FrontlineSMS: Helping Those In Need Through SMS


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“The work on this tool was made possible thanks to a wonderful volunteer contribution by the team at SolDevelo. We very much enjoyed working with SolDevelo on this successful project.”

Alex Pitkin
Chief Technical Officer, FrontlineSMS


FrontlineSMS is a free open source messaging platform. It’s aim is to help other organizations in bringing a positive social change. By leveraging basic tools already available to most organizations, including those in ‘last-mile’ settings — computers and low-cost modems — FrontlineSMS enables instantaneous two-way communication with any mobile handset. It’s easy to implement, simple to operate, and best of all, the software is free.

Sadly, last year the FrontlineSMS team decided to close the company. Their product, however, is still available as an open source, desktop software. It was a pleasure for SolDevelo to work with FrontlineSMS. Despite their decision to step back, we greatly appreciate their input into the world of modern technology and into the quest of helping those in need.


The Multi Selector

We worked together with the FrontlineSMS team on a process of designing the Multi Selector Tool. It is an entirely open source project that has been built flexibly, so as not to be useful only in limited areas. 

To better understand the significance of this release, consider the story of Pakistani civil society organization Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO):

In 2011, SPO used FrontlineSMS to implement a disaster relief project, following monsoon flooding in Sindh, Pakistan’s southernmost province. The flooding affected an estimated number of 5.5 million people, who faced the lack of clean drinking water, food, healthcare, and shelter. It resulted in communicable and non-communicable diseases spreading across the province, destruction of agricultural land and livestock, and a great loss of livelihoods.

SPO used FrontlineSMS to receive feedback from flood victims and to monitor the process of distributing food and shelters. During that operation they found out that building in-person relationships with the beneficiaries was crutial for encouraging adoption of the communications system they had implemented. By managing their contacts in groups through FrontlineSMS, SPO could send tailored messages before each of their five partner organizations started the aid distribution process, in order to alert the beneficiaries. It could also solicit feedback via SMS, following the distribution.

Why SMS?

This ability to interact via SMS is invaluable for community management, information tracking, or collecting research data.

SMS is one of the most inclusive means of communication in the world. 99% of text messages are read, almost every human on earth has access to a mobile phone, and every model of mobile phone can send and receive text messages. The barriers of entry are incredibly low:

  • there is little to no literacy requirement for short messaging;
  • it’s inexpensive for both, senders and recipients;
  • text messages encourage people to take action;
  • hearing back immediately is satisfyingly responsive.

It’s easy and rewarding for people to connect with information sent via FrontlineSMS. That’s why it has achieved a 98% recommendation rate.

The Result

With the Multi Selector tool, the process of selecting contacts and groups from a user’s database became much easier and more efficient.

Users can easily find contacts, groups, or smart groups, using whichever combination of mouse or keyboard they prefer. Autocomplete on-the-fly searching provides the users with all contacts matching their input, whether it is their name, email, number or even a single word appearing in the notes field. Scrolling is also supported.

Read more about the app on its website: FrontlineSMS.

Technologies used

More case studies you can find here.

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