A large contributor to the rapid uptake of Mobile Instant Messenger (Mobile IM) in South Africa – showing a growth rate of over 100% in last two years – is the unusually low percentage of people with PC internet access.
Through the use of Mobile IM applications and WAP enabled mobile technology, users can have a mobile IM account without having to own a PC. This has huge relevance for the growth of Mobile IM in the country as an alternative to email.
This is according to Jean-Pierre Kloppers, co-founder of Mobile IM application AeroMessenger, who points out that in South Africa there are already more mobile internet users than PC users.
While much has been publicised about the uptake of Mobile IM applications such as MXit among trendy teenagers, less has been written about its uptake is real alternative to PC based internet access and communication such as email.
Statistics from the rest of Africa support the WAP mobile boom. According to July 2006 statistics, 61% of the BBC's international WAP users came from Nigeria, followed by 19% from South Africa.
WAP is the one platform where African countries continue to appear in the top five BBC statistics.
“Africa is the world's largest-growing mobile phone market with unreliable landlines encouraging the growth,” says Klopper. WAP technology – which stands for wireless application protocol – allows people to access basic information on the internet, like news summaries, through the mobile phone handset.
While mobile internet access brings huge benefits, there are also dangers in internet and Mobile IM communications, which must be taken into account when choosing the right application.
With the tide on its side, Mobile IM growth is set to continue to grow as people reap the benefits of cost-effective real time mobile communication.
With many mobile communications choices on the market, AeroMessenger advises users what to look for when selecting a Mobile IM application.
* Analyse why cell phone and Mobile IM use is required and choose the right medium for the right cause.
* If virtually free real-time mobile communication is the objective – select Mobile IM over sms.
* If parents claim the only reason for a cellphone is to keep in contact with children, then parents should not buy cellphones with a multitude of functions and internet connectivity.
* If cellphones are used as a way to chat safely amongst friends and keep in contact regularly, then Mobile IM is appropriate – without a public chat function.
* If cellphones are to be used as a way to meet new people, then select a Mobile IM with public chat function. However, both adults and children need to understand the grave dangers associated with this. Parents in particular should know of the dangers of Internet access, as well as the demographics of who you may be talking to.
* If mobile news from around the world is the objective, then select a Mobile IM application which offers choice, constant updates and a user friendly format.
* If reliable mobile messaging is the objective – for people who are concerned whether their messages have been delivered – the select a Mobile IM solution which provides message sending status (sending/failed) as well as delivery notifications.
AeroMessenger has positioned itself in the Mobile IM market as a safe, effective and responsible solution. While public chat facilities are not available for safety reasons, AeroMessenger users have the benefit of free real-time text-based communication between two or more people who are online simultaneously, as well as effective offline messaging. This includes the ability to create conferences (equivalent of private chat room) and invite friends or colleagues to join the conversation.
This makes AeroMessenger an ideal application for teenagers and children, as well as young professionals wanting to keep in touch regularly, cost effectively and safely. It is also ideal for keeping members of large groups safely informed on the likes of sports fixtures, updates on cultural or business events, or student study groups.
Other benefits and advantages of the new AeroMessenger services include an improvement in communication efficiency through the provision of delivery notifications and reminders of unread messages. News functions available on AeroMessenger include RSS news headlines and summaries through Independent Online (IOL) with a choice of 11 channels from which to read live updated news. There is also an electronic memo function which prioritises and reminds users of tasks to complete.