SMS How To Guide: Changemakers & kiwanja.net Collaboration

Latest update: The SMS Quick Start Guide is now available!

This introductory guide was created by Changemakers and  kiwanja.net. The making of the guide included having a guide-related discussion right here.

We would like to thank all of the group members here that participated in this process and who offered much appreciated feedback and insights! Your contributions allowed us to arrive at a better understanding of what would be helpful for our communities. As a result, Changemakers and kiwanja.net have realized the need for producing a series of SMS guides ranging from introductory to technical.

You can access the SMS Quick Start Guide under the resources section of this group - please feel free to share it widely.  Also stay tuned for our upcoming 2010 SMS productions…
 

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Lead up to Guide: Changemakers and kiwanja.net, a leader in tech for social change, are launching a collaborative online process to create a comprehensive SMS How To Guide.

In 2009, Changemakers drew upon kiwanja.net’s expertise and FrontlineSMS - their free, open source text messaging application, to effectively use SMS for two mostly African-based competitions. Kiwanja.net has specialized in the application of mobile technology and providing a wide range of ICT-related services drawing on over 22 years experience of its founder, Ken Banks.

Since then, community members have asked about our experience, and we decided to share not only our own successes, but to include the expertise of others who have had results using SMS.

Over the next few weeks we will be discussing what works, implementation challenges and what type of information would be most helpful to others. If you’re involved with using SMS for social change, we invite you to get involved with the process and share your insights. Our collaboration will be invaluable to the entire Changemakers community.

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Comments

Elizabeth Araujo profile img
Wed, 09/30/2009 - 11:04

We'll be collaborating on the guide until October 14th and invite you to get involved with the process and share your insights by letting us know:

 

  • what type of information would be useful to include in the guide?
  • examples of successful use of SMS for social change
  • examples of challenges & successes using FrontlineSMS
  • your thoughts on the preliminary content that we'll be posting under the resources section of this group
     

We look forward to your participation!

Paula Castillo profile img
Thu, 10/01/2009 - 13:05

Hi everyone,

A few weeks ago we spoke to Stephane Boyera from W3C and they told us about their wiki where they collected a ton of case studies for the use of mobile technology. I think it's a gem: http://bit.ly/2u7RGm

Paula

Ken Banks profile img
Thu, 10/01/2009 - 22:09

Thanks for including this, Paula.

The W3C Mobile Web Initiative will soon be releasing a full roadmap document which should help organisations navigate their way through some of the challenges in deploying mobile services. Stephane has been doing a great job.

There's also a database of case studies and reports on the kiwanja.net website (see http://www.kiwanja.net).

Looking forward to talking more!

Ken

 

Bartholomew Sullivan profile img
Sun, 10/04/2009 - 07:51

We are just about to start using FLSMS so I will be answering from this perspective:

 

1. what type of information would be useful to include in the guide?

Common mistakes and frustrations.  For example, I had days of frustrations around simple technical problems with my equipment not working... I spent hours trying to figure out what was wrong then realised I had no "credit" on my mobile/modem.  Oops.  So, like a common pitfalls would make sense.

 

2. examples of successful use of SMS for social change

Since we havent implemented it yet, I would be open to being a lab rat in the process of using FLSMS for our work (Farmers radio @ in five different countries in Africa).  Are there any logs or stats I could keep track of along the way that would be useful to this guide or FLSMSM community?

Thats all for now - keep up the great work!

Ken Banks profile img
Sun, 10/04/2009 - 10:24

Hi Bart! Always great to hear from you. Thanks for your contributions towards this discussion (and sorry to hear about your credit problem - hopefully now rectified!). We have thought about an FAQ or a "Quick Start" guide, and I agree that putting this together could be invaluable. We do have a Troubleshooting section in the Help files for the software, but there are no doubt many things we've missed (including checking credit). I think we should add more information, so if you're able to start that conversation it would be great. Checking credit could be the first thing on the check list - what else have you found or experienced? Thanks!  \o/ Ken

Bartholomew Sullivan profile img
Mon, 10/05/2009 - 06:05

yo Ken

I'd say another non-software technical but troublesome issue we faced was in using the Huawei modem.  Since many of the "supported phones" on the website are really difficult to find, we actually found it cheaper to buy a USB GPRS or 3G modem and use that.  It ALSO adds the super cool benefit that you can also connect to the internet (although not while using the device to receive SMSs in FLSMS at the same time).

