Ken Banks, Mobile Technology Innovator

Boyd Matson | FrontlineSMS | May 19, 2010

Ken Banks has never monitored elections in Africa, run a rural healthcare network in India, stocked pharmacies with malaria medication, or brought crucial pricing information to farmers in El Salvador. Yet the computer software program he created does all that and more. While involved in conservation work in Africa, Banks saw a huge unmet need for technology that could send information between groups in remote areas with no Internet access. Such a tool could save hours of time and transform effectiveness for resource-stretched groups.

Banks returned from the field with this knowledge: Grassroots nonprofit organizations lack money, technical savvy, expensive hardware, reliable electricity, and Internet access. What do they have? Cell phones that can be used virtually anywhere. Understanding these realities, Banks created FrontlineSMS. “I wrote the software in five weeks at a kitchen table,” he says. “I made it a generic communications platform that could be used for almost anything, and I made it free.”...