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

A message for all those experienced or interested in using FrontlineSMS in a radio station context: FrontlineSMS is collaborating with the Centre of Governance and Human Rights at the University of Cambridge to develop and design a FrontlineSMS platform tailored to the needs of community radio stations.

Our broad aim is to provide stations with an easy-to-use, accessible, low cost tool that will enhance two-way interactivity with their listening audience. Greater levels of audience feedback to inform programme content, texting questions or comments contributing to on-air discussions, and polling public opinion are some of the functions FrontlineSMS:Radio will offer. But radio stations may find a vast array of uses beyond this, which is what makes the development of FrontlineSMS:Radio very exciting.

Working alongside Developing Radio Partners and Internews, we have a fantastic group of community and small commercial radio stations trialling the original FrontlineSMS platform. Through the project community site, they are discussing how it works, how they use it, and how it could be adapted for radio station use. This will shape the design and development of the Beta FrontlineSMS:Radio which will be rolled out mid 2011.

We are keen to hear thoughts, ideas, and experiences from those who have used FrontlineSMS with a radio focus. How you used it or ways it could be built to serve the needs of radio stations more effectively.

I look forward to hearing from you!


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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Karim

Is this an open project that others can join? Is there a URL for the project website?

I ask because next week, 8-13 Nov, we have the 10th World Conference of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC 10) that is taking place in La Plata, Argentina. We will have around 500 people together from over 100 countries. There will be a number of workshops that cover the use of technologies for community radio and I am sure there will be people there interested to hear of and potentially to join you in this initiative.

One area of particular interest for community radio is the development of MMS functionality and the use of the mobile phone as an audio reporting tool. Is that something that your project would also be looking at?

I look forward to hearing more about FrontlineSMS:Radio.

Hi Steve, thanks for these great suggestions. It's an open project-in-the-making, starting with a few targeted pilots. It would be great to direct AMARC attendees to this webpage as a start. We'll keep the discussion going here with ideas (the MMS one is very interesting), and migrate to a new webpage when the timing's right.
We're calling out now for radio stations already using FrontlineSMS to share their experiences: do you know any??

Hi Sharath

There has not been any survey within AMARC network to know who is using Frontline SMS but I will ask next week. Most likely the early users would be in an emergency context. I know, for example, community radio and other community media activists are working together - as I write - on the Merapi volcano response. This a great example of collaborative work in the community media sector - see - which does include a simple SMS 2 web application, though I think its probably not Frontline SMS.

At my local community radio in Sheffield, UK, - - we are planning to run a pilot on MMS capture using FrontlineSMS so I will be especially interested to know of others looking at this.

I have used FrontlineSMS for Community Radio, with listeners being able to text directly to the studio as the messages forward to a specific email address. This has brought interaction from listeners who would otherwise not have got in touch with the station.

The main downside of this is that listeners tend to send text long messages, and anything with more that one standard SMS seem not to get through so it needs some manual intervention. I appreciate this may have something to do with the phone I've been using (Nokia 6230).

We have been using the service exclusively for incoming text messages, although I realise the possibilities updating listeners and building up a database are there.


Equal Access ( is using Frontline with a number of our projects throughout the world, both in support of local radio stations we work with and larger, mass media programs we develop. We primarily use SMS for feedback collection and polling. In our countries of operation (Niger, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Chad, etc.) language, cost, literacy, knowledge of mobile phone functions, and levels of phone ownership remain the main barriers to using SMS/MMS/IVR in more complex ways with our media programs. However, we've had great success with young people, who seem particularly eager to communicate with our programs.

Increasingly, we're forming local partnerships with mobile service providers to lower the costs for both our listeners and make it easier for them to communicate with us. We've secured short codes, created toll-free numbers (with costs charged to us, not sender) and arranged for bulk rates well below the average market price for texts. We would love to hear if others have experience doing this. There seems to be good interest among the mobile providers in partnering with radio stations and media organizations. Has anyone found good ways of syncing Frontline with local networks (for example, through a secure internet connection)?

Another barrier for us is volume, which may not be an issue for the community radio stations on this list. But in Nepal, for example, cannot use Frontline because the volume of messages exceeds what's possible through a GSM modem and a SIM (or multiple modems and SIMs). We're talking about 20,000+ messages for one 30-minute radio show. Unlike most other Frontline users in health or human rights, a lot of radio producers' messages come in over a short period of time (i.e. when people are listening to our programs). If it were easier to sync with the mobile services, cutting out the SIM and modem, this would help - noting that this is a 2-step problem, with negotiations over the connection with the company being one step.