  • I would find that sometimes it seemed the modem wouldnt respond - messages would "get stuck" and I'd have to either restart FLSMS or restart the computer (when in doubt!)
  • I also found that network congestion was a problem in Malawi!  We planned to roll everything out using the zain network.  We tested everything and it was great.  Then it stopped working.  After almost a day of troubleshooting we figured it out: Zain network was unreliable - on and off.  So we switched to TNM and everything worked smoothly.

So I'm seeing an extended FAQ - maybe even a wiki so that others could add things (as were doing now)

By the way, I'd be happy to write a mini-guide on how to use a USB modem as both a FLSMS send/receiver and a way to connect to the internet to send your FLSMS blasts when you need to.  This is what we do. Use the modem to connect once a week to send our broadcast alerts and then quit FLSMS, restart with the modem being the send/receive device.

Over and out from Tanzania

 

Bartholomew Sullivan profile img
Mon, 10/05/2009 - 06:05

argh.  This drupal installation doesnt seem to make my text look very flattering. sorry

Christopher Heald profile img
Thu, 11/12/2009 - 14:41

Sorry about your formatting going all wonky. We were making changes to the available input formats. I cleaned up your post.

Chris
Ashoka's Changemakers

Sun, 10/04/2009 - 13:06

Hi, Elizabeth and Ashoka fellows- -

Here are some resources that are already on MobileActive.org, the most comprehensive resource on the web about tools, how-tos, case studies, and relevant research for mobile phones for social change:

This is just a short soverview of the many other resources such as case studies and evaluations available on MobileActive.org.  We also feature the most comprehensive mobile application database on the web. 

And if you are interested in open source tools, please also see the tools in the Open Mobile Consortium -- free and open source mobile tools for NGOs in health, humanitarian relief that can bee freely downloaded, modified, and deployed in the field. 

Thanks, and I will be following along in the discussion of building additional resources and how-to materials for people interested in SMS as a way to reach people.

Elizabeth Araujo profile img
Mon, 10/05/2009 - 20:15

Hi Katrin, Thanks for the info. There is definitely tons of information out there and fortunately the public can draw on such learnings, so we won't worry about re-creating them. In terms of this guide process, we were hoping to get some first party feedback from individuals and NGOs either using or thinking of using SMS (esp FLSMS) in their work so that we can get a sense of what to consider and possibly include. We'll probably do a short overview of the topic then move onto more familiar ground. Thanks!

Mon, 10/05/2009 - 20:17

Got it, thanks, Elizabeth (and I have no idea why I called you Karen, sorry about that!)

Katrin

Mon, 10/05/2009 - 14:09

Karen --  from the conversations below it's a little unclear whether you are working on a FrontlineSMS user manual and how-to or a more general set of guidelines and how-to manual on SMS in social change work?

We'd be happy to contribute case studies and other materials from MobileActive.org so long as it's an introduction to SMS and what you can do with it (so long as there is value add to what already exists in this realm) and an intro to the many SMS-related mobile apps out there, in addition to Frontline. 

If this is just a FLSMS manual, seems like open-sourcing the existing manual on a wiki might make more sense...since there are users who clearly have opinions and experiences - both good and bad - of using FLSMS in their work.

Katrin

Elizabeth Araujo profile img
Mon, 10/05/2009 - 20:12

As Changemakers has had a rewarding experience with using FLSMS in the past, we'd like to build on that and share that process and information. We were also wanting to hear back from others who have used it about their experiences and thoughts around what else we should include in the guide. One of the reasons we chose to run this open process on the Changemakers groups platform was so that we can easily draw in existing community and provide a space for some easy but much appreciated feedback. Thanks for your interest.

Tue, 10/13/2009 - 17:20

Elizabeth -- any outcome of this conversation?  

We are moving ahead with our next set of resources: EffectiveTraining Materials for NGOs about Mobile Tech (complete with samples of how-to guides for popular applications), Working with Network Operators, and Interactive Voice Solutions for NGOs - Choosing, Installing, Maintaining and Using Voice and Mobile Phones.

Would be nice to copllaborate on any actual outcomes of this conversation.

Best,

Katrin

P.S. There seems to be a bug in this WYSIWYG editor around <p> tags...

