90% of all SMS are read within 3 minutes of being received. In the last few days of a campaign, getting your message seen by the right people is key. What can you do to make sure the people who are going to support you show up to the polling station on the day?
After successfully using FrontlineSMS in the Tomorrow is a New Day (TND) project to monitor and improve radio dramas in the Niger Delta, SFCG Nigeria chose to use the platform in a completely different capacity in Jos, a city in Northern Nigeria. SFCG Nigeria is part of Search for Common Ground, one of the first and largest conflict resolution focused NGOs.
From Colombia to Ghana to Canada, communicating with members of parliament, tracking city council spending, and advocating for environmental oversight of extractive industries are among a wide range of governance activities that have become possible for anyone with access to an internet connection, a computer, or a smartphone. That’s a lot of people, but not nearly enough.
By Kavita Rajah, FrontlineSMS Community Support Assistant Stop Stockouts is currently using FrontlineSMS in their campaign to increase access to medicines in public health institutions in Uganda and Kenya. Recently we’ve spoken with Denis Kibira, National Coordinator for the Stop Stockouts Campaign in Uganda, about how FrontlineSMS software has helped to achieve campaign objectives.
When a pharmacy or health center runs out of a medicine, this is referred to as a ‘stock-out’. Stock-outs often include medicines that are used to treat common but serious diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, HIV, TB, diabetes and hypertension – all of which are among the highest causes of death in Africa. In African countries such as Uganda and Kenya, stock-outs can frequently occur and it can be weeks or months before the stock is replenished. Patients needing these medicines are then forced to travel long distances in search of alternate sources, pay high prices for medicines from the private sector or they are forced to do without – ultimately facing life or death circumstances.
The Stop Stockouts campaign lobbies African governments to meet their obligations to provide essential medicines by increasing the national budgetary allocation for the purchase of these medicines and by ensuring efficiency and transparency in the procurement, supply, and distribution of medicines. The campaign is an initiative of Health Action International (HAI) Africa, Oxfam, and a number of African partners – with the support of the Open Society Institute (OSI).
Stop Stockouts was introduced to FrontlineSMS by OSI, who promoted FrontlineSMS as a very useful tool for advocacy and quick monitoring of medicine availability. Since then, Stop Stockouts has been using FrontlineSMS to aid in campaign communications. They use FrontlineSMS to send information to members, to remind partners about meetings and to update stakeholders on advocacy events.
Stop Stockouts also use FrontlineSMS in their monitoring activities such as ‘Pill Checks’; where researchers visit public health institutions to check on the availability of essential medicines. Researchers send an SMS containing the results to a common server, and the incoming data is managed via FrontlineSMS. These results are then reflected in an online map of the country, produced using mapping tool Ushahidi, and showing areas where medication is out of stock. This map provides real time evidence about the stock-out situation on a national level and serves as a compelling lobbying tool to the relevant authorities. The visual mapping of these ‘pill checks’ have increased visibility of the Stop Stockouts campaign which has contributed to the success of the campaign.
Stop Stockouts state that FrontlineSMS has greatly improved their communications. Denis explains “it has reduced the turnaround time in which we get and respond to issues in the communities where we work, and the "pill check" map has added impact to our advocacy and technical reports.” Denis says that the online mapping system using FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi is especially powerful because it comes from the people. He asserts that using FrontlineSMS as part of their campaign communications has helped to reach at least 1,000 people every year. The results have been very impactful that governments are also currently using SMS to collect its own data and monitor facilities. Additionally, there has also been an increased demand for use of technology for monitoring government activities as well as new relationships for information sharing with other NGOs in different countries.
Stop Stockouts are also currently exploring using FrontlineSMS in their complaints and compliments desk which is a feedback mechanism for communities in which health service delivery, in particular human rights violations, can be reported.
We look forward to staying in touch with Denis and the rest of the Stop Stockouts team as they continue to make powerful use of FrontlineSMS software. o/
FrontlineSMS has been featured in an article from Fast Company's co.Exist blog, which covers how Al Jazeera's "Uganda Speaks" campaign is making innovative use of communications technologies, including FrontlineSMS. You can find a short extract of the article below, and the full article can be found here.
The groundswell of focus on Uganda and Joseph Kony continues today with the launch of Uganda Speaks, an ambitious project from Al Jazeera that will allow ordinary Ugandans to post text messages - via local SMS numbers - to let the world know what their country is really like (instead of just the #kony2012 version).
