Ushering in the Advisors #1: Erik, Jan

At one time or another, all projects need a little help and direction. FrontlineSMS is no exception, and we’re fortunate to have been able to draw on the skills, experience and support of many close friends and allies over the past couple of years or so. During the FrontlineSMS building process we’ve been totally focused on the users – unashamedly so – and only now are we beginning to catch up organisationally.

This week sees the formation of a Board of Advisors for FrontlineSMS. With a field- and user-based theme, we’re honoured to welcome Erik Hersman and Jan Chipchase as our first round of appointees.

ErikErik is the co-founder of Ushahidi (which means “testimony” in Swahili), a web application created to map the reported incidents of violence happening during the post-election crisis in Kenya. Raised in Sudan and Kenya, Erik brings unique energy and insight to the world of technology and innovation – bridging the gap between Africa and Silicon Valley. An avid blogger Erik writes two different technology blogs including AfriGadget and WhiteAfrican. One dedicated to low-tech African ingenuity, and the other to high-tech mobile and web changes happening throughout Africa.

The user-needs-driven focus of the Ushahidi/FrontlineSMS relationship has become a model in collaboration for us, and Erik’s experience, passion and focus mirrors our own multidisciplinary approach to identifying and solving problems. His experience and understanding of the African technology landscape will be invaluable as we move our efforts forward. Erik has been a great mentor over the years, and he remains a good friend.

JanJan specialises in understanding the intersection of people, culture and technology. For eight years he worked out of the Nokia Research Center, Tokyo where, as Principal Scientist he conducted user experience and exploratory design research, taking teams into the field across the four corners of the globe. He is currently based out of Nokia’s Los Angeles design studio, conducting research to guide and support corporate strategy. Jan’s thinking is featured on his blog at

Jan, who we’ve known for a while, has built a considerable following for his work with Nokia, and continues to be a leader in his field. His focus on people, culture and technology is a perfect fit for us in many ways, reinforcing our own commitment to understanding and responding to user needs as a major driver in the development of social mobile tools. Jan’s experience will be particularly valuable as we begin the process of understanding the challenges and impact of FrontlineSMS on the ground.

We’re incredibly excited to be able to draw on the considerable experience of our new Advisory Board members, each of whom will help steer and direct our technical, marketing and organisational development. With software downloads rapidly approaching the 4,000 mark, the imminent launch of a FrontlineSMS Developer Community, and the emergence of new spin-off organisations such as FrontlineSMS:Medic and FrontlineSMS:Credit, there’s without doubt plenty to be getting on with.

The Board of Advisors will all be profiled on the FrontlineSMS website once all appointments have been made. Two more will be unveiled next week. In the meantime…

… welcome Erik and Jan! \o/

34 thoughts on “Ushering in the Advisors #1: Erik, Jan

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  2. Daniel F Berg says:

    Very exciting stuff Ken!! I’m so pleased to see such social entrepreneurship in Africa creating results!!

  3. J. Patterson says:

    Big fans of Frontline SMS, Jan and Erik. Team made in heaven!!! Looking forward to seeing where you take this — what an exciting start you’ve had

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  13. kiwanja says:

    Thanks for the nice welcomes! We’ll keep everyone posted on how things go. I’m particularly excited about having some seriously user-focused people on the team. Vital.

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