Newsletter English

Issue no 629 2nd November 2012

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Top story

  • This week’s TV content market DISCOP in Johannesburg saw Neotel and property developer, the Maboneng Project promoting their joint fibre-to-the-home service aimed at attracting high-end media users to this pioneering downtown development. South Africa has found it hard to bridge the cost gap between the curb and the premises and this joint development may yet spark an increase in the roll-out of high-end fibre connections. Russell Southwood looks at what this development might have to do with the rest of Africa.

    When Apartheid ended, the rigid rules about where people could live went with it and the downtown core of Johannesburg, its Central Business District, went into steep decline as new centres like the glossy home of the ICT industry, Sandton were built. The same problem is occurring in places like Nairobi, where most of the property investment is made on the edge of town, because the road infrastructure cannot take the volume of traffic and there is poor public transport. 

    Indeed too many African cities lack any sense of being planned and very few seek to regenerate run-down areas. Instead, they create small islands of high-end development like Victoria Island in Lagos, leaving other districts to suffer with much poorer infrastructure. African Governments have begun to understand broadband as a national development tool but not yet something that can be used as part of an urban regeneration, wealth strategy.

    Pioneering property developer Mark Seftel has worked together with Jonathan Liebmann of Propertuity Property Management to create a mixed-use development consisting of art galleries, restaurants, loft-style apartments and office space. Seftel himself is a former telecoms initiative.

    Part of the development’s strategy is to attract media and technology users to what are premises with high-design values. A thread in this strategy is to offer some of the highest broadband connectivity at a reasonable price in a country where it is still difficult to get the magic combination of high speed, reliable and affordable bandwidth.

    The provider they joined with to find a solution to this problem, Neotel, has already been rolling out fibre to the curb for two years. It has 6,500 kilometres of metronet fibre and has extended this into 14 business areas with curb access points. The stumbling block has been getting it from the curb into the premises: currently the cost is a shade over US$1,100 per connection but could come down to more globally comparative levels of US$700 per connection with greater volumes.

    The business model has been for both the developer and the provider to jointly bear the connection cost, which then allows them to offer a competitive, high-speed connection at what are current ADSL connection prices in South Africa. For the property developer, the relatively small cost of the connection can be rolled into the apartment or office lease price. Many African cities are seeing a building boom in both these categories and are ripe for this kind of broadband provision. However, given that the number of users in new developments is relatively small, it would make sense to apply some subsidy to this connection gap for targeted, existing buildings in a specified geographic area. 

    But as Angus Hay, Head of Strategic Business Development, Neotel says:”This isn’t part of a large, commercial roll-out, it’s a pilot to see what’s possible. However, it’s the direction things should go.” But it’s hard to believe that once you’ve created a very small island of globally competitive bandwidth – which is vital for industries like media – that it will not begin to start a trend that will unblock the barrier created by the high cost of the local access link.

    “This is not a contended, leased line service, it’s a contended broadband service but we don’t shape it. It’s part of a GPON network and there’s significant bandwidth behind it, with the contention happening in the core network.” Connection speeds could go comfortably as high as 40 mbps per user and higher if needed:”On pricing, it will compete with DSL but give fibre performance.”

    “It’s important to establish this kind of pilot to find models that work. Where business and high-end consumers are competing globally, you have to have service that works for them. It won’t solve all of Africa’s connectivity problems like those found in rural areas, but it will make a difference to a country’s competitiveness. From the commercial standpoint, Africa doesn’t have a lot of (usable) copper and this is a way for telcos to ensure they become part of the data-enabled services future.”

    Outside of South Africa, this kind of approach would accelerate African users to the next level of broadband, rather than them having to remain on the lower rungs of the digital divide. It can be targeted at key sectors of the economy to ensure that they remain globally competitive. But most importantly, high-speed broadband becomes an urban regeneration tool that (along with many other tools) can create the means to spread wealth into formerly declining urban areas.

    To get up-to-the minute news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    Kwabena Smith, Orun Energy on saving diesel costs on base stations

    Justin Hartman, Social Code on South Africa's ICT entrepreneurialism and the failure to support it

    Julian Macharia, Buni TV on this new online video delivery platform

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on its acquisition of Afinis

    Envir Fraser, Convergence Partners on investment opportunities in ICT

    Tayo Oviosu, CEO, Paga on the mobile money market in Nigeria

    Nigerian ICT blogger Loy Okezi
    e on Nigeria's online successes

    Victor Dibia, CEO, Denvycom.com
     on his games portfolio and plans to monetize

    Oluseye Soyode-Johnson, consultant to Maliyo Games
     on the business model

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Jonathan Donner, Microsoft Research, India and Marion Walton, UCT on Cape Town low income teens' use of PC and mobile Internet
    Jonathan Donner and Marion Walton on why funded libraries and telecentres are still needed

    Mike Best, Georgia Tech on using interactive media with Liberia's Truth Commission

    Leonard Ah Kun from South Africa’s on augmented reality, Leap Motion and Google glasses

    Emma Kaye on an African mobile platform to make music and films

    Michael Ugwu, iROKING on Nigeria's Spotify-type service

     

telecoms

  • Nigeria’s government should declare telecommunications equipment in the nation as critical national infrastructure under the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) arrangement that confers priority and protected status to telecom facilities, according to Airtel Nigeria.

    This follows recent vandalisation of telecoms facilities, especially in northern parts of Nigeria by terrorists believed to belong to the Boko Haram sect, as well as flooding in several parts of the country hampering quality of communication services.

    Airtel Nigeria’s director in charge of regulatory affairs and special projects Osondu Nwokoro said terrorists had attacked 53 installations sites of the company, which had disrupted operations in almost 200 sites across northern Nigeria.

    He added that the combination of flood and terrorist attacks have led to the destruction of telecommunications equipment responsible for the network’s current poor quality of service.

    Nwokoro added that the company has also lost 32 installation sites to the flood which is affecting parts of the Middle-Belt region, Southern Nigeria and Delta state. In addition to damages incurred at the installation sites, more sites are at risk, including the company’s optical fibre capacities.

