FrontlineSMS User Community Connecting Across the World: Next User Meet-Up in Cambodia

Here at FrontlineSMS we are often inspired by the power of our user community. It is amazing to see the diverse ways people and organizations make use of our software, and we are always happy to support users in sharing their experiences with the wider community.

Over the past few months we have been excited to see the growing trend of FrontlineSMS user meet-ups; users meetings in different parts of the world, keen to discuss the use of FrontlineSMS software for positive social change. Thus far there have been user meet-ups in Haiti, Uganda and Cambodia, and just yesterday there was a successful user meet-up in Nairobi, too. If you would like to find out more about these user meet-ups, and perhaps even organize one yourself, visit our community forum today!

In the below post Sophie Baron, new FrontlineSMS user, reports on the first FrontlineSMS user meet-up in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

When you start out using a new software, it is great to have the support of a wider community. When I first started using FrontlineSMS I was keen to learn as much as possible, and meet others using FrontlineSMS too. This is how I got involved with the first user meet-up in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, which brought together a diverse range of social change organizations including PACT, Equal Access, BBC Media Action, CIRAD (Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement) and Institut Pasteur du Cambodge (IPC).

The goal of this first meeting was for FrontlineSMS users in Cambodia to gather in order to talk about their use of FrontlineSMS, discuss any common successes and challenges encountered whilst using the software, and generally share experiences. The meeting was made up of nine participants and was held at the Cambodian office of PACT, an NGO working on capacity building of local populations.

The meet-up kicked off with people introducing themselves and their projects. Everyone was using FrontlineSMS for different purposes, some for wider media campaigning (Equal access and BBC Media Action), and others for more focused monitoring projects (PACT, CIRAD, IPC). There were different levels of experience within the group.  Equal Access had been using FrontlineSMS since 2008 and PACT since 2011, whereas BBC Media Action had only been using FrontlineSMS in Cambodia for one month and at the time of the meeting CIRAD and IPC had not started using the software yet.

During the discussions we were able to share potential solutions to challenges faced when using FrontlineSMS in Cambodia. Common interests were explored, such as the potential of improved collaboration with local mobile service providers. In addition, PACT shared how they have used Khmer script, explaining the opportunities provided as well as the challenges faced.

Personally, this meeting was very helpful for me because I had many questions answered regarding the use of FrontlineSMS. I was also able to email the group to ask for follow up advice when I started actively using FrontlineSMS. It’s so useful to have a local support network to help out with the software.

We hope to welcome new participants to the next meeting in Phnom Penh, which will be held on 30th April at 2pm and will take place at the PACT Office (Address: 3rd Floor, Building A, Phnom Penh Center, Corner of Sothearos and Sihanouk Boulevards, Phnom Penh). If you are interested please join this discussion on the community forum to connect with others in the group.

o/ Here at FrontlineSMS we look forward to hearing how the next meet-up in Phnom Penh goes! o/

About the author of this post:

Sophie Baron is a veterinarian doing a Master in Public Health specializing on epidemiologic surveillance of human and animal diseases. Thanks to a Foundation Pierre Ledoux scholarship Sophie is doing a 6 month internship as part of her studies at Institut Pasteur du Cambodge, under the supervision of Dr Flavie Goutard (CIRAD) and Dr Arnaud Tarantola (Head of Epidemiology and Public Health unit at IPC).

Face-to-Face Help Getting Started with FrontlineSMS

FrontlineSMS software is designed to be accessible and easy to use ‘straight out of the box’ without the need for expert technical support. That said, when getting started with using a new piece of software we know how helpful it can be to have some guidance. To help users get started with our software, and troubleshoot any problems, we currently offer free user support via our community forum and resources online, but from March 2012, we're also opening our doors to you to offer face-to-face help through our new monthly user support drop-in sessions!

Once a month, our offices in Nairobi, Washington DC, and London will be open to users and staffed by our team. There will also be a monthly open chat over Skype for those who can't make it to the physical drop-ins. During these sessions the team will be there to answer your questions, demo FrontlineSMS functionality and generally provide support on using our software. The idea behind the drop-in sessions is to provide an informal opportunity for you to meet our team and ask questions about FrontlineSMS.

