I’m excited for Ken Banks.
I’ve written on FrontlineSMS on this blog before, so I won’t go into details about what it is and how great a programme I think it is. Ken’s 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?