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The Econet lines of the MDC audio news and information service were recently suspended a few days after its launch.

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Fred’s diary is rather full these days. We have been testing and debugging a pre-release copy of version 1.6 and eagerly anticipate its imminent launch at the end of June.

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In late May, Amy & I went down to Bulawayo to run a hands-on Freedom Fone training workshop for 11 participants based in Zimbabwe's City of Skies. The workshop was hosted there by a vibrant community radio station called Radio Dialogue. That will sound like a contradiction in terms as Zimbabwe has yet to award a broadcast licence to any community radio station in the country.

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Events      How-to's      Tech

I had visions of Bulawayo being a sleepy little hollow and perhaps in some ways it is.  But last week, after arriving at Radio Dialogue nestled in Pioneer House in Bulawayo’s central business district, I was very pleasantly surprised.  We were in the City of Skies to run a practical two-day workshop with six local organisations on using Freedom Fone and Pioneer House seemed to me, to be pioneering the way!

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Two weeks ago Freedom Fone, affectionately known to his handlers as Fred, was set loose… 

Inspired by the cockney rhyming slang “dog and bone” (meaning phone), the Freedom Fone dog logo and quirky character of Fred, was born a few years ago. Today Fred is still young, but after a few years of software development (and dog training!) he’s now ready to go out into the world on his own. 

We wanted to report back on his recent adventures, since the launch of Freedom Fone version 1.5.

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ICT Development and Initiative Dossier from June 2002, states that "since the beginning of the 1980s almost all national telecom and information technology markets worldwide have been transformed by technological innovation, product diversification (especially the introduction of mobile/cellular telephony and internet) and market restructuring (particularly privatisation, liberalisation and the introduction of independent regulators)."  This holds true in some countries, more

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Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) strategies are viewed in many contemporary business circles as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  BoP refers to the 2,6 billion people who live below the $2 a day breadline and many business strategists argue that if targeted correctly, these consumers can offer businesses a main line into one of the fastest growing markets.  Even if the price of products and services has to be reduced, profits can be made up and surpassed in volumes sold.

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I've spent time recently testing the pre-release version 1.5 of Freedom Fone in Zimbabwe. Lots of little bugs have presented themselves but for the most part this version has been a revelation. The closest tech support has been Alberto in freezing Stockholm and Giovanni somewhere in Italy. I am sweating it out in Harare, Zimbabwe.

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Deployments      How-to's      Tech

Freedom Fone's ability to fulfill it's promise as a must have tool for bridging the digital divide has yet to be determined. Millions of poor people have access to mobile phones, but with tariffs as high as they are in countries like Zimbabwe, experimentation in this field is still costly. And of course, for our project these are early days.

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Kubatana, a Zimbabwean non-profit organisation committed to democratising access to information, was awarded a Knight News Challenge grant in May 2008 for its Freedom Fone software development project. The Freedom Fone project aspires to help civic organisations extend their information in an audio format to mobile phone users.

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Deployments      Tech

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