The Internews Center for Innovation & Learning commissioned iHub Research (Nairobi, Kenya) to conduct a six-month study beginning in August 2011 to understand the impact of the Wanakonnect dedications pilot project on local community radio stations and their interactions with communities.
The community radio stations participating in the pilot project offer special dedication and greeting programs that allow community members to send greetings to friends and family on air. The main objective of this pilot was to understand whether these generally underfunded radio stations could monetize these greetings systems through a mobile money technology that would be developed with another implementing partner, MobiKash, a mobile wallet service provider based in Nairobi.
The pilot project ran from August 2011 to January 2012. In-depth interviews were conducted at the onset of the pilot project from August 15-30, 2011, with 201 community respondents, 6 radio station staff, and 6 staff from Internews Kenya and MobiKash Kenya (3 from each organization). Data was collected at the end of the pilot project from February 6 -22, 2012, with 207 community respondents interviewed (105 originally from the first data collection), the same 6 respondents from the radio stations, and the same 6 staff members from Mobikash and Internews.
Key Research Findings
Proof of Concept
The Wanakonnect system is a feasible concept that is liked by all stakeholders, including community listeners. When it was operational, the system was easy to use and made it easier for radio presenters to edit and insert recorded messages into their shows without stretching their scarce human resources. The technology system demonstrated the potential to be a steady revenue generator, given that call-in dedications are very popular with communities and Wanakonnect’s largest component is the call-in-to-record option. However, in its current state, the system is not a viable revenue-generating mechanism for the community radio stations. Technical inconsistencies and the development and implementation of missing components such as the payment mechanism must be addressed before Wanakonnect becomes a reliable revenue-generating system.
Poor Community Uptake
Though it was expected that Wanakonnect would encourage a permanent move away from old dedications systems, major unresolved technical hitches and very low awareness of the Wanakonnect system prevented the expected widespread adoption of the system by communities. Despite advertising efforts by the radio stations, there was a need for a more interactive advertising approach within the community, supported by MobiKash, to raise awareness and popularity of MobiKash and Wanakonnect.
The dynamics of a partnership between Internews, an NGO, and MobiKash, a private business, were not a major factor in the success of the project. However, the implementation strategies for the project put in place by MobiKash - in terms of resources allocated, their technical capacity, and communication between the partners - contributed significantly to the challenges faced in the pilot. These factors therefore had to be studied as a separate variable.
Challenges and Recommendations
Many technical challenges emerged over the course of this pilot, especially with regard to the consistency and reliability of the Wanakonnect system. The system failed several times, and this frustrated both listeners and the radio stations themselves. Furthermore, the lack of awareness of the Wanakonnect system and language barriers in understanding voice prompts served as challenges to the successful uptake of the system. If Internews decides to scale this project, the technology should undergo a thorough testing phase before the system is deployed more widely in radio stations. Moreover, any new technical partner chosen to continue implementation of the Wanakonnect system should outline a detailed strategy for the implementation of the technology, especially in terms of advertising the products and services, allocating appropriate and sufficient resources, and deploying adequate technical expertise for system development, deployment and support.