FrontlineSMS Version 2

Celebrating the History of FrontlineSMS

Last week was an historic one for FrontlineSMS, as we launched Version 2 with successful events in Nairobi and Washington, D.C. FrontlineSMS has come a long way since October 2005, when our founder Ken Banks launched the very first open-source SMS management software. In a blog post last week, Ken shared Seventeen things you might not know about FrontlineSMS. Inspired by Ken's post, here is a history of FrontlineSMS in nine bullet points, ahead of our global Version 2 launch event in London this evening.

  • In 2005, FrontlineSMS.com is registered on 6th March, and the beta is released in October. On 5th October, 2005, to celebrate its imminent launch, FrontlineSMS buys up 200 pixels on the Million Dollar Homepage, a site which has since gone down in Internet folklore. (Read more on this here).
  • 15th November, 2005: We receive an email enquiry from Kubatana, a Zimbabwean civil society organization. Days later FrontlineSMS has its first official implementation. Kubatana still use FrontlineSMS today.
  • In 2006, FrontlineSMS begins receiving donor support and fellowship and the following year, the kiwanja Foundation is created to house the growing project.
  • In 2008, FrontlineSMS becomes open-source. Josh Nesbit begins working with FrontlineSMS, working intensively with a clinic in Malawi to apply FrontlineSMS to the management and patient care challenges they face, significantly increasing the number of patients seen by health workers, while saving time and money. This narrative, coupled with the work and advocacy that Ken was doing, drives FrontlineSMS adoption and usage considerably.
  • In 2009, our Lead Developer Alex joins us – and we began to measure software downloads and build a sector-specific brand with FrontlineSMS:Medic (which has since become Medic Mobile). We win a Silicon Valley Tech Award, and secure funding from OSI, the Hewlett Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. By the end of 2009, FrontlineSMS has been downloaded 4,605 times.
  • In 2010, FrontlineSMS adds FrontlineSMS:Credit, FrontlineSMS:Learn, FrontlineSMS:Legal and FrontlineSMS:Radio. Our Founder, Ken Banks, is named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. The Omidyar Network makes us one of their grantees. By the end of 2010, FrontlineSMS has been downloaded 12,395 times.
  • In 2011, in response to requests for project support and consulting work, we open a social enterprise which will ultimately support the work of the Foundation and support a different group of users, as well as provide support and technical expertise to specific sectors. During this year, we win the Curry Stone Design Award for social design pioneers and are runners up for the Buckminster Fuller Sustainable Design Award. We receive funding from the Knight Foundation and renew our relationship with the Hewlett Foundation. In 2011, Ken becomes an Ashoka Fellow and wins the Pizzigati Prize for software in the public interest.

  • As of December 2011, FrontlineSMS, without having released any new software since summer 2010, has been downloaded over 20,000 times. That number soon grows to over 25,000.
  • In 2012 we’ve already released two open beta releases - PaymentView and FrontlineSMS:Learn - and Version 2. Later this year, you’ll see FrontlineSMS:Radio and the early prototype of a web-based version of FrontlineSMS. The FrontlineSMS team has grown from 5 in 2010 to 17 now over three continents. FrontlineSMS has users in over 80 countries across 20 different non-profit sectors, and over 25,000 downloads. The rest – as they say – is history…  o/

BBC Click hosts FrontlineSMS as we launch Version 2

BBC Click interviews our Founder, Ken Banks and CEO Laura Hudson BBC Click aired an interview with FrontlineSMS founder Ken Banks and its CEO Laura Walker Hudson, on June 12th 2012. To listen in on the interview, please click here.

On Tuesday June 12th, we celebrated the release of FrontlineSMS Version 2 at launch events in Nairobi, Kenya and Washington D.C., US. The London launch event is set for Monday June 18th and is expected to attract an audience of donors, partners, users, and journalists, and will include talks from FrontlineSMS users, Ken, Laura, and one of our most significant donors, the Omidyar Network.