For full details on locations, dates and times please click here. Please email if you plan on coming and provide us with some information on your organization and any issues you are experiencing.

FrontlineSMS has chosen the locations of the drop-in sessions based on our staff and office locations If you’re keen to discuss FrontlineSMS at a face-to-face meeting in your own country then you could always suggest a user meet-up via our community forum, too.

We look forward to hearing from you, and hope to see you at one of our drop-in sessions soon! o/

FrontlineSMS User Meet-up in Haiti: The First of Many Global Meet-Ups!

FrontlineSMS meet-up in Haiti

It is well known that “the whole is more than the sum of its parts,” and this was certainly shown by recent FrontlineSMS user meet-up in Haiti. The meet-up started as three people interested in learning about FrontlineSMS and grew to be a meeting of nearly 20 people, all of whom are involved in social change projects in Haiti and are either actively using or interested in using FrontlineSMS. This meet-up was organized by FrontlineSMS Hero Tom Marentette, who reports on the event below. This will hopefully be the first of many FrontlineSMS organized user meet-ups across the world. If you would like to arrange a FrontlineSMS meet-up in your local area please indicate your interest in this new Meet-Ups Group on our FrontlineSMS user forum!

By Tom Marentette, FrontlineSMS Hero o/

Recently, while working in Haiti on the Notre Dame Haiti Program, I had an opportunity to meet some amazing folks doing great things in aid and development to assist Haitian communities. This group also shared a common interest in the application of FrontlineSMS in their respective work. It's quite an interesting story on how this meeting came together and the resulting benefits.

This all started when I found I'd be travelling to Haiti, and two individuals I met on a TechChange course on Mobiles for Development were already working in the country. We therefore decided to have an informal lunch meeting to discuss mobile tech and more specifically, FrontlineSMS. Our  group moderator on the TechChange course, Flo Scialom (FrontlineSMS Community Support Coordinator), offered to help pull members of the FrontlineSMS community together for the meeting.

Sharing stories on mobile tech and social change

Each day, as we criss-crossed Port-au-Prince and Leogane with meetings at various ISP's and Mobile Network Operators, I'd get an email from Flo, "Tom, do you have room for one more?", "Do you have space for another?"...etc...So what started with three or four for lunch, turned into 17 individuals, representing five continents and eight countries - and a full blown FrontlineSMS user group luncheon at the Babako Restaurant in Port-au-Prince. We had organizations at the table representing public health, microfinance, sexual violence, IDP camp resettlements, human rights abuses, education, and others. It really was inspiring to look around that table and realize how many people in Haiti were benefiting from the work of these individuals and their organizations. A true force multiplier!

After some not-so-brief introductions (remember we had 17), we discussed issues around getting started with the software. This included everything from modem hardware compatibility, to running FrontlineSMS on MacOS, and managing incoming/ outgoing SMS. We also covered local resources within Digicel in Port-au-Prince, that can prove helpful in choosing the right modem, and supporting any possible setup issues. Of those at lunch, there were a couple of groups that had FrontlineSMS instances up and running, and others were interested in using it in their respective work, including us with the Notre Dame Haiti Program.

Sharing stories about FrontlineSMS use in Haiti

Next, the talk revolved around other mobile and open-source tools in the development space, such as RapidSMS, Ushahidi, OpenMRS and more. So this group was not so much about a single software application, but more about affecting change with any technology - a community of practice around the way technology can impact development and social change.

Finally, as we finished lunch (and by the way the food at Babako was as delicious as the conversation), we talked about the importance of working together, sharing our successes and failures, and staying in touch. The big win was looking around the table and realizing that as diverse as our needs and applications are we all shared a common purpose, enthusiasm and a collective knowledge, to affect positive change with mobile technology.

Call it community of practice, collective passion, or human synergy. This was a testimony to The Awesome Power of Connecting People! We are stronger together!

Thanks so much to Tom for his amazing work and enthusiasm in organizing this meet-up! o/ To organize a FrontlineSMS meet-up and / or connect with others using FrontlineSMS in your local area please join the new Meet-Ups Group on the FrontlineSMS forum.