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The Internet has democratized media across the board. These days anyway can launch a television or radio show or blog with access to an audience of untold millions. There is a caveat – you need access to the Internet. What do you do if you’re in the developing world, on the other side of the proverbial digital divide? What do you do, for example, if you’re in Uganda where radio still rules? One company has come up with an especially creative tech solution.

Fast Company reports on a company that is opening radio up to the masses. Root.IO, one of the winners of the Knight News Challenge: Mobile, is working to make it possible for anyone with a smart phone to create his or her own radio station. The company intends to work on three levels. The first is allowing anyone who produces content to share it with his or her peers. A station that has a 2G or 3G connection can download content from BitTorrent. With a voice only connection, small radio stations could rebroadcast content via calls from other stations.

The second level is to enable radio stations to interact with their communities. Call in shows might not work given that many Ugandans have only limited credits on their mobile devices. According to the Fast Company rteport, “Root.IO is working on a cloud-bases system to give stations access to SMS-based voting conference calls, and other means of interacting with the community.”

The third, and most important, part of the equation is the creation of the actual micro-station. This can be done by anyone with a smartphone who runs Root.IO’s software and can acquire a small transmitter for a couple of hundred bucks that can be placed in a high, central location in a small town or village. Original content can be supplemented with content pulled off of BitTorrent. As you might imagine the quality won’t be terrific but the impact will be. It’s a first step toward creating original local content in places without access to the technology and media that we have taken for granted. Root.IO’s share of the Knight News Challenge prize (a total of $2.4 million) will certainly help to get the project off to a fast start.


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