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In mid-November last year One World International (OWI) in Kenya soft-launched three innovative SMS services: a new jobs information service, a health service (that covers topics like breast cancer and HIV/AIDS) and a community news service. The first two services are pay-for with the latter on a free-use basis.

When we spoke to One World International's CEO in mid-December, we asked what kind of usage levels were being achieved. Up to that point, there had been 68,000 "hits" (people requesting information), split more or less equally between the two pay-for services.

One of the challenges has been to create a steady, reliable flow of information. Because OWI has social objectives, it has sought to provide information on blue-collar jobs that will be of most relevance to those at the bottom of the economic stack, coming from places like Nairobi's large informal settlement Kibera. In the three weeks since the soft-launch it has put up 70 new jobs, with a lot of these coming from outside Nairobi. Mwaniki thinks they may have to adjust the media they are using to address employers but there has been considerable interest. With the soft-launch, there were over 600 SMS enquiries about how the service works.

In future, Mwaniki believes that there will need to be a great deal more face-to-face contact with employers. Government has expressed interest and it will be following up on these leads in the near future. It would like to offer co-branded services with Safaricom in order to get a greater level of credibility.

Revenue from the service is split 50% to the mobile operator Safaricom, 25% to the aggregator Mobile Planet and 25% to OWI as the content provider.

The challenge for future development of the service is one of consumer education. As Mwaniki sees it:"A lot of people are still not sure how to use the service. It's almost too simple to use. Perhaps we need to use the puppeteering team we used in the pilot phase. On the health service, it's still a challenge and we need to look for "below-the-line" advertising. Where's the best place to catch people?"

There are 1000 users of the free community news service which it is hoped will be subsidised by the pay-for services:"We did an evaluation of it and found that the users are very happy with the service. Initially the service is free but Safaricom will eventually want some revenues from it. Our current thinking is that it could be used as an advertising channel with a slightly higher level of take-up".

One World has financed a text to speech service and the prototype is currently undergoing trials:"We are thinking how we can integrate this innovation into our service package, particularly in rural areas. It uses a "natural" voice rather than one of those artificial electronic ones. For the swahili version we used the voice of a local newscaster. There's a few things still to be done but it's very audible".

On the health side, it has been harder to build up a pattern of information based on Frequently Asked Questions. It now has 70 questions for HIV/AIDS and 30 for breast cancer.