Ghana The Urban-Rural Communication Comparison

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The Urban-Rural Communication Comparison in Ghana

Given the urban-rural media and technology gaps shown in Chart 1 below, it is not surprising that rural residents in Ghana rely more heavily on word-of-mouth sources such as friends/family and other people in the community for regular news (Table 1).

Chart 1

Table 1

Limiting Factors for Rural Access
Poor infrastructure and lower socio-economic status topped the list of likely reasons why rural dwellers trail in access to and use of information and communication sources. A principle obstacle is a lack of adequate and reliable electricity in rural areas to power radios, TVs and computers, or to charge mobile phones (See Chart 2).

Chart 2

Among the few survey respondents who had not listened to the radio, rural residents were twice as likely to cite problems with power (electricity or batteries) as one of the reasons they do not tune in (23 percent of rural non-listeners versus 11 percent of urban non-listeners). The result was similar for television—30 percent of those in rural areas who do not watch TV said problems with electricity was one reason, compared to 18 percent of urban residents.

Rural survey respondents are four times more likely than urbanites to say their households have no electricity. Of those rural dwellers with electricity, there are no significant differences in supply reliability, as the national power grid appears to reach nearly all electrified households.

Another obstacle for rural residents is the limited reach of radio, TV and phone signals. For example, with television, not only did rural respondents have lower access to TV at home (35 percent of rural respondents who watched TV in the last year said they did not have a TV at home, compared to 13 percent of urban watchers), but they are also less likely to receive more than six channels if they own a TV (Chart 3).

The problem is not entirely due to a lack of access—very few respondents (fewer than 10) say they do not listen to radio or watch TV because they cannot get a signal—but rather the more limited options in rural than urban areas

Chart 3

Newspaper use also suffers from limited reach, due to problems with delivery infrastructure rather than signal. A quarter of rural nonreaders cite lack of newspapers in their area as a reason, compared to only 5 percent in urban centers. Distribution is a particular problem for rural dwellers in the Upper West, Volta and Ashanti regions (where respectively 55 percent, 38 percent and 35 percent of rural nonreaders say newspapers are not available where they live).

Socio-economic factors such as income, living conditions and level of education also limit rural media and ICT access; Chart 4 illustrates the rural-urban socio-economic split.

Chart 4

When asked to characterize what their household is able to afford, 89 percent of rural inhabitants said they could not afford much more than basic necessities, such as food and clothing, versus 69 percent of urban households. Clearly, this would affect a households’ ability to purchase TVs, radios or other items.

Level of education is another key variable in people’s ability to access and benefit from information sources, even if affordability is not an impediment. Literacy is critical to use of print media, SMS and the internet. In a multilingual society such as Ghana’s, poor comprehension of English (the official language) or of one of the widely used languages of the Akan family makes it difficult to access potentially helpful information. A lack of basic knowledge of math, science or other typical school subjects might make it hard to grasp some of the more complex concepts addressed in the development context.

Chart 5

Rural respondents report lower levels of education on average, with around a quarter saying they had no formal education at all (Chart 5). Eighty percent of rural respondents said they speak and understand an Akan language (compared to 90 percent of urban residents); English is understood by only half of rural respondents, compared to 72 percent of urban dwellers. Only around 30 percent of rural respondents (compared to 55 percent of urban respondents) said they can read English easily, suggesting that written communication in rural areas should be restricted to very basic English.

All these factors pose challenges to development organizations seeking the best conduits for rural communication and information-sharing, but they also yield some valuable lessons:

  •  To reach rural residents, the development community needs to speak their languages, literally and figuratively. That means communicating in Akan languages at the minimum, or translating materials and/or presentations into one of the many less-widely-spoken local languages. When asked to identify the language they speak most often, 17 percent of rural respondents name a language other than English, French (which is spoken by some people in areas bordering neighboring Francophone countries) or the 10-most common indigenous Ghanaian languages. Only 5 percent of urban respondents fall into this category.
  • Speaking rural residents’ languages also means speaking to the issues they care most about. This means addressing rural development challenges such as food, security and infrastructure (drinking water, electricity and telecommunications). It also means framing or coupling development messages with news topics that tend to attract rural residents’ attention in the media—such as events in their communities, health and agriculture. Agriculture, for obvious reasons, is of much greater interest to rural residents then urban ones, suggesting information about agriculture could find a self-selected rural audience.