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ONEm to harness Africa's low smartphone and internet penetration

ONEm to harness Africa's low smartphone and internet penetration

London-based high-tech firm ONEm has announced plans to expand the reach of its internet-like services to more Africans who are without internet connectivity or smartphones.

The company says it is currently negotiating licensing rights and partnerships in several countries where it is looking to roll out its technology which is designed to transform ordinary voice and SMS into more powerful interactive tools – much like functions available online.

Christopher Richardson, CEO & Co-Founder of ONEm Communications says use of the company's technology by developers to create interactive applications for content and services relevant to local market will salvage voice and SMS as they have become less popular among consumers.

"We see our technology more as a renaissance for SMS and Voice. These channels are very secure and the devices robust and cheap. They only lack interactive capabilities. Imagine WhatsApp like capabilities for messaging and voice on a basic mobile with a battery life of 7 days. ONEm can bring true group calling to these devices. We have now added blockchain technology which is now accessible through SMS. This is revolutionary as a technology for banking and secure contracts. Ordinary mobiles have a natural security in that they are not connected to the internet. Our platform is very secure and works through mobile operator. We coined the term TTO - Through The Operator as opposed to OTT - Over The Top."

ONEm already has content and application partnerships agreements with Reuters, Deutsche Welle and Wikipedia according to Richardson.

He says ONEm is in touch with operators in Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Chad, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Sudan, Ghana, Senegal, Liberia, Guinea and Burundi to see how they can implement the company's offering in those markets and help to extend the life of their SMS and Voice assets.

"We are talking to MTN, Airtel, Smart, Etisalat and many other small national operators. We are also in discussion with Vodacom in Tanzania. We see Africa as the land of opportunity - a people ready and hungry for opportunities to improve their own lives. We believe that our services fit their needs (particularly) in remote areas which still don't have good data coverage. Making a basic mobile work in a new and powerful way can help vitalise the micro economy in a positive way. There is capacity with mobile operators' legacy networks for voice and SMS and we can transform these into modern communication and service tools. Rural areas can benefit from real banking experiences, e-commerce and content. Our pasteboard service can turn SMS into a Twitter like platform without the overhead."

Richardson is set to deliver a keynote presentation on ONEm's blockchain technology over SMS at the World Blockchain Forum in Dubai on Monday. He says many players in the blockchain industry have expressed interest in the possibility of providing internet-like services and blockchain to the unconnected.

ONEm partnered with Tigo in Ghana last year to launch its SuperSMS network which provides access to what it described as "a growing ecosystem of interactive SMS-based services." The SuperSMS network offers a user access, via any mobile, to communication services with internet-like group chat and other interactive services for social communication, audio and text services, as well as self-help tools.

"Africa has the talent and resources to develop services that reach all rural areas today." summed Richardson.

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