    According to Airtel, its operations are being severely affected by the armed insurgents, which have hindered the 24 hour maintenance of telecoms facilities.

    Nwokoro lamented that states such as Adamawa, Gombe, Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe and Kaduna States are the worst hit by the terror attacks, while cities such as Lokoja, Asaba, Ughelli-Patani and Patani-Elele are the most affected by flood.

    He however assured the company’s many customers of Airtel’s commitment to tackling all its challenges, saying decisive steps are being taken to eradicate the damages inflicted on its operations. One of such is the facility-sharing agreements it has signed with other service providers. The company is also engaging the services of highly efficient private security companies that will provide protection for its facilities in the affected states. 

  • According to an unconfirmed report by RadioOkapi.net, Netherland British Company (NBC) – a relatively unknown DRC-based firm which manufactures and distributes telecoms products – has successfully challenged the issuance of 3G licences this year to mobile operators Airtel DRC, Oasis Telecom (Tigo), Vodacom Congo and Africell. 

    In a judgement delivered on 26 October, the Commercial Court of Kinshasa ruled that NBC alone has the right to utilise the 2100MHz band, following its 2004 receipt of a ten-year operating concession. It is not believed that the telco has actually taken steps to utilise its mobile concession, which would be set to expire in 2014. 

    Representatives of the cellcos affected by the decision say that they have yet to receive an official notification of the regulator’s plans to requisition the frequencies in question. Vodacom launched its 3G network earlier this month to coincide with the 14th annual Francophonie Summit, which was held in Kinshasa between 12 – 14 October.

    The Autorite de Regulation de la Poste et des Telecommunications (ARPTC) belatedly issued a number of 3G concessions, that had first been promised in 2010. In the event Airtel, Oasis Telecom, Vodacom and market newcomer Africell each acquired a UMTS licence, paying USD15 million apiece.

  • South African Minister of Communications Dina Pule has hinted that a revised strategy for Telkom South Africa could include possible partners in terms of both fixed line and mobile operations. A statement released by Pule said: ‘Our decisions at the recently concluded Telkom AGM were informed by government’s view that corporate governance and appropriate management of State-Owned Companies (SoCs) cannot be left to just any interpretation of our expectations … In general, the Department of Communications has had to relook at all of its six priorities. Telkom is part of that priority set. Indeed we have been working on a revised Telkom strategy. Part of this Telkom strategy – started in the 2006/07 investment period – is already under implementation. The rest of that strategy, which pertains to broadband rollout and possible partners for fixed line and mobile telephony will be spoken to by March 2013’.

    Telkom’s future has been cause for much speculation in recent months following the government’s controversial decision to block a bid by South Korea’s KT Corporation to buy a 20% stake in the firm. Subsequent rumours have included talk of nationalising the group, and more recently, speculation has centred on a potential merger between Telkom Mobile (8ta) and established operator Cell C. The government currently holds a 39.76% stake in Telkom.

  • THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe plans to install 54 mobile phone base stations in under-served and remote areas across the country over the next two years. This comes as Potraz expects teledensity to reach 100 percent from the current 90 percent as telecommunications become a basic need.

    Potraz deputy director-general Alfred Marisa said in an interview last week the authority has already erected 11 sites for the stations.

    "The first phase (of the) project had eight terminal sites and three repeater sites while the second phase is targeting a total of 43 sites. Our target is to reach all under-served areas in Zimbabwe. The areas targeted and prioritised are remote rural areas," he said.

    Potraz has planned to roll out the project in two phases over two years, using resources from the Universal Services Fund. The first phase consisted of sites at Chidodo, Pfungwe, Neuso, Chilo, Chiodza, Malipati, Manama and Dhlamini. All the first phase sites are ready for radio frequency installations, with Chilo (Mahenye) and Malipati already on air. The other sites are awaiting the completion of microwave transmission installations, expected to be completed by the end of the month.

    "Construction of towers at the 43 sites is likely to span over two years since the USF cannot fund all of them in one year, given that the USF is also funding other projects such as the Schools Connectivity project and some deserving postal projects," said Mr Marisa.

    Investment in infrastructure by operators since dollarisation and a slash in sim card prices improved access to mobile phones. Prior to dollarisation access to telecommunications, especially mobile, was limited to only a privileged few and was seen as a status symbol.

    "As at the end of September 2012, the teledensity figure was 89,8 percent (active sim cards and fixed lines without factoring in multiple line ownership). Given the current growth trends, we expect teledensity to reach 100 percent by next year as mobile services are extended to more under-served rural areas," Marisa said.

    It is against this background that Potraz seeks to ensure universal access to telecommunications through the installation of infrastructure in areas where operators would ordinarily not invest. To address gaps created by such a scenario, the postal and telecoms regulator has strongly advocated the sharing of infrastructure.

    "Operators are already sharing infrastructure. Sharing infrastructure has been hampered by old designs (especially towers) which were originally not designed to carry more than one operator and, in some cases, inadequate backhaul infrastructure," said Mr Marisa.

  • Vodacom has announced that its pilot of satellite connectivity solutions aimed at providing coverage for rural users is returning positive results, as it looks to improve connectivity for businessmen and farmers.

    Vodacom Business entered into a partnership with South African agriculture trade association AGRI SA earlier this year, with a view to solving increasingly pressing telecommunications challenges in rural areas of the country.

    Ageing fixed-line infrastructures have failed to provide suitable telecoms connections to the rural population, with a focus in particular on swiftly connecting AGRI SA members.

    Explaining the problem at the time, Johannes Moller, President of AGRI SA said: “The deterioration of rural fixed-line telephone infrastructure means that effective telecommunication in various regions has become virtually impossible especially with regards to gaining access to the internet, email facilities and, recently, also voice.”  

    The lack of connectivity was causing knock-on effects to business and the economy, with farmers out of reach for suppliers, and customers.

