Reaching the ‘unreachables’

As the number of internet-enabled phones is increasing explosively in Africa, TTC Mobile has introduced TTC Live – the next-generation mobile engagement platform – last October. In this blog, our Chief Technology Officer Jouke goes into detail about the advantages of reaching phone users through TTC Live

It’s commonly known that most people, more than eighty percent, in Africa have access to a mobile phone. Currently most of these mobile subscriptions are mainly GSM/EDGE-only. This network is even available in the most remote places. The expectation is that by 2021 more than three quarters of all mobile subscribers in Africa have access to high speed mobile broadband connections (3G/4G).

ericsson mobility

Source: Ericsson Mobility Report, Nov-2015

The feature phone
Before that happens the majority of mobile users in Africa are still using only basic or feature phones. A feature phone is a type of mobile phone that has more features than a basic mobile phone (such as a portable media player, digital camera, personal organizer and Internet access) but is not equivalent to a smartphone. The feature phone is still very popular among the populations of many emerging markets. Because they are much cheaper, the standby time is much longer and the devices are much more durable than smartphones. The internet access capabilities of these devices are interesting for data collection. The way of interaction with respondents via the internet is less costly than SMS interactions.

Imagine that one of our client organizations is looking for 250 rural men in Eastern Uganda. The most efficient way to interact with this audience is combining SMS with mobile (browser) access. The respondent will receive a one-time SMS invitation for participating in a survey in exchange for free mobile airtime to be received after completing the survey. The respondent is able to participate in the survey by replying to the SMS or by clicking on the URL in the same SMS text. When the respondent has chosen for the internet survey, the platform will detect what sort of mobile device the respondent is using and will adjust the layout and inputs accordingly. The type of survey questions and the presentation will vary depending on whether the respondent is using a smartphone or feature phone. When the end-user is using a feature phone, the survey will be presented in such a way that the data consumptions will be as low as possible.


When the respondent prefers to participate in the survey via SMS, he only needs to reply to the text message. However, this is a more expensive alternative for the client because for every questions two text messages (the question and answer belonging to the survey) are charged.

The explosive growth of internet-enabled phones is just one of the signs that times have changed for the good. Having started with progressive ideas in 2007, TTC Mobile is now once more taking a step towards the bright future of Africa.

– Ericsson Mobility Report November 2015

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