FrontlineSMS Semi-Finalists in 2011 Buckminster Fuller Challenge

We announced a few weeks ago that FrontlineSMS is 'rising to the Buckminster Fuller Challenge.' Now, after a rigorous vetting process, FrontlineSMS has been selected from a pool of hundreds of entries from over 35 counties to become 2011 Semi-Finalists! Named "Socially-Responsible Design's Highest Award" by Metropolis Magazine, the Challenge awards $100,000 to support the development and implementation of a whole systems-based solution that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems.

FrontlineSMS was recognized for our work to bring the communication revolution to poor and remote regions, by harnessing the power and reach of mobile phones. Our software works without the internet, is easy to implement, simple to operate, and free to download. Results from a recent FrontlineSMS user survey help to illustrate our efforts to  design software to work for "100% of humanity." In the survey 84% of users said they found our software easy to use.* Results also demonstrated that FrontlineSMS is being used in over 70 countries, and is particularly useful in areas of the world where other forms of communication can be difficult to access. One FrontlineSMS user said,

"I was using Frontline SMS to communicate with administrators, principals, and teachers in 50 secondary schools. In the area I was working landlines and faxes were largely unheard of, postal services unreliable, and even road access was poor. FrontlineSMS allowed me to coordinate communication between these schools to organise various school events and programs."

At its core, FrontlineSMS software turns a laptop computer and a mobile phone or modem into a mass messaging platform, empowering users to gather and share information of any kind, in any place. We see FrontlineSMS as part of a strategy that grassroots organizations around the world can adopt to leverage mobile technology for the greater good.We focus on reaching the “last mile” by designing the platform to take advantage of basic mobile phones already in the hands of billions of people throughout the developing world.

While the core platform is use-agnostic, our team is committed to incubating sector specific solutions. For example, our sister projects work with FrontlineSMS to confront challenges in access to healthcare, education, financial credit, legal representation, and media. There are clearly many other sectors in which FrontlineSMS can be utilized too. In our user survey examples emerged from over 15 sectors, including conservation, human rights, and agriculture, amongst others.

For FrontlineSMS, winning the $100,000 Buckminster Fuller prize would provide critical support for developing Version 2 of the software; an upgrade that will improve and extend core functionalities, making the software even more user friendly and interactive. Version 2 will help users of FrontlineSMS do more with the software than ever before.

As one of the 21 Semi-Finalists, FrontlineSMS will be featured as a top tier project in BFI’s Idea Index for the remainder of the program cycle. Semi-Finalists will be reviewed and discussed by 11 distinguished jurors including Valerie Casey, founder of Design Accord; David Orr, writer and professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College; Andrew Zolli, producer of PopTech and Danielle Nierenberg, Project Director of State of World 2011; and Sim Vanderyn, visionary ecological design pioneer.

Finalists will be announced in May and the winner, runner up, and honorable mention will be announced at the conferring ceremony in New York in early June.

About the Buckminster Fuller Challenge

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge is the premier international competition recognizing initiatives which take a comprehensive, anticipatory, design approach to radically advance human well being and the health of our planet’s ecosystems. The 2011 Semi-finalists are providing workable solutions to some of the world’s most significant challenges including water scarcity, food supply, health, energy consumption and shelter. The Challenge is a program of The Buckminster Fuller Institute which aims to deeply influence the ascendance of a new generation of design-science pioneers who are leading the creation of an abundant and restorative world economy that benefits all humanity. For more information visit:

*Our FrontlineSMS user survey received responses from 174 people