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People's Radio - now with sound!

A radio channel made of ‘spoken tweets’ - short voice messages. Anyone can call a free-number - record a message and it'll be played on the People’s Radio. Citizens will be able to hear what's occurring in neighbouring communities and data gathered

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Hi, I've just put together a sound sequence with some visuals - check it out! 


Sometimes, during crisis times it is hard for people access information - either because i.e the internet has been cut off, or TV and radio is controlled by oppressors. Especially people in remote areas might feel isolated and unable to communicate with people in other areas and receive or provide sometimes vital information.

People’s radio is build on the inspiration Speak-to-Tweet, a service developed during the Egypt uprising in 2011, where the government cut off the internet. Because the protests were mainly organised via social media, Speak-to-tweet allowed people to call a number and record a message that would be tweeted on their behalf.

Online services like Twitter, allow the masses to be heard and is often the first place where news is picked up, but many people do not have access to the internet and therefore aren’t heard. People’s Radio addresses this by using stable technologies such as landlines and mobile phones and radios (both highly prevalent throughout Africa)


People’s Radio is a channel made up mainly of ‘spoken tweets’ - so short voice messages. Anyone can call a free-number - record a message and it will be played on the People’s Radio. Citizens will be able to hear what was occurring in neighbouring communities, told by their neighbours themselves - by tuning into their local People’s Radio channel.

People’s Radio is location specific, so different regions might have different channels. If a person witnesses something worrying, it is obviously best to first call for help, but sometimes that help isn’t available, and getting information out there might save people in the neighbouring communities and alert NGO’s.

Leaving a spoken tweet is anonymous and people are in control of what they share, making the service safe to use for anyone. Telling stories of i.e police corruption is hard to do if you don’t remain anonymous, and you can’t exactly go to the police, so People’s Radio would be an alternative.


Building on the ‘ENABLER CARDS”(/open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/enabler-cards/) , various pre-recorded “enabling messages” will be played throughout each hour. These will empower listeners to provide relevant information, as well as educate them on various subjects such as health and safety during crisis times. Hopefully, these messages will set the tone for the station, and people will strive to be as fair and informative as possible to make it work

During peaceful times....

There obviously isn’t always things to alert others about, and during peaceful times People’s Radio will naturally transform to an local, participatory station with casual news and hopefully knowledge sharing. Enabling messages will still be there, but perhaps of with a wider topic range


- the free number, you’re asked whether your message is an alert or casual

If you say alert questions are asked in order to verify information - such as where, when and what happened. (/open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/how-to-get-relevant-information-and-verify-it-with-low-cost-technology/) This will make it easier to verify information and filter out the noise for the moderator. Alerts will be given priority over casual messages, perhaps depending on their severity.

If you’re recording a casual message, you’ll be encouraged to keep it informative and fair, and be thanked for sharing your knowledge with the community. To keep the radio positive, do’s rather than don’ts are stressed (so, we’re giving people good ideas rather than bad)

There have been many questions regarding the relevance of the content, and I suppose it comes down to how you build and nurture the community around People’s Radio. In the testing phase, it would be great to involve people from different communities who would then go back and become ambassadors for the project, encouraging friends and neighbours to use it in a constructive way.

Also, to keep information flowing, there will be a time limit to each voice message. This will have to be tested. I suspect that a short time limit of i.e 20-30 seconds will make callers more concise, just like you have to be concise when tweeting in less that 140 characters. What do you think= 


Further curation could be tested using

A - a team of moderators who filter out and alert i.e NGO if they see a trend of violence

B - Filtering using voice recognition tools and identify key words and phrases associated with spam or propaganda

Some moderation is necessary to keep information relevant, however you always run the risk of moderators safety being at risk or having subjective motives. Training and guidance would be a good idea, and because all data is gathered online, it would be possible for other parties to check that the filtering is fair.


People’s Radio will generate lots of voice clips and therefore lots of data. Plenty of data is good, but only if you find ways of mapping and analysing it. All the data of people’s radio should be open source - as it is anonymous it won’t impose a threat to the callers.

