NDI Uses Technology to Link Lawmakers with Constituents

By the Liberian Times

For the first time, constituents in Liberia’s 73 electoral districts will now benefit from a new information-on-demand service about the work of their Representatives and Senators in the National Legislature.

On December 8th and 10th, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) for International Affairs hosted community radio journalists and the Legislature’s Press staff in Gbarnga and Monrovia to build common skills in using Freedom Fone, an audio clip distribution service that will provide community radio stations with audio recordings of legislators by mobile phone.

Fifteen community radio journalists and ten staff of the Legislature’s Press and Public Affairs bureaus attended.

This Freedom Fone training sponsored by NDI-Liberia will enable radio journalists from across Liberia to access up-to-date legislative news on demand, with the use of a mobile phone.

The two events also allowed radio journalists and legislative staff to share creative ideas on how the Freedom Fone system could enhance public awareness by citizens based in all counties about current legislative policy debates and votes.

In an additional training for legislative staff, they learned how to manage and operate Freedom Fone at the Capitol, in order to capture and store public hearings, debates, and sessions of the Legislature.

Using the mobigator device and the Freedom Fone software, which NDI will donate to the National Legislature, the House and Senate Press and Public Affairs bureaus will be responsible for uploading the legislative audio clips.

Community radio stations will then have the ability to call the Freedom Fone system, with any mobile phone, to listen and record audio clips for playback on the air.

Even without internet connections, constituents in rural Liberia will now be able to receive information about what’s happening at their Legislature simply using their mobile phones.

The Freedom Fone trainings were conducted by Darren Wilkins of Sahara Technology, a local company based in Monrovia.

The initiative was made possible through support to NDI by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).