Hundreds of users, most of them Ugandans with Internet access, have already posted tweets with the #ugandaspeaks hashtag. Most of these criticize the worldwide response to the Kony 2012 video, which many of the Ugandans (and worldwide observers) claim grossly simplifies a complicated war. Al Jazeera’s Riyaad Minty told Co.Exist that “we launched Uganda Speaks to get responses from people across Uganda via text message, email, Twitter, and Facebook. The idea is to have ordinary Ugandans talk about the [Kony 2012] video in their own voice, as this has largely been missing from the conversation.”
Al Jazeera began working on Uganda Speaks on March 5--two days after the Kony 2012 video first went online. The project is using two pieces of technology for the backend: FrontlineSMS for the SMS-to-Twitter conversion, and Ushahidi to visualize and map data. The station’s The Stream program solicited a video Kony 2012 response from Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire of Channel 16 as well.
Freedom of information is often said to be heavily restricted in Zimbabwe. Kubatana is an organisation which aims to strengthen use of email and Internet in Zimbabwean NGOs and civil society organisations, in order to support human rights and access to information. They find many innovative ways to get information out, and to allow Zimbabwean citizens to share their views. We are proud to call Kubatana one of the longest standing users of FrontlineSMS, first using our software back in 2005. At the start of 2011 Kubatana’s latest use of FrontlineSMS demonstrates how text messaging can allow people to share their views and hopes for the future in Zimbabwe.
On 5th January Kubatana used FrontlineSMS to ask their email and SMS subscribers “What’s your resolution about how you’ll get involved in making change happen in 2011?” By the end of the day they had received 70+ responses. The most popular response from initial subscribers was that they would vote. This, of course, assumes there will be elections this year – nothing’s been officially announced, but rumours are suggesting an election for mid-year. Prayer was the next most popular response, with many subscribers saying they would pray for change this year (some of them said they are going to pray and vote). Other messages sent included plans for activities such as advocating for change, sharing information and standing up for human rights.
By the following week Kubatana had received another 150+ responses from subscribers about their resolutions for how they’ll make change in 2011. Vote, pray and advocate continue to be the most popular responses.
Many thanks to Kubatana for sharing this use of FrontlineSMS with us. Read some of the SMS resolutions Kubatana received below, and read more on Kubatana's blog.
Will put the best of my ability in all I have to do. Will participate in national issues in which my participation is required.
Advocate for peace building in preparation for elections thank u same to u
2010 was a bit challenging year if the Gvt can improve our living and salaries we feel better.
CHANGE MUST COME NOT NOW BUT YESTERDAY.WE MUST NOT BE INTIMIDATED BY STONE THROWERS BEHIND GLASS HOUSE.IF WE DON’T WORK FOR CHANGE ITS OUR GRAVE WE ARE DIGGING
To educate ALL ELIGIBLE people to register to vote and that it is their vote that wl speak for the FINAL AND DECISIVE time!
My x is the right change
A change shall come by putting words into action
Pray for good health and we will pull through
Make everyone to vote to make change
I will pray for the nation especially the Leadership
Firstly to continue to pray & i am encouraging young people to get ID’s & register to vote for their future.
Change is also my 1st resolution among others.
SAME TO YOU. MY RESOLUTIOM ABOUT BEING INVOLVED IN MAKING CHANGE HAPPEN IN 2011 IS TO PUT MY (X) IN THE RIGHT BOX CAME ELLECTION.
2011: To aim for success leading to great success (greatness without limits).
2 in courage as many pple as I can 2 go and vote for total CHANGE and make them 2 be strong 4 there rights!!!.
I will fill happy this year. I need to work as a one part kuti tikunde. this year i want to drive new minsters thank you happy new year
If elections do take place my vote will help change. is this wiki-leaks thing true?
kubatana! happy 2011 hop wil b able 2 make a beta zimbabwe this yr
I am going to make my voice heard through voting
Nothing much waiting 4 the election time.
2011 my vote will count it will call for change. Count it will towards a new political order. My vote will speak
I resolved: to preach against violence to encourage people to be registered voters and to stand for just at any given opportunity.
How can i make a change while i am jobless livng in country without a pasport
Am going to vote for the changing party if there are elections.Prayer is the GREAT CHANGER.