The data could be linked with both Crisis Tracker and Raise a Red Flag and multiple instances of worrying key words could alert NGO’s and governments of atrocity.

/open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/raise-a-red-flag/ and /open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/crisistracker-real-time-social-media-curation/


I’m don’t have the technical know-how to build or draw out a technical prototype People’s Radio to work.

"How can we get messages to the single transmission source without relying on the infrastructures controlled by aggressive regimes, and; second, how do we ensure sustainable coverage of a radio network's infrastructure when it will likely become a quick target?" Richard Brion

(the following information are excerpts from comments below, mainly based on Richard Brion knowledge of communication systems) Have a look at Richards concept P.A.C.T here   /open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/pirate-communications/

One of the first actions taken by hostile forces is to isolate the population by disabling all forms of communication with the outside world. Simple signal jammers can disable landlines and cutting off power supply to grids containing mobile towers and radio towers is another simple tactic used. More destructive forms can include destroying transmission towers.

With regards to traceability, towers are visibly and so are broadcast antennas. Stationary transmissions are easily triangulated to find the source which can place lives at risk.

One solution could be using pirate communication technologies like wireless access drones, HPCP or Pirate Boxtes to give off grid access to the internet and voice communications, allowing for existing mobile phone to still communicate even if the cellular radio or communication towers are destroyed or disabled.

Chris S linked us up with their repurposed device that could be used to send twitter-like messages to People's Radio. It would allow victims without cell phone coverage or internet to have their voices heard. Here's a link to the concept: /open/usaid-humanity-united/inspiration/re-purpose-the-cospas-sarsat-distress-beacon-satellite-constellation-2/

Again - I don’t really understand how these technologies work, so if anyone is up for helping out or drawing a technical plan or flow chart, that would be amazing.

Hannan Hakim has local radio station in Bangalore. They liked the idea and said it can be done and moderated for filtering out spam + the enabler messages can also be easily executed


People’s Radio is suitable for lots of testing, to come up with the most useful approach in providing people with a voice and a relevant channel of information.

Local people and Aid workers could be involved in this with great benefit and help grow a constructive, enlightening community around People’s Radio.

The automatic spam-filter (filtering out common words used in spam or propaganda messages) would also need to be developed and tested over time.

Also Mike iDiaz idea could be tested:

1. Assign a number to each voice tweet

2. Block numbers that post false info with the actual tweet. (if enough people say "block #345", the system identifies and blocks the number.)

3. numbers that are confirmed to provide accurate information could be given more authority and even be repeated multiple times.

One problem would be time, would people be willing to spend time calling a number to block and verify messages. There’s a risk that only a small group of people are doing it and they become biased curators. Or it could be abused by groups of perpetrators.

Other things might include the tone of voice, languages and general sound of People’s Radio. What do you hear in between messages? How are enabling messages introduced? Are there jingles, and how do you make sure the radio channel doesnt feel repetitive or annoying. In the next few days I will try and make a sound example of what People’s Radio might sound like.

How might your idea be designed to scale and spread to help as many people as possible?

People's Radio could be community specific, but could easily be extended to national and international platforms, granted the language barrier is dealt with. It would be useful to have a team of unbiased people, translating and passing on stories and trends to the international community. - keeping the original voice clips open source.

How might your idea make use of exisiting technology? Has your idea been tried in a different or related context?

Airtime Pro has a similar approach and the guys might have the tech know how - records instances of bribes and places them on a map Another example is a service called Hello Peace, a free phone service that lets Israelis and Palestinians talk to one another over the phone -

How could you begin prototyping this idea in a simple way to begin testing and refining it? Who would use your idea and/or who is using it now? Is your idea technically easy medium or hard to implement?

Some aspects of the idea is technically quite straight forward, I think - but to make it robust, more advanced technologies would have to be implemented. I am not sure how to prototype it as of yet, as I don't have the technical skills - but perhaps someone in here has?


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Photo of Simon Mutua

Great idea, i would definitely tune in to listen...BTW have you thought of using a mobile app to submit the voice recordings?

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