By Bellah Zulu, ACNS
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) has launched a free cell phone application or 'app' to aid communication between parishes and parishioners in the Province.
The Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in the Polokwane area of South Africa, the Very Revd Luke Pretorius, is also a member of ACSA Media Committee.
"I am excited at what may be a world first from Africa," he told ACNS, "and [also] for how this app will improve the communication between churches and people by using cell phone technology, an essential and already popular tool in Africa.”
“This app allows designated administrators within any congregation to upload information about worship services, events and notices which is then accessed by individual smart phones.”
Mobile technology in Africa remains the fastest growing market with over 50% of Africans having mobile phones. This means that mobile technology is the largest platform in Africa and the Anglican Church in Southern Africa has taken advantage of this opportunity to improve its own communications.
Despite the many advantages that cell phone technology presents for the Church, there are still many challenges the ACSA has to deal with to reap the full benefits of the new mobile application.
“The response has been slow. People express enthusiasm when they hear of the app, but then do very little in subscribing or applying it,” said the Dean. “This may be indicative of apprehension of new technology or of the business of church leaders and of having too little time to learn something new, but I am confident that this app will become very popular over time.”
He added, “There will be data costs when the cell phone requests the latest information but these should be minimal. Cell phones from outside of South Africa will incur additional data charges as this will be billed as international costs. The software requires access to the Internet and this may be problematic in some rural areas where Internet connectivity is poor.”
The ACSA Media Committee is constantly exploring suitable opportunities to enhance media and communications in the province.
“If you have an Android device, you can download the app from Google Play. All you need to do is search for ACSA,” said App Developer, Donald Baillie, whose company Digital Peppa developed the app and offered it for free to the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. “However, we are still working on the new look and feel of the app [known as Umoya] with a possibility of re-launching on Blackberry, iPhone and mobi-web this week.”
Mr Baillie is looking into how best to host the application software in different countries though the expansion is dependent on a “solid uptake of this app from within South Africa before we can explore the costs associated with hosting it in other countries.”
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa comprises countries including South Africa, Swaziland and Angola.
The Dean added, “We are working to make this available through the various service provider download centres, but to get your app up and running on your phone immediately you can search ACSA on google play and install it for free.”
He has since urged any of the local churches wishing to take advantage of this service to appoint an administrator to be responsible for uploading content onto the system after registering with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.