FrontlineSMS:Radio

Faster Channels of Communication: A Radio and SMS Initiative in NE Kenya

Infoasaid has recently shared some news about an initiative with Save the Children in Wajir, Kenya, which is using FrontlineSMS to communicate with field workers and community representatives. Meanwhile, the radio is being used to share information about health, education and food security.

The objective of Infoasaid - a consortium of Internews and the BBC World Service Trust - is to improve how aid agencies communicate with disaster-affected communities. The emphasis is on the need to deliver information, as aid itself, through the most appropriate channels. You can read more about Infoasaid's work on their website http://infoasaid.org/

The article is republished below with permission, or read the original post here.

Infoasaid has helped Save the Children to improve its two-way communication with half a million drought-affected people in Northeast Kenya.

The project uses mobile telecommunications and community radio to establish new and faster channels of communication between the aid agency and remote rural communities.It was launched in Wajir County, close to the Somali border, in the fourth quarter of 2011 and will run during the first six months of 2012.

Save the Children runs vital health, nutrition and food security projects in Wajir County, a semi-arid region which has been devastated by three years of drought and serious food shortages. Its operational centres in Wajir and Habaswein will use SMS messages to exchange information with health workers, relief committee members and community representatives in outlying areas.

Save the Children will also sponsor special programmes on Wajir Community Radio, the local radio station. The radio station broadcasts in Somali, the main language spoken by local people. It commands a large and loyal audience within 150 km radius of Wajir town.

Most people in Northeast Kenya are semi-nomadic pastoralists. They depend on their herds of camels, cows, sheep and goats to feed their families and generate a small cash income. Infoasaid therefore set up weekly radio programmes that will inform local people about the latest animal prices and market trends in the area’s two main livestock markets; Wajir and Habaswein.

It also helped Save the Children to design a weekly magazine programme on Wajir Community Radio. This will focus on key issues related to the aid agency’s emergency aid programmes in the area. The radio programmes, which include a phone-in segment, will focus on issues such as health, education and food security and alternative livelihoods.

The mobile phone element of the project will establish FrontlineSMS hubs at the Save the Children offices in Wajir and Habaswein. FrontlineSMS is free open source software that turns an ordinary computer into a text messaging exchange.It will enable Save the Children to broadcast SMS messages simultaneously from the computer to a variety of different contact groups in the field.

Each message is drafted on the computer, which then uses the FrontlineSMS software to send it by SMS to a large group of recipients.In this way, the same short message can be sent rapidly to a group of 50 or more people through a simple operation that takes less than two minutes to perform.

Previously, Save the Children staff would have had to telephone or visit each of the targeted individuals personally to deliver the same message. That process could have taken several days to complete

The FrontlineSMS hubs in Wajir and Habaswein will not only send out vital information. They will also capture and record incoming messages from people in the field. Each incoming message will be evaluated immediately and passed on to the appropriate person for a timely response.

Infoasaid supplied 240 basic mobile handsets and solar chargers to facilitate the establishment of these two SMS messaging networks. The equipment is being distributed to collaborators and community representatives in every location where Save the Children provides local services.

To read the original article please click here.

Get the Word Out: Using SMS to Support Harm Reduction for Vulnerable Women

Guest post from FrontlineSMS user Gordon Gow, University of Alberta Here at the University of Alberta we are using FrontlineSMS to support graduate student research in communication and technology. Among its range of activities, the Mobile Applications for Research Support (MARS) Lab provides access to FrontlineSMS and mobile phones to allow students and community groups to set up and run pilot projects using text messaging.

UniAlberta2
UniAlberta2

Among our projects, the MARS Lab is providing support for “Get the Word Out” program operated in partnership with Edmonton’s Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation (CEASE). CEASE works through partnerships to create and pursue strategies to address sexual exploitation and the harms created by prostitution. Their work includes public education, client support, bursaries, counselling, trauma recovery and emergency poverty relief for individuals working to heal and rebuild their lives after experiencing exploitation.

