Build a Better Campaign

Build a Better Campaign

90% of all SMS are read within 3 minutes of being received. In the last few days of a campaign, getting your message seen by the right people is key. What can you do to make sure the people who are going to support you show up to the polling station on the day?

How we made FrontlineSync

How we made FrontlineSync

This year we deployed our Android SMS gateway app — FrontlineSync — to public beta. We decided to build FrontlineSync to make it easier for our users to connect the power of FrontlineSMS to the GSM network. Connecting to the mobile network can be a barrier to users, so we wanted to build a resilient and easy to use platform that would work everywhere.

SFCG Nigeria uses FrontlineSMS to create a conflict Early Warning System

SFCG Nigeria uses FrontlineSMS to create a conflict Early Warning System

After successfully using FrontlineSMS in the Tomorrow is a New Day (TND) project to monitor and improve radio dramas in the Niger Delta, SFCG Nigeria chose to use the platform in a completely different capacity in Jos, a city in Northern Nigeria.  SFCG Nigeria is part of Search for Common Ground, one of the first and largest conflict resolution focused NGOs. 

FrontlineSMS transforms Community Radio in Malawi

FrontlineSMS transforms Community Radio in Malawi

Nkhotakota Community Radio Station, along Lake Malawi, is a Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) recognized broadcaster and has been in operation for eleven years. More than 500,000 people live within our coverage area- transmissions reach Nkhotakota and Ntchisi districts and parts of Nkhatabay, Salima, Dowa, Mzimbaand Kasungu.

SFCG Nigeria uses FrontlineSMS to Improve Radio Dramas

SFCG Nigeria uses FrontlineSMS to Improve Radio Dramas

SFCG Nigeria is part of Search for Common Ground, one of the first and largest conflict resolution focused NGOs.  To support the reconciliation and reintegration of ex-militants in the Niger Delta, the Tomorrow is a New Day (TND) project was implemented with the support of the European Union from December 2011- June 2013.  The project was carried out with five local partners,[1] who were instrumental in SFCG Nigeria’s ability to work directly with seven local communities in the Delta.

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.

Combining Local Radio and Mobile Phones to Promote Climate Stewardship

Combining Local Radio and Mobile Phones to Promote Climate Stewardship

According to the report, with support from the Foundation to Promote Open Society, Developing Radio Partners (DRP) launched the one year pilot project, working with three local radio stations in each country. The primary aim of Zachilengedwe Tsogolo Lathu, as the participants named it ("Our Environment, Our Future"), was to empower rural Zambians and Malawians to address key climate change issues, especially local deforestation, by improving their access to information on the subject via radio and mobile phones.

7 Ways Newsrooms Can Boost Citizen Reporting

7 Ways Newsrooms Can Boost Citizen Reporting

In my previous post, I argued that established, traditional newsrooms tend to be most comfortable accepting citizen reporting or user-generated content during a large-scale, widespread emergency event. In these circumstances, newsrooms often accept photo and video submissions from the public, or even seek them out on Instagram, Vine or Twitter. Professional journalists or editors may curate tweets or blog posts to summarize the experience of citizens. They may also make a public request for input from those affected, or to clarify incoming information.

The Data Divide

The Data Divide

Do you remember when grocery stores didn’t know you were pregnant before your parents? Or when newspapers couldn’t find naked pictures of you by looking through your phone? Boy, those were the days (When did I get this old?). Still, there’s no escaping it. Things are digitizing. Everywhere. Whether you’re registering to vote in Washington State using Facebook or banking on your mobile phone in Kenya, there are, all of a sudden, a bunch of third-party organizations involved in the most intimate parts of your life that weren’t there before. And, for the most part, that’s a good thing. Services are delivered more quickly, collective action is easier to organize, and you can do, well, almost everything, better.

Designing Behavior and the Importance of Being Multi-Channel

We spend a lot of time talking about the ubiquity of the mobile phone at FrontlineSMS. So much time, in fact, that we've now forbidden the use of the word in the office. It's not the word's fault, though, that it's been so difficult to get an accurate idea of exactly how many people, how many unique entities, have mobile phones. Mobile network operators hold on to that data pretty tightly, so we go with the best data we can find.

