Makerere University researchers meet journalists
The WIMEA-ICT Project under the College of Computing and Information System at Makerere University carried out a national survey on the status of weather information dissemination in Uganda in 2014. To validate the survey findings, a stakeholders’ seminar was held on December 11, 2014. Following this, a media workshop took place on April 2, 2015 in recognition of the media’s critical role in disseminating weather information to the public. Media houses like Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC ), Radio Uganda and Newspapers like New Vision and Daily Monitor were represented. During the meeting, several questions were discussed.
Why is UBC the only TV station that disseminates weather information in Uganda?
UBC has a memorandum of understanding with UNMA the Authority responsible for weather in Uganda. Additionally, through UBC this weather information is disseminated in 22 different local languages that cut across Uganda.
Is Makerere University through this project making impact on Uganda?
Yes, Makerere university is not only considering academic research but also the real weather information needs of the people through the WIMEAICT project. During the survey, it was noted that 86% of the respondents are affected by weather in their day-to-day activities and yet majority of these do not have timely access to weather information. There is, therefore, a need to find out the best channels to disseminate such vital information in a timely manner.
How best should such information be disseminated?
TV and Radio Broadcasting of this weather information can be enhanced beyond being read during the news bulletins but also during the commercial breaks of the programmes or have a strip at the bottom of the TV screen that shows the weather updates while a (popular) TV programme runs. SMS alerts via mobile phones can also be further extended beyond those targeting fishermen currently undertaken by UNMA. UNMA needs to sensitize the public on the availability and meaning of the weather information. Using the available radio stations to run the weather updates since they reach everywhere and present localized information in 22 local languages on UBC radio. Having snapshots and detailed forecasts available for especially the regions that are prone to disasters.
Why is there increased access of this information but the interpretation is not clearly shown as per the survey findings?
The people can access this information but there is inadequate training in the community on how to understand the forecasts, additionally forecast presentations such as normal/below normal and other terms that are used in the dissemination are not simple for the public to easily understand. However through this meeting, the media will embark on using languages that can best suit the public and also sensitise the people, in collaboration with UNMA to improve the comprehension of disseminated weather information.
What are some of the challenges faced in disseminating such information?
The greatest challenge is faced during the editorial stage. Once information has to be verified by editors before it is published to the public, chances of it not being published are high. However, some information is omitted because it has not been considered as important and yet such information may be very useful for public consumption. To improve this situation, the WIMEA-ICT project team is going to interact with editors of selected media houses in Uganda about the importance of weather information as well as brainstorm with them how to intuitively present certain weather facts to the general public.