A visit to The Hangar: FRI’s innovation lab

A telecommunications revolution is quietly unfolding in a back garden in Arusha, Tanzania. It’s happening in “The Hangar” — a geek hangout if ever there was one.

Farm Radio International is about broadcasting radio across the airwaves. But it is also about participating and that’s where mobile phones come in.

Six years ago, it was just Bart Sullivan and a couple of IT volunteers harnessing the tide of rural mobile phone expansion to get input from farmers. At first it was basic “beep radio” where the radio broadcaster would ask a question and the listeners would call a number to indicate “yes” or “no” and hang up.

From there the FRI team moved quickly to make radio and phones more interactive. At some point the tech team realized they could no longer use out-of-the-box solutions. They have, in fact, become their own software development group.

Right now this talented group of six individuals is the hub harnessing mobile technology for listener interaction as well as data and mapping to guide radio campaigns and give feedback to funders and stakeholders.

And they tell us with cloud technology, the sky is the limit for creating farmer-friendly and sustainable solutions.

At “The Hangar” this is Louise Atkins with Duncan Bury on a FRI study tour in East Africa.

Learn more about our innovations from The Hangar, including The Listening Post and beep4weather.

About the author  
Louise Atkins is the daughter of George Atkins, long-time CBC farm radio broadcaster and founder of Farm Radio International. Louise is an avid supporter of FRI’s work. She is sharing stories of her travels to see FRI’s impact in the field.

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