(Internews, with support from USAID, trained people from various backgrounds in Kazakhstan 2018 to 2020 to become media and digital literacy trainers.)
In the internet-age, media and digital literacy has become incredibly important the world over, as people across the globe increasingly rely on the internet for the news and other important information and updates that impact their lives. This is especially true in the era of COVID-19, where businesses and education alike currently take place online, and many societies are still adjusting to life and interactions almost exclusively conducted online. Determining what sources are trustworthy, what news is most truthful, and what videos have not been altered, has never been more important than in today’s polarized environment.
With support from USAID’s Access to Information Program and the Central Asia Media Program implemented by Internews, a pool of people from various backgrounds in Kazakhstan received skills training from 2018 to 2020 to become media and digital literacy trainers.
One such person is Ms. Meiramkhan Zhapek, Head of the Internet Projects of the Press Service of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan. After attending a media and digital literacy training of trainers, organized by Internews in Almaty in November 2018, Ms. Zhapek developed a Kazakh language version of the media literacy board game called “Media Jungle,” in 2019. As a follow up, in 2020, Ms. Zhapek adapted the game to the radio format as a quiz and with radio host, Gulnur Omarkhankyzy, launched a media and digital literacy radio quiz show called “Oi Doda” (“Brain Ring”) on the Kazakh-language state radio station Shalqar.fm.
The program is conducted in an interactive format and features two guests invited to the studio to discuss various issues pertaining to media and digital literacy, and to play the media and digital literacy quiz on air with occasional phone-ins by listeners that help the guests with answers. The program is broadcast every Wednesday via the radio station’s FM frequency in all 16 major cities of Kazakhstan, as well as on its website and YouTube channel, reaching 139,000 subscribers on social media and potentially tens of thousands on radio broadcasts across Kazakhstan, including youth and adults.
The goal of Ms. Zhapek’s work on the radio is to promote media and digital literacy among the wider public to increase their ability to distinguish between truth and disinformation, as well as to develop their information security knowledge and critical thinking. Public engagement and response to Ms. Zhapek’s media and digital literacy radio program have been very positive thanks to the interactive elements of “Oi Doda.” And Ms. Zhapek has found support of all kinds from various segments of society. Many of the radio program listeners are entrepreneurs who voluntarily became sponsors. They offer their products as prizes for the winners of the quizzes.
Though the program was suspended in mid-March 2020 due to COVID-19 quarantine restrictions, this pause would only prove temporary due to the reputation of Ms. Zhapek, the popularity of her programming, and the immense benefits of her work.
After a representative of the Ministry of Information and Social Development participated in a Central Asia Media Program media and digital literacy training in 2020, the Ministry contacted the state media company Qazaq Radiolary (Shalqar.fm is one of the company’s subsidiaries), and asked that Shalqar.fm resume the “Oi Doda” program.
Starting from September 2020, the program has resumed broadcasting on air, with Ms. Zhapek continuing to host it with her co-host, Ms. Gulnur Omarkhankyzy. Ms. Zhapek’s work as a media and digital literacy trainer and radio host demonstrates the sustainability and importance of media literacy initiatives particularly in today’s context of an infodemia and widespread misinformation.
(Banner photo: Meiramkhan Zhapek, Head of the Internet Projects of the Press Service of the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan, developed a Kazakh language version of the media literacy board game called “Media Jungle" after attending a media and digital literacy training of trainers, organized by Internews in Almaty in November 2018. Credit New Reporter)