We noticed people in 3rd world countries might not have access to a stable internet access, or might have censored internet access. How would they keep up with world news? We decided to make a news interface through SMS that would allow users to be able to access current events, completely uncensored, through SMS. Due to the scarcity of internet in certain areas, it would allow people to stay up to date on current events anywhere in the world.
What it does
It receives a command from the user and relays it through a news API. This API communicates the current events through Twilio, so the user receives it through SMS texting. The user can then reply a number which corresponds an article and receive a brief description on the article. If the user is still interested in reading more, he/she can reply to the bot requesting for more information and the whole article will be displayed.
How we built it
We built it by merging a NewsAPI into Twilio using Python. This app has a server component and an API component, it takes commands via SMS and delivers the latest API results. We also migrated to DigitalOcean to host the app and take the dependency completely off local and 100% in the cloud.
Challenges we ran into
We faced many challenges when working on this project. For instance, our news API shut down on us mid hack and did not come back on until hours later. Furthermore, we had issues with Twilio user responses through API, though we fixed it with a sub server that relays the information to the API. We also ran into issues in getting the scripts to run on digital ocean though we soon fixed that with a little bit of meddling
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are proud of the fact, that this project addresses a real world issue that can help thousands of people at hand. This can affect a broad demographic of people and along with the close to no running cost, we can maintain and keep this running long term.
What we learned
From this project, we learned how to integrate API'S with python something we have never done before. Furthermore, previously we barely used python, so it was truly a learning experience for every person on the team. We all learned how to effectively use python and create something beautiful with it.
What's next for SMSNews
We plan on scaling this long term, adding phone numbers for every nation, so text would be local, and adding more syntax and commands that would help people as we continue to code on it.