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Common Matters: radio polls for transparency and accountability

Trac FM

Project type Scaling 

Country Uganda 


Country Engagement DeveloperSanne van den Berg

“To be effective we must listen to people (...) using for example TRAC FM to conduct country-wide citizen centered interactive radio polls.” —Valerie Amos, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator


Ugandans have participated in Trac FM polls


individual participants in 3 countries

Start date
August 2016
End date
August 2017
Period: 13 months


Despite efforts to stimulate better livelihoods and good governance in Uganda, the country has not been able to come to grips with corruption and mismanagement of public funds. Corruption has penetrated into every layer of society. This has seriously undermined the capacity of the state to deliver value for money in service delivery.

Monitoring of leaders is the responsibility of everyone; unfortunately, most people in Uganda do not possess knowledge and means to effectively execute their monitoring task. As a consequence, promises made by government officials are not kept and services are not being delivered to the people.

Being largely an agricultural country, radio fits with the lifestyle of many people in Uganda. It is a popular media channel because it does not require net-electricity, and people can listen to the radio while they work, walk or drive.


For Common Matters, Trac FM uses SMS-polling software to reach those segments of the population that are often excluded in public debate and monitoring and evaluation exercises.

The team collects research questions from nonprofit organizations and, at the same time, trains talkshow hosts to integrate the questions as radio polls into their talkshows, and use the poll results as part of their show. Instead of having just a few call-ins during the talkshow, thousands of people collectively contribute to the debate by casting their SMS vote.

The custom made Trac FM software has the ability to instantly plot respondent location results on a map, recognize responses in local languages and makes sure that every participant can only respond once to each poll. Working with a network of stations throughout a country allows for a nationwide comparison of trends. Infographics based on respondent data allow partners to respond to these trends.


Trac FM’s mission is to facilitate excluded people to participate in the public sphere, both through participation in polls and through instant knowledge of poll results using radio. Over the past 4 years, the team has worked in Somalia, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. By creating an instant feedback loop, Trac FM promotes transparency and accountability, while collecting valuable data to improve responsiveness of their (media and civil society) partners.