Ken Banks (@kiwanja on twitter) is an honest-to-goodness tech hero. When much tech-related news and developments wallow in wonk and wank, or seem aimed at folks with more daily discretionary spending power than many global households make annually (PS3 Home launches! Waaa waaaaah), Ken's FrontlineSMS (@frontlineSMS on twitter) is a free piece of software that enables NGO's and grassroots organizations worldwide to communicate rapidly and effectively with geographically dispersed groups using basic text-messaging (SMS) technology. If you can get a signal, you can communicate/aggregate/congregate/advocate. And it works in spite of the natural disasters and power outages that regularly cripple other tech solutions.
Just how far ahead of the curve is Ken?
After a year of exhaustive research and millions spent, Larry Brilliant's Google.org announced (at TED 2008 last year) that they'd arrived at the conclusion that an SMS-enabled tool could be a good idea to invest MORE time and money to create a team to build and research and prototype and maybe, just maybe, deploy. Net: according to Google, it would take years and millions to do, in effect, what FrontlineSMS had been doing for years. Like announcing in 1973 that a moon trip looked "feasible". Proof yet again that insitutional hubris and groupthink can blind even the smartiest of smartie-pants to nimble people with a passion doing a reverse windmill dunk over them. [See "Salamis"]
Sure W+K sells soda and sneaks better than anyone, but we love passionate folks using innovative technologies to make peoples lives better. We were honored to work with Ken on his web presence and logo - both of which had to work on low speed connections and use text characters (since many folks would interact with them only via text message). BTW - the logo we developed with Ken is ASCII friendly and does some great stuff when you paste it into skype. seriously.
And it looks good on a button (see photo above).