Projects on the Move

Projects on the Move

Article from Issue 133/2011

RapidSMS offers a flexible framework for developing SMS-based applications, and PhoneGap streamlines the art of cross-platform app development.

When you think of UNICEF, you probably don’t think about innovation, which is actually one of the organization’s core values [1]. UNICEF has helped develop everything from birthing kits to solar-powered cold storage units. In fact, in 2009, UNICEF was awarded the Gov 2.0 Summit Award [2] for RapidSMS, a free, open source framework for developing SMS-based applications [3].

RapidSMS isn’t something you download and start using. Instead, RapidSMS is a Django and Python-based framework that can be customized for diverse data collection,
workflow, and group coordination functionality. The software is designed to work on any phone that can send and receive text messages and is intended to be customized for governments and humanitarian organizations working in geographically remote areas with limited infrastructure, such as roads and electricity. In October 2008, RapidSMS played an integral role in UNICEF’s efforts to distribute high-protein food (Plumpy’nut) to 1,800 food centers in drought-crippled Ethiopia [4]. Before using RapidSMS, aid monitors collected data, such as the amount of food received and distributed, but there could be several weeks of delay between when the data was collected and analyzed and any follow-up actions, such as sending additional supplies. RapidSMS helped eliminate the delay, which is no small task when you are dealing with 193,130 cartons of Plumpy'nut from 1,852 distribution centers.

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