There´s a special bicycle moving around Belén de los Andaquíes in Caquetá, Colombia. It seats two and carries with it a complete radio broadcasting system, able to send out Wi-max signals and be heard not only through the Andaquí Community Radio, but live through Internet as well. This Radiocicleta[ES] (a portmanteau formed by the word radio and bicycle in Spanish) is part of a 10 year long community communication project meant to unite the diverse population of Belén de los Andaquíes which is composed largely by families running away from violence in their hometowns and neighboring regions, who stopped once they reached this safer haven they could call home.
Blanco Alirio González, the mastermind behind the Andaquí Communication Center and the Radiobike is aware that in communities where there are basic needs that still need to be fulfilled, technology has a tough battle to wage:
Es claro que en el proyecto de comunicación, el uso de las TICs deben aportar a la búsqueda de soluciones a esas necesidades básicas, nuestra pelea no es la sostenibilidad del centro de comunicación, o de la emisora, de la biblioteca o del telecentro, nuestra pelea es la sostenibilidad de nuestra cultura, el derecho a vivir en forma digna en un territorio lleno de riquezas que se disputan gentes de afuera y que son la madre de nuestros desarraigos, violencias y miserias.
It is clear that within this communication Project, the use of new information technologies has to bring solutions to these basic needs, our fight isn´t the sustainability of the communication center, or the station, or the library or the telecenter, our fight is for the sustainability of our culture, our right to live with pride in a territory full of wealth which is disputed by outsiders and that are the mother to our rootlessness, violence and misery.
Based on these ideals, the Community Radio of Andaquí was built to communicate the community with itself, to give them voices and an identity. One of the ways to get more people involved was to break down the walls between the studio and the town itself. Thus the Radiocicleta was born. This radiobike is a prime example of how they live up to their ideals: it is sustainable, it is cheap to maintain, it is environmentally sound, it is human instead of fuel powered, it allows for innovation and investigation, it can reach many different places and can be brought inside homes and it brings people together, working as members of a team: bike rider, speaker, audio operator in the cabin and the community at any event they are covering depend on each other for success.
This radiobike was only the beginning: once they were connected to Internet and had the tools to communicate with the rest of the world, they had to solve the issue of educating all Belemites in the use of these new technologies, while concentrating on the basics: they not only have the library and telecenter, but they also have a community vegetable garden and a media school for kids: at the Escuela Audiovisual Infantil, children can learn how to use technology and make a living from it.
La Escuela Audiovisual Infantil, está orientada a dar visibilidad a los niños de Belén de los Andaquíes, con quienes se busca “Contar lo que hacemos para descubrir hacia donde vamos”. Niñas y niños, desde los 8 años de edad, imaginan, escriben, dibujan, actúan, toman fotografías digitales, graban el audio, animan y editan en computador, historias de dos minutos de duración, en las que muestran las entrañas de sus vidas familiares y callejeras.
The Children’s Audiovisual School is oriented to give visibility to the children of Belén de los Andaquíes, through which they seek to “Tell what we do to discover where we´re going”. Boys and girls older than eight imagine, write, draw, act, take digital pictures, record audio, animate and edit using a computer their two minute long stories, where they show the innards of their family and street lives.
You can see the Children´s AudioVisual school´s pictures in flickr and videos on youtube. Currently, the children have started their own micro-business, and they are getting paid to train others and produce videos for clients such as UNESCO and CINEP.