FrontlineSMS has come a long way since October 2005, when our founder Ken Banks launched the very first open-source SMS management software. The team at BBC Click, including Gareth Williams and Bill Thompson, have always been supportive friends of FrontlineSMS and welcomed Laura and Ken to studios in Nairobi and Cambridge to talk about the launch and what it means for the future of the platform.

Hear the interview and download the podcast on the BBC Click website. You can read more about the software on our website.

The Next Web: "FrontlineSMS launches Version 2 with upgrades based on the advise of its users"

On 12th June The Next Web recently featured FrontlineSMS as we launched Version 2 of our software. Below is an extract of the blog, and you can also find the original post by clicking here. "For all the fancy messaging systems that are available across smart phones and feature phones, there is one thing that can communicate across them all, aside from the voice call, and that is the humble SMS.

FrontlineSMS recognised the ubiquity and resilience of this type of communication back in 2004, when founder Ken Banks was working in Kruger National Park in South Africa. He saw the need for park authorities to get local communities involved in reporting poaching. No-one in these communities had access to the Internet, but all of them had mobile phones.

Since then, the open-source SMS-messaging software has been downloaded over 25,000 times, and helps organizations in over 80 countries to overcome their communication challenges.

In 2010, FrontlineSMS recognized the importance of adapting the software to provide additional functionality tailored to specific industries and sectors. Within a year, FrontlineSMS expanded its project set, supporting a group of young mobile development experts and organizations in the creation of  FrontlineSMS:MedicFrontlineSMS:CreditFrontlineSMS:Learn,  FrontlineSMS:Legal and FrontlineSMS:Radio.

Each project began developing user relationships, partnerships, and software aimed at improving mobile integration in their industry, while acting as advocates for FrontlineSMS.

Today the company is launching a new version of its software through events taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, followed by an event the same day in Washington, DC. On June 18, the European launch will be held in London, hosted by the Guardian.

With 6 billion active mobile phone connections across the world and an increasing number in emerging markets, there’s a pretty good opportunity for finding ways to connect communities, especially in remote regions."

For the full article, click here.

Announcing FrontlineSMS Version 2: Same vision, new user-driven design

Today, FrontlineSMS releases a new version of our award-winning software; more intuitive, simpler to extend and run over networks, and makes it easier to manage larger volumes of messages.

Download FrontlineSMS Version 2

Mobile phones are everywhere. There are now 6 billion active mobile phone connections across the world, an increasing number of which are in emerging markets, in communities who have previously been hard to reach. Recognizing this potential, our Founder, Ken Banks, envisioned FrontlineSMS six and a half years ago as a means to harness the power of mobile to lower barriers to social change. Since then, our open-source SMS-messaging software has been downloaded over 25,000 times, and helps organizations in over 80 countries to overcome their communication challenges to reach millions. Over the last two years, we’ve focussed on gathering user feedback and comments, and planned a roadmap for the software grounded in Ken’s vision, better serving the needs of its community, and well-positioned for a multi-channel, global mobile future.

Since late 2010, feedback from users on the existing platform, and learning from our work with organizations implementing the software, have been generating new designs and ideas. In collaboration with Gabe White, a Kampala-based user experience designer, we redesigned the software to be more intuitive, simpler to extend and run over networks, and make it easier to manage larger volumes of messages. After many months of building and testing - by many of the users in our original design research - we are releasing the first fruits of that work: FrontlineSMS Version 2.

What’s different about the new platform

FrontlineSMS Version 2 makes it easier to create and manage common SMS activities like making announcements, conducting polls and automating replies to incoming SMS. Our polls activity visualizes incoming data, allowing you to quickly understand the results. You can manage messages more easily with a flexible filing system, featuring folders and an archive capability; as well as an inbox, outbox, and the ability to monitor pending messages. Important messages can be starred for later, and a more robust search allows you to locate messages based on name, location, or date as well as by activity, group and folder. You can export your messages limited by date range, or from any search result, collection of messages or group of contacts.

