March 9, 2012

Two mobile resources in words and pictures

Mobile World Congress. Photo: Ken Banks

Outtakes from Mobile World Congress & a community engagement event

kiwanjaLast week saw me start out at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and finish up at an event focusing on the use of text messaging in the nonprofit sector in London.

It was a busy week but two new resources were the end result.

Pictures. If you didn’t make it to Mobile World Congress then here’s a Flickr set of 111 free-to-use photos to give you a flavour of the event. Mobile World Congress is the world’s largest mobile exhibition and conference and features CEOs and representatives from mobile operators, device manufacturers, technology providers, vendors and content owners from around the world. Continue reading

November 15, 2011

How socially responsible mobile tech is evolving

Rethinking socially responsible design in a mobile world

kiwanjaLast Monday was an exciting day for us when we picked up the prestigious 2011 Curry Stone Design Prize for FrontlineSMS. The Curry Stone Design Prize was created to champion designers as a force for social change. Now in its fourth year, the Prize recognizes innovators who address critical issues involving clean air, food and water, shelter, health care, energy, education, social justice or peace.

This award follows closely on the heels of the 2011 Pizzigati Prize, an honourable mention at the Buckminster Fuller Challenge and our National Geographic “Explorer” Award last summer. It goes without saying these are exciting times not just for FrontlineSMS but for our growing user base and the rapidly expanding team behind it. When I think back to the roots of our work in the spring of 2005, FrontlineSMS almost comes across as “the little piece of software that dared to dream big.”

You can watch our 5-minute Curry Stone Design Prize video, embedded above.

How socially responsible mobile technology is evolving

With the exception of the Pizzigati Prize – which specifically focuses on open source software for public good – our other recent awards are particularly revealing. Last summer we began something of a trend by being awarded things which weren’t traditionally won by socially focused mobile technology organizations.

Being named a 2010 National Geographic Emerging Explorer is a case in point, and last summer while I was in Washington DC collecting the prize I wrote down my thoughts in a blog post:

On reflection, it was a very bold move by the Selection Committee. Almost all of the other Emerging Explorers are either climbing, diving, scaling, digging or building, and what I do hardly fits into your typical adventurer job description. But in a way it does. As mobile technology continues its global advance, figuring out ways of applying the technology in socially and environmentally meaningful ways is a kind of 21st century exploring. The public reaction to the Award has been incredible, and once people see the connection they tend to think differently about tools like FrontlineSMS and their place in the world.

Continue reading

August 11, 2011

FrontlineSMS launches User Guide on Data Integrity

kiwanjaWe were excited to join colleagues and friends in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, to release the first edition of our “User Guide on Data Integrity,” a tool that will help FrontlineSMS users around the world better understand the flow of information into and out of the platform, the risks and vulnerabilities to that data, and simple ways they can mitigate those risks.

Review by Cathryn Paine reposted from the FrontlineSMS blog

To kick off the discussion around the new guide, we hosted a panel discussion at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies, where FrontlineSMS’ Sean McDonald joined Jon Gosier of metaLayer, Development Seed’s Paul Goodman, and Internews Vice President for New Media Kathleen Reen, who moderated the event. This research effort, based on FrontlineSMS user input and research by Kristina Lugo and Carol Waters, focused not on mobile system security, a critical issue better addressed by others, but more on the ways that contextualized program design and implementation can improve data quality and reduce user risk. Above all, we learned through the process, context is key. Understanding the needs and norms of the target population, and the goals of the project itself, is vital in determining the proper tools and approach to designing a FrontlineSMS workflow that can achieve those goals.

The panel discussion centered on these key points, especially the role that stakeholders play in the reliability and integrity of project data. Issues from misinterpretation, to unconscious bias, to lack of corroboration can creep into an improperly designed data collection effort, polluting the entire dataset in the process. To mitigate these threats, Jon emphasized focusing on localization and usability in project design—understanding the users or beneficiaries of a project is the best way to minimize human error and maximize data integrity. Continue reading

August 5, 2010

12 awesome platforms for social good

citizen-effect
Jill Foster of Citizen Effect conducts an interview in the Gulf Coast (photo by Geoff Livingston).

 

Vittana, Citizen Effect, Spheresavers among the networks galvanizing change

Target audience: Social change organizations, nonprofits, educators, community organizers, change agents.

Guest post by Katrina Heppler
envisionGood

Social tools come in all shapes and sizes. Yesterday we looked at 6 productivity tools for social change — mostly desktop and cloud-based apps and one cool gadget for your pocket. Today here’s my list of 12 platforms and online communities that are doing an amazing job in promoting social change.

You must have your own favorites (I’ve left off a few of my own, like Change.org and Causes, for example) — please share them in the comments below!

For a different list of 12 community platforms, download our flyer: 12 social action hubs.

 
vittana

Vittana: Send someone to college for $25

1Vittana is an amazing online platform that connects people through lending and helps young people around the world to get access to higher education for the first time. Through Vittana, you can make a loan to a student to help him or her go to college. Vittana reports that their students have a 95% success and repayment rate on their loans. In essence, Vittana is like a “Kiva for worldwide education.” Through online loans from people like you and me, Vittana is building a world where anyone can go to college. Vittana has been recognized as a Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellow and HuffingtonPost #1 Game Changer in Philanthropy. Follow Vittana on Twitter.

citizen effect

Citizen Effect: Empowering citizen philanthropy

2Citizen Effect empowers citizens to become citizen philanthropists by providing us with the tools and networks we need to work directly with communities in need around the world. Through CitizenEffect, you can create your own project, bring your friends, family and social network together, and raise funds to make a significant impact in the lives of a community in need. You can also find great projects to support that match your interests. Follow Citizen Effect on Twitter.

