Project Details

African men using mobile phones


Pioneering, open-source software for managing SMS

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @frontlinesms

Organisation URL:
Organisation Twitter: @FrontlineSMS

  • Community Engagement
  • Internet
  • Mobile

FrontlineSMS is open-source software that helps users engage their communities with SMS,with just a laptop and a mobile connection. Using Frontline, organizations reach and communicate with offline communities affordably in huge numbers: it has been downloaded 225,000 times in 199 countries, reaching tens of millions of people since its launch in 2005.

Frontline’s tools are used by a wide range of social impact organizations and platforms - famously, the founding of Ushahidi, when messages gathered via FrontlineSMS were uploaded onto a heat map to record violence during Kenyan elections.

The technology makes it easier for organizations to improve efficiency and engagement with communities in healthcare, agriculture, microfinance, education, humanitarian aid and legal services, among others. Some health clinics have been able to double the number of patients they treat by using the technology, while another NGO reduced administration time from 16 hours per week to just 30 minutes. It’s not just NGOs - Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health implemented FrontlineSMS for its national health information system, increasing information flows with clinics from 50% to 90%, a feat that would not otherwise be possible without using SMS.

The tool is available in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Chinese. Users can export data onto other web platforms and into Excel, and subscribers, who can auto-sign up by text, are not charged to receive the messages.

FrontlineSMS was originally developed by Ken Banks, a conservationist struggling to involve communities along the border of the Kruger National Park in his programmes—and saw how powerful mobiles would be in reaching and monitoring interactions with offline communities. There is now a free Android app and a cloud-hosted version for remote storage and management.

FrontlineSMS helps individuals promote participation in the systems that affect the lives of real people in communities across the globe.  

Image courtesy of Ken Banks:

Last updated: 30th of September, 2014

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