The architecture of the new software makes it stronger and more flexible, allowing developers and users to customize FrontlineSMS to better meet their needs, and integrate it with other platforms and systems. Browser-based and built to run on Windows, Mac and Linux, FrontlineSMS still does not need the Internet to work, sending text messages via a phone or GSM modem. Online SMS aggregators Clickatell and IntelliSMS are already built-in, for those with a web connection, and more services will follow in the months to come.

User  feedback

User responses to the designs were overwhelmingly positive. One person commented; “it’s a huge leap forward… it feels much more modern and smooth functioning, and the design is nice and clean.” Another said; "this is really phenomenal: I could put it in front of any of our team and they could do awesome things with it."

As Version 2 starts to make its way in the world - it has already been used in over 20 radio stations in Africa - we look forward to hearing more feedback from users about the new software, and what they’d like to see it do next.

The Future of FrontlineSMS

In the coming months and years, we will continue to build on the core, stand-alone software, adding new features, many of which will be new ‘activities’, in the language of Version 2; adding integrations with additional web-based SMS services; and taking a fresh look at critical functionality such as how FrontlineSMS deals with forms-based data collection. Also on the map for later this year is a web-based test platform, which is a first exciting step to a more varied menu of hosting options for our users.

Our users inspire and help direct our work, requesting new features and helping us to prioritize as we decide what to build next. Many of our commercial clients fund custom development of the software to their specifications, which then creates functionality which can be shared with the wider community, benefitting everyone. The feedback and interaction we have with our users are what makes our software special, and Version 2 is easier to extend than ever before, allowing our Nairobi-based developer team to service more of your requests, more quickly.

The FrontlineSMS specialist sector-specific projects, which focus on using and adapting the software for specific fields such as legal services, education and mobile money - FrontlineSMS:Legal, FrontlineSMS:Learn and FrontlineSMS:Credit - will provide tailored versions of the software designed for their communities to use. FrontlineSMS:Radio is due out later in the year, and will feature specific functionality designed for radio presenters and station managers.

Learn more about the software

You can download the software, find out more about it, and access screencasts and explanations of the new functionality on our website.

Information about how Version 1 will be supported going forward, and about the timetable for putting remaining Version 1 functionality onto Version 2 is available here.

Times LIVE features FrontlineSMS Version 2 Launch: "Long may the SMS reign"

The launch of FrontlineSMS Version 2 featured in the Times LIVE on Monday 11th June 2012. See an extract below and read the full piece online here. The greatest communication mechanism in the world is arguably still SMS - the short message service sent over cellphones...

One of the most remarkable communications platforms is FrontlineSMS, which lets grassroots users and NGOs communicate by SMS.

It was founded by Ken Banks after a trip to the Kruger National Park in 2004 and has since gone global. It has a number of spin-off projects aimed at providing educational, legal and medical advice, and offers mobile money management.

"Mobile is everywhere. If you could use it to organise and put it in the hands of community organisations, who know what they want to do with it, they could use it," said Laura Walker Hudson, CEO of the foundation that provides the open-source FrontlineSMS software.

"So we hear every second Tuesday about how SMS is dead and will be dead by 2015, and how this is linked to the rise of mobile data," said Walker Hudson, who is based in Nairobi, Kenya.

"But there are places where the only communication you can receive is by SMS. The most vulnerable people in society are still using low-end handsets, and SMS is still the most powerful" form of communication.

"It's very direct and engaging," she said, and people understand how much it costs them.

"It's very intimate because you get the message straight to a person, which makes it more powerful than e-mail."

FrontlineSMS has grown significantly since I first saw it a year ago. Version 2 of the software will launch tomorrow with a whole new range of features that will make it even more useful.

Interestingly, FrontlineSMS's parent organisations use what's known as a hybrid structure so it can have both for-profit and not-for-profit services. By charging organisations that can pay for the services, it is able to provide it for communities who can't.