“Get the Word Out” is a harm reduction service that uses FrontlineSMS to enable women involved in prostitution to anonymously report incidents or concerns about violence or crime that is affecting them or may affect others. The program also offers an network for these women to share thoughts or provide peer-based social support using anonymous text messages. FrontlineSMS is set up to auto-forward incoming text messages to a distribution group that includes frontline support agencies and clients who have chosen to subscribe to the service. The auto-forwarding process removes the callerID from the text and preserves only the contents, ensuring anonymity of the issuer. Text messages are also forwarded to a set of email addresses provided by the frontline agencies, as well as a protected Twitter account.

The MARS Lab is also involved in other projects using FrontlineSMS.  For example, it is working in collaboration with Simon Fraser University to pioneering the use of FrontlineSMS in combination with Ushahidi to explore the use of social media in campus health and safety.  This project is using FrontlineSMS to receive text messages from students and staff at both the University of Alberta and Simon Fraser University to report health and safety concerns on campus. The goal of the project is to better understand how text messaging can provide a low cost, low barrier means of reporting to encourage the campus community to help mitigate risks to health and safety on a university campus.

Furthermore, in early 2012 the MARS Lab will be launching a pilot project in partnership with LIRNEasia and the Sri Lanka Department of Agriculture to explore the use of text messaging to support Agricultural Extension Services in the Dambulla and Matale districts. This pilot will involve deployments of FrontlineSMS at three agricultural information centres and is also expected to include a deployment of FrontlineSMS:Radio with a local radio station to support audience interaction for one of the live agriculture talk shows.

It's great to see the diverse range of projects which the University of Alberta is supporting in their use of FrontlineSMS! This post was originally shared on the FrontlineSMS Community Forum. You can see the full original post and connect with Gordon on our forum here.

FrontlineSMS:Radio Trial continues in Kisumu

Following from the post in September, “FrontlineSMS:Radio Trial Begins,” Geoffrey Muchai, one of our FrontlineSMS developers gives an update on his visit to one of the radio stations which is taking part in the trial. By Geoffrey Muchai, FrontlineSMS Developer

I have been working on the FrontlineSMS developer team based in Nairobi and have recently been involved in the customization of our SMS management tool for radio stations. Radio Nam Lolwe, a radio station in Kisumu, northern Kenya has been participating in the FrontlineSMS:Radio trial and a few weeks ago I went to help with an onsite evaluation of the newly installed system.

Radio Nam Lolwe is the most established radio station in the region and it receives a significant amount of SMS messages from its listeners. Previously, the station had problems storing significant numbers of text messages and the presenters often had to delete older messages from their former system when it hit its 1,000 message capacity. Contrast this with the fact that the morning show at Nam Lolwe receives on average more than 500 messages – and that’s on a bad day. In seeking a different solution, Nam Lolwe have been taking part in the trial of FrontlineSMS:Radio since August 2011 and I went to Kisumu to see how they were getting on. During the four days I was there, there were 1,300 messages received by the newly installed FrontlineSMS:Radio!

To read the post in full, please see the FrontlineSMS:Radio website

FrontlineSMS Opens Up New Frontiers for Radio Mashaal

Republished from FrontlineSMS:Radio Guest Post By Zydrone Krasauskiene, Editorial Manager, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

FrontlineSMS software has opened up new frontiers for Radio Mashaal -literally- by creating a completely new and unorthodox way of making interactivity possible for Pashto-speaking audiences in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reports the news where a free press does not exist or is not allowed by the government. RFE/RL reaches nearly 25 million people in 28 languages and 21 countries in Russia, the Middle East, and Central and South Asia. One of RFE/RL's newest services, Radio Mashaal was launched in 2010 and provides reporting in Pashto language in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and part of Balochistan province.  Until now the huge cost of calling the RFE/RL Prague headquarters prevented our listeners in Afghanistan and Pakistan from contributing to our programming.

