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Over 15mn mobile phone subscribers in Kenya – over a third of the country’s population - will now be able to access e-mail 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 e-mail and chat within the reach of millions of Kenyans, improving communications with their friends and families, both at home and abroad.

Kenya has seen blistering growth in mobile phone subscriptions. From just over 125,000 in 2000, latest figures from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) show there are now more than 17mn Kenyans with a mobile phone subscription.

The new Kipokezi service is being rolled out by Kenya’s largest telecoms operator, Safaricom, suppliers of mobile phone connectivity for almost 9 in 10 Kenyan mobile phone subscribers. 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 over a third of Kenya’s population will be able to exchange e-mail 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.”

Safaricom’s consumer data services, backed by the country’s only and widest 3G network has been well-received with latest statistics showing that at least 3.5mn out of the five million Kenyans who regularly access the Internet do so through the Safaricom network.

Kipokezi enables Safaricom to place low-cost e-mail and chat within the reach of millions of Kenyans but especially serves the technically-literate youth of Kenya, who are already very familiar with e-mail and chat. Kipokezi is particularly attractive to young 'early adopters' because it gives them a considerably cheaper and more convenient way of accessing e-mail 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 Handset Initiation (HI) technology bypasses the need for Internet access and the latest handsets to offer an e-mail 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 e-mail services on standard mobile phones, without the need for an Internet connection, data plans or expensive handsets.”