community radio

Equal Access: Creating a Community Feedback Loop with Radio and Mobile Phones

Posted by MarkWeingarten on Jul 26, 2011

We spoke with Prairie Summer and Graham Gardner of Equal Access to learn more about that organization’s work integrating educational radio broadcasts with mobile-based tools such as SMS and IVR. As they explain, this combination has enabled them to better tailor their message to their their audience and has allowed for a unique form of interactive communication.

Equal Access creates communications strategies and outreach that address the most critical challenges affecting people in the developing world. Their work has focused on communications around issues such as women and girls' rights, democracy and governance, and education.  

Equal Access: Creating a Community Feedback Loop with Radio and Mobile Phones by mobileactive

Photo courtesy Equal Access.

Equal Access: Creating a Community Feedback Loop with Radio and Mobile Phones data sheet 2768 Views
Countries: Afghanistan Cambodia Chad Nepal Niger

Avaaj Otalo — A Field Study of an Interactive Voice Forum for Small Farmers in Rural India

Posted by MohiniBhavsar on Aug 18, 2010
Avaaj Otalo — A Field Study of an Interactive Voice Forum for Small Farmers in Rural India data sheet 867 Views
Neil Patel, Deepti Chittamuru, Anupam Jain, Paresh Dave, Tapan S. Parikh
ISSN/ISBN Number: 
Publication Date: 
Apr 2010
Publication Type: 
Journal article

In this paper we present the results of a field study of Avaaj Otalo (literally, “voice stoop”), an interactive voice application for small-scale farmers in Gujarat, India. Through usage data and interviews, we describe how 51 farmers used the system over a seven month pilot deployment. The most popular feature of Avaaj Otalo was a forum for asking questions and browsing others’ questions and responses on a range of agricultural topics. The forum developed into a lively social space with the emergence of norms, persistent moderation, and a desire for both structured interaction with institutionally sanctioned authorities and open discussion with peers. For all 51 users this was the first experience participating in an online community of any sort. In terms of usability, simple menu-based navigation was readily learned, with users preferring numeric input over speech. We conclude by discussing implications of our findings for designing voice-based social media serving rural communities in India and elsewhere.

Press One for Freedom Fone, Press Two for Farm Radio: How Stations Use Integrated Voice Response

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Aug 11, 2010
Press One for Freedom Fone, Press Two for Farm Radio: How Stations Use Integrated Voice Response data sheet 4772 Views

Two years ago, Bev Clark, the co-founder of, was awarded a large grant as part of the Knight News Challenge for Freedom Fone, an open-source software platform for distributing news and information through interactive voice response (IVR) technology.  Freedom Fone was officially launched in late February of this year and has since been downloaded about 200 times, said Amy Saunderson-Meyer of Freedom Fone.

Freedom Fone leverages audio as a mobile function using IVR, a technology that allows a system to detect voice and keyboard input. IVR allows a user to call, enter or say specific numbers, and listen to or contribute audio content.  (Many readers are already familiar with IVR - you’ve likely encountered it when you call a customer service number and are prompted with instructions to press numbers for different issues or service departments.)

Since the launch, Freedom Fone has provided support to specific organizations including Equal Access in Cambodia, Small World News TV, TechnoServe, One Economy Corporation, and Africa Youth Trust.

Basic Information
Organization involved in the project?: 
Project goals: 

Recently, Freedom Fone was adapted by two farm radio stations through the African Radio Research Initiative, a 42-month project supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by Farm Radio International in partnership with the World University Services of Canada. The aim of the AFRRI project was to asses the effectiveness and impact of farm radio in many parts of Africa.

Brief description of the project: 

Freedom Fone leverages audio as a mobile function using IVR (interactive voice response), a technology that allows a system to detect voice and keyboard input. IVR allows a user to call, enter or say specific numbers, and listen to or contribute audio content.

Bartholomew Sullivan, a regional ICT officer for AFRRI, was on site to set up Freedom Fone at Radio Maria in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It was the first time Freedom Fone partnered with a group outside of its own projects.

