October 25, 2006

Out of Africa. Sente, Relay and Step Messaging

sente.jpg The first instalment of Upwardly Mobile is about the Sente mobile payment system popular in Africa and Relay text messaging - documented by Nokia's Jan Chipchase. Also described below, an informal service coined Step messaging.

Upwardly Mobile is a new column from silicon.com senior reporter Jo Best, covering mobile and wireless innovations from around the world - and what they mean to the UK.

- Sente mobile payment system -

"Jan Chipchase came across Sente in Uganda - a way of sending money from one individual to another.

"The money sender buys a mobile top-up voucher from their local seller. Only they don't top up their mobile, they top up that of their local village middleman, say, with $5-worth of credit. The middleman takes out his commission and passes on what's left on the top up as cash to Person A's friend, relative, creditor, whoever, in another village somewhere else in Uganda.

So what does the middleman do with all this top up on his phone? He sells it on. He becomes a very small-scale telco in his own right, puts his mobile in a little kiosk - a phone box, if you will - and charges people to use it on a per minute basis."

- Relay text messaging -

"Relay text messaging can be seen in South Africa and Uganda - whereby texts sent to a village phone are delivered to an individual in the community by a runner".

- Step messaging -

Also part of Jan Chipchase's presentation, "step messaging, the name given to an informal service offered by village kiosk operators and mobile phone owners to deliver messages ‘the last mile’ on foot.

You may not have a mobile phone but there is a common understanding that you can leave a message with the person in the village who does and that message will be passed on. It’s a simple example of extending the culture of connectivity to people who are not yet connected."

... "Each of the above represents a simple, necessary idea sprung from the fertile mind of some user who wanted to do something with a mobile that their operator hadn't provided yet."

Above picture is taken from a Power Point presentation from Jan Chipchase blog's Future perfect Archives

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