Tonight in Santa Clara, California, several thousand people will be standing on the stage with me as I collect a Tech Award for FrontlineSMS. It’s been an incredible four years – the last two in particular – and it’s amazing to think how far we’ve all come. FrontlineSMS stirs genuine enthusiasm and excitement everywhere I go, and people resonate just as much with the story as they do with the simplicity and impact of the technology.
The Tech Awards is a prestigious Silicon Valley-based international awards program that honours innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity. This is the second time FrontlineSMS has been nominated, snapping up one of three awards handed out this year in the “Equality” category. Fifteen awards in total are being given out on the night, along with one to Al Gore who’s being honoured with the “Global Humanitarian Award 2009”.
I may be the one picking up the FrontlineSMS trophy, but this is very much a team effort if ever there was one. This would never have happened without the faith of donors, an incredible (and growing) user community, volunteers, partners, numerous bloggers and members of the media, academics, advisors, designers, lawyers and solicitors, photographers, competition judges, programmers, members of the public, students, techies, and friends and family. There are simply way too many to mention. Remove just one piece and it all comes crashing down.
This Award is also, more importantly, a celebration of the art of the possible. It shows what’s possible if you build tools for underserved places – where they’re often most needed – and what’s possible if you remain totally focused on your goal. It also shows what’s possible if you don’t lose sight of your users, and if you focus on building solutions and not just technology for technology’s sake. And it shows that you don’t need significant amounts of money or abundant resources to build tools which can have real impact.
The story behind social mobile tools are an important motivator to budding entrepreneurs, and I’m happy to continue sharing that story for as long as people find FrontlineSMS an appropriate, useful and relevant tool in their social change work. Thanks to everyone for making the journey as rich and exciting as it has been, and I look forward to continuing to work with you all as ours – and your – work continues. There is still much to do.