HomeOpinion & AnalysisDecolonising rural information outflow through communication ecology

Decolonising rural information outflow through communication ecology

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By Peter Makwanya
ACCESS to information for rural livelihoods is an inclusive pathway designed towards empowering and transforming knowledge of societies. Knowledge improvement is key in bringing the poorest and the most excluded social groups into sustainable development processes as agents of change and as beneficiaries too.

The world’s hungry and poor, especially women and children are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they live in marginal environments in communities prone to weather and climate-related disasters, which expose them to climate change impacts. Within the framework of human ecology, human actors harness the power of multimedia communication technologies in a networked environment, to build and share knowledge to achieve sustainable development goals.

Communication ecology is defined as the network of human interactions and information communication technology (ICTs), fostering a digital communication environment for sustainable development. This is key in avoiding loss of rural livelihoods, environmental degradation and lack of sustainable markets for rural products. In this regard, knowledge empowerment is also necessary for enlightening societies about sustainable ways of using technology to add value to their living standards and situations. The idea is to create necessary conditions for improved food security, creation of employment for themselves, safeguard the environment, increase income and realise climate resilience.

The time a wide range of multimedia communication technologies invaded the markets, many people became techno-savvy hence they were not trained about the sustainable use of these gadgets in order to safeguard their survival with regards to issues of privacy, illicit and damaging information in the light and framework of ubuntu.

In this view, communication ecology advocates for the sustainable use of these technologies to achieve human development goals, improve living standards, protect the environment and participate in low-carbon emissions. The provision of right information and knowledge which can contribute to solving problems in their communities while they network locally, regionally and globally is key.

Mobile phones, internet, social media platforms, digital and video cameras, among others can improve the way rural communities interact with their environments according to their needs and worldviews. The establishment of rural information and technological centres will enable communities to photograph, document activities in their environment and tell their stories in a variety of participatory ways.

These rural communities need technology to interact, network and share their problems at community level because they rely on climate sensitive natural resources for food and incomes. Above all, they lack the assets that enable them to cope with climate change and disaster risks.

Participatory videos and photographs can build their self-esteem and confidence as well as increase their knowledge and understanding of climate change issues. Barriers can be removed for women and children to lead in story-making, data collection, interviewing and editing their videos and photographs to come up with community-based digital stories. Strategically rurally-situated information centres are the way to go and they are key in acting as information banks and repositories for disadvantaged communities to network, learn and be empowered. These centres will be instrumental in passing on relevant knowledge about community-based livelihoods to children as they grow. Rural information centres are important for communication ecology because that is where children see farming activities taking place.

Of course internet-driven connectivity is sometimes volatile in developing countries and it should be noted as an information gap. When internet is available because of correct funding and support, women and children cannot be rendered idle. Due to high levels of poverty inherent in rural areas, communities require life skills through life-long learning and not food handouts. People should be empowered through appropriate knowledge because not all knowledge is empowering, some is destructive.

The rural communities will be empowered gradually through workshops, and other forms of activities designed to change human behaviour and promote human preparedness.

As these rural knowledge hubs will be operating, emphasis will be placed on the prevailing literacy levels, poverty scales including the ability to maintain these valuable centres and infrastructure. Information banks need to be updated regularly in order to do away with obsolete information and replace it with current and new information according to local and global standards.

In terms of education, it will be critical to identify information and knowledge gaps in communities so that they become their needs and necessities.

As this will be a gradual process, the centres can start operating with government and donor support until the communities are sufficiently empowered to run their own affairs in the long run. Once again connectivity should be strictly maintained so that these noble centres do not become white elephants. From the community projects they will be running, participants can set aside some money to maintain connectivity and upgrade services.

These centres won’t be an end to themselves but just life back-ups to promote communication ecology because all community problems cannot be solved by the internet hence these knowledge hubs will facilitate creative thinking, innovation and value addition.

Above all, within communities, some people need knowledge in their local languages in order to make the information locally specific and appealing.

Understanding a whole network of activities will motivate communities to hold community development meetings regularly, as part of monitoring and evaluation. They can also flip charts to use drawings to identify recurring problems and these problems will be named based on the drawings. They will also be in a position to present community problems using pictures and diagrams so that community learning appeals to all human senses.

In terms of education, it will be critical to identify information and knowledge gaps in communities so that they become their needs and necessities.

As this will be a gradual process, the centres can start operating with government and donor support until the communities are sufficiently empowered to run their own affairs in the long run. Once again connectivity should be strictly maintained so that these noble centres do not become white elephants. From the community projects they will be running, participants can set aside some money to maintain connectivity and upgrade services.

These centres won’t be an end to themselves but just life back-ups to promote communication ecology because all community problems cannot be solved by the internet hence these knowledge hubs will facilitate creative thinking, innovation and value addition.

Above all, within communities, some people need knowledge in their local languages in order to make the information locally specific and appealing.

Understanding a whole network of activities will motivate communities to hold community development meetings regularly, as part of monitoring and evaluation. They can also flip charts to use drawings to identify recurring problems and these problems will be named based on the drawings. They will also be in a position to present community problems using pictures and diagrams so that community learning appeals to all human senses.

  • Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on: petrovmoyt@gmail.com

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