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Farm Radio Weekly is a news and information service for rural radio broadcasters in sub-Saharan Africa. It is published by Farm Radio International.

Farm Radio Weekly

Using the Freedom Fone to create participatory radio

Farm Radio International’s African Farm Radio Research Initiative (AFRRI) project is introducing new technologies in an effort to make radio more participatory. AFRRI staff were recently interviewed about their experiences with the Freedom Fone. Here, we bring you an excerpt from the interview. You can read the whole piece at this link: http://bit.ly/dloQtH.

Bartholomew Sullivan, AFRRI’s regional ICT officer says, “We’re looking for something that can enhance radio. Because at this point for us, radio has been very effective in reaching people, but it’s not always the most effective for getting a feedback loop or making it interactive.”

He decided to try out the Freedom Fone with two radio stations: Radio Maria in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Volta Star radio in Ho, Ghana. Before the project, listeners contacted the station mainly through written letters. But the Freedom Fone system allows listeners to call in and leave voice messages or texts.

At Radio Maria, the AFRRI staff used the system “very simply,” almost as a “glorified voice mail service.” During one program, broadcasters asked listeners for “the best story of how you’re using the knowledge you’ve gained from this radio program in your life.” Listeners were invited to call the station and tell their stories.

The station received “wonderful stories from the field,” lasting anywhere from 10 seconds to three minutes. The hotline received 2,499 calls, representing 1,448 different callers during the month and a half that it was available.
“People love to hear their voices on the radio,” Bart Sullivan says. “And what we’ve learned from the farmers was that radio programs that have the voices of farmers are far more entertaining and interesting than not.”

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