How the Mobile Phone changed the way we listen to Radio in Africa

Over the years, Africa has had a wave of changes in information technology and communication. There has been various technologies that have forever changed the the way that people communicate and share information. From postal mail, to television, newspapers, magazines to the mighty Internet. None has and still transforms I.C.T in Africa and Uganda like the Cellular Phone and the Radio. There are over 100 FM radio stations in the country(Uganda) and over 10 million mobile subscribers.

There are various reasons for the success of mobile phone technology and radio that I can’t possibly mention in this post, however, here are some of the reasons why more and more Ugandans find it cheap and convenient to communicate through these platforms. Just like the mobile phone, a radio can be run off battery power. This means that most Ugandans who do not have access to the national grid power can still own and listen to radio as well as communicate using there phones not forgetting that many phones these days have radio. While Ugandans living in the urban centers watch T.V more than they do listen to radio, that is only a small percentage given the fact that the majority of Ugandans live in the rural areas.

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Before phones were introduced together with other technologies, people used to own standalone radio sets in their homes. These consumed a lot of [battery] power and it almost seemed a tradition for every household to own one. Now, with the introduction of mobile phones and various media players like the iPod, Sansa, Sony Walkman, the radio as we used to know it as a standalone electronic device positioned at a strategic point in a sitting room is now integrated in these mobile portable, low power devices. Suddenly you can now listen to FM radio from your phone(if it supports FM radio), iPod(5th generation), Sansa and other media players. Most cars though this not new and some computer T.V cards enable you listen and for some record Fm radio.

More so, before cellular technology was introduced in Uganda, radio used to be less or non-interactive at all. This is expected because radio technology by design is meant to be one way communication. That is,  you have a broadcasting station on one end and several receiving nodes(radio sets) on the other only receiving whatever is transmitted from the broadcast station. However, with the introduction of cellular technology, radio presenters would now be able to get feedback from their listeners  either through SMS texting (we all know the common SMS short codes used by radio stations) or voice calls. That way, listeners would send greetings to family and friends, give their opinions on a radio talk show and this made radio more fun, more engaging and more interactive. This obviously in turn increased revenue streams for mobile operators, radio station owners and mobile value added service providers. I have not yet come across a set of technologies that complement each other like the radio and the phone.

It’s like Mr. Right meeting Miss Right. Though there has been skepticism concerning the future of radio, Cellular technology changed everything and this is something that all radio owners must take seriously.

Image: Wikimedia

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