FrontlineSMS at 7: Al Jazeera gives a voice to the people of Uganda via SMS

In the third of our seven blog posts celebrating the month that FrontlineSMS turns 7, Trevor Knoblich, our Media Project Manager reflects on how Al Jazeera, the media house, gave the people of Uganda a voice, via SMS, in response to the controversial Kony 2012 video which went viral a few months ago. 

"As the media project manager at FrontlineSMS, I've heard many inspiring stories of journalists and media organizations deploying the software in creative ways. One of my favorites is relatively recent: the FrontlineSMS component of Al Jazeera's Uganda Speaks program. Members of Al Jazeera's New Media team felt Ugandan voices were lacking from the global debate around the controversial Kony 2012 viral video. To help connect Ugandan voices to the debate, Al Jazeera established an awareness-raising campaign, which consisted of showing the video and then inviting Ugandans to post their reactions to the debate via Twitter, e-mail and SMS. They even connected the responses to a map, allowing people from around the world to see where respondents were located.

"I had the pleasure of meeting one of Al Jazeera's New Media team, Soud Hyder, pictured here, and asked him about the project. Specifically, I was curious about the value of SMS in such a campaign. He told me that SMS allowed Al Jazeera to reach people who had no other option for participating in the debate - a voiceless population. 'Text is an equalizer that allows us to elevate more voices, which amplifies the conversation,' Hyder said.

"I've heard similar reactions about our software globally. Many people worldwide have an increasing ability to share and participate in news, but millions more are left out of this conversation. FrontlineSMS, combined with the proliferation of mobile phones around the globe, opens new possibilities for citizen engagement."

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

Catholic Relief Services uses FrontlineSMS to save Cassava Farming in Eastern Africa

A joint guest blog by FrontlineSMS and CRS manager Peter Mureith Climate change has severely affected the growth and production of crops on a global scale. Food security is a serious concern in many parts of Africa and Asia, and with a lower-than-expected yield in the US, unusually high rainfall in Europe and drought in the Horn of Africa, global food prices are expected to spike again in the coming year.

Catholic Relief Service (CRS) has long been using FrontlineSMS to work with communities in Eastern Africa – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Congo, Rwanda and Burundi - to support alternative ways to improve cassava farming. Cassava is a staple food in the region, with its stem, leaves and root all being put to use. In Congo, the average family consumes 5kg of cassava flour and 3kg of its leaves every day.

In the past, with higher rainfall and fewer destructive crop diseases, cassava farming was profitable and fed farmers' families. In fact, it took only 3 months to plant and harvest the cassava tubal and its leaves. Today, farming has become more challenging and costly. Lower than average rainfall and new crop diseases have reduced crop yields. Many peasant farmers have changed professions to labor-intensive and dangerous jobs such as mining, exacerbating food shortages. With lower incomes, families struggle to send their children to school and provide sufficient food, suitable housing and basic health care.

CRS began working with communities to address these problems and help alleviate food insecurity in the region. The Great Lakes Cassava Initiative (GLCI) works with 1.15 million farmers, researching best practices on curbing cassava crop diseases and working to create a seed tolerant to diseases and drought. GLCI worked through partners in each district to distribute seeds which would thrive in that specific area. Through research, GLCI discovered that isolating a cassava plant which has been affected with the new crop diseases wasn’t the solution – the problem would return if its seeds were replanted and would affect other neighboring farms. GLCI worked to build awareness and provide tools and skills that would lead to positive action among communities.

58 partners and 250 staff with 250 laptops were an essential part of the GLCI implementation strategy. CRS used FrontlineSMS to enhance their communication, ICT strategy and data collection, and assist communication with partners. Many were in very remote areas where Internet access would be unpractical, unreliable and expensive. CRS used FrontlineSMS to send reminders, schedules on training opportunities, deadlines, announcements and collect data. CRS also applied a troubleshooting solution to handle computer errors partners would encounter. Staff would simply SMS their problem to CRS and CRS would respond with a solution, via SMS.

Through GLCI, farmers increased their yield, increased their income and improved their livelihood; a positive impact that had a ripple effect to the region's economy and its food security. In one instance, a GLCI farmer* in Tanzania was able to improve his yield and income and as a result, was able to increase contributions to his saving scheme, which afforded him financial freedom to increase his farm from 0.25 acres in 2003 to 30 acres now. He is also the main distributor of cassava seeds in three main districts.

