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Radio should be used more effectively to communicate science and technology in Africa, according to South African minister of arts, culture, science and technology, Ben Ngubane.

Speaking yesterday (5 December) at the opening of the Seventh International Conference on Public Communication of Science and Technology in Cape Town, South Africa, Ngubane said that "we need to develop new tools [to increase] the impact of science communication”.

The minister stressed the importance of setting a rural development agenda in which radio, as the main source of communication in the continent, would play a vital role. “Science and technology developments affect rural population and its activities”, he said, so it was important to look for new approaches and to "educate through entertainment".

Ngubane called on the participants at the event to “inspire public awareness [of science and technology] and to cultivate a culture of innovation for new strategies”.

The conference, which brings together more than 400 participants from 42 countries, has been organised to focus the attention of policy makers, scientists, academics and journalists on the importance of science communication.

"Conferences and presentations are half of the value [of such an event]," says chair of the conference Marina Joubert from the South African Foundation for Education, Science and Technology. “The other half is talking to people and exchanging ideas”.

Issues being discussed by the participants include the use of technology to communicate science, science and art, trends in teaching and learning science communication, science communication and narrative, environmental communication, public perceptions and knowledge.

Communicators working with rural and indigenous communities, centres and museums, and scientific organisations are participating at the conference. It is the second to be held in the southern hemisphere, following a similar meeting in Melbourne, Australia, six years ago.

That meeting “made me realise that a lot of talent and expertise exists in our part of the world that needs to be encouraged" says Joubert. The Cape Town meeting, she adds, “will give our local professionals a chance to meet with researchers and communicators from all over the world ".

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