Ten radio stations, six languages, thirty episodes, and — we now know — tens of thousands of loyal listeners. These numbers describe My Children, a weekly drama about a farming family in Uganda (and the nutritional benefits of orange-fleshed sweet potato) that combines radio and mobile phones to connect with listeners.
Utilizing software by TracFM, a Uganda-based organization whose software handles text messages to give radio programs real-time structured feedback, we were able to poll listeners at the end of each episode of the drama. The TracFM software recorded all listeners’ responses to questions they were asked about their thoughts on the story, their current farming practices, their knowledge about nutritious orange-fleshed sweet potato, and more. Some radio polls also offered an incentive to callers to boost responses.
“Today we would like to ask you if you if you have ever eaten orange sweet potato! Send in your reply SMS for free and stand a chance to win airtime! Send in the name of your sub-county and either YES or NO to 8585.”
Over the first season of My Children, 40,000 different people participated in the SMS polling, resulting in 70,000 responses, as thousands participated more than once. The implication is clear: My Children drew a very large audience over its run. And that means many people learned about the nutritious and delicious orange-fleshed sweet potato.
Lessons learned from season one have been applied to season two, which is now on the air in Uganda — this time in seven languages.