From Guest Blogger Sanjana Hattotuwa: A Review of Frontline SMS

Posted by KatrinVerclas on May 16, 2008

Guest Blogger Sanjana Hattotuwa from ICT4Peacebuilding is reviewing Frontline SMS, a software that allows you to run an SMS campaign from your computer. It is one of a class of do-it-yourself SMS campaign tools that we have previously reviewed on Sanjana took a look at the new release of Frontline SMS and had this to say.

"I’ve written on FrontlineSMS before, so I won’t go into details about what it is and how great a programme I think it is. Ken Banks, the programmer, launched the new version of FrontlineSMS and it’s got a spiffy new website to boot.

Recently, I tried to use the new version in its beta form for the Eastern Provincial Council election work in Sri Lanka, but it just did not play nice with my Nokia 3310c phone on Vista. The programme “saw” the phone but just did not connect. I have a good mind to save up some money and go for a GSM modem (as Ken recommends) to test out the full functionality of this programme and its potential for the work I do in Sri Lanka, though I feel that asking those who want to use this programme to its fullest potential to also buy new equipment is not cricket.

I wish Ken well in this latest avatar of what is already a well proven system. My concern however is that the version I tested still required more than a little technical knowledge to get up and running - technical knowledge that the grassroots NGOs that would find this programme the most useful simply don’t have. How many readers of this post know how to (re)configure COM ports, set up modems, disable Nokia Phone Manager software, fiddle around in the Windows Control Panel and enable administrator privileges for the (beta version) programme to even start on Vista?

So there’s the programme’s Achilles Heal. Powerful in the right hands, still too technical and leaves too much to chance to be promoted as a advocacy tool that grassroots NGOs can use for their advocacy from the get-go. To be fair though, FrontlineSMS is the closest I have seen to such a system and Ken’s dedicated to ironing out the flaws and making this more accessible to a wider audience.

In the meanwhile, take the tour and request a download. The beta version still only really runs on Windows. Ken claimed it ran on OS X, but the Windows executable beta version I downloaded did not and frankly could not, given that it was packaged for Windows platforms only. Since the programme is based on Java though, I’m looking forward to true OS agnosticism in the near future.

All the best Ken. So when are you going to make this open source?

Pictiure credit: Frontline SMS

Keep trying Ken !

I fully believe that this model of mobile guerrila mobilization is the way to start up a program for small to big NGOs. Carriers are not understanding yet the social role to this tool and costs are extremly high to start an advocacy or a FR campaign.
Congratulation to Frontline SMS !
Marcelo Iniarra

How does one apply KISS (Keeping It Simple and Short)

I like these comments. I am hoping to use FrontlineSMS as a tool for ultra low cost data collection ... but the technical aspects scare me!

Peter Burgess

Testing Frontline SMS

Hello. It was very interesting reading this review. My name is Levi á Torkilsheyggi from the Faroe Islands.

I'm using Frontline SMS to let people know when and where different church activities are, and to be able to send out different services as a verse a day and the ability to on command get to know where ones service will be needed.

I have been helping test the new software this last week. The program worked Great! I had no problems your reviewer had.

I downloaded it and closed all open applications, just in case, and installed it. The install progam is straightforward, and the FrontlineSMS icon was placed on the desktop. Then I connected a Nokia 5140i with a Nokia CA-42 cable, and after searching for devices for 1-2 minutes the phone was connected and ready to use. I sent and received SMS, and tried out the keyword function, and the survey function, and both worked like a charm. :)

The new view is nice, and easy to use, although the help function would be a great asset. I think this is coming next week.

This software is so valuable for people like us. Maybe you can do another review when the proper version is out??

Yours truly.


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