I first heard about the FrontlineSMS open source software, which can turn any computer into an SMS hub, at the Online News Association conference in Washington DC last September. Then when I was in London in April, I visited the FrontlineSMS office and during a chat with Amy O'Donnell the Radio Project Manager, I asked whether we could try it out here at RFE/RL.  Our Mashaal colleagues used to experience great difficulties in engaging their listeners because they found that it was too expensive for them to call in.  So an SMS service looked like a promising solution.

After consulting with my colleagues, we installed FrontlineSMS software in our bureau in Islamabad and connected it to a GSM modem. Colleagues in Islamabad arranged to use a local SIM card and negotiated an extremely reasonable package with the local network provider connection, the subscription cost $1.75 per month including 10,000 SMS messages.

All was set, and on May 11, 2011 Radio Mashaal announced its phone number and invited listeners to contact moderators and program makers.

The response was overwhelming. On the first day, over 130 text messages were received containing political comments, pieces of poetry and praise for Mashaal programs. They even received some jokes via text! While we currently broadcast 9 hours daily, some of the listeners asked for an increase of Mashaal daily programming to 24 hours. In just six months, we received over 20,000 messages.

As a colleague from Radio Mashaal, Shaheen Buneeri explained, “The SMS facility has created an excellent opportunity for Radio Mashaal listeners to express their thoughts and feelings on social, political, cultural and security issues in the region. Through these messages, which are an important part of our news bulletins, listeners connect to their dear ones in foreign lands, and the Pashto diaspora shares messages of peace and goodwill with their friends and families at home.”

But even more than that, some incoming SMSs contained information that turned into reports. For example, about two months ago someone sent an SMS to Radio Mashaal from the Kacaha Panga area near Hango,  complaining that although they lived very close to a gas distribution station, they had  been disconnected from the main gas supply. The issue was taken up by producer Stonzi Aow Sarkar of Radio Mashaal, who challenged the relevant authorities to find a solution. The authorities promised to solve the problem. Similarly, Radio Mashaal received messages in August 2011 about the shortage of water and electricity in Pakistan's Balochistan province. Radio Mashaal correspondents checked the situation on the ground and found that it was true. A local reporter was tasked to take the issue to the relevant authorities. He did so and filed a report on it, creating widespread interest in the issue.

This SMS project has established an extremely effective communication channel for Radio Mashaal listeners. The only drawback is that because of the huge amount of incoming SMSs, we are unable to send SMS replies to all of our listeners.  But as Mudaqiq Amin, Radio Mashaal director says, “The most important thing is that the SMS service enabled our listeners, even the poorest of them, to contact us.”

More than 3 million Pashtuns live in the FATA region. According to last year’s audience research, Radio Mashaal's weekly reach in this region is 5.9 percent of the Pashto population. This demonstrates the power of radio in communicating with this community and the increasing need to offer platforms to allow listeners to engage with the station.

To quote just one SMS which came in last week, in English, “Mashaal Radio is 1 of the best radio [station] in the world!” Isn’t it rewarding?

This post was republished from FrontlineSMS:Radio. If you are interested in the combination of radio and SMS check out radio.frontlinesms.com

Using Radio to Promote Peace: The Tea Garden Tamils

In an interview with Francis Rolt from Radio for Peace Building, Hussain Abdullah reflects on how radio can be used for promoting peace. To read the full article on the FrontlineSMS:Radio website click here

"Radio for Peace Building is an organisation which provides advice and training on using radio for behaviour change communication, in particular for the peaceful transformation of conflicts in pre-, current or post conflict contexts. In this post, Francis describes Radio for Peace Building’s most recent support on an SFCG project working with the Tea Garden Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Francis told us about his recent work with Search for Common Ground. “SFCG is working with the Tea Garden Tamils, who are quite distinct from the Tamils in the North – a different sort of demographic – who came to Sri Lanka at a different time. As part of an inclusive citizenship project, we are helping to organise a series of radio talk shows and audio dramas.” The drama narratives and topics of the talk shows would be guided by the use of mobile to make it a truly inclusive project."