    Announcing the partnership in July, with ten pilot schemes rolled out across rural communities, Vodacom noted: “Agriculture is a critical sector for development, employment and the economy of the country. To realise the full potential of this sector agricultural players need access to cutting-edge technology to market and grow their businesses.” 

    Chris Lazarus, Managing Executive of Vodacom Business Services promised: “This partnership with Agri SA will serve as a catalyst to bring a truly mobile, accessible and affordable solution to these areas."

    With the South African government pushing for 100 percent internet coverage by 2030 – levels currently standing at approximately 20 percent - Vodacom’s promises are ambitious but also timely. It is in this context that the duo last week announced that the satellite connection schemes are going to plan, as rural communities report good coverage.

    One company using the service is Naranja Packers, a citrus grower and packer from rural Mpumalanga. Having experienced multiple challenges such as slow connectivity speeds and even cable theft in the region, Naranja is currently trialling the satellite connection service. 

    KerneelsCombrink, Financial Manager for Naranja Packers gave the service a glowing recommendation, saying: “Vodacom Satellite Connect is an essential communications solution if we are to grow our business and stay in touch with our customers here and overseas. We are using it as a business expansion driver and it has become a critical element of our business. It's an excellent service - reliable and fast - and we are very happy with it."

    A similarly positive report comes from the AlzuEntreprises Group, which encompasses a number of mostly farming operations in the Mpumalanga region. Chief Financial Officer Ben Myburgh noted: “There are no fixed lines in the area and very poor 3G reception,” adding of the satellite services: “It's a must-have for us and we are very happy to now have a reliable service that meets our needs.”

  • THE government has set aside T48bn/- for low cost telecommunication connections in rural and underserved areas across the country where 152 wards and 1.6 million people have been targeted in the first phase of the programme.

    The Universal Communication Access Fund (UCSAF) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Engineer Peter Ulanga, told the 'Daily News' at the weekend that tenders have been floated for a qualified company to supply low cost technologies in the areas.

    He said 10 million US dollars (about 15.7bn/-) has been allocated to the 152 wards in various regions, while the rest of the money would be spent on subsequent tenders to be floated between January and May, next year.

    The extension of low cost technology connectivity in rural and underserved areas would provide the opportunity for people living there to enjoy the service like their urban counterparts. The Deputy Minister for Communication, Science and Technology, Mr January Makamba, said apart from the need of low cost technologies in rural areas to address communication services, the people there also deserve high quality services.

    He said the government has been receiving complaints across the country on the quality of services. "I would like to request the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) to ensure that the quality of services is not compromised in any way," he said. Makamba also warned on high cost of services and terminal devices where the pricing is the same in both urban and rural areas, while there is a big difference in income between people in those areas.

    "Technology deployed should bear in mind that people leaving in rural areas have low income which means operators should not expect quick returns but balance their income and continue providing them with services," he said. However, players in the communication sector attribute poor connectivity in the many rural areas to inefficient transport and power infrastructure.

    Andrew Dymond, a communication expert, said many telecom firms shun operating in rural areas due to poor financial sustainability. UCAF which was established in 2006 is tasked to make sure low cost communication is connected to rural and underserved areas.

    According to the Fund, ICT revenue in the country stand at over T1.6 tril/- a year, while over 5 million people have no access to telecommunication. TCRA statistics show that as at March, this year, there were 12 million phone subscribers in Tanzania.

  • Some 72 percent of Nigerians living in rural areas lack access to telephone services within a kilometre “in spite of the phantom successes recorded in the Nigerian telecoms sector”, a survey reveals.

    According to the report by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigeria’s communications regulatory body, rural Nigerians often have to cover a distance of nearly one kilometre to make calls, while about 23 percent travel about five kilometres to gain access to telephone service reception.

    The report also noted that about 5 percent of Nigerian rural dwellers cover 10 kilometres or more to use telephone services. The commission, however, stated that despite the report showing the need for the telecoms companies to expand their coverage to the rural communities, it still indicates an improvement in telecoms coverage compared to 2004.

    “In 2004, 68 percent of respondents in rural areas had to travel further than 50km to the nearest telephone location. However, findings from the recent survey indicate that only 0.2 percent of the rural respondents surveyed, travelled to the nearest location, which is about three kilometres to make their calls,” the report stated.

    This improvement, the commission said, is coming on the heels of its announcement in September of a total number of 105 million active subscribers across networks and a teledensity of 72.17 percent, compared with the nation’s 400,000 subscribers and a tele-density of 0.04 percent in 2001.

    With an estimated population of 160 million Nigerians, it would be expected that the commission’s 105 million active subscribers would show a considerable penetration of voice telephony in rural communities.

    Experts are however of the opinion that the 105 million figure may be with regard to active lines rather than subscribers, as many Nigerians have more than one telephone line. The incidence is not related to users’ strategy to allow them to enjoy offers from various networks at the same time, and to remain accessible even when there is disruption in the services of their preferred service provider.

internet

  • Plans for the South Atlantic Express (SAEx) undersea cable system are advancing despite funding difficulties, as eFive Telecoms announces the grant of a supply contract to TE SubCom.

    The cable system – which was first proposed by eFive in early 2011 - will link South Africa to Brazil, with the possibility of further extension to the United States, and will comprise two-fibre pairs amounting to a 16 Tb per second capacity.

    The 9,990 kilometres of cable will stretch as far as Mtunzini, and will link East London, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town on its route to Fortaleza in Brazil. The system will also feature a spur to St Helena Island, and is likely to provide a link to Angola as well.

    Last week’s announcement that a supply contract has been awarded is the first sign of life from the project since funding issues were disclosed in January. The company added today that while funders could not yet be revealed, it expects the “financial close” to be announced in the first half of 2013.

    Following the announcement of the project in 2011, things went quiet for the SAEx project, and in January of this year eFive’s new Chief Executive Officer Rosalind Thomas revealed that no financial backing had yet been secured for the project - estimated at a cost of R3 billion (US$346 million) to complete. Thomas disclosed that the company hoped “soon to make progress on that front”, adding that “finance discussions are well advanced”.

