Software in the Public Interest: FrontlineSMS Founder Wins Pizzigati Prize

Florence Scialom | FrontlineSMS | March 17, 2011

As the founder of FrontlineSMS, Ken Banks has been widely recognised for his work in giving grassroots groups the world over the capacity to interact, cheaply and simply, with constituents in remote communities. As a result of his impressive work Ken has recently become the fifth annual winner of the Antonio Pizzigati Prize for Software in the Public Interest.

The $10,000 Pizzigati Prize honors software developers who, in the spirit of open source computing, are fashioning exceptional applications for aid activists and nonprofits. Tides — a partner to philanthropists, foundations, activists, and organisations worldwide — hosts the prize selection process.

Ken created FrontlineSMS because it speaks directly to a global communications reality: Millions of people in remote areas have no access whatsoever to the Internet. But many of these millions do have simple mobile phones. FrontlineSMS enables grassroots groups to reach these millions, using only a laptop computer, a USB cable, and a basic mobile phone or modem device. And the constituents of these groups can use their own mobile phones to communicate back.

Since Ken developed FrontlineSMS in 2005, nonprofits have downloaded the totally free — and easy to use — software almost 13,000 times, for use in a strikingly varied assortment of projects across the globe. The first independent news agency in Iraq, for instance, is using the software to text message updates to readers in eight different countries.