FrontlineSMS:Radio Trial continues at Nam Lolwe FMAfrica In the FieldPublished November 28, 2011 at 13:49 9 Comments
Following from our 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
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!
During my visit, two polls were carried out by different shows using FrontlineSMS:Radio. You can see a screenshot of the poll function in the picture (left). The first poll was held during the Agricultural show. This is a program where agricultural issues are discussed and specific questions posed to the public based on the on-air discussion. In order to motivate participation from the listeners, prizes are awarded to those who send in SMS messages containing the required answers. The prizes given can take the form of discounts on farm equipment, mobile phone airtime, t-shirts as well as other prizes that are offered by the show’s sponsors.
On this particular occasion, the agricultural expert spoke on air about the dynamics of weeding ground nuts, advising listeners not to weed them during their flowering stage. As a result the expert posed the following question to the listeners;
“What is the reason behind not weeding ground nuts during flowering stage?”
Many responses were sent via SMS with some listeners sharing experience of weeding ground nuts, such as “the plants are weak at that stage so the flowers can easily fall off,” and one listener added that weeding cannot take place at the same time as cross pollination. This crowd sourced advice shows the benefit of allowing listeners to contribute to the show to help troubleshoot other farmers’ problems.
The second poll was conducted during the mid-morning show where Jael, the presenter, asked the audience whether it would be possible for them to survive without the use of plastic bags. This resulted in a heated debate where women expressed concern that banning plastic bags would mean their husbands would be less likely to bring food home. As a result, female listeners called for environmentally friendly methods of using plastic bags like recycling them instead of implementing a total ban to the plastic bags. In contrast, men refuted the whole idea of banning plastic bags stating that there was no way they would use sisal baskets to do their shopping. 18 text messages were sent in total with 6 users saying that it was possible to survive without plastic bags. I thought the debate was fascinating, and I wonder whether it would have excited so much comment elsewhere in Kenya, or elsewhere in the world.
Jael, a presenter at Nam Lolwe, commended the FrontlineSMS:Radio system for its timeliness in showing new messages, its ability to run polls as well as its ability to organize messages into folders. She also noted that the exporting functionality of the system would enable presenters to generate specialized reports for sponsors. Victor, her colleague, agreed and added that the system was quite efficient and convenient to use. Image right: Jael using the new FrontlineSMS:Radio.
The FrontlineSMS:Radio trial and the dedicated support offered at Radio Nam Lolwe has been made possible by The Indigo Trust who are committed to assisting technology-driven projects that inspire positive social change. Radio Nam Lolwe has a bright future ahead as the presenters continue to make the most of text messaging tools.
You might notice that FrontlineSMS:Radio looks completely different to the FrontlineSMS you know. That’s because it is built on top of the new version of FrontlineSMS, which will be out in beta in early 2012. Keep an eye on the FrontlineSMS blog for more about the new release. The development of FrontlineSMS:Radio will continue to the end of this year and will be available in open beta early next year.