    The company initially promised that the cable would be commissioned in early to mid-2013, however, with revelations as to delays in financing, it became clear that this original date was wildly optimistic. Thomas revealed: “The project is not going to be ready in 2013 due to delays experienced last year. Our target date is Q4 2014.”

     

  • French-US equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent says it has been selected by Telesis Tanzania to help the company offer affordable 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile broadband services in the east African country. Under the plan, the Paris-based vendor will provide Telesis with a high speed wireless network in the regions of Dar es Salaam and Mtwara by October 2013 followed by phased national rollout in the country. 

    The service provider currently operates as a mobile virtual network aggregator (MVNA) in Tanazania, supporting services for a number of mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) which serve their customers using Telesis’ infrastructure. Telesis Tanzania says it is focused on developing ‘individual, tailored, and cost-effective solutions for its MVNO partners by offering leading technology infrastructure, proven commercial and distribution capabilities, enhanced commercial and operational support and managed services’. 

    As such, Alca-Lu will provide it with a comprehensive 4G LTE mobile broadband solution capable of speeds of over 100Mbps to support these goals. For the project the manufacturer will provide its 4G LTE solution including radio access network (RAN) products, the evolved packet core solution (EPC), the service aware manager, the subscriber data manager and convergent charging system, as well as its services expertise including project management, integration and network optimisation.

  • The census results released on Tuesday show South Africa has a great deal of work ahead if it is to achieve government’s goal of universal broadband access by 2020. Almost two-thirds (64,8%) of South African households have no access to the Internet. Of the 35,2% that do have Internet access, 46,3% get online using a mobile phone. Only 8.6% of households have access to the Internet at home. Statistics SA released the information as part of the publication of the 2011 census results on Tuesday. It must be borne in mind that the data is at least a year out of date.

    Although mobile phones and home connections are the most common ways to get online, 4.7% of South African households have Internet access at a place of work and 5.6% have access from “elsewhere”, which includes using Internet cafes and making use of the connections of friends and family.

    Most (88.9%) households have access to a mobile phone, but only 14.5% have a fixed line, which explains why cellular connections are the most popular means of accessing the Internet.

    Despite the low fixed-line penetration, 25.8% of households have satellite TV and 59.3% have a DVD player. Almost three quarters, or 74.5%, of households have a television and 67.5% have a radio.

    Only 21.4% of households have a computer which, when combined with low landline penetration (14,5%), shows that government has its work cut out for it. It is, however, encouraging that the percentage of households with computers has increased substantially, from 8,5% in 2001 to 21.4% in 2011.

    Another obstacle to ubiquitous broadband is that, while cellphone ownership has increased significantly — from 31.9% in 2001 to 88.9% in 2011 — the proportion of households using fixed lines has dropped from 23.9% in 2001 to 14.5% in 2011.

    TV remains popular with 74.5% of South African households owning one, up from 52,6% in 2001. Radio showed a small decline, dropping from 72.1% a decade ago to 67.5% in 2011

  • MWEB Business has launched a new satellite Internet service aimed at rural communities, farmers and other areas where standard broadband access is not available.

    MWEB Business GM Andre Joubert said that Internet access has always been problematic, if not impossible, for individuals and businesses located in regions where ADSL, 3G and even electricity is unavailable or unreliable.

    “The new MWEB Business VSAT service is going to make a huge difference to farmers and game lodge owners, as well as the mining and construction industries which currently face enormous difficulties communicating with their head offices in the cities,” said Joubert.

    “We also anticipate demand from businesses sponsoring connectivity for schools in the remotest rural areas.”

    MWEB Business added that their VSAT services will also provide telephony services, and can be used as a backup to fixed line services in areas which are prone to cable theft.

    MWEB Business’s satellite solution can also operate effectively using solar power, which makes it suitable for areas without reliable electricity.

     “Because latency is such an important factor in satellite connectivity, particularly for VoIP (voice over IP) services, we at MWEB are making use of a satellite teleport (transmission station) that is based in South Africa,” Joubert esxplained.

    MWEB Business’ satellite service offers speeds of up to 4Mbps and is available in various bundles used to complement either a VPN or basic internet service.

    Customers can choose to ‘hard cap’ their bundle, in which case the service will be halted once the bundle has reached its limit. Alternatively, they can opt to continue to receive service at an out-of-bundle rate once they exceed their bundle limit.

    The equipment required to utilise the service, including the satellite dishes, can be leased or purchased outright.

    The pricing is as follows:

       * MWEB VSAT – 1GB: R640

       * MWEB VSAT – 3GB: R1,299

       * MWEB VSAT – 5GB: R1,999

       * MWEB VSAT – 10GB: R3,469

    Out of bundle rates are charged at R0.60 per MB

  • South African school Phomolong Secondary has recently been upgraded with a solar powered internet classroom courtesy of Samsung, empowering students to be educated in technology even in areas of poor electricity supply.

    The Africa Energy Awards’ African Solar Project of the Year aids electronically secluded areas by assisting with schooling through a fully kitted out, renovated shipping container.

    This world-first establishment is only the beginning of Samsung’s goal to reach five million students by 2012.

    The high school in the rural village of Phomolong, situated in Boksburg near Johannesburg, greatly benefits from this addition to their teaching. 

    Portable solar powered education stations are each equipped with Internet-enabled notebooks, a 50-inch electronic board, Samsung Galaxy tablet computers, Wi-Fi cameras and a file server containing the entire South African school curriculum (grade 0 -12). Other essential extras include a router, LED Samsung lights, an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) and an energy efficient refrigerator. Every 12 metre long unit can host 21 learners at a time.

    Samsung’s effort to help underdeveloped African communities gives access to modern educational facilities and boosts connectivity across the continent.

    “With the goal to grow our business on the continent, we also know that we have to sustain our level of innovation,” President and CEO of Samsung Electronics Africa, KK Park told African Brains. “This can only be achieved if we invest in education to facilitate African thought-leadership and to ensure we have access to a large workforce of skilled engineers in the future. The Solar Powered Internet School is a great example of this strategy at play.”

