ONEm Seeks to Bring Internet to Rural Africa via Blockchain-Powered SMS


ONEm Communications announced on Wednesday the initiation of partnership and licensing agreements throughout Africa to implement internet services for millions of rural African residents using SMS and voice technology on mobile phones. The company aims to leverage low bandwidth requirements and improved infrastructure technology to bring rural Africans into the world of internet-based group communications by developing interactive SMS, supported by blockchain technology, and voice tools that are relevant to local markets.

Over half of the population of Africa live their daily lives without internet, said the London-based company, in a statement. Even with mobile phone penetration at nearly 80 percent, under 20 percent of Africans live without consistent access to the internet and the multitude of educational and universe of opportunities that come with it. This limitation stifles innovation from thousands of minds across the continent and makes access to critical services difficult or impossible for many citizens, increasing risks during natural disasters and reducing the feeling of connectedness to state governments.

ONEm says it will leverage blockchain technology to support unique SMS applications that will record transaction history and other data for more comprehensive and empowering financial inclusion. It claims governments of multiple African nations have expressed interest in interactive services in industries ranging from health and commerce to security and education. ONEm also states that its involved in discussions with mobile operators, especially those with expansive coverage in rural Africa, to developing and maintain the data infrastructure required.

In a presentation to African officials ONEm CEO Christopher Richardson said, “Africa is a very big and diverse continent. Reaching all rural areas needs significant funding and formidable technical challenges. However, the ONEm solution utilizes existing infrastructure to deliver innovative services to rural communities. Africa has the talent and resources to develop services that reach all rural areas today.”

image by CIAT (2DU Kenya8). CC BY-SA 2.0