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Kenyan firm pioneers SMS app store

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 2 – Kenyan mobile phone users will now be able to download applications via SMS on Kenya’s first local mobile app store.

Developed by Kenyan mobility software solutions firm Virtual City, the app store dubbed HewaniLife, will cater to middle and low-end mobile phone users, who do not own the more advanced Symbian or android phones.

Virtual City Chief Marketing Officer Herbert Thuo said HewaniLife is the first app store of its kind that aggregates offering mobile apps, mobile money and several vertical segment services with the main goal of simplifying everyday life.

“Now with a Sh900 phone, for the first time in the world, you can access an app store. That’s unheard of. We’ve created a range and we’re going to see more developers putting applications on our store,” he said.

The application categories range from distribution, health, education, transport, retail and utilities enabling consumers to purchase bus tickets, pay for fuel, make government complaints, pay school fees, or even pay for parking tickets.

HewaniLife currently has 400 applications that are spread across various technology platforms such as android, Java, BlackBerry, Symbian, SMS and USSD.

“Traditionally a lot of app stores are entertainment based. What we decided to do is from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep, we’re going to automate your whole life and that is what Hewani is all about,” Thuo said.

HewaniLife also features applications that are compatible with various mobile money platforms to provide a complete value chain experience, such as Distributr that is created to enhance customer relationship management (CRM) for business owners.

“Distributr is a very enterprise-like application and allows a local consumer to select and purchase items from their local mama mboga for example via SMS,” Thuo said.

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Automating everything from the point of first contact to the closing of the sale, Distributr enables users to transact and issue receipts, issue stock, manage inventory, make orders as well as provide real-time market information.

Thuo said he hopes HewaniLife will encourage more local developers to create applications that are pertinent to daily activities and eventually generate income from their innovations.

“We’re going to developers and telling them, ‘this is your platform, bring all your apps you’ve ever developed and let consumers buy those applications so you can start making money’,” he said.

Virtual City has plans to roll out the HewaniLife app store in five other countries across Africa next year.

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