The ubiquity of SMS means other services can be built on top of it, such as the mobile payment system that has become synonymous with Kenya's mobile success, M-Pesa.

Cellphones have become the most-used devices in the world, having long since overtaken computers and are growing at exponential rates, with remarkable results.

New communication technologies have always brought great change to the world. It started with the printing press, the telegraph and the telephone. They were the analogue precursors to the telephone network, the internet and now cellphones.

They are evolving into smartphones but the vast majority of people still use them for their primary functions: voice calls and text messaging.

SMS is still the king of communication.

Long may it reign.

This article was featured in The Times LIVE. You can read the original version here.

Connecting People, Improving Lives: The Global Launch of FrontlineSMS Version 2

Here is the latest FrontlineSMS newsletter, updating our community on recent activities and upcoming events. You can check out all the news below, and sign up to receive our e-newsletter directly on the right hand side of the screen.

FrontlineSMS Version 2 Global Launch!

We are excited to announce that we will be releasing FrontlineSMS Version 2 on June 12th 2012. Two years in the making, and built upon extensive input and feedback from our users around the world, this new version of our software is a significant step forward – easier and more intuitive to use, more versatile, and capable of being more easily extended with new functionality.

FrontlineSMS Version 2 will be launched at three events on three continents – in Nairobi, Kenya and Washington, D.C. on the 12th June, and in London, UK on the 18th June. Find out more and sign up to attend these events here, and keep up to date with release news via our blog. Demand for the launch events is high, so make sure to sign up as soon as possible!

Sector Specific Versions of FrontlineSMS

Two of FrontlineSMS’s sector-specific projects – FrontlineSMS:Learn and FrontlineSMS:Credit – have recently released new tailored versions of our software in beta. These tools are currently built on Version 1.7 of FrontlineSMS, but will be extended onto FrontlineSMS Version 2 in future.

FrontlineSMS:Learn is a version of the FrontlineSMS platform that will appeal to educators and development programs all over the world. The FrontlineSMS team, in partnership with the USAID-sponsored SHOPS Project implemented by Abt AssociatesJhpiego, and Marie Stopes International, designed this tool to help local schools, trainers, and educators increase knowledge retention, facilitate long-term changes in behavior, and, ultimately, improve the quality of education and training in the last mile. You can find out more and access FrontlineSMS:Learn in beta here.

FrontlineSMS:Credit’s first software product, PaymentView, was launched a few months ago, and since then the team has been hard at work bringing on new partners and expanding our user base in Kenya. So far, we have a Financial Services Association using PaymentView to receive group loan repayments and a microinsurance provider using PaymentView to receive policy premium payments. Over the next few weeks, we’ll also be adding another Financial Services Association and an agribusiness, which will use PaymentView to manage a network of sales agents working in rural areas. You can find out more and access FrontlineSMS:Credit’s PaymentView in beta here.

The Future of FrontlineSMS

Last week we announced some big changes to the FrontlineSMS management team, with our Founder Ken Banks making a transition and stepping back from daily operations. Going forward, Laura Walker Hudson and Sean Martin McDonald will be FrontlineSMS CEOs. You can read more about this new management structure and our plans for the future here. Its a very exciting time for us here at FrontlineSMS, with new software being released and our team and community growing at an unprecedented rate, driving innovation in mobile technology all over the world. We are very much looking forward to what comes next!

News from the Community o/

FrontlineSMS prides itself on our active and global user community. There have now been over 25,000 downloads of our software, and our online community forum has over 2,500 members regularly interacting on FrontlineSMS use. Below you will find the latest news from our buzzing user community.