AFRRI works with 25 radio stations in five countries in Africa. Stations include private, public, national, and community radio stations with established listeners in varied agricultural zones. Freedom Fone was introduced at two of these radio stations: Radio Maria (a faith-based station that also broadcasts health and agricultural information across the country) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Volta Star radio (the national broadcaster) in the Volta region of Ghana. Before the project, neither station had an existing IVR system in place and the primary feedback loop with listeners was through written letters.

Target audience: 

Any individual or group interested in integrated voice response, especially in how it can be used at a radio station.

Detailed Information
Mobile Tools Used: 
Length of Project (in months) : 
What worked well? : 

One benefit to Freedom Fone integration at an established radio station is the ability to promote the IVR service. At Radio Maria, the broadcasters relied on the large number of existing listeners to promote and explain the service including the specific local numbers to call. The group created a special jingle and message to promote the competition.

Another thing that worked well was the ability to set up multiple call-in numbers for each of the main local mobile providers in the region: Vodacom, Zain, and Tigo. This allowed listeners to call from their respective networks, making it cheaper.  The group used similar sounding numbers for each of the networks.

The participatory radio campaign approach was to enhance existing systems, not add new content or processes to the farm radio stations. So, Sullivan and others were able to incorporate and adapt Freedom Fone to best match the needs and uses of the listeners.

A more general success for Freedom Fone is the ability to provide an alternative, mobile-based medium for news and information.

What did not work? What were the challenges?: 

The projects at Radio Maria and Volta Star (and specifically in regards to Freedom Fone) were not without challenges and issues, including reliable hardware, cost, human error, power, and training.

One challenge is obtaining high-quality or dedicated hardware. In Tanzania, Sullivan bought a second-hand computer locally to host the Freedom Fone software.  Cost can be an issue with some hardware as well.

Human error is a challenge inherent with Freedom Fone, which ironically stems from the high adaptability of the platform and the ability for control many parameters of the IVR process.

Power is an issue, especially in areas with unreliable power because, “when the computer is off, then Freedom Fone is down,” Sullivan said. Similarly, infrastructure is really important, including having backup power supplies for power outages.

Another issue to incorporating Freedom Fone at established organizations is training.

Finally, another challenge with Freedom Fone was the ability to deal with user error or confusion.

Mobile Tech in Community Radio - Still Ad hoc and One-Off. A State-of-Mobile Report

Posted by MelissaUlbricht on Jul 06, 2010

In 2008, Bruce Girard concluded in a guest post that the addition of text messaging technology into the community radio toolkit was still in its infancy. SMS use at radio stations was informal, he wrote, and the few cases of more complex use of SMS messages accompanied political crisis or natural disaster and were largely donor financed.

Two years later, we delve once again into the state of SMS and mobile technology at community radio stations, by way of an informal survey. While advances have been made and creative projects have emerged, integration remains an ad-hoc and individual enterprise.

This report summarizes existing projects and success stories, highlighting the most popular uses of mobile technology. It concludes with a discussion of the challenges that community radio stations face in adopting SMS and mobile technology.

When Radio Meets Mobile in Pakistan

Posted by CorinneRamey on Aug 13, 2009

In Pakistan even the cheapest mobile phones, those without cameras or other advanced features, come with the ability to listen to FM radio. Every day, and especially during cricket matches, people walk around the streets with their phones pressed to their ears, tuned into their local stations, says Huma Yusuf, a journalist based in Pakistan.

Community Radio and SMS -- A Guest Post by Bruce Girard

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Jul 15, 2008

By Bruce Girard, reposted with permission.

At first glance SMS text messages would seem like a natural for inclusion in a community radio station’s essential toolkit. SMS messages are inexpensive and easy-to-use and in recent years the mobile phones that are needed for sending and receiving them have become ubiquitous. However, an informal survey of recent projects indicates that use of SMS messages among community media in the developing world is still at an early stage. In most stations SMS use is informal. The few cases identified of community stations making more complex use of SMS messages have accompanied political crises or natural disasters and have inevitably been donor financed. There are few, if any, experiences of complex uses of SMS by community media without external funding and technical support, even though the financial and technical resources required are minimal.