The AMARC10 conference held in November 2010 in La Plata, Buenos Aires brought together a colourful cross-section of people, places and passions. Plenary sessions provided a platform for theory, philosophy and utopian imagining. Workshops rooted the conference in the real world of illiteracy, intolerance, poverty, crisis, community, co-operation and hope. The dominant languages of Spanish, french, Portuguese and English benefited from simultaneous translation, but a myriad other languages made their presence felt in workshops, accents, cliques and side conversations.
Although time management was well and truely absent, the conference programme slowly but surely unpacked issues of community radio and human rights, gender equality, global warming, food security, policy, minorities, sustainability, new technologies, disaster, education, children, conflict and networking.
Slogan t-shirts, banners, national dress, exotic hot drinks and colourful conference bags in pink, blue and green pulled colour and context through the busy rooms and conversations. For me this was a time to watch, listen and learn about the diverse world of community radio. Whichever workshops I attended, I heard voices speak of their desire to reach out with information to people in need; to involve those same people in the creation of content; to be at the other end of a telephone if their listeners were in need of help.
All of this renewed my confidence in the relevance of Freedom Fone for this wide variety of communicators. Community radio staff are comfortable with audio, motivated to experiment with different technologies, care about what their communities have to share and are personally invested in the wellbeing of the society that surrounds them.
Community radio and the ubiquity of mobile phones is a tantalising formula we need to explore.
To take Freedom Fone from concept, through pilot and on to ubiquity, we need many more hands to make this a reality. If you think the platform could make a difference to communities you care about, help us to translate materials, run training workhops, support users, distribute equipment and installation DVDs, test and mprove the software. Because, as Amy Goodman said in the closing session of the conference, "Information is power".