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!


Tags: Radio

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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 Steve

I am at AMARC10 and am hoping to raise awareness of my open source IVR/SMS initiative called Freedom Fone - My organisation,, was one of the early adopters of FrontlineSMS for Zimbabwe. We are keen to integrate Freedom Fone & FrontlineSMS to make it easier for organisations to embrace voice & SMS to build two-way communications with community radio audiences.

I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss both products with you whilst I'm in La Plata.

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.

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.
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.

Hey Steve,
Thanks for getting back to us with your experiences using FrontlineSMS. Your issue with listeners sending long text messages is the exact sort of feedback we're looking for to inform the design of FrontlineSMS:Radio. If you don't mind, I have a couple of further questions about the nature of listener interaction you have using FrontlineSMS:

1. Are you able to receive the messages whilst on air and read them out? Or is this not possible/ too cumbersome with the original FrontlineSMS platform?

2. What sort of text messages do you receive and what do you do with them? Are they song requests or responses to questions/ discussions you're having on air?

Look forward to hearing from.


Hi Karim,
Thanks for the reply and feel free to ask away. As far as the interaction goes:

1. We do receive messages whilst on air and read them out. The text messages are emailed to a specific address used exclusively for text messages. It is possible, although the original FrontlineSMS platform is not quite as reliable as having the phone in the studio.

2. The text messages range from requests to mentions to live bands we have in the studio, traffic updates from regular listeners are quite popular as well. A general reaction to what is mentioned on air, usually.


Hi Steve,

So do all your text messages go through FrontlineSMS to the e mail account, or do you have an alternative set up with the phone in the studio?
In what ways are you finding FrontlineSMS unreliable? Is it that issue of messages being too long you mentioned before? Or is it difficult to organise/ read through messages the way you need to live-on-air with the current interface design?

I read about some stations using missed calls on the studio phone: Listeners leave a missed call to indicate a vote on something e.g. that they like the song being played. Has your station every done polling of this sort (either using FrontlineSMS or not).

It's really great being able to talk these issues and ideas through.
Hi Karim

I initially had FrontlimeSMS set up to deliver all text messages to an email account used exclusively for incoming messages. This seemed to be the easiest option as presenters could pick-up the messages in the same was as emails to the studio. the only issue with this method was that long messages weren't being delivered by FrontlineSMS. At the moment we are using a Symbian phone and software that re-writes incoming text messages to email.

We don't tend to do any audience polling, instead we would mostly react to comments via email, text message, twitter, facebook, etc.

Thanks again for the response,

Hey Steve, Hope all's well at Phoenix FM. I know we've discussed FrontlineSMS at the station a fair bit (mainly me pestering you with annoying questions, so I'm sorry for that!) but it would be great if you could fill in our short survey for community radio stations to help us capture some details.


Very best wishes,



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