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Module 3 - Mass Media and Communications Technologies in Extension

Extension systems have yet to exploit the full potential of mass media and communication technologies to improve rural people’s access to knowledge and information. Development communication and mass media like radio and print media have long been a part of extension systems but have generally not received adequate attention or financing. New technological developments can make these function more efficiently and effectively and provide extension systems with opportunities to deliver new information services in new ways. Private service delivery, cost recovery, and wholesaling of information are important strategies for expanding the use of information and communication technologies in rural extension systems.


Communication is the essence of extension services. Extension services, both people and approaches, seek to provide rural people with knowledge and information. The information and communications technology (ICT) revolution provides new options for accessing information by providing it directly to farmers and rural households or to nonfarmer sources of information, such as extension agents, agribusiness, and other intermediaries. Most extension programs have yet to effectively integrate mass media and ICTs into systems for supporting extension staff. These technologies are likely to become increasingly important as extension systems try to provide information to a wider and more diverse client base.


Information and Communication Technology in Extension Systems

ICTs offer opportunities to reach more people and to carry out various functions within extension systems more effectively and efficiently. ICTs can provide easy access to local or global information and knowledge and are simple channels for two-way communication. New technologies can give farm families better access to information and contacts and can be a major empowering resource. Key communication tools for improving extension services include:


Development communication. This is essential to extension services, providing easily understood information for electronic and face-to-face communication.


Mass media. This includes broadcast (radio and television), print (newspapers, magazines, and extension brochures), and other approaches, such as poster campaigns, traditional theater, and songs. Public extension services have been slow to realize the potential of mass media, but private firms use mass media effectively in advertising campaigns. Increasing rural literacy and basic education should make mass media communication more effective in reaching large numbers of small-scale farmers.


Rural telecommunication systems. These range from the pay phones to digital wireless phones and the Internet and are powerful tools for expanding the flow of information of all types and facilitating market transactions, changes in employment, competition, emergence of new industries, and social transformations (Talero and Gaudette 1996). Phone communication enhances quality of life and makes working and living in rural areas more attractive.


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