263Chat has rolled out a Short Message Service (SMS) platform across all the country’s telecommunication networks as part of the digital media house’s diversification strategy and extensive geographic reach, particularly in areas that experience internet challenges.
The product is subscriber-based and has been on the market for the past 2 weeks delivering news daily.
In an interview, 263Chat founder and CEO, Nigel Mugamu said the new product is aimed at incorporating previously excluded communities in national discourse into the broader community of informed citizens.
“The rationale behind SMS platform is to include those who are not usually included in the use of digital tools to educate and inform the public. We created ours to tap across different networks especially to those without internet access at all,” said Mugamu.
“We looked at our product portfolio, we have the website for those with unlimited internet access, and we have e-paper to those with limited internet access that is sent to some 54 000 subscribers everyday so the SMS product came on to complement those two products as a way of tackling those who are not online.”
With a mobile penetration rate of over 94 percent, (which means most Zimbabweans own mobile phones), internet penetration remains relatively lower at 63 percent, leaving a huge population struggling to access information in this digital age.
This has been worsened by high data costs and low disposable incomes to meet the cost of accessing information.
“We often forget about those people with feature phones/ kambudzi so the idea was to reach those people. There are also some people who have smartphones but depending with location they may struggle with data, the base stations may be far away and also now when we are struggling with electricity some of those bases station are also struggling to provide connectivity to the 263Chat audience,” said Mugamu.
The platform also enables relatives in the diaspora to pay SMS subscriptions for their families in Zimbabwe via several payment platforms including bank transfers, one-money, debit and credit cards while other payment platforms are in the process of getting authorization.