What is it?
TRAC FM is an innovative software platform used by media and non-profit organizations in Uganda to track news reports, collect opinions, and amplify citizen voices. It enables citizens to participate in interactive radio shows through SMS voting and opinions.
TRAC FM serves a wide range of citizens in East Africa, from urban youth to farmers in rural areas. It has also been applied in TV talk shows, but radio stations have a much wider reach in Uganda.
How does it work?
In response to questions broadcasted by the radio stations, listeners contribute to the discussion through an SMS line (free of charge). The TRAC FM software ensures that all incoming SMS contributions are automatically recognized, categorized and presented in clear graphics and maps.
This "visualization" is instantly updated online, to present the latest results to the talk-show host, who shares the poll results with his studio-guests and listeners. After the radio show, infographics of collected data are published in (local) print media and freely shared online.
TRAC FM software is free and cloud based, requiring no downloads, but only a secure login with a user name and password.
It also provides selected radio stations with training on how to use TRAC FM feedback to host structured radio debates, e.g. on issues of public service delivery, such as quality of roads or the performance of civil servants.
Why did they make it?
It was developed on the basis of ethnographic research about the use of new media for political participation. The Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam published the "ICT4Accountability" research project (Uganda, 2009), which presented the platform as "a distinct form of civic media which uses ICTs to systematically collect, process and deliver accurate, comprehensible and direct data with the purpose to assist citizens in making objective assessments of the performance of who-ever is taking action on their behalf."
To engage the crowds and promote transparency
TRAC FM's mission is to provide citizens and journalists with tools to amplify voices, engage in informed debate with fellow citizens, journalists and political leaders, and promote transparency and accountability.
Since 2010, more than 100,000 people in Uganda have participated in radio polls on 24 radio stations, facilitated by the TRAC FM platform. Radio stations using TRAC FM include Life FM (the largest), Voice of Kigezi (the smallest), and Radio Wa from Lira (the first TRAC FM partner). NGO’s that have worked with TRAC FM include Twaweza, Hivos, Free Press Unlimited, BBC Media Action (Kenya), Farm Radio International (Uganda and Tanzania), Harvest Plus and Vitens Evides International (Uganda).
TRAC FM does not receive government funding. Instead, it generates income from NGO’s who work with the tool to do surveys, monitoring and evaluation, awareness campaigns, and use it as an early warning system. NGO’s that have worked with TRAC FM include Free Press Unlimited, BBC Media Action (Kenya), Farm Radio International (Uganda and Tanzania), Harvest Plus and Vitens Evides International (Uganda).
Currently, TRAC FM is developing new software functionality to enable citizen feedback in the form of photos, videos, and interactive voice response, and it is extending beyond Uganda, collaborating with Free Press Unlimited in Somalia and the Bill Gates Foundation in Tanzania.
Why did we select it?
TRAC FM transforms radio listeners into active participants in public debate through the introduction of a user-friendly tool and hands on training for broadcasters.
By building on a strong radio tradition and using ubiquitous SMS as platform, TRAC FM maximizes impact with limited means.
It enables radio-stations to perform data-driven journalism in real time and thereby contributes to independent, fact-based journalism, and a more engaged civil society.
- Lunch at school by TRAC FM: According to a
survey, many children were not getting lunch at school, although only 25% took
packed lunch. The same survey also found that children who don’t eat lunch at
school can not learn properly. RICNET partnered with TRAC FM to benefit from
TRAC FM’s versatile platform to run a radio poll.
- HIV status: The United Nations General Assembly Special Session country progress report estimated that only 20% of Ugandans knew their HIV-status. Question: Should doctors be allowed to test and inform patients about their HIV status without the patient's permission? The info-graphic of the results of this poll at 4 partner radio stations was published alongside an article in Uganda’s most popular magazine The Independent.
- Radio day campaign by TRAC FM: During the World Radio Day campaign on February 13, 2014, TRAC FM worked with 10 stations to find out what people love most about radio. Gender equality was monitored by asking respondents to indicate whether they were male or female. Over 6000 responses came in from all across the country.