blissmo

Blissmo: Making sustainability easier

3Blissmo (formerly Spheresavers) is a new platform that aims to make sustainable consumption mainstream by making it cheaper and easier for consumers to buy sustainable. Check out Blissmo (our writeup is here) for deals on products and services from sustainable businesses striving to balance people, planet and profit.

openIDEO

OpenIDEO: Design together for social good

4OpenIDEO is a place where people design together for social good. It’s an online platform for creative thinkers: the veteran designer, the critic, the MBA, the active participant and the creative enthusiast with an idea to share. IDEO, a well-known design firm, developed OpenIDEO as a way to include a broader range of people in the design process to tackle social issues. Follow OpenIDEO on Twitter.

frontline SMS

FrontlineSMS: Text groups of people anywhere

5FrontlineSMS is an award-winning, free, open-source platform that turns a laptop or desktop computer and a mobile phone or modem into a two-way group messaging hub. Since it works anywhere there’s a mobile signal, it doesn’t need the Internet – a major advantage for many grassroots NGOs, especially in the developing world. Once you have the software running on your computer, you can send messages to wide groups of people and collect responses to any questions or surveys you might want to run, all via text message. Follow FrontlineSMS on Twitter.

Global-Giving

Global Giving: Support community-based projects

6Global Giving is an online marketplace that helps nonprofits raise money for grassroots projects and connects individuals and companies to grassroots economic development projects around causes and countries they care about. Through Global Giving, supporters can make direct donations to projects; no social activity or event organization is required to support a cause. Follow Global Giving on Twitter.

seeclickfix

SeeClickFix: Get a local problem fixed

7SeeClickFix is a platform that allows citizens to report non-emergency issues and receive neighborhood alerts, providing a great way to get a local problem fixed. If you have an iPhone, Android or Blackberry mobile phone, you can download SeeClickFix’s free mobile app to report issues taking place in your neighborhood when you are on the go, anytime, anyplace. Follow SeeClickFix on Twitter. Continue reading

February 16, 2010

Helping Haitians via mobile, crowdsourcing & social media

New platform revolutionizes the way emergency response takes place

Guest post by Katrina Heppler
envisionGood.tv

Bravo to the thousands of volunteers worldwide who are assisting with translating Creole mobile text messages to help people in Haiti following the devastating 7.0M earthquake that struck the nation Jan. 12.

You may not have heard of Mission 4636, but this is where a lot of the most remarkable relief work is taking place. Mission 4636 is a short code emergency response communication system that enables earthquake victims in Haiti to get life-saving aid by sending a free mobile text message. It’s a joint-project of Ushahidi, FrontlineSMS, CrowdFlower and Samasource.

Mission 4636 — named for one of the SMS short codes for Haiti relief efforts — is an outstanding example of global collaboration and the power of human ingenuity to help people and save lives through technology. A huge “hats off” to them as well as to the many organizations that have also come together to make Mission 4636 successful: inSTEDD, DigiCel, local radio networks, local NGOs and the many emergency responders.

In the video interview above, Brian Herbert of Ushahidi, Robert Munro of FrontlineSMS, Lukas Biewald of CrowdFlower and Leila Janah of Samasource share background on how they came together with the support of other organizations on the ground in Haiti to deploy a critical emergency communications system to help save lives and provide emergency resources to people following the earthquake. This is a massive effort across multiple non-profit and for-profit companies and individual volunteers from around the country and globe (more than 14 countries have been involved in translation).

Mission-4636

In the weeks after the tragedy, text messages to the dedicated Haiti emergency short code 4636 increased about 10 percent each day – with about one text a second coming through. Technology and people power are playing a critical role in getting information to military and aid workers on the ground. Beyond the immediate help for people in need in Haiti, the program will build computer centers so Haitian refugees can do valuable digital work, get paid, and bolster the economy around them. Continue reading

April 9, 2009

Mobile solutions getting more mature

n2y4

kiwanjaIt’s incredible to think that exactly four years ago I was gearing up to write the early FrontlineSMS prototype. Although a lot was undecided, a central pillar of my early thinking was that a “platform approach” would be the most flexible and appropriate, and that it would be wrong and restrictive of me to try and build a specific, local solution to the communications problem I’d witnessed in South Africa the year before.

africajournalcoverI figured that if I could avoid the temptation to try and solve a problem that wasn’t mine, but build something which allowed its local owners to solve it, then interesting things might happen.

Today, the dizzying array of uses NGOs have found for FrontlineSMS is testament to that early approach, and the software is today driving projects in ways I could never have imagined. The Africa Journal most neatly summed up its impact when they wrote, back in 2007:

FrontlineSMS provides the tools necessary for people to create their own projects that make a difference. It empowers innovators and organisers in the developing world to achieve their full potential through their own ingenuity

Non-profits in over 50 countries have either applied, thought about applying, experimented or played with FrontlineSMS in the context of their own work, imaginatively considering ways in which the software – and the rise of text messaging – can be be turned to good use. As a result we’ve seen solid growth in the FrontlineSMS user community, but this is just one piece of the puzzle. Building community with users is one thing, but getting traction with developers is another.

And today, something very exciting is beginning to happen.

If you take a look at the 2Y4 Mobile Challenge this year, you’ll notice something quite interesting. Three of the ten finalists are building their solutions around the FrontlineSMS platform, and a fourth used it as a major component in early prototyping exercises. You can add to these work that Ushahidi’s developers have been recently carrying out, or students at MIT, or human rights activists in the Philippines, or the FrontlineSMS:Medic team, or university-based agriculture projects, all of whom have started integrating FrontlineSMS into their own tools and solutions.

Continue reading