    Panelled solar supply empowers classrooms to run actively online for nine hours per day. It can also endure without sunlight for approximately one and a half days. The system is also fitted to withstand harsh weather conditions. The mobility of these blue boxes with fold-in, rubber solar panels makes the transport and establishment quite practical in remote destinations throughout Africa.

computing

  • Dimension Data last week launched its cloud services in Namibia, expanding into yet another southern African nation hot on the heels of launching similar services in Botswana last week.

    Rowan Kleintjes, Managing Director: Dimension Data Namibia, said the move would allow Namibia to catch up with the rest of Africa thanks to the company launching its services in the country.

    “Namibia is set to join the rest of Africa in the adoption of cloud, and will leverage it to leapfrog its technology adoption, without having to incur exorbitant infrastructure costs and enjoy world class ICT services on a pay as you go model,” he said.

    “Organisations in Namibia can take advantage of the benefits of cloud and we will assist our clients to achieve the transformational potential of cloud computing. Because all Dimension Data’s Cloud Services are delivered on a consistent platform, it’s easier and more cost-effective to expand from one cloud model to another as the demands of the business change.”

    Cloud technology allows users to reduce the cost of storage and hardware and makes it easier to manage business infrastructure and applications.

    “Dimension Data’s comprehensive range of Cloud Services helps clients at each step in their journey towards cloud architectures” said Kleintjes. “Organisations have a lot of options in the cloud, and our role is to advise our clients where to start.”

    The technology is slowly taking off in Africa, with Tony Munro, Solutions Executive: Dimension Data Africa, saying the continent is well placed to benefit from the new technology.

    “Although adoption is gradual, as cloud providers demonstrate its benefits, I believe that Africa is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the benefits of cloud” said Tony Munro, Solutions Executive: Dimension Data Africa.

  • The National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA-U) has completed an e-government master plan, designed in tandem with South Korea’s National IT Promotional Agency (NIPA) as part of a pact between the two countries.

    The report shows how the Ugandan government plans to utilize ICT in improving service delivery, with a central platform for information from government departments.

    "The common man will not need to move to different offices to look for the information they need,” said James Saaka, executive director of NITA-U. “They will find it in a central place.”

    The new e-government system will be funded by the government and involve 25 projects, including an Integrated Data Centre and a National Data Bank. Feasibility studies are to be carried out next month.

    South Korea is considered a world leader in e-government, and a team from there was charged with helping Uganda in drawing up its master plan, which claims to set out “the steps necessary to build a foundation for the transformation of how government services would be provided through the use of technology”.

    Ruhakana Rugunda, the Minister for ICT, said the new centralized e-government system will help combat corruption, while also improving administration and efficiency.

    "Currently we have got institutions working independently and they are not co-coordinating and speaking with each other,” he said. “Once the e-Government system is up and running it will prevent data loss by establishing government recovery system of general and confidential documents."

  • The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations ICT regulatory agency, has approved a universal charging solution for mobile devices capable of reducing e-waste called the Universal Power Adapter (UPA).

    The ITU approved the first stage of the UPA technical standard for use in devices such as modems, set-top boxes, home networking equipment and fixed telephones expected to enable energy savings.

    The approval will benefit countries not well equipped with reliable AC power grids as it is designed for compatibility with standalone AC produced by renewable energy sources inclusive of 5V and 12V power interfaces of solar energy.

    According to Dr. Hamadoun I. Touré, the ITU’s Secretary General, their global standard for the universal phone chargers was well received from vendors and consumers and the new universal adapter will claim the same accolades.

    “These important environmentally-oriented standards will markedly reduce e-waste and greenhouse gas emissions, while saving money for vendors and consumers through more efficient use of raw materials and energy,” he said.

    Dubbed ‘ITU-T L.1001’, it is expected to reduce the number of power adapters that need to be manufactured by widening the range of compatible devices, facilitating adapter re-use and recycling, in turn increasing build-quality and resilience to over-voltages.

    New ITU standard will drive substantial reductions in energy consumption used in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), equipment manufacture and limit device duplication.

    Meanwhile, a study out by a University of Genoa has estimated that the widespread adoption of an energy-efficient UPA solution will eliminate nearly 300,000 tonnes of e-waste annually.

    The study further shows UPA could reduce the energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of external power supplies by between 25 and 50 per cent.

    The UPA is designed for ICT devices in people’s homes, and provide a low-voltage input to a device by converting the AC mains voltage to a low-voltage DC output.

    Future capabilities could include compatibility with a DC interface from renewable energy systems or power sockets found in transportation systems like boats, trains, planes, buses.

     

  • Finnish mobile phone-maker Nokia has partnered with the Government of Kenya through the Kenya ICT Board to work towards ensuring tech startups specialising in agricultural, health and educational apps benefit from technical and monetary support.

    During the two-year partnership, Nokia will fund the startups as well as provide technical expertise, while the Kenya ICT board will be in charge of the coordination of the activities.

    Speaking during the signing of the partnership, Jussi Hinkkanen, Nokia Vice President for corporate relations in charge of Middle East and Africa, said: “Our objective is to support local talent in developing their skills, and to open up a channel for their innovations to reach both regional and global markets.”

    Kenya’s information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo reiterated the need to create more applications to solve Kenya’s challenges in different sectors.

    “Building an effective information society is a joint effort between government, private sector and civil society,” Ndemo said.

    The partnership will ensure mobile-based platforms are developed to increase productivity and earnings for the farmers, simplify businesses and help in teaching and instruction.

    Upon the partnership, Kenya’s government and Nokia expects to have connected 100 schools to smart education systems in the teaching of mathematics and science, develop SMS-based solutions to spur agribusiness and create health information apps, Business Daily Africa reported.

    Tech innovation hubs and universities will also be involved to help in building the technical and business skills of Kenyan mobile start-ups and train 200 students annually.

