As a researcher for NGOs in the developing world, I come across a great many innovative service delivery models to reach and engage the extreme poor. At its face, utilizing Africa’s two most powerful technologies (radio and cell-phone) is not a pioneering technological achievement. But in Burundi a World Bank project is having great success tapping into the country’s massive young population by disseminating third-party studies surrounding corruption and poor governance via a call-in radio show.
With 50% of entrepreneurs self-reporting having to bribe party officials to further their business, and upwards of 94% of NGOs believing the government is corrupt, corruption is a hot topic. The radio show in question is marketed towards Burundi’s youth. Callers use their mobile phone to call in to the show’s hosts with questions and stories of possible corruption. Their mobile phone is their voice, allowing them to be heard by tens of thousands of similar-minded listeners. Not only does the project seek to spread the word on the evils of corruption, but also engage an important demographic in civil society issues.
The radio show is breaking an entrenched informal code of silence that has traumatized the country for decades. Let’s just hope responsible (the operable word) party officials also tune in before the irresponsible ones blow the whistle.