Survey: Radio Most Vital, Influential Info Source in Developing World

In America, there are more ways than ever before to communicate and receive information.

E-mail, cell phones, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, blogs ... the list goes on.

To reach out to people in the developing world, however, it's the old technologies that are often still the best. In fact, radio remains vital for information for many people today, as a recent survey revealed.

"Radio was an important means of gaining information in Africa long before these countries gained independence in the 1950s and '60s, and it's still the dominant means of communications," noted Dr. Robert Fortner, executive director of the International Center for Media Studies (ICMS), which surveyed people in four developing countries. "The same trends hold true elsewhere in the developing world as well."

According to Fortner, the advent of new means of communications – such as the Internet and cable television – had little impact in the areas surveyed, where the availability of electricity was spotty, at best.

Many of the respondents of ICMS's recently revealed survey had not entered the Television Age, let alone the Digital Age, the faith-based media center found. Less than 25 percent of each language group surveyed said they used a computer.

So unlike people in America, where more than 80 percent of people go online, people in developing countries rely on radio for up-to-date information. Muslims responding to the survey even went as far as saying that they trusted radio more than they did their religious leaders, ICMS reported. Furthermore, Muslim respondents indicated that they are almost five times more likely to trust radio to advise them on "how to live life" than any other form of media.

"There is little doubt that media will continue to have the broadest reach and be the most effective way to reach people with the Gospel and life-saving information," Fortner added. "But for ministries and other organizations that work in the developing world, it is not the newest trend or technology, but the most culturally appropriate and timely message and medium, that will prove successful."

The results of the study, as well as a comparable survey in Indonesia, will be reported and analyzed at a symposium next month at CBS Studio Center in Studio City, Calif.

The Apr. 6 gathering, themed "Emerging Technologies, Globalization and the Developing World," will focus on the most effective ways to reach indigenous people in the developing world and is open to religious and secular nonprofits, churches and religious organizations involved in missions work, international broadcasting and media organizations, academics, non-governmental organizations that work in the developing world and foundations that support organizations involved in international work.

Hosting the symposium is the ICMS, which was founded in founded in 2007 as a division of the Far East Broadcasting Company. Insights from the recent survey will be just one of the items on the agenda at the symposium.