Ken Banks

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Ken Banks
Ken Banks at PopTech in 2012
Ken Banks at PopTech in 2012
Alma materUniversity of Sussex (1999)
OccupationEntrepreneur, consultant, book author, mobile technologist[1]
Years active2002 - present
Known forSocial entrepreneurship, mobile technology, global development, FrontlineSMS
TitleFounder of and FrontlineSMS[2]

Ken Banks (born 1966) is a British social entrepreneur, author, and consultant in areas covering technology and global development. He is best known for developing FrontlineSMS, a mobile messaging platform.


Banks studied social anthropology and development studies at the University of Sussex and graduated in 1999.[3]

In 2001, Banks worked in a primate sanctuary in Nigeria, helping rescue and rehabilitate a range of primate species. In December 2002, he began working on one of the earliest mobiles for development initiatives with Fauna and Flora International, a global conservation organisation based in Cambridge, UK.[4] His work resulted in the launch of the wildlive! mobile portal in December 2003,[5] which provided images, animal sounds, conservation-themed games, and live news to subscribers.[6]

In 2003, he established, an NGO focused on applying mobile technology for social and environmental change in the developing world, especially in Africa.[7][8][9] In a special report on the use of mobile phones in development, World Watch Magazine described Banks as "probably the world's leading voice in promoting mobile phones as an appropriate technology".[10]

Ken Banks carries out a demo of FrontlineSMS (2009)

In 2004, Banks was approached by Kruger National Park (South Africa) officials asking for a solution to update Bushbuckridge community members on changes and developments in the park using their mobile phones.[11][12] After research it turned out that all solutions at the time required Internet access which, back in 2004, was a problem in the area.[6] In early 2005, Banks realized that a simple piece of software could be developed to send and receive multiple text messages (SMS) to and from mobile phones using a laptop with no Internet connection.[13] Banks started to develop FrontlineSMS in summer 2005 and completed it within 5 weeks.[6] The software was officially launched in October 2005.

Almost two years after its launch, FrontlineSMS was used by a Nigerian organization called Humanitarian Emancipation Lead Project (HELP) to assist Nigerians in reporting on their 2007 national elections.[14][15] Banks later received funding from the Hewlett Foundation, Open Society Initiative, Rockefeller Foundation and Omidyar Network.[16]

In 2009 Banks was made a Laureate of The Tech Awards.[17]

Ken Banks presenting his Means of Exchange initiative at PopTech in 2012

In 2012 Banks launched a new startup and his first initiative was a "cash mob" during the London Olympics.[18]


  • Banks' first edited book, The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator, was self-published in late 2013.[19]
  • His second book, Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation, was published by Kogan Page and released in March 2016.[20]


  1. ^ Klibanoff, Eleanor (October 27, 2014). "The Red Cross Is Using Text Messaging To Take Down Ebola". NPR. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  2. ^ Groeger, Lena (June 15, 2011). "Look Ma, No Internet! Free Software Gives Text-Messaging New Reach". Wired. Archived from the original on December 22, 2016. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  3. ^ "Ken Banks, BA in Social Anthropology and International Development (1999) talks about his career". University of Sussex. 2018. Archived from the original on December 18, 2018. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  4. ^ Imani M. Cheers (2013-02-25). "Changing the World, One SMS at a Time". International Reporting Project. Archived from the original on 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  5. ^ "Mobile boost for conservationists". 2003-12-12. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
  6. ^ a b c David Maxwell Braun (2010-09-29). "Solving eco challenges with grassroots messaging". National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on 2017-12-03. Retrieved 2017-12-03.
  7. ^ "The meek shall inherit the web". The Economist. September 4, 2008. Archived from the original on December 18, 2018. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  8. ^ Lule, Jack (2012). "Introduction: Global Village of Babel". Globalization and Media: Global Village of Babel. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-7425-6836-5 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ Joyce, Mary C. (2010). Digital Activism Decoded: The New Mechanics of Change (PDF). International Debate Education Association. p. 69. ISBN 978-1-932716-60-3.
  10. ^ Mulrow, John (2010-05-22). "Think Mobile, Act Local" (PDF). World Watch. Vol. 23. p. 27. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  11. ^ Burbank, April (June 20, 2012). "How Ken Banks Built a Startup One Text Message at a Time". Forbes. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  12. ^ Davies, Nicola (June 12, 2015). "Keeping it simple: The next technology revolution". ExtremeTech. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  13. ^ Wolber, David; Abelson, Hal; Looney, Liz; Spertus, Ellen (2014). "11: Broadcast Hub". App Inventor 2 (PDF) (2nd ed.). O'Reilly Media. p. 186. ISBN 9781491906842.
  14. ^ Stuart Thornton (2011-01-21). "Spreading the Message". National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on 2017-12-07. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  15. ^ "Texts monitor Nigerian elections". BBC. 2007-04-20. Archived from the original on 2017-12-07. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  16. ^ Livingston, Steven, ed. (2014). "FrontlineSMS:Grassroots M4D Innovation and the Challenges of Success". Bits and Atoms: Information and Communication Technology in Areas of Limited Statehood. Oxford University Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN 978-0-19-994159-9. Retrieved 2017-12-07 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ Tom Foremski (2009-11-19). "Rewarding tech that benefits humanity". ZDNet. Archived from the original on 2017-11-20. Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  18. ^ Monty Munford (2012-08-15). "Cash Mobs: how the internet can revive local shops". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2017-12-10. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  19. ^ Parkinson-Hardman, Linda (2015-02-12). "Meet Ken Banks, author of The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator". Woman on the edge of reality. Retrieved 2019-03-22.
  20. ^ Banks, Ken (2016). "Social entrepreneurship and innovation international case studies and practice". Kogan Page. OCLC 949230393. Retrieved 2019-03-22.