For me, Africa is the content to watch for mobile innovation. Whilst there’s a lot moving in the Far East, I’m ever hopeful that the introduction of reliable and inexpensive communications facilities will really change things for the better.
I received the following email from Mpine Tente. Mpine heads up the Retail and Customer Services department of Econet Telecom, a mobile operator in the small African country of Lesotho. Mpine’s team, working together with ForgetMeNot Africa, have deployed two-way email (via SMS) facilities for their customers.
Here’s Mpine’s email:
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I thought I’d get in touch with you, as we’re making strides to bridge the global digital divide.
Lesotho is the second smallest country in Africa. Yet we are about to have some of the highest rates of email access of any of our fellow Africans.
We understand that most people in the African continent are frustrated by high levels of literacy, yet poor access to Internet services. The new tier one pipes recently installed in east Africa are a step in the right direction, but our peoples’ information needs are immediate. High costs are likely to prevent most of our citizens gaining broadband access. Currently Lesotho’s 2 million strong population has to share access to a little over 2,000 PCs connected to the Internet, most of which are in urban areas. Availability of smartphones, laptops and even fixed line Internet connections is very low.
We need to provide the widest range of services with world quality standards to customers at affordable prices.
So, I’m very proud that Econet Telecom Lesotho is the first African network to implement and launch ForgetMeNot Africa’s Message Optimiser service. It means we’ve opened up email communications to our entire subscriber base irrespective of what mobile phone they are using. The number of devices that can now send and receive email has increased by around 5000 per cent. Even the simplest of mobile phones that support SMS can now send and receive email.
Message Optimiser sends and receives emails via SMS to any mobile phone. As a result, more people in Lesotho can now use email to share important information, communicate with friends and family overseas or even do business with people, all for the cost of a local SMS.
Naturally I’m proud of Lesotho, but I feel frustrated with my mobile operator colleagues in other African countries. As mobile Internet use grows around the world, we should seek to improve Internet services in other African states. Technologies are available that improve Internet communications cost effectively, we just have to be willing to use them.
Head of Department
Retail and Customer Service
Econet Telecom Lesotho
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Mpine, thank you for taking the time to write — I share your frustration and hope other African mobile operators will take a leaf from your book and look to deploy similar technologies for their customers.
Every success — and please keep us updated, Mpine!