 

 

Elizabeth Araujo profile img
Wed, 10/14/2009 - 21:13

Hi, It sounds like you'll be quite busy and I look forward to following your developments. Thank you for the offer to collaborate. At this stage we are just wrapping up and compiling the feedback that we have gotten from this group process as well as taking into consideration insights and feedback that we have received inhouse and from our offline community. So it looks like we have mapped out a tentative breakdown of what to include and will be finalizing this with kiwanja.net so that we can work out the content next week. So please stay tuned as we will be posting an update to the group early next week. Thanks!

Vijay Pratap Singh Aditya profile img
Wed, 10/14/2009 - 13:08

Mobile phone has enabled access to services like never before. The way internet transcended national boundaries and brought change in the way business worked, similarly mobile has helped transcend the infrastructure gap between rural and urban and hence enabling access of services to areas where service delivery was earlier not there. Some of the services where ekgaon uses mobile/SMS are as under.

Financial Inclusion - Mobile based application allowing financial transaction using SMS, enabling door step banking services in rural areas.

Weather Alert - Climate and Weather Information Services unit of ekgaon provides SMS based weather alert forecast for farmers helping them take risk mitigation measures to improve and secure productivity.

www.OpinionPoll.in - Is a service of ekgaon which enables users to voice there opinion on issues that concern then them by just sending a SMS. This giving voice to them who could have never thought of having chance to voice there opinion on matters concerning them.

SMS How to Guide -

The guide could have following focus

1) What services could be enabled using SMS - Index of services

2) SMS Content Generation & Management - How to generate and manageme "limited character" comprehensible content usable to customer

3) Cost effectiveness of Services - Short Code Vs. Long Code

4) Local Language content Generation on SMS - Technology and Open Standards

5) Automation of SMS content delivery - SMS query, SMS alert, SMS update

6) Voice SMS - MMS - For differentially abled people

7) Security & Encryption - Ensuring data security and delivery of message

We would be happy to share more with interest community members.

best wishes

vijay

Ken Banks profile img
Wed, 10/14/2009 - 13:17

Thanks, Vijay - very helpful. We've started pulling together the various comments and are now working on the guide, so we'll be sure to see how your comments can be fed in. As you know, this is a very wide topic and we're currently working on a two-pronged approach - a "thinking" section and a "doing" section. There may be additional guides - based on user experiences and activities among the Changemakers network - so anything we don't include in the first may be included in additional materials. We'll keep you posted on how this goes! Thanks. Ken

Gaston Wright profile img
Wed, 09/30/2009 - 12:31

Hi all, I think it would be great if somebody can share best practices or idea about how to use SMS as a way of doing a more cost efficient marketing for social enterprises. I know a lot of social business that stuggle to market their products and I think that SMS could be a really in interesting solution.

I would love to hear some ideas!

cheers

 

Elizabeth Araujo profile img
Wed, 09/30/2009 - 16:25

Thanks Gaston - that's a great suggestion! I am curious if others have experience with this SMS use or need...

Ken Banks profile img
Fri, 10/02/2009 - 09:19

Hi Gaston.

This is something which also interests me. I have just received a case study from KickStart in Kenya and Tanzania who use FrontlineSMS to send information on their pumps out to interested farmers. I plan to blog this, most likely next week, on the kiwanja.net site. I'll try to remember to post a link here!

Thanks for your input!

Ken

Paula Castillo profile img
Fri, 10/02/2009 - 12:22

Also check out the Nokia Lifetools site: http://www.nokia.co.in/explore-services/nokialifetools

They have:

  • Nokia Life Tools Agriculture services aim to plug the information gaps and needs of farmers, by providing information on seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, market prices, and weather (temperature, rainfall, wind conditions) via their mobile phones.
  • Nokia Life Tools Education services aim to provide career and education services, including English language learning, General Knowledge, Exam preparations and results, as well as career information and tips.
  • Nokia Life Tools Entertainment services also has fun features, including astrology, news, ringtones and more.

 

Elizabeth Araujo profile img
Thu, 10/01/2009 - 11:40

This year Changemakers used SMS as part of our on the ground outreach in Africa. I've added a one page backgrounder about the beginning of our experience and what led us to Ken Banks and kiwanja.net. You can check it out under the  resources tab of this group.
 

 

This week on our homepage, we are also featuring Ken as a changemaker and you can follow the story here.

