By VICTOR ADAR
Kenya’s gaming tech start-up, Usiku Games has launched a made-in-Africa video conferencing system that will enable users enjoy calls with unlimited attendees, at more affordable prices.
Dubbed Gumzo, a Swahili word that means chatting, the service is free for users to attend meetings, and only costs Sh100 per week for those who want to host their own meetings. Users are able to pay via Mpesa.
The web-based Gumzo system is also one of the most secure platforms with all calls encrypted ensuring that users’ calls are private and protected. To avoid the problem of “Zoom Bombing”, which is a new kind of attack where uninvited users break into your meeting and disrupts it, Gumzo is also using local phone number verification and real-names to ensure a safe environment for the users. Meeting hosts can review the live video, name and phone number of each attendee before allowing them in to the room.
According to Jay Shapiro, the founder and CEO of Usiku Games, Gumzo is Africa’s first innovation in video conferencing built by Kenyan developers who have exhibited a high level of skill in coding and system architecture.
“We are glad to have built this video conferencing system here in Kenya for the continent. This is a turning point in Africa’s innovation since our users will be able to enjoy lower rates, longer talk time and host many people at the same time without worrying about their security. We have invested heavily on security and creating a better experience compared to the overseas competition,” he says.
Mr Shapiro also points out that the users will enjoy better quality calls, due to the low latency of the high-speed broadband in Africa. “This is supported by the fact that our servers are right here in Africa, which allows for quick and seamless connections. The competition all host their servers in China / USA, so their video signals must go halfway around the planet via undersea cables, which takes time and degrades the call quality,” he added.
The video conferencing system will also enable African countries to retain the fees in local economies, compared to competitions that repatriates their’s off the continent. At the same time, Gumzo has committed to make the platform available to all public school teachers in Kenya for free use of their virtual classrooms, tuitions and family calls through the end of the year.
“Since the existing players are all international companies, there are billions of shillings in fees from across Africa that are leaving the continent and into these companies’ coffers overseas exactly at a time when we need that money in the local economy. Gumzo will save it,” Shapiro says adding that the company has committed that 50% of all fees raised on the platform will be donated to Covid-19 response Fund, NGOs in Kenya, including the Pwani Youth Network, Team Pankaj & Mombasa Red Cross.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, more families and friends are using video conferencing for social gatherings, and not just business meetings. Gumzo supports fun times for users, allows groups to watch shared movies and play games with loved ones especially during these tough times. Gumzo games include board games and card games as well as Karaoke nights.
In the near future, Gumzo will be adding the ability to connect to other social media platforms such as Facebook Live and YouTube Live allowing teachers, pastors, and community leaders to reach mass audiences.
There are already more than 350 million internet-connected smartphones across Africa. Most of them that run on Android and IOS are compatible to use Gumzo, which is purely browser based, not a native app with no downloads or plugins to be installed.
Usiku Games was established in Kenya in 2019 with a vision of creating positive social impact in local communities through innovative digital entertainment solutions. With more than 350 million connected smartphones already active across Africa (more than in all of the United States, Canada and Mexico combined) mobile phones have become the best way to reach today’s youth. Usiku are committed to “moving the needle” in the areas of education, healthcare, civic engagement and climate change, by adding an element of fun to traditional civil sector messaging.