“The growth of mobile technology is largely due to young, urban users of new technology,” said Gwen Dillard, director of VOA’s Africa Division. “It’s important to reach this market and try to shape their news habits, since they will socialize the next generation of users. The competition is already fierce. We need to respond to this growing market.”
VOA has teamed up with local providers to deliver SMS in places such as:
Nigeria. VOA Hausa Service has over 13,700 subscribers in an arrangement with Dottxt where users can get up to four alerts a day.
Kenya. More than 1,000 people have signed up for the VOA Swahili Service through Safaricom.
Ghana. More than 144,000 subscribers signed up for VOA English-language alerts through a partnership with Tigo.
Pakistan. VOA’s Urdu Service broadcasts show audio newscasts available on cell phones three times a day.
Indonesia. VOA has an arrangement with Jatis to send out two SMS headlines daily.
China. VOA English-learning materials are embedded on Nokia cell phones. By the end of 2008, there were 357,502 downloads of VOA Mandarin material by about 210,000 users of Nokia phones.
Iran. Plans are under way for VOA’s Persian News Network to add an application to Apple iPhones, allowing Iranians to download Farsi broadcasts.
In addition to text messaging and Web applications, VOA is upgrading and expanding its current 17 mobile websites to include a full range of graphics, audio and video news content.
Many of the other language services - there are 45 - will soon launch SMS news alerts, including Special English, French-to-Africa and the Zimbabwe Service.