 

Josh Nesbit profile img
Fri, 10/02/2009 - 02:06
  • FrontlineSMS has an overwhelming number of use cases - election monitoring, healthcare coordination, crop price access, participatory government, etc. - so it's nearly impossible to create a single document capturing each design/implementation process.
  • I'd like to see the Changemakers and FLSMS communities create a guide that's easily digestible, explains the capabilities of the tool, and keeps the doors open for users to innovate. As a 'serial FrontlineSMS implementer,' I'm looking forward to collaborating!
Gaston Wright profile img
Fri, 10/02/2009 - 09:31

This is  great Josh! quick question for you. I have three Ashoka Fellows in Argentina who are desperate to implement Frontline SMS on their day to day operations. They are particularly interested on using this tool to sell products and services. Are there any limitations with cellphone providers on this? Before implementing Frontline SMS do you need to get some sort of technical assistance or OK from your local cellphone company provider?

Thanks a lot

Josh Nesbit profile img
Sun, 10/04/2009 - 11:58

Hi Gaston -- thanks for the comment! You don't need any permission or assistance from local providers; they'll be perfectly happy that the Fellows will be sending and receiving a large number of text messages. Let me know if you have any other questions!

Gaston Wright profile img
Mon, 10/05/2009 - 09:33

Great thanks a lot Josh! It would be great to make an agreement with a company to get better rates for large amounts of messages.

thanks a lot

Tyler Ahn profile img
Sat, 10/10/2009 - 15:49

I think the this guide shouldn't be a how to use SMS but the other aspects of an organization that needs to be in place in order to launch such a program.  When we launched our research on how to implement an SMS campaign, we didn't know the lay of the land.  FLSMS definitely won out but we poked around at various bulk sms and other services to figure out what was the best fit for our needs.  

We conducted a needs and constraint assessment of sorts as we got into the research phase.  We knew that we would NOT buy lists, and that we needed to get the word out about us.  We also knew that it had to be the lowest barrier to those who would contact us (so no international number in Australia or something like that).  This meant we needed human resources on the ground and sometimes, this isn't feasible for organizations without the budget to increase staff.  (All sort of considerations)

Then there is a whole level of tech savviness on the ground and management (we were managing our Africa based contractors from DC and Vancouver) which always adds another layer of complication.  

So the guide should most certainly talk about FLSMS and how useful it is on the ground but also give our audience a lay of the land of other possibilities both for businesses and non-profits and indicate which service is best for what.  This would have helped us in the planning phase immensely.  Of course, once we finally got to making the decision on FLSMS, we bugged the hell out of Ken :) (and his fabulous team) who was always there with lots of support  

Just my two cents! 

Thank you for doing this guys, super important!

Tyler

Changemakers

Ken Banks profile img
Mon, 10/12/2009 - 11:59

Hi Tyler. Thanks for helping out with this, and for providing your thoughts, ideas and experiences. Clearly there's much more to using SMS than just grabbing a piece of technology, and you make some valuable points about what needs to be considered around the edges of any implementation. What we are trying to do here is create a guide which people can take and actually implement something, so in essence it has to stay that way, but we do need to consider barriers and other considerations. You've made a great start on this for us, and we'll take those into account when we start to knock things into shape. Looking forward to talking more as this goes forward! Ken

Karen McGraa profile img
Fri, 10/02/2009 - 21:04

I am using Frontline to send messages to people who need to change their eating and exercise behaviors.  Since my participants are from California to Italy here are some issues that I hope Frontline can eventually address.  It would be great to  be able to send messages that adapt for different time zones.  It would also be helpful if it would allow for automatic message sending when not at the computer, so intervention messages or health reminders are never late because the therapist can not be at their computer. In addition, the ability to share data when using Frontline on more than one computer perhaps via a USB type plug-in or some shared protoco for the same user with different computers such as a laptop for travel and desktop in the office.  I am still accepting participants for my study up until Oct. 9, 2009.  If you are interested and don't mind the time zone issue please sign up at textmethin.com for the 30 day doctoral study.  Any ideas or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Elizabeth Araujo profile img
Mon, 10/05/2009 - 20:21

Interesting usage and recommendations - I 'll defer to Ken on the technical possibilities :) You may also want to send Paula an email  who's also participating in this process about your study. She's posted above and you can click on her profile to send her a message - perhaps she can help get the word out.

