Can old technology be given new life to get 13 million offline people in Tanzania — 3 billion globally — online?
“More than half of the world’s population can’t take advantage of the internet,” says Ombola Johnson, chair of the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI.)
“Just one in five people in Africa is online today and growth is slowing,” says Johnson.
It could take decades — Johnson suggests 2042 — before universal, affordable internet becomes a reality.
But Christopher Richardson, CEO of UK-based ONEm Communications, thinks old technology can be put to good use.
“There are existing technologies that can be re-purposed to provide new functionalities and they are right in our pockets and purses,” says Richardson, who was in Dar for the GSMA Mobile 360 conference last month.
“GSM/CDMA voice and SMS have been providing us with valuable two-way communication services for the past 25 years but now we have the Internet, mobile data and many APPs that are providing new messaging and voice capabilities such as group calls and productivity services.”
Richardson’s company is working on ways for users to receive, create, own and share content over good old SMS and phone technology.
“This re-purposing is very different from what is happening on the Internet. As a proprietary channel voice and SMS is much more secure than the Internet. The mobile operator will benefit their subscribers from a new global user experience over ordinary voice and SMS channels to enjoy interaction with services, share between a membership network.”
Globally, Richardson says these channels can reach three billion people who do not have internet and the availability could cover nearly five billion people.