Last week, social media company Viber announced that it would be bringing the Viber chat app to areas of Africa and the Middle East with the help of 50 investors in the African market.
The availability of the app will allow for easier interactions between organizations and individuals, facilitating local conversation via a global platform.
Facebook reports that 100 million Africans have accessed its website since 2014, with over 80 percent of users on the mobile version. Viber’s utilization of the mobile platform could help users in untapped parts of Africa, particularly in the southern areas of the continent, gain access.
According to news outlet IT News Africa, the beta version of the Viber app was released in November of 2014, allowing individual users to have real-time conversations within the application.
“The Middle East and Africa are important markets for Viber, and we are pleased to welcome local influencers and brands to our Public Chats platform. We are sure they will enjoy chatting, commenting and debating live on this active social channel whilst sharing tips, news, and local content to our constantly connected mobile audience across the region,” said Viber CMO, Mark Hardy.
Viber is similar to other social media platforms such as Twitter, where users can follow specific chats and publicly and privately share multimedia, including texts, photos, audio, video, web links and geolocation.
Much like Facebook, Viber users can invite friends to follow specific Public Chats and use the search option to find friends, with whom chats can be accessed via customized URLs.
The social research organization, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), has found that having a mixed friendship network can reduce a person’s poverty levels by a third when compared to those outside of mixed networks.
This finding supports the idea that social isolation is both a cause and consequence of living in poverty. Developing technologies like Viber that allow social interaction on a local level can directly improve the social health of a community.
JRF also reports that the likelihood of being poor can also be reduced by having friends who are employed and live outside of one’s neighborhood. By bringing Viber’s Public Chat to more regions of Africa, individuals might have more of an ability to build these kinds of relationships.
In addition to social health, Viber’s trending conversations can be used to address pressing issues such as AIDs awareness and local government.
“Through the use of Viber Public Chats, I hope to bring together a group of people who have experiences to share with a young audience and discuss HIV knowledge, stigma and prevention and ultimately call on people to get tested,” said Cindy Pivacic, HIV awareness creator and Viber investment partner.
Another partner, AllAfrica.com, hopes to facilitate African conversation about current affairs and national events throughout the region.
– Kelsey Lay