Sun, 10/04/2009 - 17:00
  • what type of information would be useful to include in the guide?

a basic step by step setup guide would be very helpful, with additional focus regarding the pc/cable/phone combinations which actually work with the software. for example during the stopstockouts campaign the only major obstacle for us to set up the system in the various countries was technical... sometimes the phone was working but not the cable connecting it to the pc, sometimes the cable was there, the phone was listed as compatible but not actually working... thus a clear, concise, trusted matrix of phone/cables/pc configurations would be great to include, together with some examples stories which narratively describe how and why FLSMS was used. 

  • examples of successful use of SMS for social change

we used FLSMS during the pill check event 2009, an advocacy action part of the stopstockouts campaign to check the availability of a list of essential medicines in 4 sub saharan countries, through data sent via sms by patients, volunteers and health workers.

www.stopstockouts.org

  • examples of challenges & successes using FrontlineSMS

over the course of one week we received over 250 messages reporting essential medicines stockouts in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia. Our team successfully used a direct connection between FrontlineSMS and the Ushahidi mapping system, letting the data flowing freely from the volunteers on the field to the map in the web.

http://stopstockouts.org/ushahidi/

  • your thoughts on the preliminary content that we'll be posting under the resources section of this group

a pdf guide, some videos explaining the more intricate functionalities, a matrix showing the phone/cable/pc configurations, links to success stories

 

Ken Banks profile img
Mon, 10/05/2009 - 08:47

Hi Claudio. Thanks for your thoughts and for taking the time to respond to this. I mentioned your project at a couple of conferences this past week. I think it's a great use of technology to highlight a problem, and we're happy we were able to help. All of your points are taken on board, and we're constantly working to improve what we have. When we put together the guide we'll add what we can to incorporate some of the issues and points you raise. Thanks again, Ken

Jorge Luis Alonso González profile img
Sun, 10/04/2009 - 20:34

Hi all,

I created recently a blog in Spanish about the effective use of SMS as agents of social impact. Really I am impressed on the amount of global initiatives that are using this technology for social change.From Argentina, Jorge

 

 

Gaston Wright profile img
Mon, 10/05/2009 - 09:31

Hi Jorge, how are you? do you live in Buenos Aires?

cheers

Jorge Luis Alonso González profile img
Mon, 10/05/2009 - 11:52

Hi Gaston, fine thank you. No, I am not in Bs. As. I am in San Juan, a city located about 1.200 km from Bs. As. What can I do for you? Bye for now, Jorge.

Gaston Wright profile img
Mon, 10/05/2009 - 12:27

que bueno!!!!

yo vivo en buenos aires, me gustaria hablar contingo por telefono. Te puedo pasar mi mail?

un abrazo

Jorge Luis Alonso González profile img
Thu, 10/08/2009 - 17:50

Gaston: Me encantaría hablar contigo. Mi cel es +5492646706136 y puedes escribirme a jorgealonso@redepapa.org. Un abrazo, Jorge.

 

 

Ken Banks profile img
Mon, 10/12/2009 - 12:06

Hi Jorge. Good to connect earlier this week outside the Forum here. Once you've done your FrontlineSMS presentation in Lima, please let us know whether or not you've learnt anything which we can feed back into this process. I think you may get some useful and valuable insights. Thanks as always! Ken

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 14:19

This is great - I work at Plan International and we are in the process of some ICT4D training workshops in 8 countries in Africa, including a portion on using FLSMS.  We're working on a set of Distance Learning DVDs (very amateur looking video I must add, but that's the fun of social media!) that introduce ICTs and social media and then we are showing a few different tools (including FLSMS) and how to use them. 

My colleagues in Plan Finland made a few (long-ish) videos about using some of the different modules on FLSMS that you'd be free to include if they were useful or appropriate.  They are posted on the FLSMS Ning site. I think video is quite helpful, or lots of visualizations in terms of format.  Our Kenya colleagues also shared with us a FLSMS guide - I'm not clear if they created it or they downloaded it from somewhere but I'm also glad to share it. 

There is also a Mobiles for Development Guide that Plan has done with Hannah Beardon that can be downloaded in French or English at this address: 

 

http://mobileactive.org/research/mobiles-development-how-mobile-technologies-can-enhance-plan-and-partners-work-africa

In terms of the questions:

1) what type of information would be useful to include in the guide?

