VOA launches SMS news service in Nigeria - Voice of America (VOA) has launched a new SMS news service that will allow mobile phone users to get up-to-date VOA news headlines and emergency messages through three of its major mobile providers in the country.
The agreement was signed in Abuja recently, by VOA Director, Mr. David Ensor and CEO of the VOA mobile content aggregator, 70th Precinct Limited, Mr. Osamede Umweni,
'SMS is one of the most popular forms of mobile communication in Nigeria, and VOA is one of the most popular international broadcasters in the country,' Ensor said.
'This is a good development for Nigeria because by putting our Hausa language news updates out as Short Message Services (SMS) on mobile phones, we give our audience the news they want on a platform they liked,' Umweni said.
He added, 'The VOA service would be a landmark in the sense that it would be the first time a major news agency would deliver news in Hausa language via the SMS format. The service would cater for over 21 million Hausa language listeners in Nigeria'
The SMS headline service has been undergoing tests in Nigeria for some months and the VOA regional and international headlines are now updated three times a day, seven days a week, and are available on the networks of MTN, Airtel, and Etisalat.
The Interactive Voice Response service (IVR) is expected to be launched in the next few weeks, he said explaining that subscribers could listen to daily headline news on their mobile phone anywhere they are from a source that they can trust.
The VOA Africa Division's Senior Web Editor, Mr. Stephen Ferri, said the SMS news would not only be a popular way of communicating, but would also be one of the most reliable in an emergency.
'When other communications systems break down, SMS will probably still work. We have seen this in other countries where our audience expanded sharply in a crisis, because SMS was the only way to get news,' Ferri said.
The Director of the Broadcasting Board of Governors' Office of Digital Design and Innovation, Mr. Rob Bole, said 'mobile SMS is one of the most important new ways for international broadcasters to reach audiences.' Bole is exploring ways to expand the use of mobile to reach African audiences across the range of platforms, from simple feature phones to high-bandwidth internet-capable devices.
In addition to mobile service, VOA would continue to broadcasts to Nigeria on radio, television and the Internet. Many affiliate stations carry VOA Hausa language programs. Recent research conducted shows that one in three Hausa language speakers listen to VOA radio at least once a week.
By Emma Okonji