Technical Configuration

Using the above technologies, RANET transfers information from capital cities to rural communities in four critical steps: information gathering, transmission, reception and interpretation, and dissemination (figure 21.1). In the first step, scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), ACMAD, national meteorological services in Africa, and RANET partners gather vital information on climate, weather, and food security for drought monitoring and prediction. The information is managed and maintained by the Climate Information Project at NOAA's Office of Global Programs, in cooperation with the WorldSpace Foundation (NOAA, 2002).

In the second step, the information processed by the network of scientists is delivered to a WorldSpace uplink station via internet and loaded to the WDS radio. A partner can send a contribution by an e-mail or can post it to FTP sites on the server. At the top of every hour, the uplink station sends the most current RANET information to the WDS radio for broadcast over all of Africa. In the third step, field sites download RANET information using a WDS radio receiver, adapter card, and computer, frequently powered by solar energy. Staff at RANET field sites (including extension agents, development practitioners, and trained members of the community) interpret RANET information (including drought warnings) according to the local context and translate it into local languages.

In the fourth step, localized information is disseminated to communities by word of mouth and FM radio broadcasts. According to local priorities, communities across Niger and Uganda have devised different methods of distribution to the most vulnerable families (in particular, female-headed households). These methods include awarding radios as prizes in a neighborhood hygiene competition, or selling radios to support activities of the local RANET project (Pratt and Stewart, 2002).

Finally, feedback is generated through training workshops, site visits, and other person-to-person contacts and communication among RANET partners via e-mail and Web discussion groups. Two-way technologies such as satellite-enabled e-mail via portable ground stations are being

2) transmission

1) information gathering

1) information gathering

3) reception & interpretation

2) transmission

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3) reception & interpretation feedback

4) dissemination

Figure 21.1 The configuration of the Radio and Internet (RANET) system for communication of drought information across African rural communities.

explored as possible avenues for facilitating communication between rural RANET sites, their national meteorological services, and the broader RANET system.

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