Democratic public life only thrives where institutions enable citizens to debate matters of public importance.
Political accountability stems from demand. Public scrutiny of government, non-state actors and civil society is essential for sustained development and a healthy and vibrant democracy. Constant monitoring of processes and assessing the performance of anyone who is pronouncing to work for the common good is a must. In Uganda and many other countries, mechanisms to monitor the performance of leaders are not sufficiently available to the public and as a consequence the system of accountability fails.
Trac FM helps to close this information and communication gap. To do this, Trac FM collects data directly from citizens with the use of FM radio stations, mobile technology and the Trac FM software platform. Trac FM has increasingly taken on a brokering role, linking advocacy groups, NGOs, activists and government institutions in strategic campaigns that target specific policy bottlenecks with the help of structured input from citizens. Trac FM allows for public scrutiny of public services, increases public awareness and transparency and with its partners, strengthens the mechanisms of accountability.
Trac FM is an online software platform serving Radio stations, NGO’s and Government bodies with the ability to hold citizen centered interactive Radio polls through a visualization dashboard that creates unique crowd-sourced Feedback Loops.
Trac FM built a Unique approach to involve citizens in collectively monitoring government service delivery and debate on important social issues. With the custom-made Trac FM software, radio stations turn passive radio listeners into active participants. Simple, trusted and widespread formats and technologies like Radio talk-shows and free SMS make the platform very popular. In 4 years, Trac FM connected and trained over 40 radio stations in Uganda, Kenya and Somalia and connects over 1.000.000 unique participants to the platform.
The reach of radio networks and the uptake of the mobile phone allows for unprecedented involvement, openness and vibrancy in the public debate. Trac FM builds on the success and reach of popular radio talk-shows. By combining innovative New Media techniques (Instant Data Visualization, Mapping, Web-based Applications, Word recognition etc) with established Low-Tech technologies and formats (Radio talk-shows and SMS) Trac FM not only lets people engage in important public debate, it also makes the debate itself more data-driven and objective.
How it works: The Trac FM software is a unique, custom built online platform. It is made user friendly for remote and developing regions. No installation is required on local computers and the interface is built to work with low bandwidth Internet. Trac FM services range from program format design to training local stations, software customization, data analysis, infographic design, call-center feedback and the connection of local infrastructure (toll-free shortcodes).
Target groups: Trac FM amplifies the voices of people who are often excluded from giving input in the public debate. At the same time, we collect and publicly share crowd-sourced data on local sentiments and key social and economic phenomena. Although many see online services and smartphones as the future of citizen engagement, reality shows that only a fraction of our target beneficiaries has access to these technologies, let alone knows how to use them effectively. Simple mobile phones and radio talk-shows are by far the most popular and widespread means to access the public debate.
Partners: Trac FM partners with bigger NGOs, media companies and government institutions to enable them to reach their goals, do research and to collect feedback on the impact of their interventions. Trac FM financially sustains its operations for 70% through these partnerships. 30% of its income comes from donor funding and subsidies.
Trac FM worked with: BBC Media Action, Twaweza, Hivos, Free Press Unlimited, Farm Radio International, The Indigo Trust, Harvest Plus, The Omidyar Network, Making All Voices Count (MAVC) etc.
Sustainability model: Trac FM financially sustains its operations by partnering with CSOs and government bodies that use the Trac FM method and platform for citizen engagement, research or monitoring and evaluation campaigns. Funds come from either donor organisations or directly from CSO's, NGO's, Research organisations or government bodies.
Unique value: Trac FM’s approach is specialised in radio and TV formats and the technology is unique by being the first platform to give instant, automated, visualized feedback through a cloud-based system. Trac FM's 7-years experience in the sector allows it to look beyond the technology and guides partners throughout their project to ensure successful implementation.
Theoretical background: The Trac FM project is based on ethnographic research on the use of ICT for accountability (ICT4Accountability) conducted in Uganda. ICT4Accountability is defined as a distinct form of civic media which uses ICTs to systematically collect, process and deliver accurate, comprehensible and direct data to assist citizens in making objective assessments of the performance of who-ever is taking action on their behalf.
Our team: Trac FM has offices in Kampala and Amsterdam but also works remotely with radio teams in Somalia and Tanzania. Trac FM has a small but specialised and dedicated team of 5 staff and works with a number of freelance advisors, designers and software specialists.
Read more on ICT4Accountability in the publication: Beyond ICT4D - New Media research in Uganda
Read more about ICT4Accountability and the research that backs up our Theory of Change here http://www.networkcultures.org/_uploads/tod/TOD%2310_ICT4D.pdf
This research was published by the Institute of Network Cultures: http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/portal/