UNICEF Innovation has been working with SMS systems since 2007, when it created an open source platform called RapidSMS with its partners to support ongoing data collection efforts and youth engagement activities. RapidSMS is a free and open source framework designed to send and receive data using basic mobile phones, manage complex workflows, automate analysis and present data in real-time. In Zambia, for example, RapidSMS was used to facilitate communication between clinics and community health workers to significantly reduce the amount of time between collecting blood samples for early infant diagnosis for HIV and the return of test results to the originating health facility. RapidSMS has been used widely in international development, and many organisations contributed to the RapidSMS codebase, which is built with Python and Django.

Inspired by RapidSMS's capabilities and informed by their experience using RapidSMS, Rwandan software engineering firm Nyaruka built their own SMS service called TextIt - a commercial hosted service that runs on RapidPro. TextIt combined the advantages of RapidSMS while addressing many of the limitations that UNICEF and partners experienced while deploying RapidSMS in difficult operating environments. 

Guided by its innovation principles of open source, open standards, and collaboration, UNICEF partnered with Nyaruka to open source and expand the functions of TextIt, giving birth to RapidPro in 2014. 

RapidPro allows you to easily design, pilot, and scale services that connect directly with a mobile phone user...without the help of a software developer.

From youth engagement programs like U-Report to education monitoring systems like EduTrac, RapidPro has become UNICEF’s common platform for developing and sharing mobile services that can be adapted for different contexts and sectors.

  • Design it your way: Build a mobile service through an easy-to-use interface
  • Reach those who matter: Talk to your users in any language using via SMS, voice, social media, and more
  • Scale with ease: RapidPro is designed to grow with your service; whether you want to reach one or millions, it can handle it
  • Make sense of your data: From dynamically grouping users to making on-the-spot calculations, RapidPro informs you the way you want to be informed
  • Connect with other systems: Interact with external systems using RapidPro's APIs

As an open source product, RapidPro will continue to grow and evolve with your needs. Take RapidPro for a spin by contacting a service provider from the Marketplace.

Are you a developer? Check out the RapidPro software project site for how to get started.