Deploy Anywhere 🌍

Deliver messages anywhere in the world through SMS & voice channels, IP messaging apps and social media platforms.

SMS & Voice
Sending with SMS Gateways

Gateway services like Twilio and Nexmo are the cheapest and most reliable way to deploy RapidPro in most countries. They provide SMS, voice and MMS-enabled virtual phone numbers and short codes that send and receive messages on behalf of your RapidPro account. Additionally, they generally work across all carriers in the country which means less for you to worry about. The process is simple and quick: create an account with a gateway service, rent one or more numbers for just dollars per month, then plug your API token into RapidPro. You’ll be sending messages in minutes.

Choosing a Gateway

Toll-Free Numbers

Some gateway services provide toll-free virtual numbers that can be SMS and/or voice-enabled, and will list these numbers as products on their pricing pages. Toll-free numbers prevent your contacts from being charged when they send an SMS or make a call to your number. They’re especially useful for programs working with low-income populations.

Once you’ve opened a RapidPro account, navigate to the channels page. There we’ll recommend your local gateway and list the global gateway services we support. For example, if you’re located in the UK, USA or Canada we recommend Twilio. If you’re located in Kenya we recommend Africa's Talking. If we don't already recommend a local gateway service for your country, let us know and we'll see if we can't locate one for you.

You might also want to visit each global gateway service’s pricing page where you can view pricing information as well as its product offerings for your country. We recommend starting with Twilio, Nexmo and Clickatell in that order. If you aren’t able to find virtual numbers for your country, let us know. We’d be happy to help you identify the best channel for your use case.

Adding more Gateways

We're always extending our network of local gateways. If you don't see an option for your country, let us know. We'd be happy to help source a local gateway that we can integrate with RapidPro for your country.

Gateways and Short Codes

If you need to send more than a few thousand messages per hour, we recommend acquiring a short code. If a local gateway service provides them, it's best to go that route. Short codes can take a few months to acquire due to the application process but gateway services will facilitate the process.

SMS Gateway Best Practices

RapidPro encourages users to review proposed use cases with qualified legal counsel to make sure they comply with applicable laws. The following are general best practices:

  • Your SMS campaigns should support HELP/STOP messages in your contacts' local languages.
  • Only send messages or make calls during your contacts' daytime hours unless you have their approval.
  • Get opt-in consent from your contacts before sending them marketing or other non-essential messages.
  • Don't send messages to contacts on do-not-call or do-not-disturb registries.

SMS works differently in every country, so Twilio and Nexmo provide guidelines that include information on everything from message routing to best practices. Twilio's country-specific guidelines can be found here, while Nexmo's can be found here.

Non-Profit Discount

Twilio provides a 25% discount on messaging and voice fees for qualified non-profits through its counterpart twilio.org. They'll even grant you a $500 credit to get started. These non-profit Twilio accounts are easy to connect to RapidPro, and we'd be happy to help you get started with this great program.

Using RapidPro with an Android Phone

RapidPro's Android channel enables you to send and receive messages anywhere you can acquire a local SIM card. Simply download the RapidPro Android application on your phone and follow the instructions to connect it to your account. When the app is active, anytime your RapidPro account sends a message it will notify your Android phone. The phone will then send the message from your local number on your behalf. If somebody responds to that message, the phone will relay it back to your RapidPro account. You can add as many Android channels as you like, and even enable IVR (voice) functionalilty.

Buy an Android Phone

We recommend that the phone you use for RapidPro be dedicated to that purpose only. The good news is that Android phones are among the most inexpensive and capable phones available today.

Get a Local SIM Card

If you already have a local SIM just pop it in your android phone. Otherwise, you'll want to aquire a SIM card from your local carrier of choice. Not sure which to pick? OpenSignal provides detailed coverage maps for each carrier in your country. We recommend acquiring a data-enabled SIM, though you're welcome to rely on Wi-Fi instead. You can set up a post-paid plan–so you don't have to top it up-or a prepaid plan which you can top up on a custom schedule using our airtime-transfer functionality.

