While much of the developed world has grown used to high-speed internet access, the majority of the African continent remains without reliable and affordable internet, placing modern communication staples like email firmly out of reach to most. However, Google has recently announced Gmail SMS, a new service available in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya, which brings Gmail to all cellphones capable of sending SMS text messages - no data connection required.

Google states that the only technical capability which cellphones must meet in order to use the service is the ability to send and receive SMS messages, allowing owners of even the most basic or venerable handsets to use email without the need for 3G, EDGE or any other form of data connection. This places the potential of email communication into millions more hands than before.

The Gmail SMS service works as follows: following an initial setup process which presumably does require internet access as it involves linking an existing Gmail account to the cellphone in question, Gmail SMS will then automatically forward emails received to the cellphone as SMS text messages.

In order to reply, one must simply respond with a standard text message. New messages sent via the Gmail SMS service will be received just like standard emails and will even pop up in the correct email conversation thread for the recipient, when applicable.

Finer control over the Gmail SMS service can be wielded within the cellphone itself by replying with SMS messages which contain commands such as MORE, PAUSE and RESUME. Google does not charge for the service, ensuring that users only need pay their usual SMS fee to send emails - receiving Gmail SMS messages is free.

There’s currently no word from Google as to whether it plans to roll out the service to other African countries. For detailed setup instructions, visit the source link below.

Source: Google Africa Blog, via GigaOM