TICAH 1 Update – Textit.in

Hi TICAH team,

We’ve been hard at work coming up with a solution for Aunty Jane SMS. As you suggested in our last meeting, we’ve shifted our focus to creating an interactive text based “menu” that users can use to get answers to common questions related to the topics of contraception and abortion.

The menu functionality basically means that a user can text a number and navigate through different levels of specificity related to their question to reach a point where they find the answer they were looking for.

Some of the requirements we set for ourselves when making this system was ease of use – both for the TICAH staff that need to update the system regularly with up-to-date information, and for the people using the service. We want the people who use Aunty Jane SMS to feel that the service is personal, easy to use, and helpful.

Our original plan was to use FrontlineSMS for this. However, we realized that making a text menu is surprisingly difficult and hard to maintain with Frontline. There was no way to create “levels” in the text menu; for example if a user answer the questions “Would you like to ask a question about contraception or abortion?” they should be brought to a new level that corresponds to their response. But Frontline didn’t do this easily, and the only solution we found would work would be for every respond to have a unique keyword that triggered it.

Time to look for an alternative solution!

We came across Textit.in, a SMS service that was developed in Kigali, Rwanda.

TextIt does what FrontlineSMS couldn’t, very well. To develop a new SMS system you make a “flow” with their very visual interface.

Here’s an example of a simple poll service (click to enlarge):


Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 7.55.34 PM



With TextIt it would be very easy for us to create a flow for Aunty Jane SMS that your team could easily make changes to.

However, it does have a few requirements that we’d like to discuss with you.

An easy way to use TextIt, rather than a Huawei USB modem, would be to download their app with from an Android smartphone. The smartphone should be used mainly to receive and forward texts to the TextIt platform. The phone must have a local, activated SIM card inside of it.

Here’s some text from TextIt’s website about using their platform in Kenya:

If you want a local number in Kenya you have a few different options:

1) You can buy a local SIM card in Kenya and have someone there put it in an Android phone and load theTextItapp. If they keep that phone someplace with signal, power and internet, then all the messages will be synced with your account automatically.

2) You can send off your SIM to a SIM hosting service like Infobip, who will host it somewhere it has signal.TextItintegrates with their APIs so you’d still be able to use all theTextIttools, but the outgoing and incoming messages would go through Infobip.

3) You can use a short code. Kenya has an excellent aggregator, Africa’s Talking. They make it really easy to acquire and rent a toll free short code. It costs more than option 1 and 2 above but is the best experience for the end user as they won’t have to pay to send messages to the short code. Again, integrating Africa’s Talking andTextItis just a few clicks.


Another possible concern is that price for TextIt. TextIt is a credit based system, and every time a text is sent or received from the platform it uses one credit. Seeing as we’re creating an interactive menu that encourages the user to send in many texts and have a “conversation” to narrow down the answer they are looking for, it’s possible to use a lot of credits in a single message. We have to do some tests once the “flow” is complete to see how many messages it will take, but I estimate around 10-15. The credits cost around $0.02 each (they cost less in bulk though) so if the service is used 100 times it will cost around $24.00. The cost of course would go up if the service was used more than this, which I’m sure it will be.

So my question is, are these two requirements responsible in your opinion? You would need a cheap android phone (TextIt recommends Samsung phones which cost around $90.00), an activated, local SIM card, and the ability to pay for TextIt credits (about $24.00 per 100 uses of Aunty Jane SMS)

Please let us know what you think of everything above either by commenting below or emailing me at mclaugk3@tcnj.edu, and I will make sure the team sees your input!


Kerrin McLaughlin


TICAH Health 2



(Primary) Sally Leiyan, sleiyan [at] ticahealth.org

  • Jeremiah Musyoka, jmusyoka [at] ticahealth.org
  • Bridget McGraw, info [at] bridgetmcgraw.com


(Primary) Prof. Mark Thompson, thompsom [at] tcnj.edu

  • Benjamin Meyer, meyerb2 [at] tcnj.edu
  • Jared Entin, entinj1 [at] tcnj.edu
  • Daniel Breen, breend3 [at] tcnj.edu
  • Drew Bloksberg, bloksbd1 [at] tcnj.edu


Vision Document


Project Overview

In order to gather and display feedback gathered from individuals in the community, the system uses FrontlineSMS. This software will need to be downloaded and installed on a computer before continuing with the setup guide. A sim card for a local number will need to be obtained with a dongle or an Android phone will need to be used in order to send and receive text messages. A list of recommended devices can be found here and here. Individual miales and elders are assigned to groups, which are tagged to allow for quick sorting through all of the feedback that has been received.

