The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has chosen to distribute 1,100 Freeplay Energy Lifeline radios across the country to aid in increasing access to information in remote villages.
During the period of May to June 2006, harsh circumstances in Dili, East Timor, led to approximately 145,0001 internally displaced people (IDPs) and resulted in the collapse of the communication system in the area. Remote villages and mountainous terrain constitute much of East Timor; therefore communicating with people is extremely difficult. The lack of dependable information and radio coverage was a key factor leading to the civil unrest in 2006 and has also been identified as a potential trigger of future conflict. There is still an estimated 70,000 displaced people. Therefore, access to information has become a pressing issue.
In such circumstances, communication is vitally important in re-establishing public confidence in state institutions and empowering IDPs to make informed choices about return and reintegration. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Communication Support to Humanitarian Assistance to IDPs project, with funding from AusAID, is helping to relieve the situation by providing support through re-establishing the communications system. UNDP has chosen to distribute 1,100 Freeplay Energy Lifeline radios across the country to aid in increasing access to information in remote villages.
The humanitarian crisis resulted in the collapse of national newspapers, television and radio broadcasting. This lack of information leaves displaced people without a sense of direction or a means to move forward. The UNDP has helped alleviate the situation by re-building the 15 community radio stations in East Timor, which had previously broke down or had technical difficulties, due to a lack of equipment. This is helping to rebuild people's lives, providing them with essential information, news updates and education. As many people in East Timor are illiterate1, radio is an essential medium to provide information to the majority of people.
After the restoration is complete, the community radio stations will distribute Freeplay Energy's Lifeline radios to people, especially to those in remote villages with no access to electricity. The Lifeline radio is specifically designed for such humanitarian disasters, depending on no electricity or batteries, simply powered by winding or the detachable solar panel.
During such a crisis, communication breakdown has an adverse effect on education, information and democratic progression. Hence, the Lifeline radio can be used anywhere to provide instant awareness. They will be used to promote community learning, allowing groups of up to 40 people to listen at one time. The community listening groups will tune in to both national and community radio stations, allowing a significant development to the access to information.