Do you want to join the millions of people on Facebook across Africa? But are you stuck with an old feature phone? Want no more! Orange is launching Facebook for any mobile phone using USSD technology, a low-bandwidth data service that is accessible from even the most basic phones.
Orange Egypt saw 350,000 customers connect the first month and they’ve just launched Facebook via USSD in Côte d’Ivoire. Further countries in Orange’s African footprint will launch throughout 2012.
Why does Facebook on USSD matter?
Now the fine folks over at Mesia Nama ask why Ariltel in India and Orange in Africa care to make Facebook accessible via USSD:
Although, USSD is a menu-based system that enables interfacing with content based services to pull content to the phone natively, using network infrastructure, and stays connected with the network till a particular session ends, there are some caveats. The service supports up to 182 characters, which means that users will not be able to post longer messages and updates. Also, the interface is entirely textual and relies a lot on alphanumerical inputs for navigation.
We wonder why in the age of mobile internet, telcos and web service companies are introducing services through old-world channels. Doesn’t this affect usability of the service and limit functionality in a major way?
The answer is simple. Yes, it does impact usability, but not enough to matter to the millions of Africans (and Indians) who want to Facebook on their basic Nokia handsets and other old-school phones. Facebook already has massive adoption across Africa with Internet-connected consumers, but there are even millions more that do not have Facebook and never will have a laptop or fancy smartphone.