Decolonizing rural information flow through communication ecology

By Peter Makwanya
ACCESS to information for rural livelihoods is an inclusive pathway designed to empower and transform knowledge societies. Improving knowledge is essential to integrate the poorest and most excluded social groups into sustainable development processes as agents of change and also as beneficiaries.

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 disasters, which expose them to the impacts of climate change. Within the framework of human ecology, human actors harness the power of multimedia communication technologies in a networked environment, to build and share knowledge in order to achieve sustainable development goals.

Communication ecology is defined as the network of human interactions and information and communication technologies (ICT), fostering a digital communication environment for sustainable development. This is essential to avoid the loss of rural livelihoods, environmental degradation and the lack of sustainable markets for rural products. In this regard, knowledge empowerment is also needed to enlighten societies on sustainable ways to use technology to add value to their standard of living and circumstances. The idea is to create the conditions necessary for improving food security, creating jobs for themselves, safeguarding the environment, increasing incomes and building climate resilience.

At the time when a wide range of multimedia communication technologies have invaded the markets, many people have become tech savvy and thus have not been trained in the sustainable use of these gadgets to protect their survival with respect to the problems of confidentiality, illicit and harmful information within the light and framework of ubuntu.

With this in mind, communication ecology advocates for the sustainable use of these technologies to achieve human development goals, improve living standards, protect the environment and contribute to low carbon emissions. Providing appropriate information and knowledge that can help solve problems in their communities while networking locally, regionally and globally is essential.

Mobile phones, the Internet, social media platforms, digital and video cameras, among others, can improve the way rural communities interact with their environment according to their needs and worldview. The creation of Rural Information and Technology Centers will allow communities to photograph, document activities in their surroundings and tell their stories in a variety of participatory ways.

These rural communities need technology to interact, network and share their issues at the community level as they depend on climate-sensitive natural resources for food and income. Above all, they lack the assets that allow them to cope with climate change and disaster risks.

Participatory videos and photographs can boost their self-esteem and confidence, as well as increase their knowledge and understanding of climate change issues. Barriers can be removed so that women and children can lead the creation of stories, data collection, interviews, and the editing of their videos and photographs to create community-based digital stories. Strategically located information centers in rural areas are the way forward and they are essential to serve as information banks and repositories for disadvantaged communities to network, learn and be empowered. These centers will be instrumental in imparting relevant knowledge on community livelihoods to children as they grow up. Rural information centers are important to the ecology of communication because it is where children see agricultural activities taking place.

Of course, Internet-based connectivity is sometimes unstable in developing countries and it should be noted that this is a lack of information. When the internet is available with adequate funding and support, women and children cannot remain idle. Due to the high levels of poverty inherent in rural areas, communities need life skills through lifelong learning and not food distributions. People should be empowered with proper knowledge because not all knowledge is empowering, some is destructive.

Rural communities will be progressively empowered through workshops and other forms of activities designed to change human behavior and promote human readiness.

As these rural knowledge centers operate, the focus will be on prevailing literacy levels, poverty scales, including the ability to maintain these valuable centers and infrastructure. Information stores should be updated regularly to remove outdated information and replace it with current and new information in accordance with local and global standards.

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

As this will be a gradual process, the centers may begin to operate with government and donor support until communities are empowered enough to manage their own long-term affairs. Again, connectivity must be strictly maintained so that these noble hubs do not become white elephants. From the community projects they will run, participants can set aside money to maintain connectivity and upgrade services.

These centers will not be an end in themselves but just safeguards of life to promote the ecology of communication because not all community problems can be solved by the Internet. These knowledge centers will facilitate creative thinking, innovation and added value.

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

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

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

As this will be a gradual process, the centers can begin to operate with government and donor support until communities are empowered enough to manage their own long-term affairs. Again, connectivity must be strictly maintained so that these noble hubs do not become white elephants. From the community projects they will run, participants can set aside money to maintain connectivity and upgrade services.

These centers will not be an end in themselves but just safeguards of life to promote the ecology of communication because not all community problems can be solved by the Internet. These knowledge centers will facilitate creative thinking, innovation and added value.

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

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

  • Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in a personal capacity and can be contacted at: [email protected]

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