Start a child rights club in my community.fund raising for sports equipment&run a children’s talkshow
PUSH TOWARDS DEMOCRATIC PROCESSES THROUGH PUSHING ON VIOLNCE, ELECTION CONDUCIVE, IMPORTANCE OF ELECTIONS
Its now 2011, time for the new constitution and violence free election. I resolv 2 campaign for self defence of one’s statutory rights to achieve change.
Our twenty-sixth guest post comes from the lovely James at the White Ribbon Alliance, who piloted FrontlineSMS in campaigning in a particularly innovative and fun bit of awareness-raising - offering free transfer tattoos at Glastonbury Festival... The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood is a coalition of individuals and organisations that campaign to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for all women and newborns. With members in 148 countries, I had thought for a while that FrontlineSMS could be a very useful tool for many of our members, so was keen to "road-test" the software when the opportunity presented itself.
Glastonbury Festival seemed like a great opportunity to do so. For the second year running, we were running a campaign to raise awareness of Maternal Health - by offering people the ultimate way to show how much they love their mum - by coming to our "tattoo parlour" and having a classic "mum" heart tattoo.
In the first year, we were taken aback by the amazing response and the vast number of people that got a tattoo and signed up to be part of our movement. However, this left us with thousands of people's handwritten contact details to type up onto the computer for our mailing lists, which made it really difficult for us to get back to them quickly and simply.
So, this year, I downloaded FrontlineSMS, bought an old electric pink Sony Ericsson phone and USB cable from the Queensway Computer Market (for any London dwellers, this is a veritable Aladdin's cave of old phones, computers and parts), and a SIM card, so that people could text us their email addresses instead.
I had a couple of hiccups setting up FrontlineSMS with the phone - firstly, drivers weren't available for, or didn't work with, Windows 7 - which meant that computer that I'd been putting off upgrading from Windows XP was suddenly my least favourite machine in the office no more - and then the first set of drivers that I downloaded for the phone didn't allow FrontlineSMS to see the handset.
However, a quick search for the phone's model number on FrontlineSMS's forums turned up a link for alternative drivers, which linked the phone up and meant it could send and receive texts perfectly.
Not wanting to risk taking a laptop to the muddy fields of Somerset, I anxiously left the computer in the office running FrontlineSMS with my fingers crossed that it wouldn't crash and that no-one turned it off whilst I was at the festival.
Happily though, when I returned, everything was still running - and a couple of minutes later, I had exported all the email addresses into a nice .csv file ready to be imported into our mailing list server! Unfortunately, we still had thousands of handwritten signups to transcribe. Whilst I don't think we'll ever eliminate this, FrontlineSMS seems like a really effective way to reduce the use of paper, offer easier ways for people to ask for more information about our campaigns, and for us to get back in contact with them.
Perhaps more importantly, it proved itself a reliable tool that I think has the potential to be really useful to our members around the world - and we look forward to introducing them to it and hearing their thoughts and ideas of how they might use it for their own work in support of Maternal Health.
In the twenty-first in our series of FrontlineSMS guest posts, Laura Hartstone – one of the organisers behind the “3 Peaks 3 Weeks” Challenge – updates us on their recent use of FrontlineSMS to provide daily climbing SMS updates to supporters around the world "Keeping in touch with family and friends while in Africa can be a challenge, and even more so while climbing Africa’s highest peaks. Remarkably, mobile phone connections can be picked up from the tall grass plains of the Serengeti to the tallest summit, Uhuru Point - Mount Kilimanjaro.
Every January a team of a dozen women from all areas of the world unite in East Africa to take on three of Africa's highest peaks. After fundraising the previous year for three "peak" issues affecting Africa - namely health, the environment and education - the teams aim to use their time in Africa as a holiday. Coined the "3 Peaks 3 Weeks Challenge", the team must complete all three mountains (Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya and Mount Meru) within 21 days.
To stay in touch with family and friends during the climbs in January this year, the 3 Peaks team used FrontlineSMS. With shaky internet connections in town and heavy power rationing in the cities this past year, the base camp computer was strategically placed in the Serengeti. At this location, the use of solar power and battery banks ensured that both internet and electricity were reliable.
The team then chose a phone (with the support of GSM Association) that had a small integrated solar panel to ensure the team could keep it charged while hiking. All that was then needed was a Safaricom SIM card that provided the team with mobile phone connectivity in both Kenya and Tanzania.
Ready to go, with mobile phone in hand, the team set off for Mount Kenya. Family and friends had subscribed to their FrontlineSMS group list and eagerly awaited updates. Luckily for all, along the way the team sent various SMS reports on their status.
