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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Getting Weather Reports to Rural Communities

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This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

In many developing countries, weather reports remain trapped in the capital. National weather services have the information, but no way to get it to farmers and other people in rural communities.

A flooded neighborhood last December in East Java, Indonesia, one of the countries involved in RANET
A flooded neighborhood last December in East Java, Indonesia, one of the countries involved in RANET

This is the job of an international project called RANET -- Rural Communications using Radio and the Internet. RANET works with national weather services to improve their reach.

Kelly Sponberg at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States is the program coordinator. He says that although there is a lot of work at the national level, RANET really happens at the community level.

The project develops networks of satellite receiver systems, community radio stations and other technologies. Communities often are provided with some equipment, but the systems are locally owned and supported.

RANET uses the WorldSpace satellite system and will soon be on GEONETCast. This is a network of satellite-based systems that provide environmental information.

RANET also works with nongovernmental groups and others to make sure information meets local needs. In addition to weather, broadcast time can be filled with advertisements, local music and reports on farming and market conditions.

RANET began in the year two thousand. Kelly Sponberg says the project has set up several hundred local stations in Asia, Africa and the Pacific. RANET is also moving into Latin America.

And the project does not just involve community radio stations. For example, RANET helped the Indonesian government develop ways to broadcast warnings of tsunamis and severe weather.

RANET has a yearly budget of about seven hundred fifty thousand dollars. Money comes from donors including the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance in the United States Agency for International Development. And technical support comes from groups including the First Voice International, Wantok Enterprises and the Freeplay Foundation.

RANET is working to improve communications in countries with limited power supplies. And, in the next month or two, it hopes to launch a community reporter program. Local citizens will provide weather reports and other information through text messaging.

The RANET Web site is ranetproject.net. And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss.

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