Communication Systems Put Wheels on Projects Facilitation Essay

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Communication Systems Put Wheels on Projects

Facilitation participation. Development Support Communication (DSC) is a system that facilitates the sharing of information about development agenda and associated actions (Adesida, 2001). The purpose of development support communication is the effective linking of the stakeholders in a development process (Adesida, 2001). The range of stakeholders who benefit from a development support communication system is broad, including the planners, the implementers, the donor community, and the beneficiaries of the development (Adesida, 2001). Good communication is critical to effective development planning and implementation (Adesida, 2001). By adhering to development communication system, planners and implementers can greatly enhance the quality of their communication, providing explicit and interpretable data (Adesida, 2001). The objective is provide clarity about the goals and objectives, to articulate the development roles, including the opportunities afforded beneficiaries to help shape the eventual development outcomes (Adesida, 2001). Beyond its impact on the quality and usefulness of project communication, the significance of employing a development communication system is substantive in another way: the donor community is continually made aware of the barriers the project planners and implementers face, as well as their achievements (Adesida, 2001).

Project planners and implementers are able to meet their effective and comprehensive communication objectives by availing themselves of all ways and platforms for sharing information that exist in and across communities (Adesida, 2001). In addition to mass media, the system folds in formal and informal channels of communication. Examples of this in a community are ensuring the participation of people who typically gather for explicit purposes in their community, such as church-goers, festival-attendees, members of youth and women's organizations, and shoppers and sellers at markets (Adesida, 2001). The goal of facilitating communication occurs in tandem with the goal of coordinating communication (Adesida, 2001). Creating the linkages is important to the purposes and goals of planners and implementers, but they also intend to add value to the communication by overlaying a planned and systematic framework that builds continuous and coordinated capacity for enabling the functions of the development participants (Adesida, 2001). A development communication system is sophisticated in its assessment of the communication needs and resources in the development project environment -- this may be a crucial contribution, in that, it is a difficult one for beneficiaries to accomplish due to their subjective frames and limited resources (Adesida, 2001). The resources and the communication competencies that are needed or desirable for development may not be within the participants' spheres of awareness or practicality (Adesida, 2001). Further, the planners and implementers of a development communication system specifically tie measurable objectives to the deployment of resources, whether software, hardware, human, or financial, ensuring a level of accountability that may not have robust expression in the context of the development project (Adesida, 2001).

Contributions of mass media. The literature on communication planning as a support to development emerged during the 1980s (Hancock, 1981). Communication development systems were conceived as tools for translating policy into action through a "process of formulating societal objectives, correlating these with the potential of the communication system, and making use of technology to secure the best possible match" (Hancock, 1981). The national development policy objectives and needs of a country are characterized by many dimensions and the interests of many sectors. Although communication has many functions, one particular function has undergone substantive change in modern society -- fundamentally as a result of technological advancements. The function that has been most transformed by the global appearance of disruptive technology, is that of communication as a cultural stabilizer. Never before in the history of mankind have all the people of the world been able to actually see one another the way they now can through digital media. Communication has always had the capacity to stabilize or destabilize a culture or society, but it has never been subjected to such intense and widespread scrutiny by masses of people. Further, importantly, communication is no longer something that is directed at people, but rather is socially constructed in a confident, iterative, and wide-spread fashion.

Mass media potentially expresses its most powerful capacity when it is used to communicate issues around which a multitude of stakeholders can find rallying points (Adesida, 2001). When this occurs, the opportunities for participation of stakeholders in development are made clearer and the potential for invaluable, constructive contributions by those closest to the problems is increased (Adesida, 2001). Mass communication, in its modern forms, can foster resistance to the tendency of information and policy issues to become over-politicized and ad hoc -- it can, if well-executed, perform a unifying function.

Nation-wide modernization is facilitated through several mechanisms when an information and communication plan is adopted by a country. Investments in communication and information hardware and software can be rationalized when consolidation and integration with national planning structures and emerging plans proceeds in a meaningful, organized fashion (Adesida, 2001). The outcomes of an ordered national approach include the construction of communication and information infrastructures and the introduction of new technologies -- both of which are particularly powerful when they occur in rural areas (Adesida, 2001). Importantly, establishing and maintaining these infrastructures means that productive regional and international interchange can increase in concert (Adesida, 2001). As efforts to build communication and information infrastructures mature, there are concomitant improvements in standards-setting -- which has long-term implications for the quality of the infrastructures -- increased nation-wide capacity-building, and refinement of human resource systems. Thus, it can be seen how improving one critical infrastructure in impacted nations can drive modernization across other national sectors.

Increasingly, people across the globe have access to information and the ability to communicate at unprecedented levels. Mobile digital media as a platform has co-opted other forms of media, such as video, film, and even television and radio. Most of the underdeveloped world uses cellphones as their fundamental communications infrastructure.

One of the primary concerns of an emerging development communication system is how to ensure participatory communication -- a newer model of development communication systems that insists on decentralization of media systems. For many years, a patriarchal orientation to development downplayed the contributions that community stakeholders can make to a development project. Today, it is well-recognized that an important aspect of a development project is its capacity to bring about dissolution of the status quo in order to cause a "more equitable sharing of both political and economic power, which often decreases the advantage of groups in power" (Servaes, 1996, p. 76).

Bringing this informed focus to radio programming in nations with deep participation in development projects has resulted in an increase in local programming and topics that are relevant to the development communities. This renewed radio broadcasting promotes identification with the radio station by the development beneficiaries, and is given credibility through demonstration that the issues important to the community are, in fact, being addressed.

Mhagama (2004) researched the role of community-based communication in the Cato Manor development project in the city of Durban in South Africa. In his words, "The radio has also opened channels of communication between the people and their leaders enabling the people to seek information from their leaders who also communicate with the people through the radio" (Mhagama, 2004). Doubtless, the same can be said for television broadcasting, which through talk shows hosted by locals can both serve the communication and information needs of a community, and empower residents with skills needed for their own development (Mhagama, 2004). Radio stations, especially, and television stations employ a process known as phone-ins, which enables two-way communication between radio personnel, speakers and guests on radio programs, community leaders, and listeners (Mhagama, 2004). Even those community members who do not actively engage in the phone-in aspects of the radio and television broadcasts experience provoked thinking and exposure to what is happening politically, socially, and economically in their environments (Mhagama, 2004). The use of film in development projects presents particular challenges, most notably the nature of the equipment and the film archives with regard to the challenges of production, storage, and dissemination. Media analysts consider film to be the most powerfully influential of the common media-based forms of communication and information. This potential of film to influence community development participants has been enhanced as videos have become commonplace on digital media platforms. In addition, new technologies make it simple for community members to produce and widely disseminate their own films, thus increasing participation in development projects and adding a layer of ethnographic information with immense communicative potential.

Development journalism. Developing nations have long-suffered marginalization in media coverage, a situation that was viewed in the 1970s and 1980s are being on the threshold of even more powerfully exclusive technologies, such as satellites and computers with both significant military and commercial applications. The field recognizes two types of developmental journalism: (1) Government influenced journalism in developing countries by their own governments, and (2) investigative journalism that focuses on ways to improve conditions in developing nations. Development journalism that is locally controlled can be used to suppress the flow of information and…

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