Zimbabweans now have access to a new SMS service which allows them to send and receive email without having to log on to the internet. Econet Wireless Zimbabwe’s new eTXT service is expected to cause mobile email and online chat access to double.
In June 2010, only one in eight Zimbabweans (1.4 million people) had access to the internet, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Internet access in Zimbabwe had largely been limited to workplaces, education establishments and Internet cafés in urban areas.
Now Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is transforming its five million subscribers’ first generation mobile phone handsets into virtual smartphones, using technology provided by ForgetMeNot Africa, a specialist in unified messaging systems for telecommunications operators.
ForgetMeNot Africa’s innovative Message Optimiser technology converts emails and online chat messages into SMS format, and vice-versa. It bypasses the need for internet access, and does not require subscriptions, smartphones, software downloads or data connections.
Douglas Mboweni, CEO of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, said: “eTXT [will] allow more and more of our subscribers to get access to internet messaging without having to purchase expensive smartphones. Because it allows subscribers to go on-line irrespective of the type of mobile handset they are using, eTXT will transform how millions of Zimbabweans stay in touch with each other.”
The service incorporates popular chat services such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, Windows Live and Gtalk.
The new service will have a major impact in bridging the rural-urban digital divide by vastly extending internet penetration across rural and urban areas of Zimbabwe. The eTXT service will also be a useful tool for large enterprises and small business owners, giving them a simple, low-cost method of establishing two-way email and online chat communications with staff, sales reps, suppliers and customers without having to invest in new technology, handsets or infrastructure.
Jeremy George, Chief Operating Officer of ForgetMeNot Africa, said: “The launch of eTXT is another important stride in Zimbabwe’s plans to develop its communications infrastructure. Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is revolutionising its subscribers’ communications with friends and relatives – both in Zimbabwe and the estimated five million Zimbabweans living overseas – using technology that they’re familiar with.”
“eTXT is the sixth deployment of our unique technology in Africa as ForgetMeNot Africa expands its footprint across the continent. Mobile network operators in east, west, southern and central Africa have already successfully deployed Message Optimiser, instantly rocketing their subscribers’ access to two-way email and chat.”
By Angela Meadon