Internet access won't be common in Africa anytime soon, Ken Banks says, but almost everyone can get hold of a cellphone and GSM service is pervasive. In that environment, text messaging is the medium of choice, but how do you automate the use of SMS? For charities and non-profit organizations, Banks has developed FrontlineSMS - a PC-based application that acts as an SMS hub, manages databases of recipients and messages, and connects to a cellphone to send and receive messages.
In this conversation Jon Udell and Ken Banks explore the economics of cellphone use in Africa, the communication patterns that automated text messaging can support, and the challenge of building an application that supports an aging population of hand-me-down phones.
Ken Banks is the founder of kiwanja.net. He specialises in the application of mobile technology for positive social and environmental change in the developing world. He combines many years experience living and working throughout Africa with a 22-year career in IT.
In 1999 he graduated from Sussex University with honours in Social Anthropology with Development Studies. His vision is to empower others to create social change, and he does this by developing and providing tools to mostly grassroots organisations who seek to better use technology in their work.
This free podcast is from our Jon Udell's Interviews with Innovators series.