Over the past couple years, I’ve had the privilege of co-managing World Vision’s Speed Evidence Project, which seeks to improve information management in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. After most disasters, reliable field data is significant challenge - what we can find is normally incomplete and/or inaccurate.
FrontlineSMS is a joint project of the US-based kiwanja Foundation and the kiwanja UK Community Interest Company. This trailblazing hybrid structure means that we can continue to push forward and protect the social mission which inspires us - to lower barriers to social change through mobile technologies - in two different ways.
The Foundation continues to provide free, open-source software and freely available support to use it through our website, with over 30,000 downloads to date, an online community of over 2,500 people, and examples of use in over 80 countries worldwide. The Community Interest Company (or CIC for short) works to provide support and services to clients with specific and time-bound needs, designing project, providing training and custom modifications to the platform. Next year will see exciting developments in the way we make the platform available, masterminded by the CIC team.
Overseeing these two organizations are two separate Boards, with our Founder Ken Banks as Chair, Sean Martin McDonald as CEO of the CIC and myself as CEO of the Foundation present on both. Ensuring independent scrutiny and contributing their insight and experience are eight independent Board members, four on each Board.
For the Foundation Board, we're honored to welcome Brenda Burrell, co-Founder of the Kubatana Trust of Zimbabwe and leader of the team providing Freedom Fone, open-source IVR technology for social change organizations; Jan Chipchase, who brings an anthropologist's eye and approach to technology design as Executive Creative Director of Global Insights at Frog Design; Linda Raftree, a leading voice in ICT for development and an experienced implementer of FrontlineSMS while working with country teams at Plan International; and Jeff Wishnie, architect and proponent of many open-source tech collaborations throughout his career and most recently as Director of Social Impact at software development consultancy ThoughtWorks Inc.
We've also added four members to the CIC Board: Trip Allport, III, the International Program Director for Africa for Accenture Development Partnerships who brings his considerable experience in building consulting practices in low-resource environments; Diane Coyle, a best-selling author, economist, and leader who focuses on the impact of technology on emerging markets; David Edelstein, who has years of experience designing and supporting business models around mobile technologies as the Senior Vice President of Solutions and Regions for the Grameen Foundation; and Joel Selanikio, the Co-Founder of DataDyne, whose tool, EpiSurveyor, is a leader in mobile data collection (Joel is also a practicing physician at Georgetown University Hospital).
We can't wait to work with such a passionate, engaged group to make our organizations the best that they can be, and are wholeheartedly grateful for their support and commitment.
Yesterday, our Founder Ken announced some exciting changes to the way we’re doing things at FrontlineSMS. Today, we’d like to tell you just a little bit more. It’s a tremendous and exciting honor to be a part of FrontlineSMS. The FrontlineSMS team and community are growing at an unprecedented rate, driving innovation in mobile technology all over the world. Over the course of the last year and a half, our team has grown by 400 percent, started four new projects, and completely redesigned the core software. The FrontlineSMS community has grown to include thousands of users, finding innovative applications of the software to drive social change in more than 80 countries. Today’s team covers three continents and supports 2,500 forum members, hundreds of active users, and partners all over the world.
Although our team and organization are growing and changing, our mission remains the same: FrontlineSMS uses mobile technology to facilitate social change. While our evolution reflects the growth of SMS as a communications platform and its increasing professionalization, we’re guided by Ken’s focus on last-mile communities, locally appropriate technology, and easy-to-use tools. We’ve built a hybrid organizational structure that will continue to distribute free and open-source software to thousands of users, while building new, more sophisticated tools that meet growingly complex needs.
One of the major lessons we’ve learned from FrontlineSMS users has been how many barriers to communication are human, as opposed to technological. Effective mobile engagement depends on program design, professional capacity, infrastructure, culture and any number of other factors. To help users overcome these challenges, we’ve developed a wide range of consulting and support services that help connect industries to the communities they value most.
Since Ken invited us to join his senior management team in 2010, we have worked together to bring our core values and focus on the last mile into a larger vision and more ambitious approach for our organization. In 2012, we’ll be releasing four new FrontlineSMS products, including Version 2 of the core platform, a completely redesigned application that’s faster, easier to use, and more capable of handling complex tasks. Our users will be able to do more with larger volumes of SMS data, as we add automated data processing and visualization tools, and customize the application for specific sectors. We will continue to grow our library of free, accessible, field-focused resources on the best ways to use our mobile technologies to foster social change.
On a personal note, we’d like to thank Ken, the FrontlineSMS community, and our growing team for their innovative leadership and dedication. Ken has been a visionary mentor to both of us as we’ve grown into these roles over the last 18 months. There’s no question that he’s built more than software and a community - Ken has helped drive the way that we think about communicating. The FrontlineSMS community is, and has always been, comprised of organizations and problem-solvers who are inventing the future of mobile, one idea at a time. We couldn't be more excited to lead FrontlineSMS into its next stage of growth or more fortunate to have such inspirational guidance. More than anything, we look forward to what comes next and discovering it together.
Thanks and Best Wishes
Laura and Sean