Frequently Asked Questions

Some questions and answers for the less technically minded...

The Freedom Fone platform provides you with a collection of useful tools with which to engage, inform and encourage feedback from an audience of telephone users. Whether they use traditional landlines, basic mobile phones, Skype or other ‘soft’ phones they have what it takes to communicate with your Freedom Fone service.

Have a look at this power point presentation (216KB) for a little background information. Read the FAQs prepared by the development team.

The Freedom Fone software and installation instructions can be found here. Note that the software download available from this website is version 1.5.2.

What can I do with Freedom Fone v1?

  1. What must my organisation invest in to use Freedom Fone?

    • A desire to reach across the digital divide and offer information on demand to telephone users.
    • A spare computer with these recommended specs: RAM: 1GB, Processor: 1.6GHz.
    • One or more mobile sim cards.
    • One or more of the GSM devices described below.
  2. What equipment will we need to connect the Freedom Fone computer to our mobile sim cards?

    • You could run a Freedom Fone deployment with one or more, or a combination of, the following GSM devices:

      • MobiGater – Takes 1 sim card. Cost approx EUR 70.
      • VoiceBlue Lite – Takes 4 sim cards and can handle 4 concurrent calls. Cost approx EUR 900.
  3. Do I need a techie to help me install Freedom Fone?

Version 1.5 is available from this website as a complete system replacement installer. The installer does most of the hard work, leaving you with the challenge of connecting the hardware you select, to your Freedom Fone server. We've produced useful guides to help you with this process and will continue to improve the guides with your feedback and queries. We don't think you need a techie to help you with the installation!

  1. What are the minimum specifications for the computer used to run Freedom Fone?

RAM: 1GB, Processor: 1.6GHz.

  1. What can I do with Freedom Fone v1?

For a start, you can experiment with voice menus, sms polls, automated callbacks and caller feedback via the leave-a-message feature. For more detail visit the version 1.0 feature sheet.

  1. What can I do with Freedom Fone v1.5?

We've added 'Other SMS' functionality; made improvements to the user interface associated with Leave-a-message and Voice menus; added a Dashboard feature and some basic reporting; included localisation of the user interface in Swahili. Unfortunately, we've had to remove the Callback feature from v1.5 - it will return in v2 in late 2010. For more detail visit the version 1.5 feature sheet.

  1. Will we be able to monitor what callers access from our audio menus?

Yes - we've added Voice menu monitoring in v1.5. See it in action online using the demo. You can see other Call Data Records under the Dashboard menu entry of the online demo. These records need to be extracted using our CSV export feature and imported into other applications (like a spreadsheet or database application) to turn the raw data into useful graphical reports. We will add a number of structured exports in v2.0 to assist with reporting.

  1. How do we switch between the English and Swahili versions of the user interface?

In v1.5 you will have to edit a configuration file to achieve this. See FAQ #22 on our wiki FAQ page for details. We will add a user friendly language switcher to the user interface in v2.0. For a peek at what the Swahili user interface looks like, see screenshots below:

  1. What skills do we need?

Most important is that you understand the information needs of your audience/community. At its core, Freedom Fone is about building call-in voice menus. You are likely to progress quickly if you already have audio editing skills. Remember, your audience are likely to be paying for a phone call to listen to your content so it will need to be compelling and to the point!

  1. What other useful features are in the pipeline for Freedom Fone?

There's a lot to come, especially those features that help you run an efficient call-in and callback information on demand service. We need to:

- bring more functionality to the user interface to help you add more phone lines and connect them to different functions and voice menus.
- incorporate callback monitoring and load balancing across available lines
- add security to callbacks (white/blacklists)
- create caller accounts
- make it possible to swap Freedom Fone data with your favourite CMS
- and lots more!

We are experimenting with text to speech technology that will allow Freedom Fone deployers to automate relevant parts of their service eg market prices or weather reports.

In order to deliver the easy to use product we have promised, we intend to limit the number of features to begin with and concentrate on the user interface and installers.

  1. If the software displays errors or behaves unpredictably, how should I communicate this information?

Please take the time to send us this information as a Bug Report. Give us as much information as you can. Don't forget to check out the development team's answers to technical FAQs.

  1. How do I request a new feature for Freedom Fone?

If you would like to request a new feature to be included in a future version of Freedom Fone, please complete a New Ticket in our Trac's Ticketing System, remembering to select Feature Request (_feature_request) from the Component dropdown menu when submitting your request.

  1. How much will it cost to set up and run my Freedom Fone service?

    The cost of setting up a Freedom Fone installation is relatively cheap. You should budget for most of the equipment below:

    • a computer
    • as many MobiGaters as you need incoming lines
    • one sim card for each MobiGater
    • speakers (to listen to voice messages)
    • mini-disc recorder (or mp3 recorder) and microphone for recording original audio material
    • backup power supply to keep system up 24/7 eg inverter or large UPS
    • extension strips to plug in and power all the equipment
    • flash sticks/thumb drives to copy audio files between computers if there is no local area network (LAN)

    The costs of running the service would include:

    • salary costs for manager/editor/programme officer
    • airtime for pre-paid lines (normally just enough to keep the lines open/activated)
    • cost of promotional SMS updates (likely sent out using FrontlineSMS or bulk gateway for now)
    • advertising costs to inform people about the service
    • normal admin overheads - rent, power, water