comprised of a vibrant mosaic of cultures, voices and images. 


  • The seriousness of the challenge requires creative responses from government agencies responsible for communication policy and regulation, from the telecommunication industry and from international governance bodies.
  • Organisations such as the IIC can catalyse imaginative thinking required for this task, and provide a forum for coordinating future initiatives.
  • Government must develop policy, establish regulatory regimes and support programmes to ensure access for rural and under-served populations.

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II. Transparency and Public Involvement in Policy and Regulatory Processes

Policy making and regulation in fast-evolving fields such as telecommunications and broadcasting have wide ramifications on society, and require transparency and involvement of all sectors.

There are efforts by various organisations (ITU, CRTC, FCC and the World Bank), some of them present at the IIC conference, to educate new regulators. They, and other regional and national organisations and institutions, need to expand these efforts to include the education of citizens and NGOs to ensure they are aware of their rights and responsibilities in the new regulatory environments.

Governments and their regulatory institutions must be accountable and independent, especially in countries that have recently liberalised telecommunications and broadcasting.

Citizen groups have an important role to play in empowering communities and consumers to become active participants in the policy and regulatory processes. Building public awareness will lead to a critical mass of public opinion and action. Technology needs to be demystified and its benefits shared by all.


  • Governments must create and implement consultative structures and processes that will result in fully informed and active public participation in policy-making and regulation.
  • Licensing and regulatory functions addressing convergence must be performed efficiently, with consultation, and conforming to social and cultural values and rights.
  • Citizen groups focussed on single-issues need training to familiarise themselves with the cross-cutting nature of information-communication technologies and their potential applications to support development.

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III. Enhancing the Social Use of Radio Through ICTs

While in some parts of the world a radio is most often seen as an accessory for an automobile, in large parts of the South, it is the only communication device that most people have access to. Unfortunately, the potential for public service and community broadcasting has been largely squandered.

Radio that is relevant, interesting and interactive will allow long-neglected people to be heard and to participate in the democratic process. Having a say in decisions that shape their lives will ultimately improve living standards.

This requires creative applications of technology that goes beyond real audio and other web-casting technologies. The challenge is to enhance the social use of local and community radio, and to find innovative ways to use ICTs to extend radio’s reach and interactivity, and to improve its cultural relevance and programming quality.

There are already working models for using the internet in national news exchanges and programme syndication (Radio 68H in Indonesia, P�lsar in Latin America). These networking initiatives can serve as models for other countries and regions.

While the internet reaches only three percent of the world’s population, radio is the most widely available medium in developing countries. The convergence of internet and radio can provide an innovative and effective way for facilitating knowledge sharing and inter-cultural exchange. Various initiatives have started using radio as a gateway to the Internet, making the net’s information resources available to rural and under-served communities (Kotmale Community Radio in Sri Lanka). Integrating ICT and broadcast facilities would optimise their development and educational potential.


  • Affordable access to frequencies and licences must be made available to communities so they can set up their own, development-oriented broadcast services.
  • Socially-oriented projects focusing on the convergence of ICT and local broadcasting need to be supported. These should include research on affordable communications technologies (internet via cable and utilities, digital receivers, satellite-based delivery, etc.)
  • The results of such research should be disseminated widely, including via the internet itself, and accompany by learning processes to help develop capacity.

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  • Knowledge is necessary for development
  • Access is key
  • Technology gives us an opportunity
  • Make use of existing networks - radio


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Indonesia Local Radio Project - UNESCO Photo


Madhu Acharya, Radio Sagarmatha (Nepal)

Ashok Agarwal, (India)

Hilmy Ahmed, YA*TV (Sri Lanka)

Ayman Bardawil, Al-Quds Educational TV (Palestine)

Nadia Bulbulia, Independent Broadcasting Authority (South Africa)

Maria Victoria Cabrera-Balleza, Isis International (The Philippines)

Gilles Cliche, IDRC/CRDI (Canada)

MJR David, University of Colombo (Sri Lanka)

Kunda Dixit, Panos Institute South Asia (Nepal)

Sucharita Eashwar, Voices (India)

Hamdi Faraj, Sheperds Television (Palestine)

Bruce Girard, Comunica / Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands)

Ade Grande, UNESCO (Indonesia)

Alfonso Gumucio, Rockefeller Foundation (Guatemala)

Martin Hala, Centre for Advanced Media (Czech Republic)

Javed Jabbar, South Asian Media Association (Pakistan)

Maureen James, APC (Canada)

Diana Janssen, Radio Netherlands (The Netherlands)

Reinhard Keune, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (Switzerland)

Clemens Kraut, ABU (Malaysia)

Rosario Liquicia, Inter Press Service (The Philippines)

Norma Llemit, PCCARD (The Philippines)

Arun Mehta, Society for Telecom Empowerment (India)

Javad Mottaghi, AIBD (Malaysia)

Madala Mphahlele, Independent Broadcasting Authority (South Africa)

Raja Sekaran Murugasan, RTM (Malaysia)

Baljin Narantsetseg, Datacom (Mongolia)

Daniel Pimienta, Fundaci�n Redes Y Desarollo (Dominican Republic)

Tessa Piper, The Asia Foundation (Indonesia)

Sankaran Ramanathan, AMIC (Singapore)

Rohan Samarajiva, Ohio State University (USA)

Santoso, Kantor Berita Radio 68H (Indonesia)

S. Senthilkumaran, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (India)

Chulie de Silva, Lanka Academic Network (Sri Lanka)

J.P. Singh, Indian Institute of Management (India)

Louie Tabing, Tambuli Community Radio (Philippines)

Jiraporn Witayasakpan, Chiangmai University (Thailand)

Rainer Welzel, FES (Malaysia)

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Friedrich Ebert Foundation Converging Responsibility - Broadcasting and the Internet in Developing Countries is hosted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.



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