    Since the technology boom begun in Africa, the education and health sectors have not seen much developments in terms of applications and innovations to help drive its operations.

    Experts however believe that the health sector provides a huge market for exploitation on the continent, considering that 70 percent of Africans live in rural areas where access to medical services is a big problem.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Eaton Towers, the African tower ownership and management company, has secured $60 million in debt financing from Standard Bank Group, acting through Stanbic Uganda, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), to build and develop new and existing telecom towers across Uganda.

    This $60 million financing includes a $30 million tranche with an 8.5 year maturity from IFC, a member of the World Bank Group. This is marks the first funding for Eaton Towers from IFC, whilst the 8.5 year term is a record for telecom infrastructure providers in the region.

    The remaining $30 million tranche is provided by Stanbic Uganda, for a six-year term.

    This is Eaton’s second round of bank debt funding in 2012, following a $30 million debt facility from Standard Bank Group, acting through Stanbic Bank Ghana and the Standard Bank of South Africa, earlier in the year.

    It also follows a $150 million equity investment from Capital International Private Equity Funds (CIPEF), a private equity investor that focuses on emerging markets, secured by Eaton Towers in September 2011.

    Peter Lewis, CFO of Eaton Towers, said: “This latest round of debt funding is a further validation of the Eaton Towers business model and management team, and a clear demonstration of our ability to efficiently leverage our assets across Africa.

    “Mobile operators in Africa are increasingly viewing tower sharing as a key strategy to facilitate reductions in operating costs and capex, enabling them to focus on providing mobile services. Eaton Towers is now a leading tower company in Uganda and this funding facility will allow us to further consolidate our position there.”

    The capital raised will be put towards funding Eaton’s acquisition of nearly 400 towers from Warid Telecoms in Uganda, announced in January, and to upgrade existing towers and build up to 80 new towers in the country.

    Eaton Towers also acquired 300 towers from Orange Uganda in January, to give a total of 700 towers and national coverage in Uganda.

    Eaton Towers also operates towers in Ghana and South Africa and has recently established offices in Kenya. 

  • Amsterdam-headquartered, New York-listed international telecoms group Vimpelcom intends to sell several of its businesses in emerging markets across Africa and Asia, as part of a rationalisation of the group’s global business, the Financial Times reports. 

    It is understood that the Russian company has already spoken to potential buyers of its sub-Saharan African units in Burundi (U-Com Burundi) and the Central African Republic (Telecel-RCA); the company is also expected to offload its Zimbabwean business – Telecel Zimbabwe – after resolving outstanding ownership and licensing issues. The three businesses are collectively valued at around USD60 million. 

    Meanwhile, in Asia, Vimpelcom is also prepared to offload its Beeline units in both Cambodia and Laos after struggling to compete effectively with the locally-owned operators. The FT indicates that talks in these two countries have taken place with existing players looking to consolidate their position in the market. The move follows Vimpelcom’s April 2012 withdrawal from Vietnam, when it sold its 49% stake in GTel Mobile to GTEL Transmit and Infrastructure Service One Member Company Limited, a related party of Vimpelcom’s Vietnamese partner, Global Telecommunications Corporation.

    Recent years have seen Vimpelcom seek to establish itself as a major international presence by expanding its footprint across Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond, embarking on what it described as a ‘large and complex’ USD6.5 billion merger with Wind Telecom (formerly Weather Investments), the telecoms holding company owned by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris in late-2010/early-2011. However, the company has come under fire in some quarters for its lack of cohesive international strategy, and now seeks to streamline some of its more disparate telecoms assets and focus on increasing core earnings. British financial services company Standard Chartered is said to be advising Vimpelcom on the review of its operations.

  • European investment firm Wendel and its subsidiary Oranje-Nassau Developpement have announced the signing of an agreement with IHS Holding to acquire an equity stake in the tower company. Wendel will participate in a capital increase of IHS to support its pan-African growth strategy; earlier this month, the Nigeria-based tower firm announced the acquisition of 1,758 telecom towers in Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon from MTN Group, increasing its sites under management to 5,700, of which approximately 3,000 are directly owned. Wendel will invest USD125 million in IHS, alongside the firm’s current shareholders, which include leading development financial institutions and top tier private equity firms in Africa. Following the completion of the transaction, Wendel will become the largest shareholder of IHS Holding with a stake of over 25%. ‘The investment by Wendel will allow IHS to pursue our long-term ambition of becoming the leading player in the industry in Africa and to set a clear benchmark in terms of quality of service,’ noted Issam Darwish, founder and CEO of IHS, adding: ‘Having a shareholder such as Wendel, with the depth of knowledge and track record, invest in our company is a real statement of intent. They believe in us, in our vision and our growth plans and we look forward to working alongside them to ensure IHS achieves its long term business objectives.’

  • South African media giant Naspers is rumoured to be acquiring a stake worth approximately US$40 million in Al Jabbar Internet Group's subsidiary Souq.com, in the largest investment in an e-commerce and Internet business in the Middle East since the 2009 sale of Arabic-language internet venture Maktoob.com to Yahoo!. The agreement, according to sources familiar with the deal, is set to be announced in the coming two weeks.

    Al Jabbar Internet Group’s CEO, Samih Toukan, said they were in talks with investors seeking to take a stake in the company, which has eight ventures under its umbrella including Souq.com, the largest e-commerce company in the region. Naspers declined to comment.

    The value of e-commerce related transactions in the Middle East is reported to be about US$11 billion a year, according to Jawad Abassi, founder and general manager at Arab Advisors Group.

    Souq.com competes with another Middle Eastern venture named Namshi, which was founded less than a year ago and sells shoes and clothing in the Middle East. Namshi secured US$20 million in financing from JP Morgan Chase and Blakeney Management last month and is set to expand regionally.

    Toukan said: “The interest is there and we’re excited about it. Some of it is from [companies in] the region, some of it is from outside the region and is international.”

    “Every month we’re growing at double digits from the month before. E-commerce is happening now in the Middle East, it’s being conquered, a lot of investment is being put into it,” Toukan further added.

