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

Can SMS Frontline be deployed as an everyday journalistic tool?

We all know that mobile journalism is integral to our future. But, how do we practically embed something like SMS Frontline in our newsrooms, as an everyday tool that reporters build into every single story they produce?

How do we use mobile journalism to tangibly transform our newsrooms?

I've read about lots of case-studies about interesting outreach & crowdsourcing experiments, but cannot find any actual deployments of SMS Frontline or similar tools as part of the standard production protocols in real newsrooms.

Does anyone know of a deployment? Is anyone experimenting?

Does anyone want to team-up to find out what works, and what doesn't. I can offer a series of different media environments in southern Africa, ranging from an investigative wire-service with international reach, to a grassroots community newspaper, a group of glossy regional lifestyle magazines, and a commercial radio station.

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Justin

Thanks for this - extremely interesting and very good timing.

Firstly, there are a couple of guest posts on the Blog which cover the use of FrontlineSMS in two settings - radio and television.

There are a number of other stations around the world using the software, and a new initiative which is underway which will be specifically looking to apply the use of FrontlineSMS in the types of settings you talk about. The person running that project is in the Community and should be in touch. I'm not sure if it will cover newsrooms specifically, but there's no reason why it couldn't.

Looking forward to keeping in touch and taking the discussion forward.


Thanks Ken.

I'm glad to hear that people are beginning to experiment with FrontLineSMS, and similar mobile tools, in more journalistic settings.

My concern was that many of the initial deployments described as 'mobile journalism' were actually one-off interventions designed to stimulate audience interaction, to facilitate crowd-sourcing, or as part of 'public service' marketing outreach campaigns. Many of them were also actually data aggregation and/or data visualisation exercises -- all of which are valid & useful, but are not really narrative journalism.

If we want to punt FrontlineSMS / Ushahidi, etc, as journalistic tools, in the hope that they will be adopted for wide deployment by mainstream news organisations, then we need case-studies where they're used by actual journalists or citizen reporters (as opposed to aid-workers / NGO activists / crisis-mappers), and where they are central to either collecting data to tell journalistic stories, or to allowing readers to build on & annotate journalistic reporting.

This shouldn't be difficult to do, especially on "unfolding news stories" where reader / listener feedback often shapes how events are reported

Hi Justin,

I've been meaning to chime in here and as Ken mentioned we're looking at possible ways FrontlineSMS could be tailored for more effective media uses, whether by media organisations for news and other programming or by third-party users of media channels, like many of the ones you mention. The initial focus is on radio, given the enormous potential of two-way interactive radio just like you mention. We're just getting started and looking for good pilot opportunities so I'd love to take you up on your offer and explore this further. Could you email me at ss919[at]

Thanks Sharath!

I've just sent you an email with a couple of ideas / comments.


Hi there. Just checking whether you've been receiving the various emails I've sent over four month blitz at various newsroom projects in SA, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, & Sierra Leone. I may also assist with interventions in newsrooms in Kenya and Zimbabwe during this time.

If you're still interested in leveraging the projects for FrontlineSMS:Media, plse shout.


Hi, Justin!

Beginning of this year our community radio station NURU FM started broadcating officially. I am interested in the newrooms project your are talking about. Would you share some information on this issue?


Kind regards,



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