Home TECHNOLOGY RootIO Radio stations

RootIO Radio stations


RootIO Radio stations are tiny FM radio stations that require little investment, maintenance, or contribution from the community, yet at the same time offer more and better modes of interaction than traditional stations. After a few days of installation and training, stations can start to facilitate new economic opportunities, new opportunities for expression and deliberation, and provide information across, into, and out of the community they serve.

Each station is amplified by our cloud/telephony Radio as a Service (RaaS). With the cloud, an individual station can receive free voice-quality calls that go straight to air, download audio from the Internet in the background, or run SMS votes. Using any basic phone (through RaaS) local hosts can run live shows with callers; local business people can record ads or announcements; citizen journalists can cover live meetings or sports events. With solar power a station can serve as 24/7 endpoint to emergency services.

Four stations have been running in Northern Uganda for the last year, and small rural communities are creating their own programs, reporting their own news, and requesting audio content from the Internet. RootIO, with the help of Resilient Africa Network, is hoping to launch another 20 stations in the coming year.


Rootio’s technical stack is a blend of off-the-shelf hardware, cloud software, and a smartphone app.

The heart of each station is a small smart phone hooked up to an FM transmitter through its headphone jack. It’s that simple. We put the station in a bucket because it is a cheap, waterproof (and bee proof!) container you can find anywhere in the world. In our Uganda stations we also have large, locally designed and fabricated antenna towers which give a range of about 10-15km, and solar panels and battery. With solar, we are broadcasting 24/7 without the need of grid or a generator. Indeed, in some installations locals can charge their phone off the system.

The RootIO cloud serves both data and voice. We can push a podcast to a station phone for great quality, but data can be expensive in much of the world, even where it is available. So RootIO uses data for things like checking the status of stations (battery, network, uptime, scheduling changes) and pushes most content to stations via a voice-only connection. Nearly all of Uganda is covered by voice (GSM), so our cloud server can call one station, two, or twenty and play a newscast or radio drama just over voice.  Similarly, a talk show can be conducted simply through a conference call between a host and any number of stations. The host can join callers, hang up on them, or take a break simply by pressing keys on their phone [DTMF].






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