Free mobile data for South Africans may already be here

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Jim Makos/Flickr/cc 2.0

The rise of short videos as a way of paying for free data access is likely to be one of South Africa’s key tech talking points in 2018 and beyond.

This is according to Josephine Buys, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau of South Africa (IAB SA) who said that as smartphone access increases across South Africa, we are likely to see more companies like biNu negotiate arrangements with the mobile network operators so that publishers can foot the bill for data used.

BiNu is an Australian mobile company with an office in Cape Town. They are responsible for the #datafree platform which currently boasts apps such as Goal ZeroCosmo Lite and SA Breaking News.

The apps (which are currently only available on Android) are noticeably smaller in size than other mobile apps (around 4 MB) and use no data when accessed by users on Vodacom, Cell C, and Telkom.

“This is done through a number of agreements biNu has with the mobile network providers so that all the data consumed by the users of apps powered by the platform is aggregated and billed to biNu.”

“biNu, in turn, invoices the publishers of these apps,” the company said.

The “catch” is that publishers require users to watch a short video – typically one 10 second video advert every 30 minutes. These videos also do no not use any data.

It’s a model that has already seen great success on mobile apps such as Instagram and Snapchat, but instead of simply earning advertising money, they also help pay to make the platform and its content data free.

While apps such as Goal Zero and Cosmo Lite are built on the biNu app publishing platform, biNu also offers the option to take an existing app or website and render some or all of its content #datafree, biNu said.

The uses for #datafree technology also extend past generating revenue through advertising. There are opportunities for non-profits to provide educational material to children in poorer sectors of the community, and for corporates to provide mobile training materials for their staff, the company said.

“Mobile data reverse-billing is new in South Africa but it has been around for a couple years in other countries,” said Jeremy George, VP Africa at biNu.

He said that the keys to unlocking the true potential of #datafree mobile content are the relative unaffordability of mobile data for a large sector of society, combined with technically sophisticated mobile network operators, highly efficient data optimisation, a well-established advertising industry and most importantly, great content.

“South Africa ticks all of these boxes so watch this space as commercial and not-for-profit organisations ramp up their effectiveness by adding #datafree apps to the mix,” he said.

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