Setup Guide





(Primary) Digna Peter, digner_peter [at] yahoo.com

  • Bridget McGraw, info [at] bridgetmcgraw.com


(Primary) Prof. Mark Thompson, thompsom [at] tcnj.edu

  • Brianna D’Anton, dantonb1 [at] tcnj.edu
  • Maria Molina, molinam3 [at] tcnj.edu
  • Melissa Sheu, sheum1 [at] tcnj.edu
  • Samantha Mills, millss2 [at] tcnj.edu


Vision Document


Current Progress

  • Dongle issues / Dongle disappeared
  • Frontline SMS Groups, Subscription & Notification
  • Talked about possible poster designs (the only thing Digna really wanted)

Goals for next week

  • Begin coding / have some sort of baseline to work with
  • One poster design finished / possibly sent to Digna for feedback

TICAH Health 1 – Aunty Jane SMS System



(Primary) Sally Leiyan, sleiyan [at] ticahealth.org

  • Jeremiah Musyoka, jmusyoka [at] ticahealth.org
  • Bridget McGraw, info [at] bridgetmcgraw.com


(Primary) Prof. Mark Thompson, thompsom [at] tcnj.edu



  • Kerrin McLaughlin,     mclaugk3 [at] tcnj.edu
  • Gabe Franc,                   francg1 [at] tcnj.edu
  • Adam Czaplinski,         czaplia1 [at] tcnj.edu
  • Alexander Young,        younga6 [at] tcnj.edu
  • Yu-sheng Tu,                 tuy1 [at] tcnj.edu







Our project’s goal is to create  an SMS counterpart to TICAH’s Aunty Jane service.  Aunty Jane is a hotline that allows users call questions about sexual and reproductive health. Our service will be utilized by TICAH directly, using automated functionality to read through the received messages. Our system will provide immediate, automated responses to inquiries by providing a list of SMS menus for the users to interact and receive information. For more specific questions the user will always have the option to get a personalized response back from a TICAH representative during operating hours. Our system will provide a solution to these problems community members face when using TICAH’s Aunty Jane service:


Basic Overview/Introduction to Text.in           – textit.in

Text.in Video Tutorials                                        – textit.in/video

Text.in Written Documentation                        – docs.textit.in


1000 Hills Community Helpers

1000 Hills Community Helpers

  • Nathi , 1000hch [at] zamail.co.za
  • Dawn Leppan, 1000hch.dawn [at] zamail.co.za


  • (Primary) Prof. Mark Thompson, thompsom [at] tcnj.edu
  • Domenic Portera, porterd4 [at] tcnj.edu
  • Emma Dwight, dwighte1 [at] tcnj.edu
  • Isabelle Tan, tani1 [at] tcnj.edu
  • Niveda Harishankar, harishn1 [at] tcnj.edu


Project Summary

Our team worked with an organization in South Africa called 1000 Hills Community Helpers Center to create a Twitter Integrated SMS Alert System, as a way for the organization to remain in communication with their community members. The center can send out messages from the Twitter account that we set up for them and immediately reach different subset of their users. The members can subscribe to a list by texting a phone number with a keyword. There are three different keywords(#center, #class, #clinic).Members get texts specific to the keyword. Once subscribed, a confirmation text message is sent. Now, the user is subscribed to the list and will receive any tweets from the organization here on out that contains that specific keyword. We converted tweets to text messages to send it out the the members. There is a 140 character limit to Twitter posts so the text messages are within their limit.

A person who has subscribed to the center list will only get tweets that have “#center” in the sentence. The tweet below will only be received by  people who have subscribed to the center list.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 6.15.53 AM

Often, community members travel distances to get access to the facilities of the center such as the clinic, schooling, daycare, etc. However, there is no portal for the organization to reach out to their audience and make announcements/provide updates except for word of mouth and sometimes, posters. This only reaches a fraction of their user base and is a necessary but inefficient process. We saw an opportunity in the high mobile penetration across the community to streamline this process. People used simple phones there for utilitarian purposes and we came to the conclusion that the best way to reach our audience was through SMS text messaging.

Take a look at our Demo Video .


Vision Document

Click the heading for the vision document for our project intended for the 1000 Hills Community Helpers Center.


Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 11.18.34 AM
Basic project back-end flow chart


valley of 1000 hills poster
User Guide Poster


We used FrontlineSMS to create this application.