Moya Messenger is a locally developed app to stay in contact and save money. PICTURE: biNu
Durban - A South African-developed messaging app, Moya Messenger, allows users to communicate without incurring data costs.

The app, developed by biNu and released in July 2018, provides #datafree text messaging that works even when a cellphone user has no airtime or data left on their smartphone.

The Moya app provides a similar messaging experience to market leader WhatsApp, but with the key, distinguishing feature that text messaging is #datafree across all four major mobile networks.

“We are profoundly motivated by the positive social impact of enabling ubiquitous #datafree mobile messaging, developed in Africa, for Africans,” said Gour Lentell, chief executive of biNu. “We do it by utilising Telco reverse billing which allows us to pay mobile messaging data costs.”

biNu has reverse billing agreements with MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom, and has built a technology platform that enables partners and customers to make their apps and websites #datafree for end-users.

Lentell said: “Despite a multimillion-dollar marketing budget WeChat struggled to gain a foothold in the South African market largely because the incumbent network effect of WhatsApp proved too competitive to overcome. But we definitely see a place for a challenger like Moya where the data-cost barrier of mobile messaging is removed completely for South African consumers, particularly in an era of #DataMustFall and increasing pressure on consumer incomes.”

The company said Moya Messenger was built using proven, industry-standard open-source messaging technology and adapted to be #datafree.

The app offers unlimited texting, group chat, end-to-end security with automatic encryption of all messages, and automatic contact discovery that allows users to connect with others also using the app. Moya users are always logged on, never miss a message, and all their messages are saved when their phones are switched off.

However, while message attachments like photos, videos, voice notes, documents and the like are fully supported, sending media attachments is not #datafree. Moya users will be pre-emptively warned when they will incur mobile data costs, or need to switch to wi-fi to send media files.

In a statement the developers said the commercial model around Moya is to provide rich, programmatic access to businesses and enterprises of all kinds so they can engage at scale with their audiences through messaging, without a cost implication for their users, members and customers.

“We see opportunities for organisations to benefit from a #datafree platform, for example financial institutions delivering customer support and document exchange; trade unions and political parties wanting to communicate with their members; government agencies to disseminate information and implement service delivery; NGOs for reaching target communities, and the FMCG sector to reach their audiences,” Lentell said.

“It’s counter-productive for organisations to try to engage their customers and mobile audiences on other messaging platforms when they have no airtime,” said Lentell.

The company added that a core standard that would be applied rigorously to Moya is that all business communication will be on a consumer opt-in basis only.

Moya Messenger can be downloaded via the website or the Google Play Store.

The Mercury