SMS-based anti-truancy product expands to the US

SMS-based anti-truancy product expands to the US

A text-based school attendance product suite provided by Adelaide-based MGM Wireless is on its way to the US, following a successful five month trial in the US state of Arizona.

The January 1, 2007 US launch comes three years after its launch in Australia, where the product, messageyou, has been well received by schools and parents. Having been adopted by 270 schools nationwide, messageyou currently occupies a 92 percent share of the Australian market for student attendance communication systems, according to MGM Wireless executive chairman, Mark Fortunatow.

"It's a new product category," he said. "We really invented and pioneered this application in Australia; we launched our first school on October 1st 2003, and since then, it's grown from a non-existent product category to today, where we've got 14 percent of high schools across the country using the system."

The product aims to improve attendance at schools by simplifying roll marking and attendance analysis. When students are late or missing from school, messageyou sends an automatic SMS text message to parents and guardians - a strategy that has proven successful in reducing truancy.

Australian schools view attendance as a key performance indicator for institutions and staff members, Fortunatow explained. As student attendance also affects how school districts are funded in the US, he expects US schools to have even greater incentives to boost attendance rates.

"On any one day, if you've got a number of kids away, our system locates those kids and provides that information back to the school -- that's an immediate financial benefit to the school, on top of welfare and economic benefits," he said.

Currently, most of messageyou's sales and marketing occur direct through MGM Wireless, Fortunatow said, as the product is tightly coupled to the attendance and communication processes at a school, and the application requires a high level of professional services to implement.

"We find that in order to sell the systems in schools, we need highly experienced salespeople that really understand the issues in a school in a lot of depth, and that doesn't lend itself to a reseller network," Fortunatow said.

However, MGM Wireless does have partnerships with telcos, including Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, as well as about 30 integrators and other vendors of student management systems.

The company is currently in discussions with potential channel partners in the U.S., but Fortunatow was unable to discuss the specifics of any U.S. deals at this stage, saying only that "We've been approached by a number of partners, and channel partners in particular, and that will certainly be a key component to our roll-out strategy".

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