Wired: Data could fix philanthrophy's accountability problem

FrontlineSMS recently attended an event called hosted by the Indigo Trust, the Institute for Philanthropy and the Omidyar Network --  called 'The Power of Information: New Technologies for Philanthropy and Development'. Wired wrote a follow up piece on a panel at this event, which featured FrontlineSMS and our founder Ken Banks, who spoke on the panel Wired chose to focus on. Below is an extract from the Wired article, and you can find the piece in full on the Wired website here.

"There is a lack of accountability within philanthropy because the people who provide the resources aren't sufficiently well-connected to the beneficiaries they are supposed to be funding. Technology can change that, according to a panel speaking at an event ... called 'The Power of Information: New Technologies for Philanthropy and Development'.

The panel -- which included the Indigo Trust's Will Perrin; Owen Barder, senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development;  MySociety's Tom Steinberg; Kiwanja's Ken Banks and Sodnet's Philip Thigo -- argued that data collected by NGOs tends to only serve to make donors feel better about their philanthropic efforts. That means that the data describes allocation of funds and supplies photogenic case studies, rather than focusing on the quality of the execution of that aid....

Ken Banks from Kiwanja talked about empowering local communities to take action, with systems such as Frontline SMS, a free, open-source piece of software that allows you to distribute and collect information to the masses via SMS with just a mobile phone and a computer. As Banks describes: "The software turns a low end laptop, mobile and dongle into a two-way messaging system."

The system is now used in conjunction with the radio stations -- the most wide-reaching media channel in many African countries -- to allow people to send feedback to radio stations via SMS."

To read the article in full visit the Wired website here.