What mobile money did to USSD, RootIO will do to radio


Eureka. Eureka. Eureka.

You’ll very soon be able to fully broadcast your own radio directly from your android device. Yes, 1 smartphone and a cheap broadcaster, plus the internet. There you have your own microstation.

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Let’s look down the memory lane. The Chinese did it. Even after decades of Archimedes’ death, they didn’t need his mercurial wit in debunking the unique selling point for selling mobile devices –The radio. The perfect marriage of incorporating mobile and radio was surely the most successful bet by the Chinese manufacturers. In fact, this was the second best thing to happen to mobile in Africa after USSD ( SMS/text message platform).

Then, a slumber was taken. A gigantic one. Whilst, radio still enjoys a cult of diehards in the telephony, developers have continued to shun developing for it. In fact, African-based developers have jumped onto the fancier platforms such as Android and Windows among others.

However, there are always developments that never go mainstream for example TRAC.fm that uses the power of big data and visualization as a leverage of identifying problems and seeking of citizens’ opinions about particular topics through radio.

RootIO, the project which seeks disrupt the marriage between radio and mobile, is set to pilot in Uganda  and is led by Chris Csikszentmihalyi, a MIT civic media lab professor and Jude Mukundane, a software developer with Uganda telecom.

Sure, all you ll need is a smartphone and a cheap broadcaster, plus the internet.

The RootIO (roots radio) Project is a loosely-integrated, content-agnostic “solution stack” for peer-oriented radio networks.  The project aims to mix communities, telephony, networking, and radio to create new models of community information.  RootIO crosses the best parts of community radio, broadcast networks, and peer production into a vertically integrated platform, gluing together existing technologies and creating new ones where necessary.

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RootIO grew out of the recognition that despite the wonders of mobile telephony and the Internet, radio is still a vibrant medium, and in many places it is where most people get the bulk of their information.  It doesn’t require literacy, a personal device, or much power, it is transmitted free of charge, and it comes built in to many of the phones used around the world.

But radio is a broadcast medium, and has yet to benefit from contemporary advances in peer networks and production. It’s huge presence in the local communities and the telephony makes it feasible. As Chris describes it; hosting a radio show would be similar to holding a conference call, with the host and guests on different phones, broadcasting out to the greater community.

RootIO  received a $ 200,000 grant from Knight Foundation for journalism and news innovation in January 2013. Some of its distinguished partners are; UNICEF Uganda, UNICEF innovations lab and the Uganda Radio Network.




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