On this side of the world we may argue over the merits of one dual-core smartphone or tablet and the next, but many parts of the world don't even have basic access to the Internet but Vodafone is trying to change all that.
What the mobile operator has essentially done is take the gubbins from inside a phone and put them inside a keyboard which can be connected to any television and gives you instant access to the Internet. The Webbox, as it is called, is aimed at those areas of the world which do not have access to broadband internet services and will work on the 2.5G and EDGE networks. It will initially launch in South Africa next week before bring rolled out to other African countries such as Ghana and Kenya.
Patrick Chomet, Vodafone’s Group Director of Terminals said: “ It has the potential to make a powerful difference in the lives of people in emerging markets who have limited access to the internet, but where TV penetration is typically very high.” Once the Webbox is plugged into a TV via an analogue RCA cable, users will be presented with a home screen with a number of icons including the Opera browser, SMS, email, search and even FM radio. The browser is able to work by compressing data by up to 90 percent and the homepage comes with bookmarks such as news, sport and social networking sites as well as locally relevant apps such as a job search and application service. In addition, the portal comes with some games, a dictionary and a basic text editor.
All you need is a Vodafone SIM to slot into the back of the Webbox and off you go. It will cost about £64 in South Africa and includes a 2GB SD card, a prepaid SIM and 100MB of data valid for the three months. It will also soon be available on a 24-month contract.