We Think This Means We're Officially Cool...

We Think This Means We're Officially Cool...

Most days, we roll out of bed and drink a bunch of coffee and then spend the next ten hours diligently writing code and emails and grant applications.  Not exactly the rock star lifestyle, but we're terrible at playing the guitar and have gotten kicked off of karaoke stages, so we understand.

Take part in the first ever FrontlineSMS user survey for a chance to win a new GSM modem*!

African user - empowered!We've designed the first ever FrontlineSMS user survey to help us understand what happens after the software is downloaded from our website. Your responses will help us improve the software and make it easier to use, and will let us know how we can better help you incorporate SMS in your work.

Telling our story

The data will also show our donors and investors how FrontlineSMS is making a difference all over the world - enabling us to keep working and innovating and to keep offering the service for free. And even if you are not currently using the software your answers to the questions that still applicable will really help us.

Win a GSM modem*! And write a post for our blog for a chance to be on the National Geographic website!

As a way to show our appreciation, we are offering a couple of rewards for completing the survey:

First, you are invited to write about your project on the FrontlineSMS blog. Then, we're very excited to be able to select one project to profile in a forthcoming series of posts that FrontlineSMS is contributing to the National Geographic blog. The National Geographic website receives over ten million hits per month, with a broad international readership, so this is an opportunity to share your project with readers around the world! If you would like to participate, please be sure to use the space provided in the survey to tell us more about your project.

We are also happy to give away five GSM modems*. One lucky survey taker will be randomly selected to receive a free modem every week for the next five weeks!

Your stories are our bread and butter. Help us keep working.

Complete the user survey now!

We're always looking for suggestions, requests, feedback and contributions from you! Let us know if you have anything you'd like to see, or contribute: email

*A GSM modem is a device which plugs directly into your computer, which allows you to easily connect to a mobile network and send text messages. GSM modems are better suited for applications like FrontlineSMS, and are faster and more reliable than attaching a mobile phone.

Throw your hands up in the air

African user - empowered! A little Friday fun in a good cause - as our Ken blogged yesterday, we think the photos that spontaneously started coming in from FrontlineSMS users and friends are really moving and uplifting - and we want more of them. We think the world is ready for a FrontlineSMS video you can dance to - so we will be putting these pictures to music, as soon as we have enough of 'em.

So as Ken says:

If you want to join in the fun, send us photos of you, your family or friends doing the o/ and you could be a star in the first genuine FrontlineSMS video! Just email them to videopics [at] and we’ll do the rest. And if you want to take it a little further, how about trying some fun photos with theFrontlineSMS:Medic and FrontlineSMS:Credit logos? +/ and $/?

Take it out on the tiles with you this Friday night and get the indie disco, the tango class, or the upper circle doing it - whatever your thing is!

The Million Dollar Homepage

Some of the best ideas are so incredibly simple that, after-the-event, we're all left wondering why we never came up with them. When I first heard of The Million Dollar Homepage back in October 2005, that's precisely how I felt (like millions of others, no doubt). Alex Tew was a student trying to figure out how to pay his way through university. Short of money and short of socks, he scrawled "How can I become a millionaire?" on a notepad and, twenty minutes later, The Million Dollar Homepage was born. The concept was simple - create a website and charge people a dollar-a-pixel to place an image on a grid a thousand pixels wide by a thousand high. 'Selling' all million pixels - if he could pull it off - would net him a cool one million dollars.

Launched towards the end of August 2005 the idea was so novel, quirky and brilliant, the least I felt I could do was part with a little of my own hard-earned cash and buy up a few in a show of support. At that time the site was far from full, and it was still unclear whether or not all the space was going to sell. Today, the completed image is something of an internet icon.

The Million Dollar Homepage

Around the same time Alex was raking in the dollars, I was putting together the final touches of a little project of my own. Somewhere in those million pixels you'll find a couple of hundred dedicated to FrontlineSMS (no prizes, but see if you can spot them). Like Alex, I had no idea back then whether my idea was going to get any serious traction.

Looking back, neither of us needed worry.

Interview at Africa Gathering

Filmed at the Africa Gathering event in London last Saturday, this short interview with Jonathan Marks covers the history, thinking and use of FrontlineSMS, and contains some priceless footage of over 100 Africa Gathering attendees doing an impression of the FrontlineSMS logo.

(Tip: Turn HD off if the video is slow to play). Thanks to Ed and the rest of the team for organising such a great event, and to Jonathan Marks for conducting the interview.

@twitter meets @frontlinesms

@jack - inventor, Founder and Chairman of Twitter - meets up with @kiwanja - developer of FrontlineSMS - at the "Symposium on Technologies for Social Action" (e-STAS) conference in Malaga last week, where they both spoke about elements of citizen empowerment. Twitter and FrontlineSMS

In their quest for globally-available, affordable (free!) text messaging, the Twitter folk are not alone, but unlike their non-profit counterparts Twitter are beginning to win the battle of nerves with the operators (expect to see free messaging slowly come back over the coming year). NGOs the world over can only dream of having this kind of clout, although it was interesting comparing the Twitter experience with that faced by FrontlineSMS users and the wider NGO community.

It'll be interesting to see where the Twitter Foundation might go with this, if and when we ever see one.

Out of nothing comes something

I don't usually work on planes, even eleven hour transatlantic flights. But this time I thought I'd give it a go - maybe do something a little bit more interesting than reading reports or doing email. So I plumped for this. I've wondered for a while what the FrontlineSMS footprint is, you know, where it's been used since the launch just over two years ago. So I did the grunt work on the plane and have just thrown it onto a map. And here it is.

The totals are quite impressive. It turns out that FrontlineSMS is being used in 41 different countries, and in some cases by more than one NGO in that country. I counted over 60 uses of the software, too. From helping blood donor clinics and human rights workers to promoting government accountability, keeping medical students informed about education options, providing security alerts to field workers, the capture and exchange of vegetable (and coffee) price information, the distribution of weather forecasts, the co-ordination of healthcare workers, the organising of political demonstrations, the carrying out of surveys and the reporting and monitoring of disease outbreaks. Oh, and election monitoring, of course. There are many more. I knew the tool was flexible but, for the first time having this information available has been a real eye-opener.

The latest version of FrontlineSMS is being developed as we speak, with work on a new website underway. We have a fantastic product, a great vibe in the non-profit world, increasing publicity and a great donor in the MacArthur Foundation. There are also plans afoot for an exciting global launch at a major GSM Association event in Cannes next May. Momentum is at an all-time high, and proposals for the next phase of development, starting mid-2008, are already out.

From nothing, apparently, comes something...