For African consumers without reliable access to the Internet, a new SMS-based version of Gmail can help keep them connected. Cellphone ownership rates have risen exponentially in the last decade on the continent, but smartphone ownership is still low and mobile Internet access through Wi-Fi or 3G remains unreliable and often patchy.
However, Google has rolled out a version of popular email service Gmail that is compatible with basic cellphone usage and restricted or no Internet access.It's not often you hear about low technology solutions being developed by the technology giants. In the race to dominante lucrative Western markets, sometimes continents without the same high-tech infrastructures can be left behind.
Gmail SMS can run on very basic phones, and as the name suggests, email updates are sent via the short messaging service rather than a 3G or Wi-Fi connection. In order to activate the service, African users can change a setting in their Gmail account to have updates automatically sent via SMS.
The SMS-based version of Gmail has been launched across Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya.
Geva Rechav, product manager of emerging Markets writes on the official Google Africa blog:
"Gmail SMS automatically forwards your emails as SMS text messages to your phone and you can respond by replying directly to the SMS. You can control the emails received by replying with commands such as MORE, PAUSE and RESUME. Additionally, compose a new email as an SMS and send to any email address recipient - who will find your message in the right email conversation thread!"
It will be free to receive messages from the system, but any sent texts will be subject to standard network rates.
Image credit: Google