Safaricom in partnership with ForgetMeNot Africa is targeting over 12 million mobile phone subscribers in Kenya with a new product. The Kipokezi branded product will now enable subscribers to access email and online chat regardless of the make and model of their mobile phone.

All standard phones with the ability to SMS are being transformed with the new Kipokezi service bringing low-cost email and chat within the reach of millions of Kenyans, improving communications with their friends and families, both at home and abroad.

According to figures from The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) show there are now more than 17 million Kenyans with a mobile phone subscription. That is a 13600% increase from a figure of 125,000 in the year 2000. The service will be available to Safaricom’s entire subscriber base and is provided by ForgetMeNot Africa, a specialist in unified messaging systems for telecommunications operators.

The most recent figures from the ITU, collected in 2008 and prior to the launch of Kipokezi in Kenya, show that fewer than one in ten resident Kenyans had accessed the Internet. Now nearly a third of Kenya’s population will be able to exchange email messages and online chat messages wherever they are and whenever they wish.

Safaricom CEO, Michael Joseph, said: “This service packs great value to our customers. They will be able to handle their business online, check mail, find information, chat and keep in touch from wherever they are in a fast and cost-efficient manner. The price of internet-ready phones has kept many Kenyans off the web, a trend we are determined to change. This innovation is also at one with our constant strategy of increasing the utility of the mobile phone and expanding the reach of our data product.”

Kipokezi enables Safaricom to better serve, especially the technically-literate youth of Kenya, who are already very familiar with email and chat. Kipokezi is particularly attractive to young “early adopters” because it gives them a considerably cheaper and more convenient way of accessing email and chat compared to a standard Internet connection and without the need for data plans or handset upgrades. What’s more, the service incorporates popular chat services such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, Windows Live and Gtalk so that users can send and receive messages and invitations globally.

ForgetMeNot Africa’s unique Handset Initiation (HI) technology bypasses the need for Internet access and the latest handsets to offer an email service to all mobile phone users, even those in the remotest of areas.

ForgetMeNot Africa’s Chief Operating Officer, Jeremy George, said, “Almost four years ago, Safaricom revolutionised money transfer and storage in Kenya with the launch of its mobile money service enabling users to send, store and receive money through their mobile phones. Today they are giving all Kenyans the opportunity to bridge the rural-urban digital divide by giving them cheap access to chat and email services on standard mobile phones, without the need for an Internet connection, data plans or expensive handsets.”