In Africa, radio remains the dominant broadcasting tool, with about 90% of households owning a radio – but communication remains mostly one-way. SMS text-messaging using mobile phones, also increasingly widespread, are the most affordable and accessible mode of two-way communication. The award-winning open source software tool FrontlineSMS combines laptops with mobiles to bridge a crucial information gap between grassroots organisations and their staff or constituents.
In October 2010, Cambridge University’s Centre of Governance and Human Rights (CGHR) launched a two-year research collaboration with FrontlineSMS and key partners, working directly with local radio stations in Africa to design and develop a new software module (or plug-in), FrontlineSMS:Radio which will help those working with radio to interact dynamically with their audience. If radio was more interactive, citizens could share information, communicate grassroots reactions to current affairs and mobilise change. The project combines research and practical tools development.
The Indigo Trust has awarded FrontlineSMS Radio with a £10, 200 grant to fund a part-time Project Manager to coordinate between the developer team, researchers, partners and users on the ground. It is hoped that this project will contribute to stimulating civil activism and have implications for bottom-up governance. We look forward to working with Sharath, Ken, Laura and the wider FrontlineSMS community.
Pamoja Radio, in Kibera, Nairobi is one of the radio stations that will be participating in the Frontline SMS Radio pilot.
Press on the project: Democratising the Airwaves