*name withheld due to confidentiality and third party rights

Connecting People, Improving Lives: The Global Launch of FrontlineSMS Version 2

Here is the latest FrontlineSMS newsletter, updating our community on recent activities and upcoming events. You can check out all the news below, and sign up to receive our e-newsletter directly on the right hand side of the screen.

FrontlineSMS Version 2 Global Launch!

We are excited to announce that we will be releasing FrontlineSMS Version 2 on June 12th 2012. Two years in the making, and built upon extensive input and feedback from our users around the world, this new version of our software is a significant step forward – easier and more intuitive to use, more versatile, and capable of being more easily extended with new functionality.

FrontlineSMS Version 2 will be launched at three events on three continents – in Nairobi, Kenya and Washington, D.C. on the 12th June, and in London, UK on the 18th June. Find out more and sign up to attend these events here, and keep up to date with release news via our blog. Demand for the launch events is high, so make sure to sign up as soon as possible!

Sector Specific Versions of FrontlineSMS

Two of FrontlineSMS’s sector-specific projects – FrontlineSMS:Learn and FrontlineSMS:Credit – have recently released new tailored versions of our software in beta. These tools are currently built on Version 1.7 of FrontlineSMS, but will be extended onto FrontlineSMS Version 2 in future.

FrontlineSMS:Learn is a version of the FrontlineSMS platform that will appeal to educators and development programs all over the world. The FrontlineSMS team, in partnership with the USAID-sponsored SHOPS Project implemented by Abt AssociatesJhpiego, and Marie Stopes International, designed this tool to help local schools, trainers, and educators increase knowledge retention, facilitate long-term changes in behavior, and, ultimately, improve the quality of education and training in the last mile. You can find out more and access FrontlineSMS:Learn in beta here.

FrontlineSMS:Credit’s first software product, PaymentView, was launched a few months ago, and since then the team has been hard at work bringing on new partners and expanding our user base in Kenya. So far, we have a Financial Services Association using PaymentView to receive group loan repayments and a microinsurance provider using PaymentView to receive policy premium payments. Over the next few weeks, we’ll also be adding another Financial Services Association and an agribusiness, which will use PaymentView to manage a network of sales agents working in rural areas. You can find out more and access FrontlineSMS:Credit’s PaymentView in beta here.

The Future of FrontlineSMS

Last week we announced some big changes to the FrontlineSMS management team, with our Founder Ken Banks making a transition and stepping back from daily operations. Going forward, Laura Walker Hudson and Sean Martin McDonald will be FrontlineSMS CEOs. You can read more about this new management structure and our plans for the future here. Its a very exciting time for us here at FrontlineSMS, with new software being released and our team and community growing at an unprecedented rate, driving innovation in mobile technology all over the world. We are very much looking forward to what comes next!

News from the Community o/

FrontlineSMS prides itself on our active and global user community. There have now been over 25,000 downloads of our software, and our online community forum has over 2,500 members regularly interacting on FrontlineSMS use. Below you will find the latest news from our buzzing user community.

Face-to-Face User Support at FrontlineSMS Drop-ins

To help users get started with our software and troubleshoot any problems, we currently offer free user support via our community forum and online resources. Since March 2012 we’ve also been offering face-to-face help through our new monthly user support drop-in sessions. These are currently held in our Nairobi, Washington, D.C. and London offices. The details of drop-in sessions will regularly be updated here. Don’t forget to email us via info@frontlinesms.com to let us know if you plan to join the sessions in-person, and you can also feel free to join online via Skype (ID: FrontlineSMS_Support) or Twitter (@FrontlineSMS).

Global User Meet-ups Continue to Grow

FrontlineSMS users have been connecting with each other across the world to share their own knowledge and experiences of using our software. These user meet-ups started in Haiti at the end of last year, and there have since been meetings in UgandaCambodia and Kenya. They are driven by the passion and engagement of FrontlineSMS users and our FrontlineSMS Heroes, too. You can read more about this on our blog, and if you’d like to suggest a meet-up in your area you can do so via this group on our community forum. FrontlineSMS Community Survey Results

Towards the end of 2011 we launched our second user survey, which ran until the beginning of 2012 and now, the results are in. In the survey responses an incredible 97% of people said they’d recommend FrontlineSMS to others. We also found that people are using and testing FrontlineSMS in over 80 countries across the world, with Kenya and the Philippines leading the field. You can read more about the results on our blog. Thank you so much to all those who responded to our survey – we really appreciate knowing more about our vibrant global community of users! o/

