Internet messaging access in Zimbabwe set to double with new service launch

Subscribers of the operator Econet Wireless Zimbabwe will be able to send and receive low-cost internet messaging via any standard SMS capable mobile phone without being connected to the Internet...

In June 2010, only one in eight Zimbabweans (1.4 million people) had access to the internet, according to the International Telecommunications Union. Internet access in Zimbabwe had largely been limited to workplaces, education establishments and Internet cafés in urban areas. However, soon subscribers of the operator Econet Wireless Zimbabwe will be able to send and receive low-cost internet messaging via any standard SMS capable mobile phone without being connected to the Internet.

Econet is using technology provided by ForgetMeNot Africa to transform its five million mobile phone subscribers’ first generation handsets into virtual smartphones. ForgetMeNot Africa’s unique 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 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.”

Incorporating popular chat services such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, Windows Live and Gtalk,  the service is expected to 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 can also provide large enterprises and small business owners with 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.”

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