Frontline SMS: How can mobile technology be used to help social change across Africa?

Amy O’Donnell explains how she’s using text messages to help African radio stations engage their listeners on important political issues.

Frontline SMS is free, open source software that allows users to send and receive text messages from a group of people through mobile phones, says Amy O’Donnell, radio project manager of the initiative. The technology can be used by healthcare services looking to engage with their communities, by journalists gathering data and to assist with election monitoring. O’Donnell is currently working with Cambridge University and 20 African radio stations to help them engage with their audiences and give listeners a voice on important political issues. “SMS is an extremely powerful tool, even if you do have access to the internet. It’s very immediate,” explains she explains. In combination with other media, she adds, “it really closes the loop and can turn a one way conversation into a discussion.”

(Photo by Ken Banks at under a Creative Commons Attribution only licence).

This interview by FSD team member Brian Pellot is the first in a series from World Press Day in Tunisia. Our other interviews are with Lauren Wolfe, director of Women Under Siege; Moeed Ahmed, head of new media at Al Jazeera; Kevin Bankston, director of free expression, privacy and intellectual property at The Centre for Democracy and Technology; and Nqobile Sibisi, assistant coordinator on the Future Journalists Programme at Highway Africa.

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Comments (2)

Automated machine translations are provided by Google Translate. They should give you a rough idea of what the contributor has said, but cannot be relied on to give an accurate, nuanced translation. Please read them with this in mind.

  1. It took a substantial role in the Arab Spring beside Facebook. The downside is that it is very vulnerable to the control of telecommunications exercised by authoritarian regimes.

  2. Sounds like a great system, I hope it gets the attention it needs.

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