Though a handheld radio weighs only ounces, it’s a heavyweight in Afghanistan’s fight for rule of law. Radio has historically been a successful medium in Afghanistan for a number of reasons. First, they are cheap. Second, Afghanistan’s literacy rate is below 30 percent and, unlike newspapers, radios do not require a literate audience. Third, Afghanistan lacks infrastructure and radios can be powered by humble alkaline batteries, hand cranks, solar power or all three. So, if the goal is to foster better, more reliable communication among the Afghan people it is the natural place to look.
Small wonder, then, that International Security Assistance Force troops in Afghanistan have done so much to promote the use of radios. In Khost province alone, ISAF troops have given tens of thousands of hand crank/solar powered radios to Afghan district governors and Afghan National Security Forces for distribution among the general populous, said Maj Matthew Gregory of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
Maj Gregory expressed confidence half of all the people in Khost province, at the very least, own a radio, and added that the true number is likely closer to 80 or 90 percent. In addition, ISAF troops have helped Afghans acquire portable, low power radio broadcast systems called radios in a box (RIABs.)
In a country like Afghanistan, where the terrain is rugged, radio broadcast systems must be in a line of sight with its receiver in order to be heard, the source said. So it makes sense to have many low powered broadcast systems rather than a few high-powered broadcast systems that can easily be blocked by the terrain. Most of the material broadcast from these systems is music, but about 10 to 15 percent of it is news, public service announcements, and commentary.
When 4-25th ID arrived in February 2009, there were nine such systems in the three provinces where they operate. By the time they leave in January 2010, there will be 18 RIABs, almost all of them fitted with Internet connections so that local DJs can discuss national and international news, Maj Gregory said.
(Source: Combined Task Force 82 - Operation Enduring Freedom)