BBC Click aired an interview with FrontlineSMS founder Ken Banks and its CEO Laura Walker Hudson, on June 12th 2012. To listen in on the interview, please click here.
On Tuesday June 12th, we celebrated the release of FrontlineSMS Version 2 at launch events in Nairobi, Kenya and Washington D.C., US. The London launch event is set for Monday June 18th and is expected to attract an audience of donors, partners, users, and journalists, and will include talks from FrontlineSMS users, Ken, Laura, and one of our most significant donors, the Omidyar Network.
FrontlineSMS has come a long way since October 2005, when our founder Ken Banks launched the very first open-source SMS management software. The team at BBC Click, including Gareth Williams and Bill Thompson, have always been supportive friends of FrontlineSMS and welcomed Laura and Ken to studios in Nairobi and Cambridge to talk about the launch and what it means for the future of the platform.
As occasionally happens, Ken and I find ourselves on opposite sides of the world at conferences this week. Ken is at Mobile Web in Africa 2010, in Johannesburg, and I'm hereby asking him to tell you all about it here when he gets a minute. o/
I'm at Design for Persuasion in Ghent, Belgium, with a room full of people who've never heard of FrontlineSMS - this is only the second time I've done this kind of event, but it's something we're committed to doing because that's how we get the word out to new audiences. As I did after the Digital Indaba in July, I thought I'd post the gist of my talk here. You can also listen to an AudioBoo which I recorded in a far more coherent manner than the actual talk, shortly afterwards.
Since I joined the team back in March I've spent a lot of time emailing our users and begging them for stories and feedback about their experience. You can read a version of this plea here! Many of you have given generously of your time and energy to write and tell me your thoughts on the platform and the challenges of implementing using SMS.
Something that surprised me a bit was the low proportion of users who were utilising more than the most basic functionality in FrontlineSMS. Many, perhaps 90-95%, are using only the functionality up to and including keywords to automatically respond to incoming SMS, or simply organise incoming SMS. But not all are aware of additional plugins like the Reminders module and the enormous potential of Medic's PatientView. Even auto-subscribing people to groups via SMS is a step beyond what many have time to set up.This might be controversial - do people disagree? Am I getting a false picture?
If not, the low take-up of advanced features is probably to do with capacity and time - both for many of the small community-based organisations who are our target user, if we have such a thing, and for larger NGOs and international organisations. Indeed, we know at times people struggle to get basic FrontlineSMS functions working effectively and meshing well with their existing work. We're tremendously excited about the potential of new functionality and technology, and small groups of users will be able to make excellent use of them - but for the majority of users, basic troubleshooting, support and advice are critical.
In the coming weeks we'll be working on our plans for the software in 2011 - stay tuned for more from this from our Lead Developer, Alex. Our role in providing user guides and resources, advice and support, and even training is something we're also looking carefully at. As ever, we'd welcome your thoughts.
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.
The work of kiwanja.net, and specifically FrontlineSMS, will be featured on a special edition of SHIFT Radio on Friday 5th December. SHIFT Radio is an informal, lively internet radio channel hosted by Chris Melissinos. "Each week he talks about the latest in tech gadgets, interviews leaders in the video game and rich media industries and cuts up revolving guests, hosts and live callers". Ken Banks was contacted by the station after taking part in a Net Impact discussion on social mobile gaming, and the recent launch of kiwanja's Silverback gorilla game