Internet-free ‘net for Portuguese Africa

The first Internet-free facebook, email and online chat service for Portuguese speaking Africans is being launched in Cape Verde by ForgetMeNot Africa.

Mobile operator T-Mais has launched it under the name [email protected]+, enabling its entire subscriber base to access internet messaging in Portuguese on even the most basic mobile phone.

Using ForgetMeNot Africa's Message Optimiser, the service converts facebook, email 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. T-Mais customers can use the service for free until 18 December.

The launch of ForgetMeNot Africa's technology in Portuguese opens up internet messaging via SMS to the near 23 million Portuguese speakers across Africa in addition to its existing English and French services, which are already providing 47.5 million people in east, west, southern and central Africa with access to facebook, email and online chat.

ITU figures show 30% per cent of Cape Verde’s 491,875 inhabitants had used the internet by the end of 2010, nearly triple the figure of 10.8% of people across Africa who have ever been online. The ITU figures also show more than 60% of people in the country have a mobile phone subscription, making mobile phones the most convenient way for Cape Verdeans to access internet messaging.

Figures from Internet World Stats, from June 2011, show just one in nine of Cape Verde’s population are on facebook (64,460 people). Now all of T-Mais’ 100,000 subscribers can access facebook chat, update their facebook profiles, "like" their friends‟ statuses and comment on threads, as well as exchanging email and online chat messages – all via SMS.

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