The Importance of Collaboration in Open Source Communities: FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi Event

By Florence Scialom, FrontlineSMS Community Support Coordinator

On the evening of Monday 7th November, FrontlineSMS co-hosted an event with Ushahidi called 'SMS to Map - Using FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi to tell your story' (#SMSmap for all those on Twitter). This event turned out to be an inspiring demonstration of the enthusiasm people have about using open source technology for social change. Held in both the UK and Kenya on the same evening, the event provided an excellent opportunity for FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi to share ideas with both new and familiar audiences. Hopefully this will be the beginning of new projects, collaborations and, ultimately, this will feed into new resources that can help our community of users too!

The ‘SMS to Map’ event was a global affair; kicking off at the iHub in Nairobi, Kenya, and later in the evening continued in London at Goldsmiths University. Both events heard presentations from FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi, as well as from community experts who have used these tools together in action for social change projects in various different countries and contexts across the world.

Speakers shared examples of a variety of different projects which had integrated FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi software, including the monitoring 2011 elections in Nigeria and mapping of harassment on the street of Egypt. Linda Raftree, of Plan International, did an excellent presentation to the London audience about a project which tracks incidences of violence against children in Benin using FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi. Also at London's event Claire Wardle, who works with the BBC College of Journalism, engaged the audience by talking about her experience of using Ushahidi for mapping the UK tube strikes. Claire’s presentation helped to demonstrate the potential utility of tools such as Ushahidi and FrontlineSMS to be used in a many different contexts you wouldn’t immediately expect.

In Nairobi, the audience heard from some of the FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi staff based there, as well as from Anahi Ayala Iacucci of the Internews Network, who has used FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi together and trained on integrating the tools. Nairobi's event also had a live tech demo showing how to synch the two software tools which had some last minute technical difficulties - as live demos always tend to! - but nonetheless worked successfully in the end and allowed the audience to learn some practical tech skills.

Overall, the 'SMS to Map' events in both London and Nairobi provided a way for people to learn more about both FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi software, and encouraged people to think about the ways they could use these software tools for social change in their own work. Through facilitating this event, we hope to build on existing collaborations and inspire more future uses of FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi together. If you are using FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi together and would like to share your use case with us, and / or suggest resources you would find useful please contact and / or

You can check out some content from the ‘SMS to Map’ event below.

The live blog stream from the #SMSmap event, produced using ScribbleLive.

Pictures of the #SMSmap event on our Flickr site.

You Tube video of Laura Walker Hudson and Heather Leson welcoming people to Nairobi's 'SMS to Map' via video, and explaining the importance the collaboration between open source software providers:

I would like to take this opportunity to give huge thanks to all those involved in helping us with the FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi 'SMS to Map' event. A special thanks goes to Cast London at Goldsmiths University for sponsoring the London-based event and to the iHub for hosting the Nairobi-based event too. We could not have held these events without their kind support.

I would also like to thank the many individuals who helped make the events happen including Anahi Ayala Iacucci (Internews Network) and Hamilton Juma aka Tosh (iHub Community Manager) for their excellent hosting of the iHub event, Dan Mcquillan (Goldsmiths) for his amazing support arranging the London event, and all of the FrontlineSMS & Ushahidi staff and volunteers who helped out.

And of course all of the wonderful speakers including Linda Raftree (Plan International), Claire Wardle (BBC College of Journalism), Linda Kamau (Ushahidi), Sharon Langevin (FrontlineSMS:Credit), Limo Taboi (Ushahidi), Anahi Ayala Iacucci (Internews Network), Heather Leson (Ushahidi Director of Community) and last but not least Laura Walker Hudson (FrontlineSMS Director of Operations). Many others were involved but I don't have space to mention them all here, so just a huge thanks to everyone else who contributed!