Recording and using local
voices for knowledge Sharing
In many remote rural areas people are living without access to electricity, mobile phones or
community radio. Literacy levels may also be low in such areas. Appropriate ways of sharing
knowledge in these areas are in local languages using local voices. A mix of new and
established ICT can offer a useful solution to the knowledge needs of local people. Using a
digital recording of local voice giving appropriate information on, for example, a livelihood
topic such as the veterinary care of an ox or goat the audio can be played by a local
Open source software for recording and conversion to MP3 format can be downloaded free of
charge. One popular software package is Audacity which will run on any computer: Mac,
Linux, or Windows based. Audacity can be downloaded from: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
Use Audacity to record audio on your computer and edit in a number of formats such as MP3
or WAV. Full tutorials and help sections are available at: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/help/
Appropriate hardware will depend on local conditions prevailing in a particular project. The
quality of the recording will be improved if you use a dedicated microphone rather than one
built into the laptop. We have used standard MP3 players (without a radio) in conjunction
with external loudspeakers as shown in the photograph below. Such an arrangement allows
approximately 50 people to listen in an outdoor environment.
Figure 1: Listening to a podcast in Gwanda South, Zimbabwe. Photo: David J Grimshaw
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Using existing mass media
The quality of the knowledge product is crucial to the uptake. Use well respected sources
such as the local or national agricultural extension service or veterinary service. See the Guide
to Local Content in Local Voices (Grimshaw & Gudza 2011). Translate into the appropriate
local language and use a local person to make the recording, taking care to use local idioms
Reaching the First Mile
In most remote rural areas there will be no available Internet access so distribution of the
audio file by podcasting will not be appropriate. In such case the hardware (see above) will be
kept in the local community by the community extensionists (residing in the same village).
Implementing partners regularly visit the communities to update content. This approach
keeps things simple and low cost; it also encourages the embedding of indigenous knowledge.
Figure 2: Recording a Podcast in Mbire. Photo: Lawrence D. Gudza
References and further reading
Grimshaw, D.J. and Aria, R. (2007) Local Content, Local Voices, ICT Update, May
2007, CTA: Leiden.
Grimshaw, D.J. and Gudza, L.D. (2010) Local Voices Enhance Knowledge Uptake:
Sharing Local Content in Local Voices, Electronic Journal of Information Systems in
Developing Countries, Vol. 40, (2010) 1-12.
Talyarkan, S., Grimshaw, D.J. and Lowe, L. (2005) Connecting the First Mile:
Investigating Best Practices for ICTs and Information Sharing for Development,
Practical Action Publishing: Rugby, 48pp.
Grimshaw, D.J. and Gudza, L.D. (2011) Guide to Local Content in Local Voices,
Practical Action: Rugby.
Using existing mass media
Oosterlaken, I. Grimshaw, D.J. & Janssen, P. (2012) Marrying the capability
approach, appropriate technology and STS: The case of podcasting devices in
Zimbabwe, in: Ilse Oosterlaken & Jeroen van den Hoven (Eds.) The Capability
Approach, Technology and Design, Springer: Dordrecht.
BBC Technology News, 7 February 2006
Podcasting for the developing world, SciDev Net, 19 June 2008
Podcasts to inform poor farmers, SciDev Net, 13 January 2010
Audacity can be downloaded from: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
Hitola, B. (2011) Getting Started with Audacity 1.3, Packt Publishing.
This Technical Brief by David J. Grimshaw and Lawrence D. Gudza is based on
the work undertaken in Zimbabwe by Practical Action Southern Africa.
The Schumacher Centre
Rugby, Warwickshire, CV23 9QZ
Tel: +44 (0)1926 634400
Fax: +44 (0)1926 634401
Practical Action is a development charity with a difference. We know the simplest ideas can have the
most profound, life-changing effect on poor people across the world. For over 40 years, we have been
working closely with some of the world’s poorest people - using simple technology to fight poverty and
transform their lives for the better. We currently work in 15 countries in Africa, South Asia and Latin