FrontlineSMS in Action

It is inspiring for us to see the many ways our software is used across the world. Thank you to all those users who have shared their stories of FrontlineSMS in action. Recent highlights include: * Citizen journalists empower communities in IndonesiaMinistry of agriculture in Cambodia use FrontlineSMS Engaging Afghan radio audiences through SMSSharing women’s social knowledge in Sri Lanka Coordinating use of FrontlineSMS at next Kenyan electionsSMS helps improve service delivery after Pakistan floods

If you would like to share your story of FrontlineSMS in action email info@frontlinesms.com to let us know!

New user resources

FrontlineSMS now has a wide range of free user resources available on our website. The below are a few new resources produced in recent months. These resources have been created based on Version 1 of FrontlineSMS, but where relevant we will be updating them following Version 2’s release. We hope you find them helpful!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on FrontlineSMS The FrontlineSMS community forum provides a place for users to interact with each other and our team, and ask questions about our sofrware. We have collated the most frequently asked questions from the forum into a FAQ to provide an accessible way for you to find out more about FrontlineSMS. * Communications for Change: How to use text messaging as an effective behavior change campaigning tool This resource, produced collaboratively with Text to Change, provides an introductory guide, suggesting some key points which can usefully be considered if you are planning to use SMS as a campaign tool. * Step-by-step guide on using FrontlineSMS with Ushahidi Synching FrontlineSMS with mapping tool Ushahidi enables users to map and visualize incoming SMS reports, which can be useful in a wide variety of ways. FrontlineSMS have produced this step-by-step guide together with the folks at Ushahidi in order to make it easier to synch our software with both Ushahidi and their cloud-based mapping tool, Crowdmap.

Global FrontlineSMS team continues to grow

Since the beginning of 2012 we have taken on 6 new team members; 3 in our Nairobi office and 3 in our Washington, D.C. office. We currently have 17 people in our offices across the UK, Kenya and the US, and our team is still growing! The recent additions to our team are as follows: * Three new Developers: Joy Kendi, Vaneyck Otoki, Sitati Kituyi * Cathryn Paine, Operations Manager in our Washington, D.C. office * Chris Albon, Governance Project Director * Simon Choi, Head of Finance You can find out more about them on the team page of our website.

We also bid farewell to one of our Developers, David Kutalek, who has been a key member of our team in Nairobi for a year. We wish David all the best in his new role as co-Founder of Spatial Collective.

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Thanks for reading our latest newsletter – we hope you’ve enjoyed it and we’d love to hear what you think. Let us know your views, your requests for future newsletters and any other comments at info@frontlinesms.com.


The FrontlineSMS Team

Mobile Networks and Citizen Journalists Empower Communities

The below post and videos are were originally produced by Internews, and based on projects done in collaboration with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and RuaiTV. In Indonesia, rural farmers and environmental advocates are using mobiles to report, connect, and raise awareness of their issues. Two videos show how networks of citizens can mobilize through communication and collaborate with local media outlets to change the practices of palm oil corporations, which dominate industry in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

“When I face conflict while negotiating with the company, I send an SMS to encourage the people to support me. ‘Let’s go to the company altogether, let’s push them,’” says Hendrik, the leader of a palm oil farmers’ cooperative, who uses FrontlineSMS to communicate with the cooperative after participating in a citizen journalism training. “Every time there is a problem, I just inform the farmers and have their backup. I feel so courageous with their support,” he said.

Ruai TV, a television station, has engaged rural farmers to send reports to them, which the station can verify and add as a news crawl to their broadcasts, or expand into full video news reports.

“The impact of the citizen journalism is extraordinary,” said Alim, a Ruai TV producer, who explained that the citizen reporters allow the TV station to cover the issues, even though they have limited staff, and that in turn the station helps the rural farmers have a stronger voice.

The reporting has had results. Following one story produced by Ruai TV, the local palm oil company agreed to repair a road that had long been a source of contention with the community.

Internews worked closely with Knight International Journalism Fellow Harry Surjadi, RuaiTV and the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) to deliver technical workshops, provide infrastructure support and conduct research on the FrontlineSMS-based citizen journalist SMS news wire.

