The effective management of mobile data and related costs in Africa is about to receive a major shakedown – that's if Google alumni Stephen Newton's strategy pans out.
Newton was recently appointed as CEO of biNu, the company behind the #datafree platform and the Moya Messenger app.
This technology is based on the reverse billing model that enables the owner of a website to pay for the data used to access their site rather than the cost being borne by the mobile phone user.
This #datafree app is positioned as an alternative to WhatsApp enabling users to send messages without using any data.
According to Newton Moya currently has over 700,000 monthly active users in South Africa.
"This is a win-win because it effectively zero rates the organisation's digital touchpoints for the consumer," he says.
According to biNU, "As well as frustrating consumers, expensive data is also affecting the ability of brands, companies, governments and NGOs to reach citizens, customers, prospects and employees through their mobiles."
The company references a 2018 report by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) which found that around the world over two billion people live in a country where the cost of 1GB of mobile data exceeds the affordability threshold of 2% or less of average income, and in low-and middle-income countries, where 1GB of data costs over 5% of what people earn in a month.
These scenarios are what Newton and biNu aim to address, but the business model is dependent on the buy-in of MNOs.
Newton said whereas before he used to engage with MNOs and emphasise their sense of duty and goodwill to assist financially pressurised consumers, now his is advocating a fresh approach to the ecosystem in which all stakeholders – including MNOs – will benefit.
"Our reverse billing approach is both the least and the most disruptive for MNOs, organisations and their brands and consumers. Once MNOs understand our reverse billing model they like it because we present an alternative additional revenue source. Companies and brands are only asked to shift allocated marketing/customer acquisition and or communication spend and include #datafree in their plans," Newton adds.
He believes the mobile consumer is the biggest winner "as they can now engage with the online touchpoints of companies and brands without worrying about their data balances. If you have zero air time, if it's a zero rated website or application, you can still access the platform. I think that's a very solid proposition that can be easily by tested most people in Africa and other emerging markets."