We also share Steve's desire to be able to use the mobile phone as a reporting tool. To have truly organic user-generated content in these countries may be a long way off, but we have a number of "community radio reporters" whose work would benefit from such functions.
Greetings all - its good to see this convergence between FLSMS and radio. It is a domain that there are already MANY commercial applications for across different parts of Africa for its ability to help radio stations generate some income (see:premium rate services and shortcodes)

One of the most direct ways we have used FLSMS with radio with our radio partners in Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi is by sending alerts to listeners to remind them about upcoming radio broadcasts.

Our work is largely in building the capacity of radio stations to offer quality and relevant agricultural information in the form of Participatory radio campaigns (PRCs). Interactivity and engagement is a big part of this.

Unfortunately our early attempts to make use of the keywords functionality of FLSMS to send automated responses to listeners proved unrealiable - partially due to network constraints and partly due to the FLSMS software itself. So it is exciting to see that the use of radio is being considered.

So, as I was saying above - our most successful use of FLSMS has been to amass a database of listeners phone numbers who want to receive alerts/reminders about our farm radio broadcasts. They get a message 30 minutes before the show with details about the content, details about any people who will be featured/interviewd/live in studio and the last message in the 160 character msg is always "Tell 8 of your neighbours and friends!". The word of mouth is still so poweful in rural Africa!

We are working on a research paper (as well as a ICTs for Radio manual) to share the impact of our experiments. We have discovered that those who receive SMS alerts, listen more frequently to the radio broadcasts than those who dont, and also those communities where the verbal reminders are also given have higher listenership rates. The downside to all this is that it is still expensive to send sms!

We had one interesting way of gathering numbers for the alerts - we encouraged people who wanted to "sign up" to either send us a text or to "flash" us - resulting in a missed call. We would take those missed calls and smss add them to the subscriber database (as I mentioned before, the keyword functionality should help with this but it was unreliable).

We have many suggestions (collectively about six broadcasters and tech people from radio) about ways that the FLSMS interface and software can be improved for radio application and look forward to contributing where possible.

Bart Sullivan - Farm Radio International
Hey bART

Always good to hear from you! I just wanted to quickly point out that at the time you were trying this we had a rather annoying keyword bug which has since been fixed. If you try the latest version you should find it all works beautifully.

Looking forward to talking more about the Radio initiative!

Hi Steve,
As Sharath said, we are still in the process of getting our project website up and running so, for now, this will be the main forum for discussion and keeping everyone up to date. I hope AMARC 10 goes well and you have a great time in La Plata. Looking forward to hear if you come across any FrontlineSMS users who may be interested in or able to help with our work.
Do let us know how the MMS pilot goes and I'll be happy to connect you with any contacts we develop who are also looking at this.

Best wishes,

I forgot to mention: I'm currently organising a few visits to local community radio stations. I'm interested in seeing their SMS set ups, and how they interact with their audiences more generally, to get ideas and inspiration for FrontlineSMS:Radio. I will be visiting a station in Cambridge I had a show at but wondered if you could recommend any London based community stations with a good level of audience participation? Many thanks.
Thanks for that insight into your experiences with FrontlineSMS at Equal Access. It's very interesting to hear from an organisation who has deployed it across a range of countries and the themes that seem to emerge (both the possibilities and limitations).
The issue of volume is a particularly interesting one for our software team to try and resolve. Whilst not all community stations will be receiving 20,000 plus messages, many will be receiving a lot of messages in a short 30 min programme period. This brings up the question of not only the capacity to process large numbers of SMS in a short period, but to organise/ sort them in a way they can be used.

It would be great to hear more on how some of the stations use SMS for feedback and polling. Are presenters able to pose a question to the audience, receive SMS responses, and read them out all in the space of one show? Or do they, as tends to be the case, carry out this process over a number of days/ programmes?

Many thanks,

Hey Karim

I work for a Farmworker Union that owns a radio station; I take care for all of our tech, including the radio..

I have try to introduce FLSMS to our community.. I am on the process of making it work with our computers the FLSMS interface to a computer..

In Tech; I am having trouble making a port with a bluetooth adapter that is would make our use of FLSMS a lot more simpler, we don't have much space in our radio studios. Is there someone out there that is using a bluetooth as a way to connect to the interface.. If I figure it out; I will share the info.. I am using a a Samsung SGH-T329 to connect by Bluetooth. (Can't create port yet to use phone with FrontlineSMS

In the community radio topic;We are KPCN-LP 95.9 FM Radio Movimiento Located in Woodburn, Oregon. and We will document this kind of text message information; as we are trying to do local journalism with this vehicle.. so Thanks to the open source of FrontLine SMS. what a great tool to have to make the difference.

Erubiel V.
Hi Erubiel,

Great to hear from you. I work with Karim on this project. We'll send your tech question to people who know more. But do tell us about how you get on using FLSMS at the station when that's sorted out!



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