Bridging the Digital Divide with SMS Bots

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Thursday, June 25, 2015 from 4:45 – 5:30pm in B204


We all know about Twitter and IRC bots, but with about 4/5 of people worldwide without smartphones SMS has the potential to reach those left behind the digital divide. We will discuss the various methods for developing an SMS bot, the legal and ethical implications of doing so, and we will build an SMS bot live.


Everyday there are new services launched that we are told will revolutionize and disrupt society, but these services often only reach a very small and hegemonic circle inside the tech industry. One platform that is often forgotten about (but has great reach) is SMS text messaging. SMS can seem like a labyrinth full of dragons where you battle against telecom monopolies and state surveillance, but in reality it’s not too complex.

We will discuss both hosted solutions for SMS gateways such as Twilio and Nexmo, and we will also discuss how to roll your own gateway with open source software on an Android phone.

We will discuss the legal and ethical issues of making an SMS bot. What legal requirements are there for sending SMS in the US? How can we make sure a bot is not used for spam?

Finally, we will spend the majority of the session building an SMS bot. By the end of the session everyone should be able to text a number and interact with our bot.


SMS, digital divide, bot, automation

Speaking experience

I speak monthly at the CryptoParty PDX meetups. I have also spoken at multiple unconferences including CAT Barcamp, and last years OSBridge unconference day. I am looking to get more public speaking experience.