This is really one of the more interesting uses of IVR we’ve seen recently, thanks to a good, long study on the PBS website. The whole article is well worth reading, but to quickly summarize, two years ago Bev Clark, the co-founder of Kubatana.net, “was awarded a large grant in the Knight News Challenge for Freedom Fone, an open-source software platform for distributing news and information through interactive voice response technology,” the article says.
Freedom Fone was officially launched in late February of this year and has since been downloaded about 200 times, according Amy Saunderson-Meyer of Freedom Fone,
Since launch, Freedom Fone officials tell PBS, it has provided support to specific organizations, including Equal Access in Cambodia, Small World News TV, TechnoServe, One Economy Corporation, and Africa Youth Trust. Saunderson-Meyer said “they have also received about 100 inquiries from individuals and organizations interested in a broad spectrum of potential uses of Freedom Fone outside of news and information distribution” as well.
Recently, Freedom Fone was adopted by two farm radio stations through the African Farm Radio Research Initiative, whose aim was to assess the effectiveness and impact of farm radio in many parts of Africa.
“AFRRI works with 25 radio stations in five countries in Africa,” PBS said. “Stations include private, public, national, and community radio stations with established listeners in varied agricultural zones. Freedom Fone was introduced at two of these radio stations: Radio Maria (a faith-based station that also broadcasts health and agricultural information across the country) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Volta Star radio (the national broadcaster) in the Volta region of Ghana. Before the project, neither station had an existing IVR system in place, and the primary feedback loop with listeners was through written letters.”
"We're looking for something that can enhance radio," one of the officials told PBS. "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."
Farm Radio International is currently analyzing results of the initiative and plans to publish a report this fall on the findings. The Volta Star IVR content is still accessible to listeners and the mobile competition at Radio Maria has since closed, but they are starting another deployment based on what they learned at Radio Maria and Volta Star. The project will be at Rite FM, a radio station outside the greater Accra region in Ghana.
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