To read the full article on the FrontlineSMS:Radio website click here

MediaShift Idea Lab: FrontlineSMS Gives Radio Listeners a Voice Through Text Messages

By Amy O'Donnell, FrontlineSMS

Reflections on the development of FrontlineSMS:Radio in a post originally published by MediaShift Idea Lab. Read and extract of the post below, and check it out in full here on the MediaShift Idea Lab website.

"Almost everyone who has listened to the radio within the last few years has heard a DJ call for the audience to send in a text message -- whether to request the next song, respond to the latest news or to comment on the needs of their communities. Media outlets everywhere are using SMS to engage audiences in innovative and creative ways, especially as they are increasingly reliant on audiences to be their eyes and ears. The combination of broadcast and interactive, text-driven response is being used to affect a wide range of reporting and audience engagement practices.

FrontlineSMS, which allows people to set up a hub for text messaging to inform and engage rural communities, is in the final stages of pilot testing a version of our software that's customized to meet the needs of radio broadcasters. The FrontlineSMS:Radio project, which serves as the foundation of our Knight News Challenge project, has given us insight into both the priorities and challenges facing community radio stations in low-resource communities."

To read more visit MediaShift Idea Lab's blog here.

New radio documentary shows how FrontlineSMS connects farmers in Kenya

em>Clare Salisbury has recently completed her MA in multimedia broadcast journalism at the University College Falmouth, Cornwall, UK, and this summer has been making a radio documentary on the impact which technology is having on administering aid in Africa. Clare is particularly interested in the ways that mobile and internet technology are influencing small scale farmers, food producers and NGOs. She recently met up with some FrontlineSMS users in Kenya, and in this guest post she shares some of her experiences.

“In the summer of 2011, I travelled to Kenya to make a multimedia documentary about the impact of mobile phone technology on farmers and NGOs that support them. Although I was prepared to see mobiles everywhere, driving from the airport into the city, I couldn’t believe the enormous billboards advertising mobile operators which lined the motorway. The next morning, I sat in a shopping mall in Nairobi and watched as people literally battled for space inside the nearest mobile phone store. People were even queuing to get in the door.

This is, of course, just another day in the capital. During my week in Kenya I would see that the real changes are happening in the hands of people based in rural areas. For these people, the possibilities opened up by access to a mobile handset are life changing.

Whilst in Nairobi I met John Cheburet who founded a radio programme in 2008 to complement the work of The Organic Farmer’s magazine and other outreach work. His programme focuses on agricultural techniques in a programme aired on two national radio stations.

John uses FrontlineSMS to manage the growing number of text messages he receives from the farmers who tune in every week. It’s a great tool as far as production goes; especially because he can send reminders to his listeners about upcoming programmes. John also admits that it’s a great way to think up content, for example– if he wants to make a programme on successful chicken farming techniques, he can easily find a farmer who’s working with chickens to interview by flicking through his SMS message inbox.

Click here to listen to John, of  The Organic Farmer, speak about his use of FrontlineSMS.

Moreover, this feedback ensures his programmes are reactive to the opinions of the listeners which enriches his programme. ‘Farmers know things’, he told me, ‘for a radio programme to be interesting, there has to be a two way communication.’

But as I found out later in my trip, this conversation  facilitated by FrontlineSMS is happening in more than just two directions. In Busia, a border town between Uganda and Kenya in the western region of the country, I met Emmanuel: a small scale dairy farmer who trains his peers and neighbors as part of the Send A Cow project.

He was carrying a copy of The Organic Farmer magazine. It turned out he never misses an installment of John’s radio programme on the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation (KBC). I asked him whether he ever texts into the show. He said he does, and that through the programme, he has made contact with other small scale farmers across the country and exchanged many ideas and techniques.

Emmanuel had clearly been motivated by the success and potential of text messaging. He told me how he encourages all the farmers and he helps to train them to use SMS effectively. This encounter was fascinating and it showed me that whilst the concept of text messaging is a simple two way dialogue, combined with a powerful radio presence, the two way conversation is only the beginning. As John said to me back in Nairobi; when he is producing, he likes to imagine that as well as disseminating information on The Organic Farmer, he is really only contributing to a much bigger knowledge exchange throughout the farming community.