Internews also worked with Surjadi and local technical partner AirPutih to introduce interactive voice response technologies to West Kalimantan’s rural farmers and environmental advocates. Internews facilitated a technical collaboration between AirPutih and SwaraIVR – an open source IVR system that was developed in India by another Knight International Journalism Fellow, Shubhranshu Choudhary.

The IVR workshop held in the provincial capital Pontianak and attended by local citizen journalists, farmers and NGO representatives demonstrated how the mobile phone’s keypad could be used to leave messages and access voice-based information, providing another channel for increasing local voices and improving information flows in remote Indonesia.

The Internews Center for Innovation & Learning experiments with, captures and shares innovative approaches to communication from around the world.

Thank you to Internews for giving us permission to re-post this content on our blog. The original post can be found here.

FrontlineSMS introduced to youth group in Kenya

The FrontlineSMS team is always keen to engage with those using FrontlineSMS for social change projects across the world. It is really valuable for us to hear user’s stories, and find out the advantages and challenges of using our software in action. This summer, Tufts University student and FrontlineSMS intern Emily Wyner visited Nairobi, with support from Groupshot and the Institute for Global Leadership, to find out more about FrontlineSMS users in this buzzing city. Here she shares her experiences of helping a youth project get started using FrontlineSMS software.

Throughout my time with FrontlineSMS, one thing has become very clear: effective program design is crucial to successfully integrating mobile software into social change initiatives. I was delighted when given the opportunity to help Plan Kenya (part of Plan International) in piloting their use of FrontlineSMS to help support their local partners.  This was my chance to observe and assist the process of getting started with FrontlineSMS from initial thoughts, plans, and assumptions to final implementation. I have discovered some interesting things along the way, and it’s great to be able to share the beginning of this journey.

My initial visit with Plan Kenya was really exciting. I first spoke with Aggrey and Irumu, members of the Plan team, to give them a thorough run-down of what FrontlineSMS software is and does. They asked some brilliant questions about cost and requirements, and were keen to lay the groundwork for a sustainable project. We brainstormed smart ways to pilot the software on a small scale, such as using it for internal office communication and management or setting up one Nairobi-based youth group with FrontlineSMS to determine if it improves relations with their members.  Soon enough, I was sent onward to meet with Purity and Bernard,  Plan Kenya’s ICT experts. They too were very enthusiastic about the software, and promised to be in touch regarding some of the pilot prospects.

Following this they arranged for me to meet with some representatives from Jipange, an umbrella organization of 16 youth groups in the Embakasi area, and one of the organizations Plan Kenya supports. I went to meet with Jipange accompanied by Purity and Aggrey, as well as Adam from Groupshot and Jordan from TechChange, too. Plan Kenya had set up the meeting in order to discuss and arrange for Jipange to pilot FrontlineSMS in their programming.

Jordan, Adam and I began by giving the members of Jipange an overview of FrontlineSMS.  Along the way, there were certain reactions that really stood out and some really insightful  questions. I particularly remember a young woman named Wanjiru, founder of The Change Initiative, asking whether or not FrontlineSMS would allow her to send text messages to certain groups of people at a time, such as all the leaders of the 16 groups or all the members of one particular group. This led us to explain the suitability of the FrontlineSMS contact groups function for this project. This is the kind of question that is great to hear when introducing a new technology tool.  It asks if FrontlineSMS has the capacity to do what Jipange already does (or needs to do) in a cleaner, faster, and easier way.

This is key;  when a preexisting organization adopts the use of FrontlineSMS, the software should not necessarily fundamentally alter their programming; rather, it is a tool by which the programming can be made more efficient and effective.  For all new users of FrontlineSMS it is necessary to know your target audience, why you are going to reach them, and how you intend on presenting yourself as a reliable, trustworthy communicator.

One eye on technology and the other on program design, the discussion with Jipange continued on with both eyes focused.  More and more Jipange members joined in with questions and comments. People were chiming in with ideas about how FrontlineSMS could be used in good governance initiatives or the formation of a Jipange-run business. It became clear that everyone was set on starting to use the software.

Going forward, Jipange members (and the Plan Kenya staff who work with them) will now be in control of when and how they begin to use FrontlineSMS. They know the basics, there is support from FrontlineSMS if needed,  yet most importantly they have a clear vision of how they intend on using FrontlineSMS for fundamental communication that is essential to their programming.

