Where Africa and Technology Collide!

nGOmobile: Win Your Own Text Messaging Service

nGOmobile Text Messaging CompetitionIf you run an NGO, or know someone who does, you’ll be excited to hear about nGOmobile. It’s a new initiative from Ken Banks of Kiwanja.net to help NGOs leapfrog the barriers to getting started using text messaging. You need to be operating a small to medium sized NGO in a developing nation to enter the competition.

How it works
First, take a look at the website. Next, you submit a short project description. The top 4 will be awarded everything you need to set up and manage your very own text-messaging project:

  • A brand new HP Pavilion laptop computer – To help you run your messaging campaign from anywhere you choose
  • A GSM modem – Send messages through the mobile network without the need for the Internet
  • Office software – Word processing, spreadsheets, email – everything to help you run your project more efficiently
  • A top-of-the-range Nokia mobile phone (or two) – A couple of cool Nokia phones to help you take photos and videos (and talk!)
  • FrontlineSMS -FrontlineSMS is a great piece of software allowing you to run your very own text-messaging campaign from a laptop or desktop computer.
  • $1,000 in cash

My Thoughts
NGO’s serve a specific role in Africa, generally a space that would be filled by governments in developed nations. Many of them are small teams of people with limited budgets, and this type of competition will provide a few of them the chance to get the equipment that they need to be more effective.

I’d like to know what nGOmobile will be doing to train the winners in order for them to have the most chance of success.

This is a neat project coming from someone who carries a lot of credibility in this space in Africa. Ken’s FrontlineSMS has been used by a number of organizations, most notably when it was used for monitoring the recent elections in Nigeria. I’ve interviewed Ken before, you can read it here or listen here.

You have from now until December 14th to submit your project ideas, so get started!


  1. Hi Erik

    Thanks for picking up and reporting on this. Clearly it’s vital that news of this competition gets down to the grassroots NGO community, and your blog has the kind of readership which will help do just that.

    Right now, nGOmobile is in test-mode, if you like. I don’t think this kind of thing has been tried before (I’d be happy to be put right on that, if anyone knows otherwise). If interest is sufficient and this hits the spot within the grassroots NGO community, then I hope to scale up next time round and offer more prizes, enabling more organisations to embrace mobile in their work. Better still, nGOmobile would become a yearly event. I’ll be the first to admit that giving away four laptops and a bunch of phones isn’t going to change the world, but the process might help people think about it!

    You make a valid comment on training. Firstly, as I do with all FrontlineSMS users, technical support and advice will be offered for free. Beyond that, information on how to best run a messaging campaign is already available through a number of good guides out there (such as the ones produced by MobileActive recently). Winning entries by their very nature will need to have been thought out and will be advanced to a certain degree, so I’m hoping that NGOs who enter the competition will already have thought about some of the cultural and technical issues surrounding the application of SMS in their work. After all, it is THEIR project and they, above anyone else, have a good understanding of the communities they work with and the lay of the land.

    I’ll happily keep you posted on how this goes, Erik.


  2. Hi Erik and Ken –

    I also blogged about this today at saidia.org. Waking up to news of this competition was sweet and energizing! This is exactly the sort of thing we need to draw out the good stories and ideas, and to help spread them throughout the African civil society sector.

    We will spread the word of this in the Kabissa community, and hopefully we’ll get some good stories.

    Ken, I like your approach regarding training, and the importance that grassroots groups take ownership over their own projects, realize that they best understand their local communities, and that they have to plan their projects accordingly.



  3. Thanks for your support and enthusiasm for this, Tobias.

    Support from networks like yours will be crucial if nGOmobile is to have any chance of success. By their very nature, many grassroots non-profits may struggle to hear about this, so getting news of this opportunity out to them is paramount to nGOmobile’s – and their – success.

    In the spirit in which we all work, I will gladly share lessons learnt from this, and help promote the work of all of the entrants, not just the winners.

    I’m glad to have made your morning! ;o)

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