FrontlineSMS at 7: Rite FM, Ghana

FrontlineSMS is coming up to 7 years old in October 2012 - seven years ago, our Founder Ken Banks made the first, prototype version available for download. We're celebrating this milestone by highlighting the people we work for - our wonderful users. That's you, folks. See a slideshow of our users showing off their work here.

To kick us off, our FrontlineSMS:Radio Project Manager, Amy O'Donnell, highlights one of the many radio stations using FrontlineSMS - Rite FM, in Ghana. You'll hear more from our team, including Ken, in the next four weeks, as we highlight more of the incredible work done by people using FrontlineSMS around the world.

Amy writes:

RiteFm: We Promote Agric & Social Development in celebration of FrontlineSMS 7th birthday... send in your photo with what you use FrontlineSMS for.

RiteFm: We Promote Agric & Social Development in celebration of FrontlineSMS 7th birthday... send in your photo with what you use FrontlineSMS for.

Rite 90.1 FM is a radio station in Ghana which focuses on agriculture and social development to inform and educate local farmers. They take the lead from their audience, using SMS, and make sure their shows are responsive and relevant to their community. This use case, for me, also shows how SMS participation empowers communities to seek information vital to their livelihoods.

The catchment area of Rite FM is diverse, with both rural and urban populations in the Eastern Region each having  their own unique challenges, so it's important to make sure programming is participatory and responds to local needs. This is why presenters, including Ike Obufio (photo above) use FrontlineSMS to encourage listeners to share their farming experiences via SMS. The audience are invited to text in their opinion to polls on the major causes of food insecurity or add their voices to debates on industrialized farming techniques and genetically modified foods.

Using SMS allows Rite FM to dramatically increase the number of people who can contribute -  there is high mobile penetration in Ghana and because SMS is digital there's virtually no limit to the number of votes in a poll, for example. One of the presenters, Asamoah, believes offering options in communication channels is very powerful. He says; “If you stick to only phone-in, you can’t progress. You can’t reach out to everybody."  SMS also adds flexibility to incorporate free-form comments fluidly -  as he points out: “Even when I’ve not gone on air, I can respond to you.”

You can get involved too:

Starting today, we're collecting photos of our users telling the world how they use FrontlineSMS. If you want to get in on the act, take a photo of yourself or your team holding a piece of paper or a whiteboard telling the world what you do with FrontlineSMS. For example: 'I monitor elections', 'I safeguard children' or 'I make art'. You can see a slideshow of the photos we've had so far on our Flickr page.

It doesn't matter what language it's in as long as it's legible and if possible you should be able to see from the photo where it was taken, so, if you can, get out of the office!

You can: - post to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #FrontlineSMSat7 - email the picture and we'll post them - post the picture on our Ning network and we'll post them - post them on Flickr or any other web service and let us know where they are