I learned during my trip that mobile phones are changing the future for the small scale farmers in Kenya. And the many potential benefits of mobile technology continue to be explored. Spending a day in Nairobi’s sophisticated iHub innovation space for the tech community offered me an enormously exciting insight into what mobile technology tools could be to come for farmers in Kenya and across Africa, too. As international infrastructure accelerates to accommodate the technology being developed, farmers in Africa are increasingly able to benefit.”

You can find Clare's full radio documentary, as well as more audio and photos from her trip on her website here: http://aidtwenty.wordpress.com/ If you are interested in the powerful combination of mobile and radio technologies  check out our FrontlineSMS:Radio project website here: http://radio.frontlinesms.com/

FrontlineSMS:Radio trial begins!

caption id="attachment_7958" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Radio Nam Lolwe in Kenya are trialing the new software  Image: Iginio Gagliardone"] We are delighted to announce that the first beta version of FrontlineSMS:Radio has been built, and is currently being introduced and tested in three African radio stations.

FrontlineSMS:Radio is a tailored version of FrontlineSMS customised for radio DJs, particularly for use during live-on-air broadcast. The FrontlineSMS:Radio software is built on an entirely new version of FrontlineSMS, due out next year. We are in the process of building messaging tools designed to make FrontlineSMS more versatile and more intuitive to use.

The unique features of the FrontlineSMS:Radio software will include an on-air button for DJs to click on and off as they start and end their programmes and  live graphical visualisation of poll results to make  interpretation easier live-on-air.

The FrontlineSMS:Radio team has worked alongside Internews and Developing Radio Partners to identify community-level radio stations as project partners. Pamoja FM - located within the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya - was the first station to test the new software, shortly followed by Radio Nam Lolwe, in Kisumu, northern Kenya. Breeze FM, a community-based commercial radio station located in Chipata, Zambia, is now installing the software.

Our team of developers, based in Nairobi were at Pamoja FM for a training session to witness the first message ever to be received by FrontlineSMS:Radio, which was a song request from a listener for the locally popular Holy Day by Jimmie Gait.

Jael from Radio Nam Lolwe said, “The new features are really helpful for our radio programming. The live polling and the fact that each show can have its own folder means that the received texts don’t get mixed up. It feels more organised and clean. We are especially looking forward to the auto-refresh feature; in the last version we had to manually check for messages. Now the software just does it, we can concentrate on doing the show.”

Read the full post on the FrontlineSMS:Radio website

Tami Hultman, co-founder of allafrica.com, emphasized the desire from African's to have the tools necessary to tell their story, and it is this same desire that underpins the ethos of FrontlineSMS:Radio – the objective of empowering people. The social issues in any given country are best understood by its citizens and so too are the solutions.

Many of the participants at the conference agreed that IT literacy, and indeed infrastructure, are not yet at a level for new forms of social media to overtake other existing communications tools. The consensus was that there continues to be an important place for traditional media. Some discussion was dedicated to the continuing conflicts in North Africa, for instance, as it was recognised that while the rise in use of new, internet based tools such as Facebook and Twitter have facilitated communications channels for social mobilisation to increasing numbers of people; there is a danger of creating new forms of inequality. In many contexts, new media does not have the same pervasiveness or reach as mediums such as newspapers, radios and mobile phones. At the local level, the tools required for change are often already in people’s hands; the challenge is making them work effectively to meet the needs of the context.

It was argued that change must be bottom-up, and begin by supporting grass roots initiatives to acquire the tools which suit their needs. If kept simple, social media devices such as the traditional radio combined with simple, cheap low-spec devices, like a mobile phone, can enhance the interactivity of radio to produce better intra-community experiences. By removing barriers of communication between community members and leaders, it becomes easier to foster a strong and engaged civil society.

