We're not far off a year since the launch of the revised version of FrontlineSMS, and great progress has been made on many fronts. One of the challenges we've faced is that there's no manual for what we're trying to do, so it's been something of a shot in the dark much of the time. The past, present (and no doubt future) of the software remains heavily influenced by the organic spread of the tool - NGOs finding it by "discovery" and adopting it in their own projects, for themselves, by themselves. Leaving them do a little bit of the work themselves helps create the ownership so crucial for a project to succeed, I believe.
Looking at the map of users today, we have a quite amazing spread. Along with expected hotspots in Africa and South/Central America, FrontlineSMS has been "discovered" by NGOs in as far-flung places as the Maldives, Bermuda and the Faroe Islands. How they got to hear about it I'll never know. Maybe not knowing is half the fun.
The online user community also continues to grow and remains very active, and is showing encouraging signs of become self-supporting. As of today we have 478 members and, yes, some of them do like to customise their pages! To date around 20% of NGOs who download the software end up joining the community (downloads to date comes to 2,118), which is not a bad return. We have to do a bit more work on this, I think, as we intend to in the coming months. We also need to focus more on the growing interest from the developer community, who still lack a proper, fully decorated home. Work starts on that any day now.
Of course, there is still much we don't know - how we measure the impact of FrontlineSMS, how many of the users who download the software that go on to use it with any regularity, what additional challenges there are to adoption over and above the ones we know, and so on. But we'll keep working at it. We have the funding - for now, anyway - and we have the incredible support of a growing community of NGOs, bloggers, activists, developers, academics, observers and, of course, users.
(Note: A selection of FrontlineSMS Guest Posts are available, written and submitted by users themselves).