Role of ICT and Community Radio to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in Nepal

Dr. Ram Chandra Lamichhane

Executive Director, ACORAB Nepal

According to our common future or Brundtland Commission (1978), “Sustainable development is a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Sustainable development has been the national as well as global agenda for last 25 years after the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.  After the Millennium Development Goals to eradicate the poverty and bring the prosperity in the world, the United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) in 2015 has accepted the sustainable development goals for 2030. Total 193 member countries have endorsed and accepted it as a mainstream focus for the development. It has 17 thematic goals and 169 indicators. All developed, developing and least developed countries are in the mission of SDGs. Of course, Nepal as a member of the UN is a part of this global initiative.

To achieve the sustainable development goals, there should be distinct and different approaches based on country’s situation. Nepal has been developing the strategy for operating the SDGs in all levels. Since Nepal is on the preparation to graduate from the least developed country list by 2022, these goals are the prime focus of the country. The social cultural structure and development indicators of Nepal are distinct than any other country of the world. So, this unique internal context has been enforcing Nepal to design distinct strategy to achieve this goals and indicators. In Nepal, only 65% population is literate. The percentage of population having awareness on health and sanitation, climate change and its impacts, agriculture production, safety and value chain is very low. Due to huge poverty and low access over the information, the mass population is still struggling for the basic needs.

Communication is one of the major components of the sustainable development. Unless all beneficiaries of the country become aware about the essences and opportunities of the development, achieving the SDGs is simply impossible. Nepal is a relatively new to the world of technology as its history started few decades ago. In Nepal, the access over the communication and information is fragmented. The reach of the internet in the country is about 72%. Currently more than 20 internet service providers (ISPs), 6 telecom companies, some software and IT companies are being functional in Nepal. The improvement is going on the field of technological gadgets. The access over the smart phone, laptop and tablet is rising in the country.

FM radios have reach for 100% population of the country. Most of the offices throughout the nation have electronic attendance system. Nepal is expecting to have all digitized information in near future. The urban youths are well acquainted with the modern information and communication technology. They have been disseminating the information through the apps and new social-medias. Likewise, in the rural areas some initiatives of ICT have been taking places for commodity marketing, rural health through e-medicine, market information and educational programs. The social media have been playing important roles as an effective watchdog of government and non-government organizations activities. The rural people have been getting opportunities to express their feelings, ideas and opinions through the application of ICT.

Currently, Community Radios are emerging source of information and communication for marginalized and vulnerable grass-root communities. Twenty-Five Percentage population of the country is under the poverty line. Total 123 languages and 125 ethnic groups are exists in Nepal. Due to huge social and linguistic diversities, micro communication strategy is needed in the country to aware the essence and opportunities of SDGs. Community radios have been broadcasting programs in more than 65 local languages. They have been producing and broadcasting program on the local issues with the primary focus. The community radios have been using the ICT for producing and broadcasting the programs. The community radios have been using facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, You tube, Google+ etc. to collect and disseminate the information.  The ICT has support to shift the power from elites to ordinary people. Now ordinary people of rural Nepal have easy access over community radio and media through new social media and mobile.

Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (ACORAB) Nepal; was established in 2002. It is the national network of 274 community radios in all 75 districts of Nepal. It works to promote, protect and strengthen the capacity of community radio stations to establish themselves as the fundamental tools of social transformation in Nepal. Community Information Network (CIN) is an initiative of ACORAB Nepal to facilitate the community radios to come forward for joint efforts and collaborations for their common and mutual benefits. It has a satellite net work that shares information among community radio in Nepal. ACORAB has been promoting the concept of community journalism and providing training to children and women about journalism. They have been using social media such as face book, Twitter or send email and send short messages (SMS) from field to community radios.

Now, ACORAB has given its’ full efforts to aware the local community about SDGs. In order to mainstream the SDGs in community radios news and programs more than 200 radio journalists were oriented by organizing the first community radio journalist national conference on 29th of May 2016 in Kathmandu. The main theme of the conference was “Community Radio to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in Nepal”. The minister of information and communication, national planning commission vice chairperson (also an  ambassador of Asia Pacific on SDGs), Chief secretary of the government of Nepal, development experts,, UN women representatives, researchers and academicians of the media including radio journalists from more than 200 community radios have participated in the conference. This conference has announced the Kathmandu declaration paper and accepted community radios as communication ambassador for the SDGs in Nepal.

ICT have been considered as the integral part of the SDGs agendas. Country like Nepal will have multiple impacts on application of the SDGs if there is a proper development in the capacity of community journalist and rural people including marginalized groups (women, ethnic groups etc.). The Asian and Pacific Training Center for ICT for Development (UN-APCICT) has been playing instrumental roles as it has been providing capacity development opportunities to the government, non-government and civil society activists in this region. In the Asia and Pacific region, the role of the UN-APCICT is pivotal to promote the ICT in SDGs. The launch of the women and ICT frontier initiative (WIFI) by UN-APCICT will explore further opportunities to develop the capacities of women to achieve the SDGs. According to UN-APCICT “The Wi-Fi Internet aims to create socially and economically-empowered women through ICT- enabled entrepreneurship”. In Nepal, the use of the ICT enables to create the generous environment for women participation and inclusiveness in SDGs.

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