New Vision on Station Launches


RAN launches community radio that uses cell phone to broadcast

By Vision Reporter

An innovative radio technology with a potential to revolutionize last-mile communication in hard to reach and war ravaged areas

By Samuel Ouga

RootIO community radio; the first of its kind to be deployed in the world, is an innovative radio technology with a potential to revolutionize last-mile communication in hard to reach and war ravaged areas. The technology uses a mobile phone for broadcasting. 

The 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.

RAN PRO greets RootIO Director; Christopher Csikszentmihalyi as the Chief Technology officer; Jude Mukandane looks on.

RAN PRO greets RootIO Director; Christopher Csikszentmihalyi as the Chief Technology officer; Jude Mukandane looks on.

It costs a total of 8 million Ugandan shillings to set up a working radio that broadcasts to about 30km radius. 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.

“If Capital FM is Standard Chartered Bank, our radio is like small village SACCO,” RootIO Community radio Director painting a picture of the community radio.

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.”

The low cost radio stations technology  was developed by a team of innovators from RootIO, supported by Resilient Africa Network; a project under Makerere University School of Public Health. More support was received from the Knight Foundation, which supports “engaged and informed communities.”

RootIO Community radio team are to receive up to $75,000 funding from RAN, to help deploy and scale the innovative radio projects in Uganda.

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 Uganda Communication Commission 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.”

The radio was set up and was running a day before the launch.


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.

They also partner with local community groups willing to provide space for the community radio and return get access to daily programming slots and joint management of the community radio. Aber Community radio is being hosted by Aber Youth Center at the sub county headquarters.

The function presided over by Aber sub county LC3 chairman, attracted hundreds of residents from a host of villages around Aber. The LC3 chairman echoed the excitement of the community for being chosen to host the project. He warned local civil servants and leaders to be extra careful in the conduct of their duties as local watchful residents now have a platform in their backyard for exposing non performing and corrupt officials.

Local leaders promised to book time for weekly programs to educate the residence on a range of issues; from community policing, agriculture, health, business and civic education.

Traditional dancers entertained the massive village audience who walked from far and wide to attend the launch of Aber community radio. A couple of comedians performed too. Aber Community radio is running on 103.8 Frequency Modulation.

What is RAN?

The ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) funded by USAID is a partnership of 20 African universities in 16 countries. It is led by Makerere University with Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy, Stanford University and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as partners. RAN is one of eight development labs under the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) in the office of Science and Technology (OST), USAID. The RAN program is led by Prof. William Bazeyo (Makerere University, Uganda) the HESN Development Lab Director for RAN.

RAN’s focus is on innovations that build and strengthen the resilience of communities that are affected by natural and man-made stresses and shocks in line with the identified themes of focus.

The RAN, with the support of USAID has established a Resilience Innovation Fund for this purpose. The fund is used to support the development and piloting of scalable resilience innovations.

RAN works closely with multidisciplinary teams of students and faculty drawn from African universities, as well as local in-country innovators to build disruptive innovations that will strengthen the resilience of our target communities.