There's been a lot to discuss on the airwaves of the Sudan Radio Service (or “SRS”) these past few weeks: From January 9th through 15th, the country’s southern region held a referendum that may determine whether it separates from the North and declares independence.
This month, Souktel helped the SRS (a project of US non-profit EDC Inc.) to give radio listeners the chance to have their own voices heard, in the weeks before and after the vote. Working with EDC personnel in Nairobi, Kenya and the South Sudan city of Juba, Souktel staff set up a text-messaging system that lets radio audiences send in SMS feedback about local broadcasts by mobile phone.
For a conflict zone where citizens don’t often have a say in public affairs, the service represents a real paradigm shift: In the first few weeks of the SMS Audience Feedback hotline, close to 400 text messages have come in to the studio--from rural Darfur to the streets of Juba. The comments are basic, but they’re proof of a pioneering effort to let marginalized communities have their say on issues surrounding the key vote:
“Thank you for giving us clear and reliable news about the elections and referendums in Juba – Adam F.”
"SRS news is one of the few programs that a person in Darfur can depend on."
“I am Mohammad A.M. I appreciate your radio programs…They reflect the traditions and habits of Darfur in a very realistic way”.
With the service now entering its second month, PBS IdeaLab’s Anne-Ryan Heatwole wrote this week about why Souktel's mobile technology launched here at just the right time:
"The power of radio is that it can reach millions of people; the challenge of radio is that you don't know if people are listening … [SMS] listener responses help the radio station determine which programs are enjoyed and valued by their listeners; it can also help the station plan for future broadcasts that meet the needs of Sudanese residents and the Sudanese diaspora.”
"[Souktel co-founder Jacob] Korenblum concludes, 'It's really about creating a dialogue between radio listeners and the content providers of the programming, and mobile is a fantastic way to do that.'"
Read the full PBS feature here.
Learn more about EDC Inc.’s Sudan Radio Service here.