For more information on Africa Gathering visit: http://www.africagathering.org/

Reaching Communities Through The Airwaves

By Hussain Abdullah, Reposted from the FrontlineSMS:Radio blog
The simplicity of radio causes many to overlook its power as a communications tool. Yet as Joseph Sekiku discovered, radio plays a powerful and life-changing role in isolated communities. From a corner of his living room, Joseph pieced together his own radio station called FADECO Radio in Tanzania. The small desk, complicated with wires and radio equipment, hides the very simple set up of FADECO Radio. Using only his laptop, a mixer, a small transmitter and his mobile phone attached to FrontlineSMS with a custom made wire, Joseph Sekiku’s show reaches an audience of over 200 people. Using this homemade set up, he is able to share information on diverse topics, from agricultural advice to market information.

FADECO Radio is based in the Karagwe district of Tanzania, near Lake Victoria. The community development enthusiast in Joseph saw a serious need for an information infrastructure, since prior to his work, there were no newspapers, TV or internet meaning that the community of Karagwewas completely cut off from information flows. Read more on the FrontlineSMS:Radio website

Facilitating Dialogue on Governance in Africa

By Hussain Abdullah. Reposted from the FrontlineSMS:Radio blog

The increasing penetration of mobile telephony in Africa is widening opportunities for people to take part in discussions about governance. Radio is a widespread medium through which communities can tune-in to listen to debates on topics such as health, the environment and politics. FrontlineSMS:Radio is a software which is being designed to help facilitate radio listener interaction via text message.

The FrontlineSMS:Radio project is generously supported by the Cairns Charitable Foundation which was founded by Lord Simon Cairns. Simon was the chairman of Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) between 1981 and 1992, chaired the Overseas Development Institute between 1995 and 2002 and is currently a board member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Created by Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese businessman, the Foundation is focussed on enabling African civil society to hold their governments to account and improving the quality of governance across the continent. Simon also has a longstanding interest in mobile telephone technology, and he was appointed chairman of the African telecommunications company Celtel in October 2007.

Amy O’Donnell met Simon in the Mo Ibrahim Foundation offices, just off Oxford Street, to speak with him about how he thinks new technologies, such as FrontlineSMS:Radio, can help African citizens to influence processes of governance which affect them. The interview is written up here by Hussain Abdullah from FrontlineSMS:Radio.

Simon began the interview by recollecting a discussion he had with Mo Ibrahim many years ago, which eventually led to the creation of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance: a framework enshrining the foundations of good governance. “Mo Ibrahim and I both had, from our separate standpoints, views on why certain countries worked and why certain countries didn’t work.” Simon explained, “We found that it came to thinking in terms of ‘have you got the right leader?’ Then almost everything else will follow. In due course countries can build good institutions, but in the first instance they have to have good leaders... We then got together with the Kennedy School of Governance At Harvard to try to describe what made good governance.” (Read more)

“Farming Out” Agricultural Advice Through Radio and SMS

This post is the latest in the FrontlineSMS Mobile Message series with National Geographic. To read a summary of the Mobile Message series click here. Amy O'Donnell, Project Manager, FrontlineSMS:Radio

The Organic Farmer, a Kenyan magazine about ecologically friendly farming practices, recently launched two radio shows aimed at smallholder farmers. John Cheburet is spearheading the use of FrontlineSMS on the radio shows, and, as Project Manager of FrontlineSMS:Radio, I was keen to speak with him. Radio represents the dominant media source for many people worldwide and it offers a vital tool for outreach, particularly to rural communities. FrontlineSMS:Radio works with community stations to discover how combining mobile phone technology with radio can engage listening audiences.

John Cheburet is a radio producer and a pioneer, offering a farmer information service for small-scale farmers and actively seeking new technologies to improve outreach. He is seen by the farming community as a friendly source of information which is vital for their livelihoods. While The Organic Farmer (TOF) was born as a print medium, John sees radio as a way to increase awareness and reach more farmers.

John’s listeners own an average of 2.5 acres. Many farm for subsistence and sell surplus to cover household needs and also pay school fees for their children. They may not have received training or know about the latest technologies, and they seek access to solutions and advice."

