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Development Communication

Akinfeleye (2003:65) citing Fraser and Restrempo-Estrade (1998) observed that a prime factor in fostering change for development is the planned and systematic use of communication to help individuals, communities and societies to introduce and accept changes.  This is what development communication is about.

Development communication is the art and science of human communication applied to the speedy transformation of a country and the mass of its people from a state of poverty to a more dynamic state of economic growth which make possible greater social equality and the large fulfillment of the human potentials (Quebral, 1975).
Moemeka (1991) defines development communication as the application of the process of communication to the development process.  In other words, development communication is the use of the principles and practice of exchange of ideas to fulfill development objectives.
Boafo (2006) on his own part refers to development communication as the planned and systematic application of communication resources, channels, approaches and strategies to support the goals of socio-economic, political and cultural development.
Coldevin (1987) in Oliveria (1993) defined development communication as ‘the systematic utilization of appropriate communication channels and techniques to increase people’s participation in development and to inform, motivate, and train rural populations, mainly at the grassroots level”.
According to Jamias (1975) the major ideas that underpin development communication are:
Purposive Communication:  Development communication is a conscious effort to effect change(s) in a social system.  The development communicator sets out with a specific purpose for communicating.  Its purpose is to advance development which usually is in terms of raising the standard of living, reducing poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and social inequality.  The job of the development communicator is to inform and motivate people in the process of development.
Value-laden:  Development communication is concerned with adding value to the life of people by helping them on the path of positive change.  It introduces ideas and practices that seek to improve the conditions of the people.
Pragmatic:  Development communication is pragmatic.  It is concerned with practical results.  The results are determined by the specific behaviorual objectives of the communicator.  What does the communicator want to happen as a result of the programme or writing?  For instance, if one’s purpose is to get the youths to be self-employed through vocational training, the evaluation of the communication programe will not rest on the number of communication activities performed, but on how many youths are now self-employed.
The development communicator takes a pragmatic view to the programme by examining if the communication gained the attention of the receivers.  He will find out if the receivers understand the message.  And finally, if this resulted in acceptance and action by the target group.  Indeed, the societal condition after the development communication programme becomes a feedback as to the effectiveness or otherwise of the programme.
The Essence of Development Communication
Development communication as an instrument in the development process is concerned with the use of communication tools and methodologies to spread knowledge and information to contribute to behaviour change and ultimately development.
It is primarily communication for planned change which is intended to promote human development consciously.  In the context of the developing nations, the term means planned communication to eradicate or substantially reduce poverty, social inequality, unemployment; and others.
The purpose of development communication, according to Quebral (1975) is to advance development which is higher quality of life for all people.
Development communication is concerned with the dissemination of relevant information that increases people’s stock of knowledge and change their attitudes and values to enable them undertake and participate in the development process.
It is communication that helps one understand the needs and social realities of the people and mobilize them towards development goals.  It seeks to mobilize them towards development goals.  It seeks to mobilize the rural people for development actions by ensuring information flow among all those involved in the development programme.
Elements of Development Communication Approach
Development communication thrives on the following elements:
i.                    Responsiveness:  Development communicators work with communities to solve their expressed problems and needs rather than on what the expert thinks is best for them.  It is based on the thinking that people understand their own needs better.  Development communication approach is thus a tool to help community members in planning and executing programmes for their own development process.
ii.                 Common Ground:  The development communication approach considers and seeks to work with the rural communities as partners in the development process.  Practitioners of development communication world closely with community members to find common solutions to their needs and problems.
iii.              Participation:  Development communication is premised on dialogue and participation from the people involved in a development programme.  The people interact with development facilitators and give opinions and suggestions in the development process.
iv.              Education:  One of the concerns of development communication is the provision of information to improve the knowledge base of people so that they can take rational decisions and engage in development programme.
v.                 Simple and Relevant Language:  Using the development communication approach, materials for development communication programmes are packaged using contexts, experiences and the language of the people.
Jamais (1975:140) states that development communication is receiver-oriented.  It develops its objectives from the point of view and needs of the receivers reconciling those needs with the efforts of institutional generators of information, knowledge and practices such as NGOs, government agencies, research institutes; and others.
Development communication involves intersectoral collaboration.  This is based on the fact that communication (knowledge and information) in itself does not result in development.  Rather it is a combination of communication and non-communication inputs that brings about development and non-communication inputs that brings ablaut development.  As such, apart from disseminating developmental messages to the people, development communication establishes and facilitates horizontal linkages with government agencies, NGOs; and others to provide the enabling environment for development to be actualized.
The Development Communicator
The development communicator is someone who understands the process of development and the process of communication.  Quebral (1975), Anaeto, M (2010) says that the development communicator is not only knowledgeable in communication techniques, but also proficient in the subject matter that he has to communicate.  He knows his audiences first-hand.  He understands the communication media and he is skilled in making the media work for him.
Quebral also says that ‘more than communication skills, the crucial requisite of a development communicator is a ‘sense of commitment’.  This means acceptance of individual responsibility for development.  His goal and focus is how to improve conditions for humanity.;
Development communicators use their talents in personal, group and mediated communication for developmental purposes. They include journalists, researchers, field workers at both government and non-government agencies.
The development communicator transmits developmental messages in four forms, namely, information, education, persuasion and motivation.