    Naspers is an international mass media company with principal operations in electronic media (including pay-television, internet and instant-messaging subscriber platforms and the provision of related technologies) and print media (including the publishing, distribution and printing of magazines, newspapers and books, and the provision of private education services).

  • The Bank of Africa is to provide customers in thirteen countries with further mobile financial services after inking an agreement to use of Mobile Internet Banking (MIB) solution provided by e-banking firm Clear2Pay.

    The bank, a subsidiary of BMCE Bank, is growing into a major player in African banking with 1.4 million bank accounts, up by 24 percent from last year.

    With Africa the second largest mobile market in the world, with over 50 percent of transactions taking place through mobile devices, the bank has moved to offer alternative methods of e-banking to its customers, after initial success with Clear2Pay’s OPF e-banking solution. They will launch services on November 13.

    “Within the framework of our multi-channel strategy we feel compelled to offer our customers a flexible and ergonomic solution built for mobile internet, which facilitates ‘on the go’ access to our financial services,” said Alfa Barry, Head of Marketing of the Bank of Africa Group. “We deploy this strategy in order to capture a larger market share, whilst being close to our customers at the heart of their financial needs, which forms the true foundation of our group’s success.”

    The bank says it opted for the solution because of the full integration with the existing e-Banking application, which facilitated a rapid deployment for their customers and for the bank users, who did not need further education.

    The Bank of Africa Group out of 14 African countries and also in France, across a network of 14 commercial banks, one financial corporation, one mortgage bank, one leasing company, one  brokerage firm, two investment companies, one asset management company and one Group representative office in Paris.

    Clear2Pay is a payments modernisation company that actively supports many global financial institutions to meet their payments unification goals through its pure SOA Open Payment Framework (OPF). Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, the company facilitates banks and financial organisations in their provision of payments services, whether they be Card, ACH, Branch, Bulk, High Care or International payment transactions.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Cell C is launching two new promotional data packages that offer customers Internet access at less than R9/GB of data, the mobile operator said on Wednesday. It is launching a prepaid product called Giga 200, which offers 50GB of data for use between 6am and midnight and 150GB for use between midnight and 6am when Cell C’s network is under less load. The Giga 200 prepaid Sim-only package will cost R1 799 once-off, with the data valid for a year.

    - China-based global ICT solutions provider Huawei Technologies has introduced three smartphone brands and a tablet PC into the Ghanaian communications market, to avail itself of the huge potentials presented by the country’s notable smartphone uptake.

    Huawei Technologies presented products including Huawei Ascend P1, Huawei Honor, dual-SIM Huawei Ascend G302D, and a 7-inch tablet, Huawei MediaPad at a pre-launch interview held in the capital Accra. Huawei Honor is described as a perfect smartphone with a 1900 mAh big capacity battery lifespan. The brand is however cheaper than Ascend P1 given its GHC599 retail price. The Media Pad has a powerful processing capacity of 1.2GHz dual core CPU. It will retail at GHC899.

    - Microsoft has announced that the full Xbox Music service will be available in South Africa within weeks, presumably placing the long-awaited service on the market in time for Christmas sales. The product would be available on the South African market within the next eight weeks, although an exact date has not yet been released.

    - Nigeria’s Visafone Communications will launch what it claims is the first CDMA-based BlackBerry solution in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region in partnership with Canadian vendor Research In Motion (RIM). The two companies have confirmed a range of devices, including the BlackBerry Curve 9310, the BlackBerry Curve 9370 and the BlackBerry Bold 9930 smartphones, with pre-booking available from today. Visafone’s CDMA 1xEV-DO network currently covers more than 170 towns and cities across 26 states, and at the end of June 2012 the operator had 2.428 million subscribers on its books, giving it a market share of less than 3%.

Digital Content

  • Software giant Microsoft and Multichoice, the South Africa-based satellite television services provider, yesterday announced that the Drifta viewer app for Windows Phone is now available for Microsoft Windows Phone 7.5 mobile phones. This means more mobile phone users can now catch their favourite TV shows and channels on the go.

    The Drifta application allows users to watch DVB-H mobile television broadcast and requires an active Drifta mobile decoder in a DVB-H coverage area.

    This new announcement means that Windows Phone users will have access to selected DStv channels and a wide range of videos on their phones with DStv Mobile and tyhat they can enjoy benefits of mobile TV, anywhere and at anytime.

    Multichoice said the installation and use of the application is relatively easy and intuitive.

    Windows Phone users simply need to go to the Windows Phone Marketplace application, search for “Drifta” and then install the free application from MultiChoice. They can then press and hold the power button on the Drifta until it turns on, then wait for the DVB-H light to go steady green.

    Afterwards, they have to connect the phone’s Wi-Fi to the Drifta and launch the Drifta application on the phone and then tap a channel logo to watch the channel and tap a channel’s line-up to view the channel schedule.

    Already receiving rave reviews, the Drifta app for Windows Phone provides a seamless experience that brings mobile TV entertainment into the palm of your hand, almost anywhere.

    The Drifta application is already available for Android and iOS based devices as well on computers and laptops running Microsoft Windows. 

  • Kivuko is an online shopping gateway that enables vendors to sell and deliver products directly to customers throughout Tanzania.

    How it began: "We Began by ordering products online and delivering to people in our community, for those who could not afford to travel, for example in China", says Amiri Mziray, co-founder, Kivuko.

    They discovered that there was a real gap in Tanzania, for online shopping, and together with Nuru Muro, founded Kivuko.

    Since then, the 2-year old company has since sold over 4000 products on the online shopping gateway, and moved over TShs150 million.

    The online shopping gateway allows vendors to showcase their products to customers from different parts of Tanzania.

    "These vendors wouldn't otherwise have any online presence as their shops are too small - Kivuko provides more reach for them," says Amir.