If it's specifically a Frontline SMS Guide:

  • Lots of trouble shooting -- eg., if this happens it may be because....
  • Create the guide from a non-technical point of view so that those of us who are not programmers can see in very easy language how things can be done.
  • Good simple layout, step by step, graphs and visuals.
  • Lots of pictures or images (did I emphasize that already?) so that non-native English speakers and non techies can also benefit. 
  • Provision for translations into some other languages.
  • If possible, it would be great to have (maybe this exists) as many contact emails from people implementing locally so that there can be cross-learning in-country.  I think some of the technical difficulties happen due to local networks, equipment, etc and having someone locally to trouble shoot together would be great.
  • Short videos in the Common Craft style - eg., "SMS in plain English" (though there may need to be several that can cover the different things you can do with FLSMS.)

If it's an SMS guide IN GENERAL

  • There are many case studies out there. It would be helpful to have them organized (again with some visuals/graphs showing the information/communications flow) in structural terms -- e.g. if you want to share information like this or like that (one to many, many to many, many to one, mobile to web, mobile to mobile, email to mobile, etc.etc), here are different types of SMS structures for information/communications that others have used.
  • Helpful to have some stimulating questions - things to think about/consider as you develop your SMS utilization for a particular initiative.

2) examples of successful use of SMS for social change

  • See point 2.  Would be good to see the convergence of different technologies/ICTs.  How to use SMS with radio, SMS with internet, SMS with mapping, etc. as well as with different age groups/men/women.  And case studies with a variety of end-users for the information that's being communicated via SMS.  Also looking at a variety of information/communication objectives -- programs, healthcare, education, advocacy, human rights, fund raising, awareness raising, etc.

3) examples of challenges & successes using FrontlineSMS

  • Successes with FLSMS include the range of amazing ideas that people imagine doing once the see FLSMS and its possibilities.
  • Plan Kenya is using FLSMS as part of a modernizing birth registration project, and we are exploring with some other areas - but we are mid-stream so not a lot of examples of full success yet as we haven't completed the process yet :-).
  • We've had some technical problems, mainly because we work across several countries, we are not always using the same modems across countries or the same phone models in the same project, and we are not all techies so don't always know where to look to find solutions to the technical problems, which can be something quite simple but very frustrating if you can't figure it out.  In the end, I think the best thing is to get it set up once, with lots of hands-on by those that will use it, and then they can train others.
  • Another challenge in our case is that sometimes people are not used to using on-line forums for tech support or their internet is not strong enough to get support on-line, and this makes troubleshooting difficult for them - their answers may be just a search box or discussion board away but they are not used to going online for them, they tend to use email instead.
  • I'd like to see some suggestions/thinking around is the issue of privacy and protection in times where FLSMS or SMS is used as a reporting tool on human rights, especially in the case of women/children where they could be reporting incidence of violence or sensitive information - how do they ensure that they are not found out if they are using someone else's phone to report information? 

4)  your thoughts on the preliminary content that we'll be posting under the resources section of this group

  • see point 1
  • Would be great to have a suggested 1-week or 2-day SMS workshop agenda for non-technical people for learning to use FLSMS, from an introduction to setting it all up and using all the modules one-by-one, with suggested equipment to have, with hands on portions, and time for people to work out a flow for their project or brainstorm on how they would like to use FLSMS with existing projects or information/communications needs.
  • would be great to see any other existing options for SMS.

Sorry this was such a long post!  Thanks for putting this together - I think it will be really helpful for us and many others.

Linda

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 14:32

Linda -- this is great.  Thanks so much -- we are taking cues here, just as we are thinking about the next set of guides on mobile how-tos that are more general, obviously, than a user manual for FLSMS :)  

Thanks!
 

Katrin, MobileActive.org

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 16:42

Thank you Katrin - I've been following what you all are up to and you're doing some great work.  Really stimulating thinking in this field.  Hope to get to a Mobile Active workshop or something one of these days!  Linda

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 17:49

It would be great to meet you, Linda, I like your work, and saw the report you all commissioned.  We are gearing up for the Fall round of Mobile Tech 4 Social Change camps where people develop local user communities around specific strategies and tools, and MobileActive2010 in Cairo in April.   Hope to meet you - and do let me know if you are ever in NYC!

 

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 21:47

I was hoping to get to the mobile for social change camp in NYC but I couldn't make the dates. Will you be doing any in the Spring?  or I wonder if I can get to Cairo.... some Plan folks were in Joburg for the last one and said it was great.  I get to NYC pretty often, so next time I'll be sure to look you up! Linda

Sat, 10/10/2009 - 17:44

We are hosting an Open Mobile Camp on Oct 24 with all of the mobile apps in the Open Mobile Consortium -- see http://openmobilecamp.eventbrite.com/ to register (free) and http://open-mobile.org for the Open Mobile Consortium and more information and the technologies of the members. FrontlineSMS is not a member of the Open Mobile Consortium at this point.