“In Kenya, agriculture is the mainstay of the economy and the population depends on the land both directly and indirectly. The country is a major exporter of tea and coffee, and 70% of the workforce is in agriculture and areas that service this sector.”

Read more

Pamoja FM: Strengthening Social Networks in Kibera

y Emil Græsholm. Reposted from the FrontlineSMS:Radio blog

Pamoja FM is a community radio station located within the Kibera slum in Nairobi. The slum is a lively, vibrant place and is characterised by a continuous buzz of activity. Operating from a small office at the top of a tall building overlooking Kibera, the station has close ties with the slum as the community are actively involved in contributing to the broadcast content. Pamoja FM has received its primary funding from USAid and it focuses on community issues through debates and feature broadcasts, as well as airing a range of music shows and news. Emil Græsholm, who is currently studying at Cambridge University, visited Kibera in December 2010 and here he shares his experiences working alongside staff at Pamoja FM.

Community Radio When I visited Pamoja in December 2010 the staff, and especially the director Adam Hussein, were very open and friendly, inviting me to understand the inside of Kibera and the workings of the station. At Pamoja FM, everyone is a volunteer and many of the reporters are interns.

The station has a director, Adam Hussein who is supported by several editors including programme editor, Philip Muhatia and news editor, Thomas Bwire. In practice, however, the organisation structure is very flexible and flat, and requires reporter and technical staff to undertake a variety of tasks, including story collection, sound editing, broadcasting on air and researching. Local content from the slum is collected by the reporters and sometimes delivered on-air by the community. National and international content is mainly adapted from other media sources such as newspapers and television as it is filtered or moderated to fit the needs of the community…… (read more on the FrontlineSMS:Radio)

FrontlineSMS:Radio. Giving Radio Listeners a Voice.

Building on the core FrontlineSMS platform, FrontlineSMS:Radio will optimise the software for community radio stations, helping them to interact dynamically with their listening audiences. An increasing number of stations across the world are already using FrontlineSMS to receive and manage messages on issues such as health, politics and the environment, allowing them to wave ‘hello’ to two-way radio ~/. Now, FrontlineSMS:Radio’s targeted pilots will run alongside research conducted by Cambridge University, allowing us to understand the impact of interaction. Amy O’Donnell has recently joined the FrontlineSMS team and is leading the FrontlineSMS:Radio project. Here she shares her ideas about the power of coupling SMS with radio and her expectations for the project.

“When I spent some time in Mchinji in Malawi, I had to walk for an hour from the village to the boma (town) and pay 200 Kwatcha only to spend an hour clicking ‘refresh’ on a dial up internet connection. In contrast, my telephone signal was mostly fine and alongside the eggs, bread and bottles of pop I could always buy Celltel credit at the small village shop. Most people I met had a mobile and it wasn’t email which people swapped on their business card, but their phone number.

This is exactly why I’m so interested in how common sense technology which utilises existing tools and structures can offer appropriate and simple solutions. With over 5 billion global mobile phone connections and a mobile phone penetration rate of 52% across Africa (Source Wireless Intelligence) , the tools are already in peoples’ hands. FrontlineSMS helps people to manage and organise text messages in their own projects to facilitate communication and interaction with their communities.

Meanwhile, 90% of African households own a radio, and the medium is widely accessible. With an explosion of wind-up radios which negate the need for electricity, farmers can listen while they are in the field, meanwhile drivers can tune into in-car radios. Barriers of illiteracy are mitigated as people don’t need to read significant amounts of text to understand key messages. FrontlineSMS is being used in the context of radio beyond Africa, in countries including Mongolia, Uruguay, Indonesia, Cambodia and Australia.

It is exciting to see how FrontlineSMS:Radio will be used and I can’t wait to see its potential develop. Our new website will become a central place for community radio stations to meet and share experiences and resources, particularly regarding the interaction with audiences. For the most recent information, check out our new website – http://radio.frontlinesms.com - where you can read blog posts and quotes, see a user map and learn more about the status of the software."

To read this post in full, please click here

FrontlineSMS:Radio. Giving Radio Listeners a Voice. ~/