Access to information by the rural communities of the Zambezi valley district of Sinazongwe in Zambia is still a very big challenge. Just like on the Zimbabwean side, national radio and Television reception in this area is very poor. Newspapers also rarely reach the area as it is over 100km off the main high way linking Lusaka and Livingstone. Newspaper vendors find very little persuasion to develop the Sinazongwe route. Privately run electronic media is also not available in the whole district except at Maamba mine, over 80km from the local population of Sinazongwe district. This situation makes it very difficult for the remote communities to participate in the democratic processes of the country. Since 2006 the Austria-Zimbabwe Friendship Association (AZFA) has responded to these challenges by assisting in the implementation of an ICT project at Sinazongwe Basic School, in partnership with Basilwizi Trust as well as with support from HIVOS. In 2007 some volunteers from Free Radio movement in Austria have stepped in to establish a Radio studio and to train some aspiring community members in broadcasting. This ICT4D and community radio project is now part of a wider education and culture support program of Basilwizi Trust and aims at ensuring the community takes part in national issues through information, educational and cultural promotion.
Zongwe.OnAir will help provide a platform for Sinazongwe community to express and organize themselves through the free community radio station. The communities of Sinazongwe and those of Binga district where once separated due to the construction of lake Kariba in the year 1957. Since the construction of the dam, families have been torn apart, rituals no longer performed together and communication totally cut. For people to get to know of national or regional development, a visitor from urban centres has to physically visit the community to narrate the stories as teledensity is also still very low in Sinazongwe.
potential outreach of Sinazongwe Radio
Through strengthening of the Sinazongwe ICT and the community radio, Basilwizi aims at bringing information closer to the marginalised communities and enabling the communities to ride on current technology for better livelihoods and democratic choices in life. The use of ICT in the community will enhance participation in national issues, a key component of democracy in any society. Basilwizi and partners will also use this project to promote community expressions on key issues of culture and traditional festivals. The Tonga culture across the valley is threatened with extinction due to non-exposure and promotion to the wider world. This project will improve information access and promote linkages between the Tonga people on the Zimbabwe and Zambia side of the Valley . Invitations and notification of key cultural festivals will become very effective as well as helping in disaster preparedness, early warnings and response by the community.