Information Warfare: December 4, 2003

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The U.S. has decided that one way to fight Taliban and warlord propaganda in Afghanistan is to give away windup radios. This will allow nearly everyone in the country to listen to broadcasts from many sources, including the United States, BBC and several Afghan short wave stations. In the next few months, 200,000 of the wind up short wave radios will be given to families throughout the country. The wind up radio was invented ten years ago to provide radio service for people in poor countries that did not have electricity, and could not afford a lot of batteries. The wind up radio has a crank attached, and by turning the crank for thirty seconds, the radio will play for at least an hour. The first models weighed nearly six pounds and cost nearly $80. But by the late 1990s, new designs had gotten the price under $30 and weigh under three pounds. The design also became popular with campers and hikers in Western nations, which led to a lot of work on refining the basic design. The 200,000 radios the U.S. is buying will probably cost less than four million dollars. But it appears to be a good investment, as the Taliban and warlords in Afghanistan have gained power, and stayed in power, by taking advantage of the relative ignorance of most Afghans. The radios will provide a lot of information (and music, soap operas, religious programming and much more), and will definitely change the information landscape.

 


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