Development Communication Planning, Theory and Practice


George Gathigi

George Gathigi is a lecturer at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication where he teaches courses on Mass Media & Development Communication. He holds a Ph.D. in Mass Communication and Masters of Arts in Development Communication from Ohio University and a BA from University of Nairobi. He has previously taught at Hampshire College and Ohio University. He has consulted on projects implementation, M&E, capacity building and training & documentation in the development and public sector with organization such as UNICEF, UNODC, ICCO Cooperation, ActionAid (Kenya), AMREF, Internews, Article 19, Anglicord, WHO, among others. He is passionate about teaching, mentorship, capacity building and empowering communities. He is a language and sports aficionado.


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About this Course

Development communication is concerned with conscious efforts aimed to improve living conditions and the quality of life for people struggling with underdevelopment and marginalization (Melkote & Steeves, 2002). In the developing world, development communication has been a dominant communication paradigm. Although much of the discussion relating to the role of mass media in development has come from development communication related research starting in the 1950s, it is evident that similar views existed earlier on as illustrated in arguments for the establishment of broadcast systems in the colonial world (Matheson, 1935; Katz & Wedell, 1977).  Later, the emergent views on the causal relationship between communication and development were more clearly articulated (Lerner, 1958; Pye, 1963; Schramm, 1964). These thoughts led the development processes especially in newly independent African countries.

Development communication has seen utilization of diverse media in different epochs as well as shifting ideas. Early on, radio and print media stood out as the dominant media. Between the early 1970s and 1990s, there was application of satellite technology in addition to the traditional mass media.  The late 1990s marked the application of new technologies, in particular computers and the Internet, in addition to satellite and traditional mass media in development. More recently, there has been a shift in the application of new technologies in some developing nations’ contexts with increased access to and adoption of computers, the Internet, mobile technology, and the rapid expansion of telecommunication infrastructure through satellite and fibre optics in places such as Kenya.


This course, which will be taught as a seminar, aims at capturing the thinking around the role of communication in development processes. At the end of the course, the learners should:

  1. Appreciate the historical context of development communication field;
  2. Understand the historical and contemporary theories in development communication;
  3. Understand application of development communication in Africa and developing world;
  4. Appreciate the impact of new technologies in shaping development;
  5. Engage in other emerging issues in development communication and/or communication for social change.

A Seminar format of class is different from a Lecture format. In a seminar, the learning process is highly interactive where student participation is a must with information and ideas coming from all corners. As instructor, my role is that of a facilitator. Lectures on the other hand are dependent one person talking or doing the teaching and students taking notes. Given the nature of this course, I have adopted seminar model and as such, expect full participation not only in class but the diverse activities that are captured in the course outline.

This class is also demanding and will definitely challenge you to go beyond your comfort zone. There are no compromises for this is the only way we will be able to cover the content in the broad areas of development communication. Thus when you sign up for this course, you must be ready to toil.

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