Posted by: Nathaniel | July 14, 2008

FrontlineSMS: two way bulk messaging for nonprofits

A few friends are in Cairo right now working on projects within the refugee community. One, whose blog you can read here, is helping an organization called Tadamon develop a web apparatus to help local refugee communities understand what services they have available to them. Another is interning with AMERA and developing an ‘Iraqi Information Center’ to provide information to the approximately 100,000+ Iraqi refugees now living in Cairo.

Both of their projects are trying to figure out how they can reach people that can’t make it to their physical offices or who don’t have regular internet access. One of the solutions available might by SMS messaging. Even though mobile phones are out of reach for some, cheaper handsets, recycled phones, and pay as you go plans make mobiles pretty ubiquitous in Cairo.

They’re exploring how FrontlineSMS might be the answer to their problems. FrontlineSMS is an application that allows any laptop to send and receive bulk test messages to groups of users. It doesn’t require a live internet connection and can be used anywhere in the world.

The founder and mobile-technology-for-nonprofits renaissance man Ken Banks wrote an article on BBC News Online today in which he mentions the variety of ways the program has already been used. One of the coolest uses so far has been in community health settings. Home based care workers have been able to keep track of patients to monitor. Local clinics have been able to better monitor adherence to HIV/AIDS and TB drug regimens.

Does anyone out there have stories of using mobile technology in human rights or development programs?

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