Cell Phones and Radio Counter Corruption in Burundi | World Bank Institute (WBI)

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July 13, 2009—In Burundi, as the government and the people attempt to heal from 12 years of civil war and ethnic conflict, public outrage over corruption is high. A recent survey on governance and corruption found that, among non-governmental organizations, 94 percent consider the national police to be corrupt, and 85 percent consider the judicial branch to be corrupt. Forty-eight percent of households rely on drinking water that isn't healthy or safe and schools regularly operate without notebooks or materials.  

Approach

To open a national conversation about issues of importance to the general public, and especially Burundi's vulnerable youth, and to give the youth an opportunity to become part of a process of creating a legitimate, accountable state, WBI has partnered with International Alert and Burundi's Radio Publique Africaine to provide a call-in radio program that makes audiences part of the conversation. The program builds on a World Bank survey and provides a safe space for young people to be heard on issues that matter most to them.

open-quotesRadio is powerful...but it needs to be interactive—with a cell-phone call-in component—if it's going to help give the population an experience of being heard.close-quotesSusana Carillo, Senior Governance Specialist, WBI

WBI's Susana Carillo explains that the program combines the two most powerful technologies in Africa—the radio and the cell phone—to create a dialogue that would not otherwise be possible. "Radio is powerful," she says, "but it needs to be interactive—with a cell-phone call-in component—if it's going to help give the population an experience of being heard." She also points out that the mobile nature of radio and cell phone technologies means that the program can "reach remote and insecure areas in post-conflict countries."

Radio program topics have included migration and employment. On one recent program, Martin Nvyabandi, Burundi's minister of good governance, privatization, general state inspection and local administration, answered questions from young callers. On another occasion, a young man identifying himself as John Bosco of Ruyigi called in to voice his frustration over corruption. "For us young people, it's not easy to find work," he says. "You have to pay one to two months of salary for a sought-after job before signing a contract. If not, they tell you that you don't have experience. Corruption has reached a point where you don't know any longer whether it’s an individual act, or government policy."

Results

The radio shows are giving Burundians a platform to bring problems to the attention of the government. Opinion research found that Burundians want to see themselves as having moved beyond ethnic polarities. By opening spaces for practical discussions on governance and service delivery, the Radio Publique Africaine programs are giving citizens a space to create a more stable, legitimate, and effective government.