The Resilient Africa Network (RAN) laboratories; a project under Makerere University School of Public Health with the support from the Knight Foundation, which supports “engaged and informed communities” have launched RootIO community radio – an inexpensive but highly networked radio technology is designed to be affordable by a rural community.

The new technology uses a smart phone to replace a radio studio, and affordable solar power to replace expensive national grid electricity or generator. A first of its kind to be deployed in the world, RootIO is an innovative radio technology with a potential to revolutionize last-mile communication in hard to reach and war ravaged areas.

The first of four units to be deployed in Northern Uganda was launched at Aber sub-county in Oyam district, on May 23, 2015. The other units are to be established in Pabbo; Amuru district, Patongo in Agago district and then Kitgum town.

According to Harriet Adong; The public relations manager for Resilient Africa Network (RAN); “The low costs radio stations have been designed to to provide hyper local content, advertising by village based traders and hosting for community discussions.”

She added that; “The radio stations have been designed to to best serve rural citizens and bridge the gap between the communities and the currently available, mostly, commercial radio stations located in much developed urban centers; thus hindering access by the rural folk.”

How it works

RootIO innovators integrated existing radio technology with internet and telephony to come up with a hybrid solution with greater benefit than any of the individual technologies on their own.

A data enabled smart phone, linked to a cloud server is connected to a small transmitter and some small transistors’ all fitted into a small bucket; replacing the expensive standard radio studio.

Christopher Csikszentmihalyi; a RootIO Director said the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) granted them four experimental radio licenses to run tests for six months. Subject to their performance and evaluation they will be granted permission to roll out technology to other parts of the country.

RootIO Chief Technology Officer said; “By focusing on intra-community communication, we hope to help communities find their own solutions and innovations, and build their own resilience.”

Christopher Csikszentmihalyi; a Director and former professor at USA MIT university, said they will be working with the community trying out different programming models till they find a workable and sustainable model, both in revenue generation and consistent content input.

Christopher said they will try running very affordable announcements from “The village guy who has lost his goat, who is selling produce and a trading center shop keeper who has brought in new supplies.”  CBOs and NGOs operating in the locality will also be targeted and offered a platform for awareness campaigns and talk shows at a small fee. “We hope the projects will be generating some money which would be invested back into their operations,” added Chris.

Via New Vision