In many parts of the world, the mobile phone is the equivalent of the laptop computer in the West. In Africa, Asia, and other areas many people who do not have access to computers and internet use their mobile phones to connect with each other and share information. Unlike expensive smartphones, which often require post-paid contracts and data plans, SMS (short message service), or text messaging, is within the grasp of most mobile phone users. A text is easy and affordable to send and requires only a basic pre-paid service. Often it is free to receive text messages and some carriers offer email to SMS gateways. Many missionaries find text messaging to be a simple and affordable to communicate with those they serve.
FrontlineSMS is a free software application for your computer that allows you to send and receive text messages over your computer. You can link your mobile phone to your computer (desktop, laptop, or netbook) with a cable, or you can use a USB dongle with a SIM card. Not only can you use your larger keyboard to compose messages, but your messages may be managed in a similar way to an email program. You can configure distribution lists. You can also setup a SMS server, where people can text certain keywords to subscribe themselves to a distribution list. You can also use forms and conduct surveys via SMS and export data to Excel and other programs.
There are several ways missionaries can use FrontlineSMS. Besides using your netbook to send and receive text messages, here are some ideas.
- Sending SMS to your team in a distribution list
- Sending announcements and prayer requests
- Sending daily scripture passages or encouraging words to a large distribution list
- Using forms for research and reporting
- Encouraging pastors and leaders
- Fielding counseling questions via text messages
- Bible study accountability reminders