Gmail SMS hailed for simplifying business correspondence in Africa

Google’s integrated correspondence service Gmail SMS is being touted for promoting business growth in African regions barely three months after launching.

Reports suggest that Gmail SMS, which Google debuted in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya in July, has become an important part of business correspondence among SMEs in those countries.

“SMS is universal and has less obstacles, unlike emails,so firms in Africa using SMS are at an advantage,” says Gikonyo Ngungi, Founder and CEO of Binary Science, a startup dealing in phone backup apps Six Degrees and The Phonebook.

The service is particularly relevant to the African market as Africa has more phone than PC users, with Nigeria leading with over 100 million mobile phone subscribers.

Gmail SMS enables entrepreneurs who are Gmail account-holders to receive email on their phones encrypted as SMS text messages and to reply directly to the SMS while offline.

Geva Rechav, a Google product manager for emerging markets, said in a post that the service is free, although standard fees are charged for outgoing mails.

Google says it had to“put in a lot of effort to make sure messages are delivered instantly whether one is online or offline with a computer or a phone.”

To sign up, account holders can head to the ‘Phone and SMS’ settings page in Gmail, add their mobile number and complete a verification process. Once enrolled, the service will automatically forward all email to mobile devices as text messages.

“The service could even be useful for those that do have access to Android, iOS or Windows Phone devices — data outages can cripple smartphones, forcing users to turn to phone calls and SMS to connect with family, friends and colleagues,”writes Engadget Imobile.

SMS is widely used as a means of business correspondence. According to experts, SMS is widely used in Africa as it is simple, familiar, it operates on an offline mode and is affordable and secure.

In Kenya alone, nearly 1billion SMS text messages were sent between January and March 2012, according to the CCK statistics.

Google is not the only firm giving people free SMS apps for use.

Ghana’s Saya Mobile recently launched at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012 with a promise of making SMS in Africa 1,000 times cheaper.

Traders in Africa also use SlimTrader and ForgetMeNot Africa, among others.

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