Face-to-Face User Support at FrontlineSMS Drop-ins

To help users get started with our software and troubleshoot any problems, we currently offer free user support via our community forum and online resources. Since March 2012 we’ve also been offering face-to-face help through our new monthly user support drop-in sessions. These are currently held in our Nairobi, Washington, D.C. and London offices. The details of drop-in sessions will regularly be updated here. Don’t forget to email us via info@frontlinesms.com to let us know if you plan to join the sessions in-person, and you can also feel free to join online via Skype (ID: FrontlineSMS_Support) or Twitter (@FrontlineSMS).

Global User Meet-ups Continue to Grow

FrontlineSMS users have been connecting with each other across the world to share their own knowledge and experiences of using our software. These user meet-ups started in Haiti at the end of last year, and there have since been meetings in UgandaCambodia and Kenya. They are driven by the passion and engagement of FrontlineSMS users and our FrontlineSMS Heroes, too. You can read more about this on our blog, and if you’d like to suggest a meet-up in your area you can do so via this group on our community forum. FrontlineSMS Community Survey Results

Towards the end of 2011 we launched our second user survey, which ran until the beginning of 2012 and now, the results are in. In the survey responses an incredible 97% of people said they’d recommend FrontlineSMS to others. We also found that people are using and testing FrontlineSMS in over 80 countries across the world, with Kenya and the Philippines leading the field. You can read more about the results on our blog. Thank you so much to all those who responded to our survey – we really appreciate knowing more about our vibrant global community of users! o/

FrontlineSMS in Action

It is inspiring for us to see the many ways our software is used across the world. Thank you to all those users who have shared their stories of FrontlineSMS in action. Recent highlights include: * Citizen journalists empower communities in IndonesiaMinistry of agriculture in Cambodia use FrontlineSMS Engaging Afghan radio audiences through SMSSharing women’s social knowledge in Sri Lanka Coordinating use of FrontlineSMS at next Kenyan electionsSMS helps improve service delivery after Pakistan floods

If you would like to share your story of FrontlineSMS in action email info@frontlinesms.com to let us know!

New user resources

FrontlineSMS now has a wide range of free user resources available on our website. The below are a few new resources produced in recent months. These resources have been created based on Version 1 of FrontlineSMS, but where relevant we will be updating them following Version 2’s release. We hope you find them helpful!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on FrontlineSMS The FrontlineSMS community forum provides a place for users to interact with each other and our team, and ask questions about our sofrware. We have collated the most frequently asked questions from the forum into a FAQ to provide an accessible way for you to find out more about FrontlineSMS. * Communications for Change: How to use text messaging as an effective behavior change campaigning tool This resource, produced collaboratively with Text to Change, provides an introductory guide, suggesting some key points which can usefully be considered if you are planning to use SMS as a campaign tool. * Step-by-step guide on using FrontlineSMS with Ushahidi Synching FrontlineSMS with mapping tool Ushahidi enables users to map and visualize incoming SMS reports, which can be useful in a wide variety of ways. FrontlineSMS have produced this step-by-step guide together with the folks at Ushahidi in order to make it easier to synch our software with both Ushahidi and their cloud-based mapping tool, Crowdmap.

Global FrontlineSMS team continues to grow

Since the beginning of 2012 we have taken on 6 new team members; 3 in our Nairobi office and 3 in our Washington, D.C. office. We currently have 17 people in our offices across the UK, Kenya and the US, and our team is still growing! The recent additions to our team are as follows: * Three new Developers: Joy Kendi, Vaneyck Otoki, Sitati Kituyi * Cathryn Paine, Operations Manager in our Washington, D.C. office * Chris Albon, Governance Project Director * Simon Choi, Head of Finance You can find out more about them on the team page of our website.

We also bid farewell to one of our Developers, David Kutalek, who has been a key member of our team in Nairobi for a year. We wish David all the best in his new role as co-Founder of Spatial Collective.

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Thanks for reading our latest newsletter – we hope you’ve enjoyed it and we’d love to hear what you think. Let us know your views, your requests for future newsletters and any other comments at info@frontlinesms.com.

o/

The FrontlineSMS Team