It will be great to keep in touch with Jipange and their progress with integrating FrontlineSMS into their daily activities. The members I met were enthusiastic and innovative, and it will be exciting to hear about the ways they go on to use FrontlineSMS in future.

Good luck, Jipange and all new FrontlineSMS users out there!  Don’t forget to keep in touch.  One of the best resources we have is each others’ stories.

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If you're interested in using FrontlineSMS for your work:

You can download FrontlineSMS for free here on our website.

You can connect with other FrontlineSMS users and the team by joining our community forum here.

Find out how others are using the software by reading user guest posts on our blog here.

Mobile technology: Developing Africa?

By Kike Oyenuga, FrontlineSMS Project Assistant

The ICT4D community has often turned its head towards the potential role of mobile in African development.  But a challenge posed by the Royal African Society at an event at London’s School of African and Oriental Studies last week was: “Are the claims that mobiles are aiding development as clear as they seem?”

FrontlineSMS Founder, Ken Banks, participated in the debate titled, “Mobile technology: Developing Africa?” which set out to offer fresh perspectives to this increasingly analyzed sector. Ken was joined on a panel by Marieme Jamme, CEO of SpotOne Solutions and co-founder of Africa Gathering and Nick Short, a lecturer at the Royal Veterinary College who is working in mobile disease surveillance in East Africa.

The panel discussed the ways in which mobile technology is helping both to improve the flow of information both within development organizations and also providing increased access to information in Africa more generally. The discussion covered a range of topics; the role of innovation, the many potential uses of mobile for development, and the role of corporate responsibility of mobile phone operators and manufacturers.

The presenters gave accounts from their personal experiences working with mobile technology in their respective fields, and explained why it is such a valuable tool with broad application potential. Also discussed were the challenges of applying mobile technology effectively in rural or remote settings and the importance of scaling down technology to fit the capacity of the people using it the most.

Drawing on his experience of combining his role as a veterinarian with technology, Nick Short spoke of using mobile mapping and geo-spatial tools in his work in documenting and tracking livestock diseases and possible epidemics and said that the technology could be used in many types of crisis mapping. He gave the current East Africa food security issue and real-time aid donation as prime examples.

Adding to a point emphasized in Marieme’s presentation - on the importance of mobile technology to maintain connectivity to vulnerable communities - Ken then focused  on the macro view of how mobile technology can transform engagement of development and aid work. He noted the challenge that people with various skill sets are often located far from the people they are helping, and it is by connecting these groups that stakeholders can benefit from each other.

Technology allows more people to be involved in the process of development, by strengthening capacity and simultaneously allowing those that benefit to have agency in how technology is applied in their respective communities. Citing multiple examples of this, Ken elaborated on the use of FrontlineSMS technology in the poll monitoring process by Nigerians during the recent presidential elections, as an example where people were empowered to conduct election monitoring on their own terms.

Questions for the panel underscored the continued debates around mobile’s role in African development.  One audience member questioned whether mobile phone companies were being socially responsible enough in giving back to the communities that they profit from. This was underlined by her assertion that companies provide a vital service to people in developing nations yet set the cost of phone credit at a price prohibitive to most. This audience member also wondered at the irony of it costing less to call Africa from the UK than someone in Africa calling her. Ken’s response was that we needed to a look at the broader picture. He highlighted the fact that much of the mobile infrastructure that we see across Africa today was built by private sector investment, and that if rolling out telecommunications across the continent had been an international aid project we’d likely not be anywhere near where we are today.

An overarching message embodied by the discussion was that the development community musn’t be mesmerized by technology, rather it should focus on the context in which it will be used and allow for appropriate solutions to evolve while bearing that in mind.

M4Data: Beyond Mobile Security - a FrontlineSMS event in Washington, D.C.

The 'Mobiles in Malawi' project

As more and more people recognize the power of the connections that new technologies, and especially mobile phones, facilitate, there has been an increasing amount of concern. These concerns range from the safety of people using these technologies to the quality of the information traveling through mobile and Internet systems. At the same time, an increasing number of government agencies, medical clinics, and other holders of sensitive information are using new technologies to communicate with their stakeholders.

This event takes a step beyond security, instead focusing on the ways that people can design programs, their own behavior, and the information they send to reduce risks to themselves and their programs. In order to give mobile users, and the international development community, a framework to begin answering these questions, FrontlineSMS is releasing a User Guide focused on data integrity- namely, how to make sure that mobile projects are designed to produce high- quality information without posing undue risks to participants.

