ForgetMeNot Brings Facebook to the Masses in Africa

The first two-way SMS Facebook Chat service available on any basic mobile phone has been launched in Africa, writes Eva McGarr. The new service, delivered by ForgetMeNot Africa, unifies social networking, email and online chat without the need for an internet connection, smartphone, device upgrade or application download.

Facebook is in huge demand across Africa, but access is limited due to a lack of fixed-line internet connections, and the relatively high cost of smartphones. According to Internet World Stats, only 1.7 per cent of the continent’s 1bn people used Facebook in 2010. ForgetMeNot Africa says its technology is set to see this number increase.

By incorporating Facebook into its Message Optimiser technology, ForgetMeNot Africa can convert Facebook actions and Facebook Chat messages, as well as emails and online chat messages, into SMS format, and vice-versa.

Yu, the mobile brand of Kenya’s third largest telecoms network Essar Telecom Kenya, is already using ForgetMeNot Africa’s technology to enable its 1.6m subscriber base to access Facebook, mobile email and popular online chat services such as Windows Live, Yahoo! and Gtalk. ForgetMeNot Africa says other mobile networks are set to follow suit.

“This service, unifying Facebook with email and online chat is a first for the industry, enabling millions of Africans to easily keep in touch with all their friends and family at home and all over the world,” notes ForgetMeNot Africa COO, Jeremy George. “For the first time, we are giving millions of Africans access to Facebook Chat services via SMS, which otherwise would be unavailable to them due to a severe lack of internet connectivity. For the vast majority of African people, basic first generation mobile phones may be the only way they will ever access social networking sites.”