Frontline sms - laura hudson

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Slides from the "Mobile Technology for Social Entrpreneurs" (#mt4se) held on the 12th June 2010 in London, England.

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  • FrontlineSMS turns a laptop and mobile phone – or GSM modem/GSM data card – into a two-way group messaging hub. Because there’s no need for the internet, it can work in many places.
  • Because it’s a two-way system, FrontlineSMS can be used to send information – health, security alerts, job information or vacancies, market prices, etc – and receive information back from radio listeners, or election/human rights monitors, or through surveys/questionnaires or competitions, etc.
  • Some of the biggest development and aid organisations in the world have downloaded FrontlineSMS. The Red Cross, OXFAM, BRAC, Amnesty, DFID, UN agencies… But it's their tech person, or even the social media person - it never makes it into programming. We've got the techie market locked up. You guys all get this. How do we get to the practitioners who could revolutionise their programme approaches with this stuff? Do many of you work in an international organisation with lots of development and aid specialists? Aren't they great, inspiring, dedicated people? And doesn't it drive you crazy how not one of them can use the in-house calendar to arrange a meeting? How they all go pale when you say 'RSS feed'? Now imagine walking up to them and saying 'two-way SMS hub'. Never going to work. Many don’t ever come across it - yet once you explain the potential of this technology to the practitioner, they get very excited, and when it's implemented, the results speak for themselves. Finally, they might have heard of tools like Ushahidi, or FrontlineSMS, and therefore think that that's what's there in that field - that this is what we have to use. For example, I've heard of an instance where someone was toying with using 'Ushahidi', when they didn't need to visualise or map the data. It's about understanding the market, breaking down what you really want the tech to do, and choosing the right product for the job.
  • So what to do about this, as the FrontlineSMS team. > Stop going to techie conferences. I say this with love. But we need to spend our time talking to the national conference of social cohesion specialists in the UK, or the big HIV conferences, or the World Conference of Humanitarian Studies, and not just at a fringe event either. We need to make the case for our presence and have good case studies written for practitioners, by practitioners, to help show the real life impact of the work. Same goes for our resources - all pretty techie at the moment. We're developing a series of guides for practitioners though, starting with data collection. > We need to be prepared to help people find the appropriate technology for their needs. When a technology makes its way out of the techie ghetto to the mainstream media, it becomes all people know of that area of possibility. Take Ushahidi for example, the reporting visualisation tool which maps reports geographically. We should all be taking time to understand all that's out there, work through a kind of decision tree with people and be prepared to say, nope, my product isn't where you should be - try this. > KISS. FrontlineSMS uses one of the least sexy, oldest bits of mobile technology - the text message. We are developing new and exciting bits of functionality all the time, but we need to recognise that most people using FrontlineSMS are doing so in a very simple way. The FolesHillFields vision project were able to not hire a new volunteer coordinator because FrontlineSMS helped them so much - but they haven't even implemented what we would consider fairly low-end functionality like auto-subscribe and unsubscribe. They're just sending messages, back and forth. We need to consolidate the support and start-up guidance available to these users, rather than focussing on developing more complicated functionality for our stellar users, no matter how much we love them. Which is a lot.
  • Getting going Procurement and compatibility. Realism. Plan International - finding a phone for a workshop - tried every shop in Lilongwe and the only phone they found that worked with the version of FrontlineSMS was the one that belonged to the guy behind the counter at the very last shop. They had to buy it off him. Innovative non? Another example; Developing Radio Partners are working with community radio in Malawi and Zambia to help them use FrontlineSMS to interact with their listeners. But they had real trouble sourcing equipment and had to import much of it. That said, our colleagues at FrontlineSMS:Medic have told me that they found it easier to get a compatible phone in Malawi than in Washington. Phones are getting smarter. More are released every year. There's no way we can keep up with them - we can't test everything. We talk about FrontlineSMS as a simple thing to implement - just any old phone and any old laptop, really cheap, hurray - and that's certainly true in some ways - relatively simple. But it was a real reality check from me hearing about those two cases - it's really hard. Even Mark at Foleshillfields in Coventry had a struggle to get it all working, buy the right cable. Not saying there aren't ways around this - our dev team and other users could probably have got many of those phones working given time, and Mark was able to solve his problems using our forum - have a look, it's simply THRILLING - but we all know how much time people working in any kind of social enterprise have to play around with.
  • We're looking at having partnerships with shops and suppliers in key countries who can supply compatible equipment, troubleshoot basic connection problems, and provide basic training. Stimulating local economies, and speeding things up for potential users. We're advocating people using modems over our long-time friend, the mobile - simply, GSM modems are coming down in price and availability is increasing. We're improving our resources, updating our list of compatible phones. Our new release will report back to us the make and model of phone being used so that we can add it to the list of working phones.
  • Frontline sms - laura hudson

    1. 2. Text SCHED to 07716355738 for the agenda Text SCORES to 07716355738 for today’s World Cup scores
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    6. 7. FOLESHILLFIELDS VISION PROJECT <ul><li>Coventry, UK </li></ul>Text SCHED to 07716355738 for the agenda Text SCORES to 07716355738 for today’s World Cup scores
    7. 8. SURVIVORS CONNECT Text SCHED to 07716355738 for the agenda Text SCORES to 07716355738 for today’s World Cup scores
    8. 9. GETTING TO YES <ul><li>Awareness </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding </li></ul><ul><li>Appropriateness </li></ul>Text SCHED to 07716355738 for the agenda Text SCORES to 07716355738 for today’s World Cup scores
    9. 10. GETTING TO YES <ul><li>Go to the practitioners, don’t expect them to come to us </li></ul><ul><li>Help them be discerning </li></ul><ul><li>Keep it SIMPLE, stupid </li></ul>Text SCHED to 07716355738 for the agenda Text SCORES to 07716355738 for today’s World Cup scores
    10. 11. GETTING STARTED <ul><li>Procurement and compatibility </li></ul><ul><li>Social and cultural barriers </li></ul><ul><li>THEIR context is king </li></ul>Text SCHED to 07716355738 for the agenda Text SCORES to 07716355738 for today’s World Cup scores
    11. 12. GETTING STARTED <ul><li>Talk to the users and understand their challenges </li></ul><ul><li>Crowdsource the information they need </li></ul><ul><li>Help break down the barriers as much as possible </li></ul>Text SCHED to 07716355738 for the agenda Text SCORES to 07716355738 for today’s World Cup scores
    12. 14. @FrontlineSMS FrontlineSMS.com @laurawhudson Text STOP to 07716355738 to unsubscribe

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