Nairobi — Nokia has launched a mobile life improvement service in Kenya as the firm aims to facilitate learning and help bridge information gaps through richly formatted messages without the need for a data plan.
Dubbed Nokia Life, the service is available free of charge for an initial 30-day trial period, with the option to subscribe monthly for as little as Sh2 per day on Safaricom and Airtel, in both English and Swahili. General Manager for Nokia East Africa Bruce Howe said: "Nokia Life is an important part of our strategy to connect the next billion. Kenya, like many emerging markets, has numerous social needs. Traditional channels don't always provide the solution, but the enormous uptake of mobile phones creates an opportunity for locally relevant information to be disseminated via mobile," he explained.
Recent research by Strategy Analytics suggests that around 75 percent of Kenya's population uses mobile phones. Between July and September 2012 alone, more than one billion SMS's were sent by Kenyan subscribers, highlighting the potential for SMS based services. Local research conducted by the Nokia Research Centre in Nairobi further probed what type of services and information Kenyan consumers would value.
People said they wanted services that help them learn new business skills or provide tips for running small businesses. Other needs that ranked in the top five include entertainment, education and health services. Consumers said they were willing to pay for services that add value to their daily lives, as long as the cost was reasonable, predictable and easy to both sign up and opt out.
Currently, Nokia Life for Kenya offers services under the education, health, spirituality and entertainment categories, aligning closely to the expressed needs of local users. These include services like Learn English, developed in partnership with the British Council; Life Skills, developed with Foundation for Social Change; and Parenting Advice, developed with global children's charity, Plan International.
Specific topics such as HIV; diabetes and heart conditions are also covered under the health banner, while the entertainment portfolio includes favourites such as wallpapers, horoscopes and ringtones.
Capital FM will be providing daily news updates. Plan International's Acting Director for Kenya Samuel Musyoki said: "Plan and Nokia have been working together since 2006. The partnership has reached over 700,000 youth and children directly, and helped them to become active and leading participants in their own development." "Mobile technology plays an important role in empowering children and youth," he emphasised.
Nokia first introduced Nokia Life in India in 2009, quickly expanding to China, Indonesia and Nigeria. Nokia Life services have since been experienced by more than 95 million people, in 18 local languages, with content co-developed by more than 90 knowledge partners including academics, governments and NGOs.
Musyoki noted that partnerships are key in bringing the service to life in new countries. Airtel Kenya managing director Shivan Bhargava explained that Airtel is keen on this especially because learning and growing life skills and socialization is closely tied to the availability and ease of access to relevant information.
"Our robust SMS platform will allow customers to combine the enormous potential of the internet with the convenience of Nokia phones and other devices in accessing this information at an affordable cost," he added.
He went on to add that the strong collaboration with many quality content providers will ensure ease of learning, sharing, social networking, creating and accessing content for everyone including the youth, parents, information for the small and medium business and entrepreneurs. "It will allow Kenyans in general the opportunity to enhance productivity and community development via increased knowledge in a vast range of subjects," he said.
Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said, "In the 14 years that Safaricom has been in existence, we have seen Kenya stamp her authority as the global mobile trendsetter." "The ubiquity of the mobile phone, an innovative culture and a highly evolving customer are all factors which have combined to facilitate the astronomical growth of Kenya's technological sector," he emphasised.
He noted that the introduction of Nokia Life therefore, is a further testament of the important role the mobile phone continues to play in the lives of our customers. Howe added that, "Kenya is the perfect market for Nokia Life."
"The mobile phone penetration and young aspiring population, combined with the need for social and economic upliftment, create an opportunity for this service to flourish and have a significant impact on the lives of Kenyans," he said.