FrontlineSMS

FrontlineSMS let users send, receive and manage SMS over a mobile network.

has anyone tried to port the FrontlineSMS backend software to android - similar to the RapidAndroid port of RapidSMS. It would be interesting to be able to use an Internet Tablet (like the Archos) to write forms and collect form data. It would really facilitate field work where laptops might be clumsy or not have the battery longevity needed.

Tags: Archos, android

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I'm very interested in this. WE have some field tests we'd rather collect in a FrontlineSMS compatible way, than via some other web app. I don't know much about this but keep me posted if it works.
Hi Joel

Thanks for the message. We've been speaking with someone about developing a Symbian version, not an Android one. We prefer to build for devices which are more easily available to users, and with a focus on the developing world Android isn't a widely available platform yet. There's no news yet on how the Symbian work is going, but we'll likely pick up on it again after the new version of FrontlineSMS is out (we're flat out working on that now).

Ken
What type of symbian device is big/powerful enough to be worthwhile doing something like that? Maybe the N97 - but that is even a bit of a stretch and probably more expensive than a G1 or an Archos tablet. Add to that the massive influx of android phones beginning around the world (China, Latin America) and the obvious upward trajectory of this platform, and the fact that it can be put on netbooks or other devices - it seems like there is a lot more utility to working on this than symbian. Obvioulsy there are lots more symbian phones out there right now, but they aren't suited to writing frontline forms for the most part, so if it comes to a future perspective, android clearly has more traction for the types of devices on which this sort of software would be useful. Any other developers agree, want to work on this with me?
In 2003 I collected MP3 interviews across West Africa on an Archos device. I was the only person with this tool in the region, and MP3s were just getting heard of. So I think it's safe to say Android and iphones are 2 years away from reaching the regions that Frontline SMS works best (being the only game in town). It's good to keep that in mind - as the real appeal to FrontlineSMS is that anyone can set it up in a village and then find a way (in my opinion) to serve as a digital scribe for the needs of those people to the world in general.

That said, if there is clear evidence that any of these non-basic SMS devices are actually in use in Africa, I'll be the first to support them.
Hi Joel

Since 2005, FrontlineSMS development has been solidly centred around two key drivers. First, we only build or add functionality that users ask for, since there's a tendency in ICT4D to build things that are 'cool' and not really much use. Secondly, we focus on building tools that solve NGO problems now, rather than in the future. There are many people building tools which don't work in the hands of grassroots NGOs (but may down the line), and we're focused on solving problems today.

On the basis of those criteria, we're not looking at Android at the moment. Saying that, if someone wants to build an Android application then we're all for that, but we can't justify core funding on it. The Symbian work was going well last time I checked, and was being independently developed (which helps us by not draining core resources, which are quite slim).

Some Stanford students were looking at an Android version of FrontlineSMS a while ago. You might want to connect with them:

http://www.kiwanja.net/blog/2008/10/students-to-debut-frontlinesms-...

Let me know if you plan to do anything!

Ken
Even if Android becomes the future, it undeniably isn't the present, especially in the communities where FrontlineSMS has the greatest impact and traction. The same could be said of the cloud: it only makes perfect sense and is completely necessary, but it hasn't successfully reached the 'last mile' due to a mix of sporadic connection and high cost. Everything boils down to the fundamental question: should we be driven by push or by pull?
+1... If there's a real use-case for it, I'd be interested to support an Android development. I see that Android tablets are getting cheaper over time, i.e. Android 1.6 MIDs now for ~150USD here in China. I have no experience on Africa though.
Hi Mathias,

thank you very much for willing to be volunteer. I'll get in touch with the whole team, and we'll get back to you with more information.

Best,
Morgan
Hi Mathias,

Huawei are also launching a $99 Android handset in Kenya apparently - I think the time is here! It's even running v 2.2!

I think we discussed this on IRC before; let's catch up there when you're available.

If anyone else is also interested, let us know :¬)

Alex
Hello everyone,

I'm very interested in this - I've been having problems with FrontlineSMS because my server computer has to be located in an office which has very little network reception. I'm going to be using Android phones for another part of my project, and it would be great if I could have it be the FrontlineSMS server as well.

By the way, I'm working in Kenya, and I've been trying to find this Huawei $100 Android phone for weeks. I think it's actually retailing at 16,499 shillings which is more like $200.

Josephine
Hi Josephine,

Interesting info on the "$100" Android phone! I heard from White African blog's comments that it's not out yet, but I think you've already read that article ;¬)

Alex
Hi Alex, thanks for the info. I just started a new job this month, so didn't have much time to reply on here.
Let's catch up on irc or you can also find my on skype (mathias.lin).
Mathias

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