Internews, FrontlineSMS, and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies Africa Program welcome you to the release of the FrontlineSMS User Guide: Data Integrity. M4Data: Beyond Mobile Security will feature discussion from practitioners, technology designers, and international development professionals about tools, approaches, and best practices to implementing quality mobile programs.

Date: Tuesday, August 9, 2011 Time: 10:00- 11:30am Location: SAIS Bernstein-Offit Building room 500, 1717 Massachusetts Ave, NW Washington DC


  • Jon Gosier, metaLayer, Inc.
  • Paul Goodman, Development Seed
  • Sean Martin McDonald, FrontlineSMS
  • Kristen Batch, Internews (moderator)

Download a pdf version of the invite here.

A picture speaks a thousand words: FrontlineSMS photo competition!

caption id="attachment_6572" align="alignright" width="300" caption="FrontlineSMS being used in Malawi health project. Photo credit: Josh Nesbit, Medic Mobile"]The 'Mobiles in Malawi' project By Nsonje Siame, Community Project Assistant

Here at FrontlineSMS we love seeing our software being put to good use in social change projects across the world, so we have decided to run a FrontlineSMS user photo competition! The photos will help us to more effectively represent FrontlineSMS users’ valuable work to wide audiences. Through your photos we also hope to learn more about the many wonderful ways in which you, our users, utilise FrontlineSMS software.  Five of the best submissions will be selected to be the lucky winners will receive a FrontlineSMS T-shirt too!

FrontlineSMS is used in over 70 countries for projects as varied as election monitoring in Nigeria, helping provide timely diagnosis for malaria cases in Cambodia, and distributing market prices in Indonesia. Now we want to see how you use it.

The types of photos we would love to receive from you are:

  • Any photos which show someone in front of a computer or laptop, preferably with FrontlineSMS visible on-screen and the phone or modem connected
  • People reading and sending text messages
  • Group training sessions based on using FrontlineSMS
  • A demonstration of the context in which FrontlineSMS is used, for example photos of use of FrontlineSMS at a community radio station, or at a healthcare clinic or in a classroom
  • Individuals or groups of people raising their arms in the air, doing the FrontlineSMS logo o/
  • Anything which actually shows FrontlineSMS in the shot is a real bonus!

The best photos we receive will be featured here on our website and on the FrontlineSMS Facebook page. They will also potentially be used in high profile places to represent FrontlineSMS use, such as in printed articles, chapters in relevant books and in our National Geographic blog series, Mobile Message. Full credit will of course be given for any photographs used, thus providing winner’s projects with some valuable exposure.

Furthermore, as mentioned, we will be selecting five lucky contestants to win FrontlineSMS T-shirts too!

How to enter:

If you would like to enter this competition please send photos to florence@frontlinesms.com as soon as possible, but by Tuesday 31st May at the latest. Please ensure you include details of how you would like the photos credited, and what you would like the captions to be. Captions should preferably include details of where and when photo was taken, and a description of what the photo shows.

We ask that all photos be high resolution wherever possible (this means sending us the camera original photograph files, uncompressed). If you are unsure if your photos fit this criteria please do send them along anyway!

We will announce the winners of the competition at the beginning of June 2011.

Terms and conditions:

  1. You must only submit photographs which you own rights to or have full permission to use.
  2. You have responsibility to send along full credit information, plus any licensing information which could potentially limit use of photographs by FrontlineSMS.
  3. By sending in your photos you are giving FrontlineSMS permission to use these photos online and in relevant publications. Photos will always be credited wherever used. If you would like the use of your photos to be limited please state this when you send photos along to FrontlineSMS.


This is an image of a woman checking a text message she has received from someone using FrontlineSMS. This is an image of men sending text messages. FrontlinesSMS has been widely implemented in Africa. A lack of communication can be a major barrier for grassroots non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in developing countries. FrontlineSMS is the first text messaging system created exclusively with this problem in mind.

By leveraging basic tools already available to most NGOs — computers and mobile phones — FrontlineSMS enables instantaneous two-way communication on a large scale. It’s easy to implement, simple to operate, and best of all, the software is free. You just pay for the messages you send in the normal way.