Our sun dances are not working yet. The rain persists and snow arrived this morning. All well regardless and en route to summit tonight
All 11 of us just reached the top of Mt Kenya to a magnificent sunrise
Team was greeted by a beautiful sunrise on the summit of Mount Kenya yesterday morning. Have just arrived at Met Station (alt 3050m) and were greeted by some amazing singing by the porters. All doing really well and having a great time. Also a monkey ate our soap
After Mount Kenya the team traveled across the Kenyan border to Tanzania. They had a quick two days of rest and then headed up Mount Meru, a four day climb. Again with their mobile phone in hand, they kept all of their supporters well informed of their status.
Texting you from the summit of mount meru! Yeehaa! All tired and elated
The number of subscribers increased as the team headed for their final peak - Mount Kilimanjaro. And as they climbed higher, the texts got more and more interesting.
Celebrating Australia Day up here. Just reached top of Barranco Wall. Please send more milo!
We are preparing for summit night on kili tonight. We’re all excited and a little nervous too. The weather has been good so hoping for a beautiful sunrise in 12 hours time. Wish us well
And perhaps the most exciting message was received the next day.
We ROCK! All 11 of us summited Kili this morning at 715am. Delighted, excited and exhausted!
Many thanks to FrontlineSMS, the GSMA and Safaricom for helping make our LIVE updates brilliantly easy and exciting for our supporters to receive. 3 Peaks 3 Weeks is excited to use them again next year!"
[This story was also covered by the GSMA on their Development Fund blog].
For more information:
In the seventeenth in our series of FrontlineSMS guest posts, Laura Hartstone – one of the organisers behind the "3 Peaks 3 Weeks" Challenge – talks about their plans to use FrontlineSMS to provide daily climbing updates to supporters around the world via SMS The 3 Peaks 3 Weeks Challenge is an annual all-female climbing event which aims to summit three of Africa’s highest peaks in less than three weeks raising money and awareness for the three peak issues currently facing Africa; environment, education, and health.
The challenge is organized in partnership with Save the Rhino International (SRI). They help with event management and logistics as well as collecting and distributing raised funds to the three pre-selected non-profit organisations in Africa.
3 Peaks 3 Weeks provides an opportunity for women around the world to experience the diverse culture and beauty of East Africa while contributing to ongoing development efforts. To date the event has raised over half a million dollars. On January 9th, 2010 the third annual team will take on the challenge. Eleven women from Canada, USA, UK, Australia and Ireland will unite in Africa. The task will be difficult - and their effort, monumental.
Over the past year the team has held events, fundraisers, and walked the streets of their hometowns seeking donations to support grassroots initiatives in East Africa. Even during the current economic hardships, they have managed to raise over $100,000. With passion to help make poverty history, and outstanding commitment to social responsibility, these women are inspiring people around the world.
The 3 Peaks 3 Weeks team will now use FrontlineSMS to stay in touch with supporters, friends and family while on the mountain. The team will carry a mobile phone and send a LIVE update via SMS to base camp. From base camp, the SMS will instantly reach supporters around the globe using FrontlineSMS' 'auto-forward' functionality. Hear which girls are getting altitude sickness, who can’t sleep at night, what food they are being served, and when they make it to the summit! You can subscribe to the live updates by texting the word CLIMB to +255 688 905 872. You will get an automated reply either immediately, or within a day or two, confirming your subscription! Thanks.
More information is available here:
Razi Nurullayev is Co-Chairman of the Society of Democratic Reform in Azerbaijan, and Executive Secretary of the Civil Society Coalition of Azerbaijani NGOs. In this guest post, he talks about the state of democracy and mobile technology adoption in Azerbaijan, and how FrontlineSMS is contributing to the work of non-profit organisations in the country
Mobile technology adoption in Azerbaijan is on the rise. Out of a population of approximately nine million people there are today well over four million mobile phones, making text messaging one of the fastest growing communications mediums available. While many internet users have email accounts, most are only checked once or twice a week. SMS is proving more direct and immediate, and as a result many civil society organizations have started using it to reach their potential members, clients, and target audiences.
The Civil Society Coalition of Azerbaijani NGOs first heard of FrontlineSMS last year through the CIVICUS e-newsletter. We later began using it to reach our own members through news alerts, meeting requests and awareness-raising around human rights violations. FrontlineSMS has brought a real change to the way the Coalition sees and uses mobile tools, something we previously considered beyond us.