Install the RapidPro App

Reverse Billing

In some countries it's possible acquire reverse billed SIM cards, which make it free for anyone to send messages to that number while you pay for both incoming and outgoing messages. This configuration is especially useful for programs working with low income populations.

You can download the free Android app from Google Play. Once the app is installed it will give you a 6 digit claim code that you then enter on the website. And that's all there is to it. From then on, that phone will handle sending all the messages for your RapidPro account.

Give the phone a good home

Android phones are great because they can be used in even the most challenging environments. Simply store it in a place in the country where it will have a reliable power source and a strong signal. You will need either a Wi-Fi or GSM data connection, but if you can get both, even better. The phone will be smart about which network to use if one connection isn't working well.

RapidPro with Android FAQ

What if I need to send a lot of messages?
We encourage people to validate their ideas and experiment before focusing on scaling. Starting with Android phones is a logical starting point for when virtual numbers aren't available and you'll have no problem sending up to around 1,000 messages per hour. If you do outgrow that, we can help you connect your RapidPro account with a local gateway or even a direct connection with the carriers themselves.
What happens if the battery dies?
Android phones are great because they have redundant network connections and a backup battery. So, if the office where it is located loses power or the network goes down, the RapidPro app will continue to relay messages. In most cases, using an Android phone with RapidPro means you can just set it and forget it. We'll notify you automatically if the phone is running low on battery, out of credit, or doesn't have network connectivity so someone can check up on it.
Can I use a short code? What about reverse billing?
While these features are generally viewed as unique to SMPP accounts, in some countries the carriers will allow short codes to point to SIM accounts. This means texting or calling that short code would route to your Android phone. In some cases these SIM-based accounts can also be reverse-billed.
Does the fee I pay to RapidPro include messaging fees?
No, the fee covers the use of the RapidPro platform. Any messaging rates imposed by your carrier apply.
Will RapidPro work for my remote ICT4D project?
We understand that deploying SMS applications has traditionally been one of the trickiest parts when launching ICT4D projects. In fact, it's the primary thing that drove us to build RapidPro in the first place. We try hard to make it as easy as possible but we realize that you probably have questions on what this all means for your specific project. Please contact us with any questions and we'll help you work through your options.
Connecting to Carriers

For projects that need to send more than a few thousand messages an hour and are deploying in a country where a gateway service provide short codes or even exist, it may be worth looking into a direct connection with the local carriers. When your project is ready for it, your RapidPro account can be coverted over to an SMPP connection. This is the most expensive option, but certainly worth the money and effort for high volume projects.

IP Messaging Apps & Social Media Channels
Sending with IP Messaging Apps

Our goal is to enable you to reach your contacts where they live: their mobile phones. Sometimes this doesn't mean SMS & voice, as IP messaging apps have gained a tremendous amount of traction around the world. We offer Facebook Messenger, Viber and Telegram channels so that you can reach those contacts who prefer them to SMS.

Adding more IP Messaging Apps

We're always looking to support more channels. If there's an app you'd like us to support but you don't see it listed, let us know. If it provides a bot API we'd be happy to look into adding it for you.

RapidPro with IP Messaging Apps FAQ

How do messaging apps differ from SMS & voice channels?
Messaging apps enable you to send and receive messages through select applications on your contacts’ phones. These messages are routed through the internet rather than cellular networks, making them completely free for you and your contacts. They also provide broader multimedia support, allowing you to collect images, videos and more.
Sending with Twitter

RapidPro's Twitter channel enables you to send and receive direct messages–commonly referred to as DM's–through any Twitter account with direct messages enabled. What's more, you can tell RapidPro to trigger flows when you gain a new follower, allowing you to send them a welcome message, add them to a group, or kick off an automated conversation.