Farm Radio International and their Radio Listener Groups

farm radio
Farm Radio's listener groups assist farmers to yield better crops. Photo Simon Scott.

Radio is a really effective way to reach a large audience but, on its own, radio is a one-way information service. So what can African radio stations do to engage rural listeners in an actual conversation?

Key to Farm Radio International’s success is its innovative work utilising other ICTs, especially mobile phones, to connect listeners with their local radio stations, transforming radio into a two-way medium that not only shares information but gives listeners a much-needed voice.

Radio and mobile phones are the most powerful communications devices in Africa. And, when they work together, their impact is much stronger than when employed alone.

Combining radio with other technologies is all in a day’s work at The Hangar, Farm Radio International’s radio and ICT innovation lab in Arusha, Tanzania. Working in partnership with VOTO Mobile and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the team at The Hangar developed a web-based application for gathering and analyzing feedback and questions from audience members via mobile phones. It’s  called Uliza, Swahili for “to ask.”

Uliza was designed to encourage participatory radio by making it easier for listeners to engage with radio stations and for radio stations to visualise and interpret audience feedback. It utilizes VOTO Mobile’s interactive voice response (IVR) system and the ubiquity of basic mobile phones to enable a two-way conversation.

uliza

IVR technology connects people with computer programs through voice commands and keypad inputs. It’s also a very powerful way to connect small-scale farmers with the radio stations that serve them, and to help those stations serve them better.

With Uliza, farmers can access important messages and alerts, vote on poll questions, leave messages, and request the delivery of specific information. For example, in a Farm Radio International project focused on promoting nutritious orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP), Uliza connected farmers looking to source OFSP vines with local vine suppliers. If a listener responded “no” when asked if they knew where to access vines, the system would provide the location of local OFSP vine sellers.

Uliza presents data from listeners visually, making it easy for broadcasters to interpret the information and use it during broadcasts. They can air comments left in voice messages, share listeners’ questions with on-the-air experts, integrate audience feedback into on-air discussions, and get feedback on radio programs.

In this way, Uliza is supporting a continuous feedback loop that makes farm radio better for its listeners. And that’s what it’s all about.


Copyright: Farm Radio International