TWR has traditionally been a radio and broadcasting ministry and radio remains the most popular mass media platform around the world. However, how people are accessing radio is changing. Digital is changing how people search out and consume news, information, and learn. As a media ministry, we must adapt and keep up with new technology or in time become irrelevant.
Listen, I travel quite a bit – more than I should according to my wife, and everywhere I go, no matter where I go, I see people talking and texting on cell phones. They are listening to radio on cell phones. They are surfing the internet and watching videos on their phones. Cambodia? Check. India? Check. Pakistan? Africa? Northern Ontario? China? Sri Lanka? Cuba? Check.
I love radio. I spent many years making sure broadcasts kept going out each night. Radio is still important, but I see the way people around the world are adopting digital and it is important that the gospel is available to people on those platforms too! More and more, where it’s available, people are choosing local channels to international ones for content.
I took this photo in Benin in 2008.
Generally speaking, global literacy rates are improving. However, many countries don’t make a distinction between literate and functionally literate. When someone is functionally literate, they can read and write simple words and sentences in their own language, enough to sign their name, read labels at the grocery store, understand simple written instructions in the work place --but that’s it.
Literacy is also measured differently one country to another. A farmer in rural Africa who is considered functionally literate in his community may be considered illiterate if he moves to North America, for instance, even if he speaks the same language because the education systems will be different, the literacy skills required to function will be different. You may be considered functionally illiterate if you are an immigrant or refugee and do not speak the dominant language in your new country well.
For those who are illiterate or functionally literate, they need to hear a message more than once to learn it. They can’t re-read the page or Google a word’s definition. This is where digital can be a great help. Audio content loaded onto mp3 players, SD cards, or media players is repeatable and replayable. They can listen to a program over and over. This is also important for oral cultures, telling stories is how people learn best and teachers memorize the content in order to repeat and share it.
TWR Canada has worked with Galcom International on many projects to provide media players uploaded with gospel programming. Some players accept SD cards and some also come with the local Christian radio stations pre-tuned into the devices.
A girl on her cell phone in a European refugee camp.
According to the World Bank, 60% of people in sub-Saharan Africa have mobile phones. This is their preferred method to communicate (texting, talking, social media when internet connections are available). Rather than replacing existing content platforms, mobile phones are now the preferred tool to access content like radio broadcasts. (source here
TWR is uniquely positioned to take advantage of these trends because the audio content already exists. To make radio programs or entire series available on media players, SD cards, mp3 players or USB drives is increasingly a growing component of the work we are doing. Discipleship Essentials has made many of their video teaching segments available on the online TWR360 platform which can be accessed from anywhere there's an internet connection.
Forbes magazine published an article predicting that global mobile users would increase two times faster than the global population by 2020. They predict that internet speeds, globally, would radically increase and that more people would own mobile phones than have running water, electricity or cars by 2020. (source here
That surprised me, but the developing countries I have visited are quickly adopting these new technologies and leap frogging over land-line phones and other things that are becoming obsolete here. If content isn’t available on your preferred tool, you are less likely to access it. And I want to make sure that the gospel is available to anyone, anywhere, no matter what tool they use, whether they have internet access or not. How has digital changed your life? What do you do differently today from five years ago because of digital?