FrontlineSMS Survey Results: Can we build accessible software? Yes we can, say our users!

Here at FrontlineSMS, we love data. Like, a lot. If data had its own Facebook page, we’d ‘like’ it and if we took a picture with data out one night, we’d probably make it our profile picture. Data empowers, and we’re all about empowerment o/. In fact, to empower people is the why for the what we do. One thing we’re always wanting to know, of course, is how we are doing. Well we SMSed our friend data to find out – Welcome to the 2013 FrontlineSMS survey results post!

An incredibly gratifying 98% of respondents said that they would recommend FrontlineSMS to others. And we’re thrilled that 45% of respondents reported hearing about us through word of mouth or through another organization’s blog or website. We’re grateful to all of you who spread the word!

We were also very happy that people think we’ve made software that’s easy to use - 54% of respondents said FrontlineSMS was easy or very easy to get started with. Only 7% said they found it difficult or very difficult. And we know why people struggle - many people reported finding modems difficult to use. We understand that - but we also know how important it is to offer an option for people who can’t get online easily, as well as an easy-to-use option for people who can. So, while we'll always offer FrontlineSMS, which works offline, very soon you’ll see FrontlineCloud released in beta. Cloud is a hosted, web-based version of FrontlineSMS which makes it possible for you to access your individual FrontlineSMS platform from anywhere in the world and send SMS without dealing with external hardware. Look out for updates in the next few weeks!

Finally, a big thanks to everyone who contributed their time to complete our survey - more data points are below. Our users are doing great things all over the world (we’re seriously impressed and humbled by every one of you) and we appreciate that you could take some time to give us feedback. Your comments and data-points have been and will continue to be extremely useful. Hats off to you all.

About our users

  • Kenya at 13% passed the United States (11.6%) as the country that respondents are most likely to be based in/living in (compared to 14.8% and 16.4% for last year, respectively). Keeping their spot, the Philippines-based users come in at third at 7.2%, down from 8.6% last year.
  • Looking at the bigger picture, Eastern Africa remains the most-reported base region for our respondents at 17.4%, followed by South East Asia at 15.9% and North America at 14.5%. The country and regional data shows increasing international spread of our user base year-on-year between 2011 and 2013.
  • It seems that the majority of our users are not IT or technology professionals (only 44.9% are this year). This is roughly consistent with our 2011 results (42.2% professionals). FrontlineSMS is designed for its usability, so we are heartened by these results.
  • The proportion of our users who are unpaid volunteers has been decreasing year-over-year (41% in 2011, down to 31.9% in 2013), but the portion remains sizable. Thanks to these volunteers for the life-changing work they do. Keep up the good fight.
  •  As in years past, the biggest portion of our respondents report being at Management/Leadership level within their organizations (44.9% this year, compared to 39% and 32% in 2011 and 2012, respectively). The next largest contingent remains IT/Computer Department people (24.6% of responses). There was some shakeup at the third spot, with Communications people (15.6%) overtaking Program Management people (12.5%).

Organizations Using FrontlineSMS

From a wider view, the data show that our technology is being deployed by a more diverse set of organizations than ever before.  More and more of you are testing the software on your own (15% in 2013, up from 8% in 2012), and use by international organizations has also jumped (from 9% in 2012 to 16% in 2013). But NGOs are still our biggest category of use, at 42% of respondents, although down from 59% in 2012.

Our 5 biggest sectors of use in 2013 were, in descending order, Health, Education, Other, and Agriculture, followed by a tie between Human rights and Conservation. In comparison, the 2012 order was: Health, Education, Emergency response and preparedness, Activism/Campaigning, and Finance/Microfinance.

Data on respondents’ sectors of work show an increase in the relative proportion of organizations engaged in Agriculture (from 17.19% in 2012 to 26.1% in 2013) and decreases in the relative proportion of organizations engaged in Activism/Campaigning (from 26.56% in 2012 to 14.5% in 2013) and Finance/Microfinance (from 17.19% in 2012 to 10.1% in 2013).

Use and Connectivity

When asked what were their largest barriers to implementation of the FrontlineSMS platform, the biggest were problems finding a suitable device, problems with connecting said device, program design challenges, and budgetary constraints. We see this as an improvement over last year’s results where 14% of responses indicated that software issues were the second biggest barrier to implementation.

A word about the data

69 users in 35 countries completed our survey. Many totals come to over 100% as respondents were allowed to choose all answers that applied. This was the case where it didn’t make sense to constrain respondent’s answers. For example, when asked which are sectors in which their organizations operate, multiple answers were most of the time given. Thus, for all the data points where this made sense, we are given a rich portrait of respondents’ organizations.