Prior to our adoption of FrontlineSMS we were communicating through mass email. Unfortunately this channel rarely reached more than half of our members due to either lack of email accounts among our members, or the late checking of messages. Now we don't have to worry about email inefficiency, and can send out hundreds of text messages to members at once.
After quickly realising the wider potential for text messaging in our work, we decided to enter kiwanja's nGOmobile competition last December with plans for a new "Count to 5!" campaign. As one of four winners we received a laptop computer, US$1,000 in cash, a Falcom USB modem and two Nokia mobile phones. The equipment was used to raise awareness and levels of activism among young voters in advance of our October 2008 Presidential Elections. Digital Development approached the US Embassy in Azerbaijan and received financial support to run the campaign. According to Mrs. Konul Agayeva, our Executive Director:
The Embassy were very interested in "Count to 5!", and the ability of FrontlineSMS to reach potential young voters in a short period of time. This method of voter activism was something of a "technological revolution" in our country and has proved itself highly effective in this and our wider civil society and democracy work. Imagine, you sit at your desk with a cup of tea and control your project, and at the same time receive great feedback to what you're doing, and see considerable impact. I highly recommend that this software be adopted by NGOs around the world
FrontlineSMS is now well-established in our work, and more and more NGOs in the country are beginning to pay attention to our mobile activism campaigns. Keep an eye on the Digital Development website for further details on what we're up to!
About Azerbaijan Azerbaijan - officially the Republic of Azerbaijan - is a country in the Caucasus region. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to the south. The Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic (an exclave of Azerbaijan) borders Armenia to the north and east, Iran to the south and west, and Turkey to the northwest. The Nagorno-Karabakh region in the country's southwest declared itself independent from Azerbaijan by the Armenian separatists in 1991, but it is not recognized by any nation. The capital city is Baku
The future of Zimbabwe hangs on a knife edge this morning, as it seems to have done for the past week (or the past few years, depending on your perspective). Like many people with an interest in the country, and like many others with friends or relatives living and working there, I've been closely following events on TV and online. International news sites such as the BBC have been as good as ever, but I've also been spending increasing amounts of time on local sites which, I feel, often give a 'truer', more personal sense of what's going on. One of the best sites for this has been Kubatana.net Back in the summer of 2006 I was fortunate to spend three weeks in Zimbabwe working with them. A local NGO seeking to promote human rights and good governance, Kubatana were the very first users of FrontlineSMS when it launched back in 2005, starting a trend which has seen the software used for similar activities in a number of other countries around the world. In their own words, FrontlineSMS finally opened up the possibilities for text messaging in their work, and I knew they had plans to use it during the 2008 elections. This is what they've been doing.
In addition to their SMS election line (promoted on their home page, above), they have been running a "What would you like a free Zimbabwe to look like?" initiative. Zimbabweans have been incredibly responsive, with many people saying that the question gave them hope in uncertain times. According to Kubatana:
It's also been a real learning experience for us, reminding us that ordinary Zimbabweans have a wealth of good ideas to contribute, and our political and civic leadership must work on building a more participatory environment
A combination of SMS and email were used in the initiative, with text messages such as "Kubatana! No senate results as at 5.20 pm. What changes do YOU want in a free Zim? Lets inspire each other. Want to know what others say? SMS us your email addr" sent out to their mobile subscriber lists. FrontlineSMS was used to blast the messages out, and then used collect responses which were then distributed via an electronic newsletter and on the Kubatana Community Blog (see below).
According to Kubatana, "Without FrontlineSMS we would not have been able to process the volume of responses we have received, and we would not have been able to establish a two-way SMS communications service in the way that we have".
In the event of a Presidential run-off, Kubatana plan to produce a broadsheet with the feedback they've received from Zimbabweans in order to remind them what each other wanted, and to inspire them to go out and vote (again). After the election, they hope to produce a booklet with a page on some of these ideas and include an editor's comment, a cartoon or even a set of postcards carrying the most unique, original and practical ideas.
Unlike the Nigerian elections, where FrontlineSMS was used as a monitoring tool, in Zimbabwe it has been effectively used to mobilise and inform civil society during and after the election process. In both cases, the real success story has been the NGOs themselves - NMEM in Nigeria and Kubatana in Zimbabwe - who have both demonstrated the power of mobile technology in civil society initiatives, and what can be done when the right tools make it into the hands that need them the most.