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A new platform for good

A new Internet platform has been launched to help South Africans get connected to causes that can use their help.

It is called forgood and it connects people to approved Non-Profit Organisations (NPO’s) and allows them to respond to existing needs and campaigns.

Users can create their own personalised offers for a new “giving” experience. forgood also targets businesses, aiming to improve the efficacy of their corporate social investment (CSI) programmes.

There are over 85,000 registered Non-Profit Organisations in South Africa, but very few technology platforms that connect people who want to do good – to the organisations that need their help. There are even fewer platforms out there which provide this service to business,” says Andy Hadfield, CEO of www.forgood.co.za.

In the short term, we want to connect 100,000 people to causes and bring on a group of forward- thinking businesses that would use our platform to help with staff volunteering and community engagement projects. That’s going to teach us a lot about this industry and we have some big ideas to come.

“Essentially, we want to build the digital ‚Äòglue’ underneath the NPO industry in Africa – it’s a critical industry that is often under-supported and under-appreciated. A platform approach can provide efficiency and scale – it could be transformative.

“Many people don’t know this, but South Africa was the second biggest climber in the CAF World Giving Index 2014. That’s largely because last year, 4.5 million more South Africans gave up their time in some way to help a good cause than in 2013. That’s a huge number of people and a big trend – something we’d like to build technology around.

The forgood product revolves around three propositions:

“We’re trying something different,” said Hadfield. “The temptation might be to work inside the NPO sector as an NPO ourselves, but we’d like to bring a bit of startup hustle, automation and urgency to the space – so forgood is actually registered as a for-profit – it’s a social enterprise. We’re a company that wants to make returns for our investors – but we’ll do that while we’re making the world a better place.

The team includes Andy Hadfield (previously of Real Time Wine, FNB and gAL.co.za) and Garth Japhet (founder of Soul City, South Africa’s longest running and most successful media NGO, South African representative for Social Media at the World Economic Forum and currently CEO of Heartlines).

Hadfield comments: “We’ve been fortunate. forgood was incubated in various forms inside Heartlines, which has given us some time to learn about what might and might not work. We’ve taken those lessons and built the current product from scratch – meaning we’re treating this like a startup. I’ve been honoured to join a team that has already done so much work in this space. This launch is about kicking it up to the next level. Come and change the world with us.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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Telcos want one face

The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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