Johannesburg — Smsweb, a permission-based marketing company, has launched a Web-based SMS communication service to 10 000 schools across the country.
The service will allow schools to communicate with parents via SMS messaging at no cost to the schools.
However, parents choosing to receive the school SMSs will have to agree to receive promotional SMSs from sponsors.
Smsweb MD Salah Elbaba says the software provided free by the company will allow schools to communicate a variety of messages to parents, relating to issues such as absenteeism, parent teacher meetings, school activities, punctuality, sickness and discipline.
Elbaba says his company is working with a "selected number of suppliers" to offer parents goods and services via SMS marketing.
"We have to fund this free messaging service, and gaining permission from parents to receive advertising from selected suppliers will enable them to get special offers on school clothing or food coupons which at the end benefits them," says Elbaba.
Parents will receive a maximum of five marketing SMSs a week, so they will not have to worry about their phones turning into spam machines, he adds.
"Smsweb has sent 10 000 letters to different schools around the country and so far we've had a 2% response rate. The only requirement for schools to participate is to be Internet connected. Smsweb will provide schools with a starter pack via the Web site www.smsweb.co.za."
In addition to the free SMS messaging service, Smsweb also provides a revenue generator for participating schools by selling airtime to families and friends of the learners. Commission from airtime sales will be ploughed back into the school.
"We do not dictate how the schools should use the money; Smsweb will take only a small portion of the commission. Three schools started piloting the project three months ago, and already one is planning to reduce school fees, and plans to buy more IT equipment," says Elbaba.