If you are in town for that, please come by, and do let me know when you are there for other business!

Other camps coming up that explore mobile tools for social change for NGOs are in Cape Town, South Africa (Oct 31) Beirut, Lebanon; Amman, Jordan (both in November 2009), and then next year in Delhi (Feb 2010) and Cairo (April 2010).

Ken Banks profile img
Tue, 10/06/2009 - 16:19

Hey Linda. Always good to hear from you, and I know you guys have been doing a lot of work with mobile lately, so these suggestions are really helpful. I'm not sure which direction this guide is going to go yet - that will be a decision made once we gather all the comments together. I don't know if it's going to specifically be a FrontlineSMS user guide, but there's little point in producing something too general, which then becomes just an overview (which becomes interesting, but not overly practical). What's important here, I think, is that people can take this guide and actually implement something, and then share their experiences. Putting together an implementation guide is quite a lot of work, so we'd never want to cover too many tools, and also when you do that it's harder for users to connect 100% (it's much easier if everyone is using the same software if you're going to get an active discussion around it). This is our experience, anyway. Genuine communities are hard enough to build, without making them too general. We'll keep you posted once we close this off, and Elizabeth, Josh and I think it through. Thanks, and hi to the team there! Ken

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 16:39

Hey Ken - hope Providence was good to you last week :-).  I tend to agree that we have some very good overviews already (Hannah's study and the work of several others are great examples). We (Plan) are also now trying to take the broad ideas that we've been digesting for a bit now and move deeper into concrete implementation and 'localization' I guess you could say, where people locally can take the ideas and tools and move along on their own. Having a very focused FLSMS implementation guide would be really helpful.  And if other specific areas come out of the consultation you all are doing here on Ashoka, maybe another guide or two, but yes, specific and focused, and above all practical.  That is actually feedback we are getting from the countries where we are supporting the ICT/social media training "We know about the tools now, but we need more concrete, specific and hands-on training so that we can use them on our own." If you need any field testers, let us know!  Linda

Elizabeth Araujo profile img
Tue, 10/06/2009 - 16:49

Linda your comments are very helpful and I think that that's the general direction that we want to move in,  especially since currently there is a lot of existing general information out there. As Ken mentioned, getting feedback through this group process will be very insightful and help shape the How To Guide. As  a global initiative, Ashoka's Changemakers can definitely appreciate the need for localized and practical tools, so we may actually consider doing a series of guides. Thanks!

Ken Banks profile img
Tue, 10/06/2009 - 16:50

Thanks, Linda! This forum is all about hearing from users, people applying tools (FrontlineSMS or not) in the field, so these comments - and your clarification of what your field officers need - are exactly what we're after. We'll be in touch! (And yes, Providence was great, thanks - hope you can make it next year. Incredible student-run conference). Ken

Thu, 10/08/2009 - 17:15

I have always been impressed and inspired by the commitment that so many have shown to exploring this field and educating others on opportunities and pitfalls. Thanks to Ken and Katrin in particular for their efforts. Over the last year or so I've wrestled with/wondered:

  • knowing how to select the most appropriate platform -- in this case, it may be useful to indicate the appropriate platform for campaigns of small and large scales. FLSMS is a beautiful tool for many situations. A few examples of size, # of messages, and case studies to give people a sense for the potential might be useful. On the other hand, some campaigns might be better run through a solution created by the private sector, a solution created by well-resourced public institutions (RapidSMS comes to mind), etc.; and
  • with all the recent talk of open standards and collaboration, couldn't we have ONE central database of projects? And with the way things change, should older projects and articles (with exceptions for particularly illuminating pieces) be archived? Technology and methodology in this field is advancing at a rapid pace and many of the resources I've found on the internet simply do not reflect today's realities. Discreet user support communities, however, should continue to exist and thrive in support of specific products. Many thanks to Ken and his team for continued (free!) support -- without that community, I simply would not have been able to deploy SMS in support of my work

That's all for now. Thanks to everyone involved with this project.

Elizabeth Araujo profile img
Sat, 10/10/2009 - 16:10

Paul, thanks for the insightful comment. Can I ask you to please also share a couple of short examples of how you are using SMS in your work?