Look at tools

This section of the toolkit will present a few tools and services that can be useful in mobile advocacy. There are hundreds of tools and services available but we've worked with a team of mobile phone experts and advocates to test, review and recommend a selection to give you an idea of what is possible. The tools that we've selected are not all designed to be used directly on mobile phones: for example, we have included interactive voice response systems that people can call from their mobile phones.

Tools are software applications that are installed on a phone or on a computer, and services are commercial services available through the internet, such as online systems for sending bulk SMS (text messages). We have tried where possible to include tools that are Open Source and therefore available free of charge.

We've divided the tools and services according to the equipment and services that you need to have in order to use them, either:

  • Just a mobile phone, or
  • A mobile phone and a personal computer, or
  • A computer connected to the internet or a server, or
  • An internet connection, a mobile phone and a credit card

If you click on the link to an individual tool you will learn more about it and about the skills you'll need in order to use it, and you'll find links to further documentation.

We have also provided links to tools that aren't included in the box but which may be useful, including tools that you can use to access the internet and email on your mobile phone.

The mobile telephony landscape is changing rapidly. Operating systems and mobile handsets are evolving to incorporate new functions, such as GPRS systems for tracking your geographical location. The mobile operating system is opening up with the development of the Google Android platform.

Mobile advocacy tools designed to be installed on a server or a desktop computer are currently fairly challenging to use and often require Linux administration skills. Because this is a fast-developing field it's likely that in a few years more accessible tools will have been developed, including some designed specifically for use by NGOs, such as the Freedom Fone which will provide a voice database, allowing users to access news and public-interest information via land, mobile or Internet phones.

Factors to consider

Before you can use a tool you need to find out whether it will work on your computer or mobile phone.

Different mobile telephony applications may need to be installed on different pieces of equipment. For example, applications such as Fring which allow you to access your instant messaging or Skype account on the move, are installed on a phone, whereas FrontlineSMS, which is used for sending and receiving large numbers of SMS messages, is installed on a computer. Some applications will require a particular sort of phone or computer in order to work, for example to use Episurveyor you will need a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant).

Computers run using three main operating systems: Windows, Mac or Linux. Many tools will work only on one or two of these systems, so you should check that your version of the application, and any additional software you want to use, is compatible with the system that runs your computer.

Because applications for mobile phones also run on different operating systems (the main ones are Symbian or Windows Mobile), the same problems of application compatibility may arise as with computers. Make sure that the application you want to use will run on your phone's operating system.

To use the tools which help your phone and your computer communicate you will need a special cable to connect your mobile with your computer. To use some of these tools you may also need access to the internet, a phone line or a spare USB port.