Our head in The Cloud, our heart in the community

Freedom Fone faces a number of challenges in 2013 as it transitions from a donor funded development model to a community supported software project.

Historically, Freedom Fone was developed to help activists quickly set up automated voice menu, voicemail and SMS information services independent of the Internet and with a minimum of reliance on mobile network operators.

Over the intervening 5+ years, the Internet has becoming more affordable, reliable and accessible in the developing world. This has allowed us to now focus on producing a cloud version of our platform. The benefits to users are many as with no equipment to manage:

  • there is a lower cost of deployment
  • users need less technical staff to manage their service
  • short-term deployments can be considered
  • data is secured in the cloud

Maintaining software for cloud users drops the cost of software maintenance and support considerably, making it a pragmatic option for the years ahead.

With the core platform now developed and usage on the increase, the time has come to open up the code base to contributions from the development community at large. This is not a simple endeavour and will rely heavily on the support and goodwill of developers and users who see the potential of Freedom Fone as an M4D tool in a wide variety of sectors.

To help us navigate all these issues, ThoughtWorks Social Impact Program assigned Zaynab Leeya and Kao Felix to work with us pro bono for 5 days in our Harare office in late December 2012. It was one of the most productive weeks I've had and compares with the enormously productive booksprint of November 2011.

Zaynab directed the process, introducing agile methodologies that helped focus, prioritise and manage our time together. We have subsequently integrated these methods into our daily routines and are benefiting enormously from them.

Kao's technical expertise, experience and personal network opened up opportunities to consider new productivity tools and attract developers to our project. He also wrote a kickass automated deployment script to help users easily set up a local VM with Ubuntu 12.04.

We are indebted to ThoughtWorks and their friendly, professional staff and hope that in the future other opportunities will arise to work together to improve our products for the benefit of users around the world.

If you'd like to get involved in Freedom Fone's development community, please use our webform to get in touch.