In a fireside chat with Xavier Perret, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships with Orange (France Telecom), I learned about some progressive initiatives that Orange is leading to give the power of mobile to the people.

One unique initiative is to allow people in Africa to access basic features of Facebook without a smartphone. Using USSD, a GSM protocol that allows data access at a low bandwidth, Orange has been able to let Facebook users in Africa, check-in,’ like’, comment and view their social activity from any phone. This is very useful, given 31 out of 32 phones are not smartphones in Africa. The rate of adoption was so fast that 350,000 users connected to Facebook through Orange feature phones in a month, a number they were targeting after one year. Currently it has only been rolled out in Egypt and just last week in Ivory Coast.

In an effort to make mobile more open and accessible, Orange has a careful approach to managing the Orange app store. By no means bigger than the Apple App Store or the Android Marketplace, Orange helps customers by making it more relevant. They do this by firstly, selecting and promoting apps that they feel will be useful for their users and secondly, localizing the app store to their local language. In Egypt, Orange translated the Nokia Symbian Ovi App Store into Arabic and only featured twenty apps which enhanced engagement with the app store.

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Jason Lim

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.