Internews Center for Innovation & Learning

Internews Center for Innovation & Learning
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FrontlineSMS is an award-winning free, open source software that turns a laptop and a mobile phone into a central communications hub. Once installed, the program enables users to send and receive text messages with groups of people through mobile phones, turning a laptop or desktop computer and a mobile phone or modem into a two-way group messaging hub. The software doesn't need the Internet and enables to send messages to wide groups of people, and collect responses to any questions or surveys, all via text message. 

In short the software:

  • It does not require an Internet connection.
  • Require a phone and SIM card.
  • It stores all phone numbers and records all incoming and outgoing messages. 
  • All data lives on the hosting computer.
  • Allows to send messages to individuals or large groups, and reply individually.
  • It is easy to install and requires little or no training to use. 
  • Developers can freely take the source code and add their own features. 
  • It can be used anywhere in the world simply by switching the SIM card. 

(From FrontlineSMS website)

Available expertise: 


Key Features: 
Sends SMS messages through a computer.
Suitable for: 
Create and manage all of your SMS-related contact groups,Send and receive messages via special on-screen consoles, Provides incoming and outgoing message history
Not suitable for: 
Large amount of outgoing and incoming SMS, high cost of sms compared to phone call
Time commitment: 
Technical expertise needed: 
Cost considerations: 
The software is free, and you pay SMS according to provider. Could take more money with development
Best Practices: 
FrontlineSMS is the perfect tool for: Create and manage all of your SMS-related contact groups Send and receive messages via special on-screen consoles Provides incoming and outgoing message history for each contact Engage with your contact groups run surveys, competitions etc. via the SurveyManager Run your own text-based information service via the automated ReplyManager (via email or SMS) Export data to Excel and other programs Availability of the selected Modem and phones (see list in the FLSMS website)
Lessons learned: 
FLSMS seems to be suitable as an "Out of the Box" system, but not scalable when it comes to large amount of incoming and outgoing SMS. The use of this system in a project really require much more work in term of strategy then in terms of technology. Things that needs to be carefully evaluated and kept in mind when using the software are: advertisement strategy, cultural behaviors when it comes to the use of mobile phones, mobile coverage, literacy rate, cost of sending SMS, engagement policy with the audience, security and privacy of information exchanged.