According to Jamias (1975:139), information consists of ideas, products or procedures.  Information seeks to elicit change(s) in the knowledge or what the receiver knows.  Motivation seeks to make the receivrs to want the new ideas, products or services being advocated by the development communicator.  Education refers to long-range and principle-type changes in knowledge, attitude and skills.  Persuasion seeks to gain acceptance, i.e favourable feelings or attitude towards the ideas, products or services communicated.
Higher quality of life which is the end product of development communication manifests itself in more productivity, income, employment and social equality.
Specifically, the development communicator performs the following tasks and more:
Disseminating and Interpreting Information:  The development communicator disseminates useful and relevant information to the people that they can utilize for developmental purposes.  He also explains and teaches community people new ideas and better ways of doing things.
Facilitating:  The development communication practitioner seeks to help communities  in their quest for development.  He carries the needs, problems and aspirations of the people to the government and other stakeholders as well as explains the plans and programmes of the government to the people.
Educating:  Educating is important for development.  The development communicator provides the people with knowledge and skills that they can use for their own development.  He imparts knowledge and information that are essential for the people to successfully respond to the opportunities and challenges in their social and economic environment.  He educates them on new and better ways of doing things.  He also plays the educator role by inviting experts and facilitators to teach the people.
TECHNO-MEDIARY:  He helps to familiarize community members with new and modern technologies that can improve their production of goods and services.  He also facilitates their adoption by community members.
Mobilizing:  The development communicator helps in putting the people in a state of readiness and making them more willing to participate in the development process.  He helps to direct the people’s thoughts into actions geared towards development.
Networking:  The development communicator develops ties and links with people, organisations, agencies; and others that can help in different programmes.
Researching:  For any effective development communication programme, research is necessary.  The actions of the development communicator are borne out of continued researches.  He carries out careful and diligent research into problems and issues concerning the communities.  He analyses and identifies possible barriers to development and researches into the communication channels that can be used to pass developmental messages to the people.  Through research, the development communicator finds out needs and aspirations of the people.  He also highlights resources at their disposal and how the people can be mobilized towards achieving the set goals of development.
Constraints to the Practice of Development Communication
The following are some constraints to the practice of development communication:
Weak and inadequate communication Infrastructure:  Development communication thrives on information sharing and dissemination.  But at times, communication infrastructures are not available to facilitate the process.  This hampers the work, as development messages are not able to reach all members of a target group, especially the rural people.
Funding:  Insufficient fund is usually a problem in carrying out development communication programmes.  Funds are needed for planning and executing development communication programmes.  And so, non-availability of fund may reduce the scope of the programme, the audiences to be reached and the media to be used.
Measuring Programme Success:  There is difficulty in actually measuring the success or otherwise of development communication programmes.  This is because it is concerned with attitude and behaviour change and behaviour change is gradual and not a one-time thing.  The results of development communication programme take time to materialize.  At times, funding agencies do not understand this point.
Diverse and Multi-Cultural Societies:  The multi-cultural nature of nations and communities in Africa constitute a problem to the practice of development communication.  One communication programme cannot be used the same way in two communities, they would either have to be modified or totally repackaged for each community.
Limited Number of Professionally Qualified Development communicators:  The practice of development communication is, at times, restricted by the insufficiency of professionally qualified development communicators.
Poor Programme Conceptualization:  At times, development programmes are not conceptualized and planned very well.  The result is unachieved goals and objectives.
Disparities in Communication flows:  Generally in developing countries, there is imbalance between the urban and rural areas.  The urban areas have more facilities and amenities than the rural areas.  Media houses are located in urban areas and the result is disparity in communication flow.  Messages get to the urban audience than the rural people.  This is a problem because most of the time, the targets of development communication programmes are the rural peoples.
Low priority accorded communication in development programmes:  At times, communication is accorded low priority in development programmes.  Careful considerations and planning are not often given to the communication element in the programme.  The results of such programmes are haphazard.  This low-priority often translates into the absence of policies and structures to guide, manage, coordinate and harmonize development communication activities.
Concerns of Development Communication
Development communication seeks to bring about improved quality of living for people.  It is concerned with finding solutions to the development problems of poverty, illiteracy, ignorance; and others.
Poverty:  Poverty is a major problem in the development countries.  A major part of the population lives in the rural areas and in poverty.  They do not have money to take care of their physical and social needs.  And in the face of this, there seems to be no way for them to come out of the acute poverty.  Development communication addresses the problem of poverty by designing and implementing communication programmes to teach people sills and provide them with knowledge that they can utilize to improve their economic situation.
Ignorance:  Information is a necessary precursor to development.  Where information is not available there cannot be meaningful development.  The rural people only have access to limited information.  They lack the knowledge of new techniques and methods that can better their situation.  Thus, they continue to lag behind in development.  As such, development communication seeks to provide the people with relevant information that can help them make rational decisions and engage in activities to foster development.
Illiteracy:  Illiteracy is another problem that development communication seeks to address.  This is a problem because even when relevant information are presented to them, they are not able to read them and utilize them.  Development communication addresses this problem by imitating literacy programmes and motivating rural people to participate in such programmes.
Social Inequality:  Development communication is also concerned with addressing social inequality.  It seeks to reduce the wide gap between the rich and the poor, between those living in the rural and urban areas.  It   seeks ways to improve the socio-economic conditions of the rural people to make them attain acceptable standards of living.
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