Bridging the digital divide with eTXT. Killing SMS one innovation at a time


eTXT userWhen eTXT launched in March this year we wrote “Econet launches eTXT, erases line between SMS and the Internet”. We wrote this because the application was another knife in the side for SMS. Yes, we want SMS to die. It’s super expensive for subscribers and belongs to a different era altogether.

Anyway, I loved eTXT immediately and started using it, but some several weeks later I stopped. I logged into my account and just disabled everything. What made me stop is my Facebook online status. The system assumed I was online all the time so friends would start a chat with me and just get no response.

I’d have an avalanche of chats coming to my mobile, all needing responses. Typing back from a mobile phone is not the easiest of things to do (and it’s expensive) so most times I’d just wait until I got to a proper screen to respond, and needless to say, this infuriated my chat happy buddies; they thought I was just ignoring them.


Recently, I talked about it with someone at eTXT when they asked me what I thought about the system. I told them that I love the technology behind it but it just didn’t work for me. “This being-online-forever thingy just doesn’t do” I said.

“But you have the option to appear offline when you want and come back online when you please” he explained, “you do know that right?”

“umm, no” I answered, and offered some excuses, “I just started using the system. Didn’t check the manual. Didn’t think I needed to.”

So, later he sent me the definitive eTXT guide. I’m giving eTXT another chance. I’ll probably set my status permanently to “AWAY” just so friends understand I won’t respond there and then. If you have had similar issues, the way to do this is to send AWAY to 30000. The other statuses (commands if you will) are BUSY, ON, and OFFLINE. We uploaded the guide you can find it here.

By far the biggest complaint I hear about eTXT though is the cost. People just don’t like being charged 7 cents for every chat SMS they send in a Facebook chat session.

And it’s quite understandable why they complain. Chat and SMS come from two different worlds. Chat was created for the internet where users can freely check email and move data around without being charged per email or per chat. SMS on the other hand thrives in a world of its own; a very ‘ancient’ world (that mobile operators love) where it’s very normal for a user to become US 9 cents poorer for sending 160 characters of data.

Fusing the two platforms like ForgetMeNot Africa has done is a very noble and great business idea. It’s killing off SMS one technology at a time. But SMS will not go down without a fight. Its beneficiaries, the mobile operators, will not just stand by either. They’ll try to charge for every single chat message, every single email and for every ‘single item’ in the most bizarre ways imaginable. But SMS’s death is imminent. And when it does wither away, no one but the operators will mourn it.

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