South African government may implement an emergency SMS service

Earlier this month, parts of South Africa were stricken with heavier than usual rainfall. Localized flooding interrupted electricity because 80 percent of power is fueled by coal, while bridges in remote villages were destroyed, according to Businessweek.

The death toll from March's rainfall reached 32 people, and the clean up process continues to be a challenge for hard-to-reach communities. Now, South Africa's government is considering rolling out a nationwide SMS service to expedite weather alerts to citizens after realizing more South Africans own a mobile device than internet, radio or television, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

"In Africa, especially in poor settlements, the population has limited access to Internet, radio or television, but everybody has a mobile phone. That's why the platform can be so useful in the continent," Alberto Perez, Africa's manager for Nvia phone services, told the news source.

Across the continent, cell phone ownership is at 63 percent on average, but Perez added that proliferation is much higher in South Africa. Even if the widespread text alerts were sent 15 minutes before a weather event occurred, that could make the difference between life or death. 

"With the same system, we can also send vital information to people about natural disasters that can save their lives and minimize damages," Perez explained.

The proposed text messaging plan would be free for all citizens, but it is unclear when the South African government will roll out this mobile solution. 

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