Freedom Fone – voices bridging the information divide:

The Freedom Fone platform enables automated, interactive, two-way, audio information to be shared through mobile phone networks. The DIY platform is accessible, user-friendly, low-cost, scalable, global and does not require Internet access for users and callers alike. It targets ordinary mobile phone users and takes advantage of IVR: Interactive Voice Response or audio voice menus. Other functionality includes SMS, Polls and Leave-a-Message.

What are the benefits of Freedom Fone?

Freedom Fone is easy to manage via a user-friendly, browser based interface. It is quick to setup and maintain and does not require a great deal of technical know-how. The benefits of delivering information with audio includes overcoming barriers associated with literacy and language and enabling users to move past the 160 character limitation of an SMS. Other benefits include that there are no geographical or community size limitations to implementing Freedom Fone.

Is Freedom Fone for me?

Not-for-profits, NGOs or service organisations: Reach an offline or illiterate constituency. Use the poll functionality to conduct research
Radio stations or media organisations: Gather audio voice messages and SMS’s from radio listeners and enable journalists/citizen reporters to file audio reports from the field
Businesses or SMEs: Talk directly to your customers, gather feedback and reach customers at the bottom of pyramid                           

Examples of possible deployment scenarios:

  • Critical information during emergency responses such as measles or typhoid epidemics
  • Discreet information for stigmatised communities impacted with HIV/AIDS
  • Seasonal agro-extension services, such as market prices, to small scale farmers
  • Crowdsourcing crisis information
  • First aid and health advice
  • Legal & Human Rights information service
  • Practical entrepreneurial advice and a job recruitment helpline

What do I need to get started?

1. A desire to communicate

2. Freedom Fone software
Download the latest version of the free software.

3. A dedicated computer  
Freedom Fone is a system replacer and thus needs to be installed on a dedicated computer or spare partition. Minimum computer specs: 2GB RAM, 2GHz dual core processor, 80GB hard-drive, soundcard, ethernet port. Approximate costs $700.

4. GSM device/s
The number of GSM devices needed will depend on how many call in lines you require for your service. Freedom Fone works with the following GSM devices. They can be used in combination with each other. Ensure your equipment is located where there is strong GSM signal:

  • MobiGater Pro - 1 x SIM card: GSM USB device. Approximately 50 Euros from EuroDesign in Bulgaria.
    Note some users have reported problems with audio overlap where 2 or more MobiGaters have been connected to a Freedom Fone server. For this reason we do not recommend multi-Mobigater configurations. Equipment known to cause this problem is listed here.
  • Office Route - 4 x SIM cards: GSM SIP Gateway. Approximately 620 Euros from 2N TELEKOMUNIKACE a.s. in the Czeck Republic or their regional representatives
    Native support is built into Freedom Fone for this device.
    Make sure you request a licence that enables POP3, SMS and SNMP.

5. Live SIM card/s
Make sure your SIM cards have been activated. If they are pre-paid lines, add airtime and remove security PIN codes. You will need a SIM card for each call-in/call-back line.

We have had problems with DTMF detection by SIM cards in some countries - this means that the caller's key selections are not recognised when they try to navigate your Voice Menus. Be prepared to have to try a few cards from the same Mobile Network Operator, or even have to try a different Mobile Network Operator altogether.
6. Microphone
Preferably use a good quality microphone for recording your audio files.

7. Audio recorder
Mini-disc recorder (or mp3 recorder) for collecting audio in the field.  

Other factors to consider for the medium term:

1. Constant power supply
Reliable power supply or a 24 hour back-up system.

2. Human resources
Skills and time to technically set-up and maintain system; to generate audio content, edit audio content and update service; and to market the service. Or alternatively budget for our or other external consultancy and support services.

3. Advertising budget    
Once you have created the relevant audio content for a static or regularly updated service – the call in service will need to be advertised and marketed to the target callers.