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How about an internet-less Twitter?

Mobile Phone - SMS - ZimbabweOne of the most popular question and answer tags on our Techzim Answers platform is Forgetmenot Africa’s internet-less Facebook, eTXT. The question “how to link facebook with my etxt on my mobile phone?” for example has been viewed some 24,000 times, more than twice the next popular question on the site which has about 11,000 views. If you’re reading this on a PC, smartphone or internet enabled featurephone, you might not even know what eTXT. The app is used by millions in emerging markets to access Facebook from phones that are so basic they can’t do the internet.

eTXT and Facebook are not the main subject of this article. Twitter and dumb phones are. It was disclosed last week that Twitter partnering a Singaporean startup called U2opia Mobile to provide the microblogging service to internet-less phones via USSD. USSD is the technology you use when you’re using applications like EcoCash; basic back and forth text commands with the service all without the internet.

Locally, this has already been the year Twitter has gone mainstream, so it will be interesting how popular a USSD based twitter would be here. Strangely, in conversation with some Forgetmenot Africa (FMNA) executives last year, they told they actually had considered Twitter, but that unlike Facebook’s ‘friending’ model, Twitter’s ‘following’ model made it difficult to provide the service viably as MNOs weren’t too happy with the heavy incoming flow of traffic vs few outgoing updates. But maybe that’s because FMNA relied on SMS and not USSD?

Anyway, U2opia Mobile already provides an FMNA like service called Fonetwish which enables internet-less Facebook and Google Talk access. The Twitter component will probably use the same service. U2opia Mobile says the service is set to launch early 2014.

If I were Telecel, NetOne, or even Econet, I’d give U2opia a call and at least trial this thing!


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