May 11, 2010, REDWOOD CITY, Calif. and CAMBRIDGE, England — Omidyar Network today announced a $350,000 grant to FrontlineSMS, a U.K. based non-profit that provides free software that turns a laptop and a mobile phone into a simple, low-cost means of two-way, group communication. Omidyar Network’s two-year grant will enable FrontlineSMS to reach millions more individuals and foster new services to provide information critical to their health, livelihood and ability to hold their governments accountable.
FrontlineSMS is free, open source software that enables users to send and receive text messages with large groups of people through mobile phones. Its adoption is accelerating in the developing world where Internet access is limited but SMS (text messaging) is increasingly accessible. More than 7,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across 50 countries have downloaded FrontlineSMS for a wide range of activities including:
• promoting government accountability and monitoring elections,
• providing security alerts to field workers,
• exchanging agricultural market information, and
• coordinating healthcare workers and monitoring outbreaks of disease.
“The innovative use of the enabling technology and its application in furthering access to information and government transparency on a global scale make FrontlineSMS a natural partner for Omidyar Network,” said Stephen King, senior director, investments at Omidyar Network. “FrontlineSMS and its worldwide developer community provide an accessible technology that can enrich lives around the globe.”
FrontlineSMS will use the Omidyar Network grant in two specific ways:
• increase user adoption through promotion of FrontlineSMS and creation of sector-specific communities, and
• expand the developer community to increase FrontlineSMS usage and leverage technology advances, such as Web-based interfaces and 3G mobile applications.
“Omidyar Network’s support will enable FrontlineSMS to build and strengthen our organization and service, thus allowing us to reach more users,” said FrontlineSMS Founder and Executive Director Ken Banks. “Increased adoption will accelerate social change in communities around the globe by enhancing civic engagement and improving economic opportunity for millions of people."
FrontlineSMS is an open source software that turns a laptop and a mobile phone into a central communications hub. The easy-to-install program resides on a laptop computer and does not require an Internet connection. It requires little to no training, and the software can communicate with all GSM phones, modems and networks. Developed by Ken Banks in 2005, the award-winning software is now in use in 50 countries. For more information about FrontlineSMS, visit www.frontlinesms.com.
About Omidyar Network
Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. To date, Omidyar Network has committed more than $300 million to for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple investment areas, including microfinance, property rights, government transparency, and social media. To learn more about Omidyar Network, please visit www.omidyar.com.