Today we undertook a rapid prototyping exercise with a group of farmers at the Wewa Uda community centre near Maha Oya. We discovered several phones using Sinhala text encoding. When we sent test messages to FrontlineSMS, we confirmed that these would not be properly displayed. This suggests an opportunity for us to consider a Sinhala translation for FrontlineSMS, possibly as a contribution of the project. We will need to consider this possibility further.
The image shows a farmer's phone using Sinhala text encoding.
Farmers at today's workshop told us that they wanted to be able to use text messaging to notify one another when they spot elephants in the area. This village has a particular problem with elephants creating damage to buildings and crops. We created a keyword "ALI" (Singlish for elephant), that forwards a notification to all phone numbers in a specified distribution group. Farmers can self-subscribe to the be on the distribution group.
There was considerable enthusiasm for the text messaging system. The next step is to work with the community to explore a governance model that will enable the system to be self-supporting and sustainable.