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Teaching the Power of Text Messaging in Haiti

By Guest Writer on March 3, 2013

James Lazarre learning FrontlineSMS

I am Neelley Hicks and I spend a lot of energy telling people about FrontlineSMS and how it can transform communications for those living without Internet in the developing world. However, I’m usually telling people in the U.S., rather than getting to teach it firsthand to those whom it will help the most. This last week, I got a chance to share FrontlineSMS in Haiti with those working in micro-credit, health, education and agricultural programs.

People who are used to sending mass email messages often don’t get the significance of FrontlineSMS. But if you didn’t have Internet access and needed to send group messages, what would you do? FrontlineSMS allows you to link your computer to cellular connectivity so you can send mass and automated text messages. When it’s used for health messaging, it can help people avoid outbreaks of disease, teach people how to use bed nets or pregnant mothers how to care for their unborn children.

When it’s used for agriculture, it can help local farmers know what the day’s prices are for their crops. Think of any area that impacts community empowerment in developing countries, then think about the communications are needed. FrontlineSMS can be present at that intersection to make a powerful impact. Here’s a short video about how it works:

It was so exciting for me to see how quickly James, Eddy and Junior picked up on how the software works. Within an hour, Junior had already installed it on his computer, selecting the French language version, adding keywords and auto replies. When I told James that he could use it to map the various locations of The Thomas Project, he was quick to take it to the next level to learn more. We’ve established the map and will continue working together online to get the details worked out.

Other United Methodists have learned about FrontlineSMS and have shared it in mission settings in DRC and Sierra Leone. Conference communicators in Zimbabwe, DRC, Cote d’Ivoire and the Philippines are using it for healthcare, congregational development and in conjunction with radio efforts.

I look forward to sharing updates as The Thomas Project and HAPI use this program to facilitate the communication their efforts need. Stay tuned!

This post was originally published as Teaching FrontlineSMS to UMC Mission Workers in Haiti


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One Comment to “Teaching the Power of Text Messaging in Haiti”

  1. thomas vincotte says:

    Do you think that in order to implement IT in developing countries, it has to go through teaching ? Do you suggest that every developing country has its own cultural approach on IT and thus IT should be approached differently ?
    I would love to have your opinion on that.