Freedom Fone - in a nutshell

Freedom Fone is an information and communication tool, which marries the mobile phone with Interactive Voice Response (IVR), for citizen benefit.  It provides information activists, service organisations and NGO's with widely usable telephony applications, to deliver vital information to communities who need it most.

Here's the elevator pitch 

Freedom Fone makes it easy to build voice menus, run SMS polls, receive SMS messages and manage voice messages. 

SMS has become so ubiquitous that we don't need to explain that to you - except to say that our focus in this version is on SMS Polls and the receipt of other SMS messages.  If you live in the first world, voice menus or interactive voice response (IVR) are also likely to be familiar - and possibly not very well liked.  Aren't those the telephone answering systems that keep you from the real people with the real answers - fending you off with self-service options like "Press 1 for accounts, Press 2 for support...."?  Yes.  That's what voice menus are.  But Freedom Fone has a refreshing new take on voice menus.

Firstly, in the past you've had to be a techie or pay a rather expensive tech company to set up your IVR system.  We think you can handle this on your own, with Freedom Fone's efficient installer.

Secondly, with a little thought, you'll realise that you can make YOUR own information available to ordinary phone users via voice menus.  Using our intuitive user interface you'll be able to upload audio files and create voice menus - providing a new, wide-reaching communication channel.  You can update the voice menus as often as you need to, swapping in new audio files as the content needs to change. 

Thirdly, delivering information through the audio platform overcomes barriers associated with literacy and language and enables users to move past the 160 character limitation of an SMS.

Standing out from the crowd

There's a lot of telephony technology out there, but much of it is either too complicated to use, expensive to buy or reliant on internet connectivity or smart phones.  In contrast, Freedom Fone's focus is on a user friendly, low cost, low power, highly scalable, do-it-yourself platform that shares information in an audio format with ordinary mobile phone users and does not require access to the internet.

We've built a free open source software platform that is easy to install - as easy as popping a DVD in a drive and saying goodbye to whatever used to be on your hard drive, and 20 minutes later saying hello to the Freedom Fone interface.  Note though, that you will need to buy at least one of the devices listed below to put Freedom Fone through its paces on your own computer.

Bringing a new vision to voice menus

Sound like the same old same old to you?  Have you considered how useful it is to offer information to communities in their own language?  Especially to those people who have no access to computers or to the internet?  Imagine living off the information grid during a cholera epidemic.  A call-in first aid information service available 24/7 could save the lives of people desperate for advice.

Isn't it time we made it easier for our communities to ask us questions and send us feedback?  Our leave-a-message feature allows you to do just that.  You can build a special voice menu that invites callers to leave a voice message and thereafter you are able to view, tag, categorise and listen to the messages they leave.  If you think that's all there is to voice messages, you're mistaken.  This feature can be used to open up a two way communication channel and to provide a platform for citizen reporting.  This gives ordinary people with ordinary phones a much needed opportunity to contribute information.  Pretty useful for election monitoring, to gather eye witness reports during a natural disaster, or to get feedback on a constitutional reform process, right?

Other examples of possible deployment scenarios include providing:

  • 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
  • First aid and health advice for pre- and post-natal mothers
  • Counseling and support for victims of abuse 
  • Practical entrepreneurial advice and a job recruitment helpline  
  • Platform for current affairs information in countries where the mass media is state controlled

Some other useful points

  • Freedom Fone incorporates Text to Speech functionality in voice menus using a product called Cepstral.  The sample synthetic American English voice included with our installer requires a licence but this functionality is not essential and can be bypassed using audio files instead of text for the voice menus.
  • Our software is designed to connect to GSM (mobile phone) networks using a low-cost 1-SIM USB device called a MobiGater and/or a more expensive 4-SIM SIP device called a VoiceBlue Lite.  You can use any number or combination of the two devices. 
  • From a technical perspective, there is no need to liaise with a mobile network provider beyond purchasing SIM cards and airtime from them.  However, to reduce costs to your callers, you might want to negotiate reduced SMS and call costs with the mobile network providers in your city/country.
  • You do NOT need access to the internet to run Freedom Fone using the GSM devices mentioned above.
  • This version includes a Swahili localization of the user interface.  If you are interested in other localizations, please drop us a line.
  • Freedom Fone's architecture is designed to connect to VoIP.  However, configuration files and a user interface for VoIP will only be developed if there is a demand for it and funding is made available for this feature.

Ready to get started?

  • Click here for the online demo
  • Click here to download Freedom Fone version 1.5. 
  • Please note that the username and password is lupinus/lupinus.
  • Please look through our FAQ's, Documentation and Known issues page to help with any difficulties you may have and if you stumble across any new bugs, please report them to us.

Don't forget to keep in touch

Please let us know how you get along and don't hesitate to contact us if you have any problems.