user community

Community Survey Results: Kenya and the Philippines lead the field, and 97% would recommend FrontlineSMS

Towards the end of 2011 we launched our second user survey, which ran until the beginning of 2012 and now, the results are in.

Quick Facts

  • An incredible 97% of people said they would recommend our software to others.*
  • People are using or testing FrontlineSMS in over 80 countries across the world. Most of those using or testing the software are working in Africa - 46% of respondents - but an increasing number – 29% are working in Asia, compared to 23% of users having impact in Asia shown in last year's survey.
  • The top countries in which survey respondents are using and testing FrontlineSMS are, in order: Kenya, the Philippines, Malawi, India and Pakistan.
  • This year 78% of respondents reported working for local, national or international NGOs,  with the remainder being academics (22%), independent researchers and testers (8%), governments (8%) and for-profit organizations (17%).*
  • 40% of respondents said they were using FrontlineSMS to communicate with project participants or beneficiaries; 39% with staff and volunteers; 30% with the general public; and 5% other organizations *
  • 79% of users found FrontlineSMS easy or somewhat easy to set up, and only 1% found it difficult (around 20% of respondents did not answer this particular question).

More detailed analysis

Between this year and last year’s survey the types of organizations responding have remained predominantly non-profit actors – NGOs and INGOs – and the largest percentage of those using and testing the software are still working in Africa. However, there is a growth of our user base in Asia, which is exciting to see. Kenya remains the most common country where FrontlineSMS is being used and tested, with the Philippines close behind at second highest.

In this year’s results we can also see that our software continues to be used in a wide range of sectors, the most popular being education and healthcare. This mirrors last year’s results - but there is also increasing interest shown this year in using FrontlineSMS in emergency response and preparedness, activism and campaigning, mobile finance, and the media. We are particularly excited to see the growth in areas where we have sector-specific projects.

We asked people about how the software is helping them to communicate. We found that nearly half of users are using FrontlineSMS to connect with project participants and beneficiaries, which is perhaps to be expected. Interestingly, though, nearly as many users are using the software to engage with staff and volunteers. In many cases we have seen SMS used in the same way that you might use email – to organize programs, coordinate meetings and appointments, send out alerts, even to submit monitoring and evaluation reports. Its clear FrontlineSMS is now being used as a professional communications tool in many contexts.

We’re aware that there is still plenty of room for improvement. There were many suggestions for our software and user support in survey responses. Users suggested new features, such as integration with more internet SMS aggregators, easier importing of bulk contacts, and a more adaptable plug-in interface for faster, easier use of our software with other tools - happily this fits brilliantly with our upcoming release, FrontlineSMS Version 2 (watch this space for more news on this in coming weeks!). Respondents also proposed new ways for us to support users, including more help with devices and more user resources including case studies, practical guides on using the software, and guides on specific challenges (such as data integrity). These are all ideas we will build upon in our strategic planning moving forward.

Despite challenges and constructive criticism, an astounding 97% of people said they would recommend our software to others. One respondent said;

“in my experience the software is easy to use and has an active community who are passionate about the work they're doing and eager to help. And it's free”.

It’s great to get this kind of positive feedback from our users, so thank you to everyone who contributed to the survey! o/

As those who regularly read this blog will know, here at FrontlineSMS we’re always looking to increase understanding of our user community. Listening to the experiences of those using our software helps us to find out if we are effectively meeting their needs, and enables us to identify the most important improvements needed in our software and user support. Crucially, hearing from our users also helps us to measure the impact of our own work in terms of how our software is being used and the difference it is making in the real world. If you’d be interested in telling the FrontlineSMS team how you are using FrontlineSMS then please do feel free to contact us and connect with our team and other users on our community forum, too!

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Huge thanks to FrontlineSMS Hero Matthias Ambruster for his help in analysing our survey responses.

*All data is based on 129 survey responses. Not all questions in the survey were mandatory. Percentages at times total over 100% for questions where users could give more than one answer.

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 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.

Why the FrontlineSMS Community gets me up in the morning

By FrontlineSMS Founder Ken Banks

If you were to ask me to give you - in a microcosm - an example of what continues to inspire me about FrontlineSMS, it would be this.

On Sunday morning I woke, and checked in with the Forum. Okay, it was a weekend but we try to be there for our user-base - which these days is truly global - as much of the time as is possible. (The recent appointment of two FrontlineSMS:Heroes - power users, in other words - to provide additional cover when we're not always around, is testament to this). I saw a post from Stephen Sowa which didn't require too much thought - FrontlineSMS doesn't yet do what he wanted - but there was something he could try. After a couple of minutes responding I then had breakfast, did some gardening and spring cleaning, and got on with the day.

Later in the afternoon, during a break from mowing the lawn, I quickly checked into the Forum again and Stephen had successfully set up the three FrontlineSMS systems he needed for his training this week. A result all round.

A number of things motivate me about all this:

  1. Stephen found his way to our software, identified it's potential, read it up and downloaded it.
  2. Stephen successfully installed it, without help, on three separate machines.
  3. Stephen didn't need us for any of that, but when he did we had a fully open online Forum available where he could look for answers and post his question.
  4. After giving Stephen a bit of advice, he managed to figure out the rest for himself.

Okay, not all technical support turns out this well this quickly and this easily, and not all users have the technical skills Stephen clearly has, but what happened here represents everything that motivates me about FrontlineSMS. Engaged, motivated users, driving their own projects with full local ownership and us in a support role, as and when needed, if at all. It might not be how most m4d projects are run, but it's a process and approach I continue to believe in.