SW Radio Africa uses SMS to bypass Zimbabwe censors

Zimbabwe flagIt’s not exactly a local station, but SW Radio Africa does use technology in the service of a community. Faced with one of the most repressive media environments in the world, Gerry Jackson founded SW Radio located in the UK and broadcasting on shortwave and on the internet. The shortwave signal is jammed in urban areas (thanks to Chinese technology, accrding to Jackson), but gets through to rural zones. The station sends headlines to phones in Zimbabwe using , and also streams it programming on the internet and produces podcasts.

From an article Texting news to bypass censors

When we started, we had set up our website to stream and archive broadcasts, specifically for the four to five million Zimbabweans who have fled and are living outside the footprint of the broadcast signal.

We also send transcripts of key interviews to an extensive email address list and these get picked up by various organisations and circulated even further.

But currently we’re most excited about our latest endeavour – sending SMS news headlines into Zimbabwe, via phones.

We generate news headlines on a daily basis anyway – so this is just another way of using what already exists.

It’s nice and cost effective for any additional donor because there is only the one cost, actually sending the texts. In two months we’ve built up an address database of about 2,000 mobile phone numbers.

Like many, Zimbabweans truly love their mobile phones and of course what we’re banking on is the virus effect.

We also get up to 100 requests a day to be added to the service so it’s growing rapidly. What becomes interesting is what business model to use?

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