Africa has the world’s highest mobile growth rate with one-third of the population owning a mobile phone and many others that have access to one.
Google, along with the Grameen Foundation charity has set up a mobile phone service in Uganda called Google SMS, to give people weather forecasts, farming advice and health information through text messages. By way of doing this, Google hopes to help ease poverty, reach the rural and disadvantaged communities, and help some 9 million Africans with mobile phones, but no internet access.
According to Google:
“It’s important to reach users wherever they are, with the information they need, in areas with the greatest information poverty. In many places around the world, people look to their phones, rather than their computers, to find information they need in their daily lives. This is especially true in Africa, which has the world’s highest mobile growth rate and where mobile phone penetration is six times Internet penetration.”
What is Google SMS?
- A suite of mobile applications allowing users to access information, via SMS.
- ‘SMS based query and answer service’ enables a mobile phone user to have a web search-like experience, and the tip-topics include:
- Google SMS Health Tips: that focuses mainly on family planning, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, STI/STDs, sexual health.
- Google SMS ClinicFinder: that helps find a clinic nearby, the clinic’s telephone number and services offered.
- Google SMS Farmer’s Friend: that gives access to weather forecasts and critical agriculture information, such as tips on planting, pest management and disease control.
- It includes Google Trader which is a marketplace application to help buyers and sellers find each other, making markets more transparent. The sellers can post items for sale via SMS, and buyers can search for such items.
- SMS can not exceed 160 characters
- It allows for one result to be returned in response to a query.
- For short and unclear queries, it is difficult to provide relevant answers at all times.
- People have to pay for each individual SMS message.
- The Ugandan scheme is available only to those using the MTN network.
Google is further looking to improve its search quality, the breadth, and depth of content by adding more content in areas such as health and agriculture.
Link: Google SMS Tips
(Source: Google mobile blog)