    Kivuko delivers these products to customers in Tz, and once delivered, funds are transferred to these vendors; customers pay through mobile payments, or Cash on Delivery. Locally available products are delivered through local delivery channels such as - EMS, DHL, and Kivuko messenger delivery.

    How they make money: Kivuko charges a 5% margin on each sale, through In-site advertising, and vendor fees.

  • The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) says it has acquired "122" from Airtel as its toll-free emergency line for public use.

    In a statement on Friday in Abuja, the commission's Deputy Corps Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem, said that as a result, the code number is no longer for Airtel Customer Service.

    "The attention of the public, especially Airtel mobile telephone subscribers, is hereby drawn to the fact that '122' has been allocated to the FRSC as emergency toll-free number.

    "It has therefore ceased to be used by Airtel for its Customer Service," he said.

    Kazeem further said the code was before now being congested by calls that were not emergency-related.

    The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the FRSC also has "0700 2255 3772" as a 12-digit emergency line.

More

  • - Rocket Internet’s e-commerce venture, Jumia Nigeria has reportedly fired one of its key staff, Uche Ajene who was the company’s Head of Marketing until last Wednesday,

    - Absa has lost another of its top executives. Its managing executive for digital channels, Christo Vrey, has resigned and his deputy, Adrian Vermooten, will fill the vacant position.

  • Durbanville (Cape Town) based company looking for a Medium/Skilled level programmer with 4+ years programming experience with excellent written and verbal communication skills.

    Examples of Duties:

    • Performs computer programming development or modification, program testing and the preparation of program operating procedures.

    • Work independently and systematically within an established IT team.

    • Logging and fixing of bugs

    • Sustain GUI user experience and standards

    Primary Qualifications:

    • .Net (C# and ASP.NET)

    • SQL SERVER

    • MySQL SERVER

    • Stored procedures

    • Experience with large internet sites and CRM’s

    • AJAX

    • Subversion

    • Secondary Qualifications:

    • HTML

    • Javascript/Jquery

    • PHP

    • Classic ASP

    • Server Administration

    Bonus Skills:

    • Knowledge of internet security

    • Mobile internet development

    Experience:

    Relevant tertiary qualification or certification with experience in above mentioned skills.

    4+ years

    Salary:

    Market Related

    Please send your CV to info@studio29.co.za for application details.

     

    *Project Manager [1430426]

    Recruitgroup – Johannesburg North, Gauteng, South Africa

    Role and Responsibilities:

    Management of the interface of different disciplines

    Management of client meetings

    Management of contractors and contract finances

    Minimum Requirements

    FIDIC knowledge

    Excellent contract budget and costing knowledge

    MS projects knowledge

    Basic AutoCAD knowledge

    Company info:

    Our client is a engineering company that focuses in infrastructure that deals with logistic heavy weights as well as mining company through out Southern African and Africa.

    Apply

    nicola.615D39A6.0@applythis.net or click here: 

  • AfricaCom 2012
    13th-15th November 2012, CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa

    The digital ecosystem will take centre stage at AfricaCom 2012, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, 13 – 15 November 2012.  Network with over 7000 industry executives at Africa’s largest event embracing all aspects of the continent’s converging telecoms, media and ICT sectors.  Incorporating 11 co-located events all pertinent to future-proofing your business in the digital era, including cloud computing, OTT, apps, broadband and multiplatform content, see and hear how Africa’s communications market is a hotbed for innovation and long term prosperity. 
    Contact: Subuola.akinkugbe@informa.com
    For more information please click here:

    Telecoms Fraud & Revenue Assurance Forum
    26th - 27th November 2012, Dubai
    The only event currently in the region dedicated to telecoms fraud and revenue assurance, Tavess' Telecoms Fraud and Revenue Assurance Forum in Dubai has been designed to provide Revenue Assurance and Fraud professionals from across the Middle East, Asia and Africa the opportunity to learn about the latest RA strategies that the operators are adopting to more effectively detect and prevent revenue leakage and fraudulent activities in an increasingly complex scenario. In addition to an in-depth look at the detection and prevention of various types of fraud, the Forum also explores how to evolve the organization, streamline processes, effectively integrate systems and embed revenue assurance into new products. For more information please click here:

Issue no 628 26th October 2012 [nid:26281]

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Top story

  • Umuntu Media started life as a set of country portals but has developed its main product – Mimiboard – out of that experience. It’s now working with media owners to generate traffic and create new sources of online income. Russell Southwood spoke to Jaco Liebenberg, Operations Manager at Umuntu Media about what it’s set out to do.

    African media owners have often been in the vanguard of having an online presence. In the early days, this was more by default than design. Traffic largely came out of the diaspora but with improved connectivity the balance between readers at home and abroad is changing rapidly.

    The paradox for many media owners is that they often have almost as many readers online as they have readers per copy. But in the main the advertising revenues from the online as opposed to print editions are still paltry.

    What’s worse is that social media is beginning to rob them of the 18-35 generation. Things like Twitter and Facebook are quite time-consuming and are much more natural homes for the digitally savvy young. Facebook may be about friends and family but Twitter (which has much smaller numbers) is in the news business and delivers instantly. It may not always get it right straight away but that it’s happening in front of your very eyes is part of the fun of it. Things like Eskimi, biNu and 2Go show that social media in Africa takes off by word of mouth when the offer is right.

    Umuntu Media’s Mimiboard is designed to tackle some of the dilemmas outlined above for media owners. It describes itself as a virtual notice board and compares itself to the old notice boards outside libraries. If you had something to sell, a room to let or wanted to start a band, you pinned a paper card to the board and the responses started coming in.

    Mimiboard has got a simple upgrade whereby you can pay to allow someone to turn over the card to get more detail. It’s got geo-positioning so you know where to go and before long it will have a payment system. The deal for publishers is that they will split the online display and classified advertising revenues with Umuntu.

    So where have the 960,000 users come from so far? Mimiboard has been embedded with a number of different media owners:

    * Kenya’s Capitol Radio has set up a space targeted at students at all universities called Capital Campus which it uses to aggregate tweets to and from the radio station and to organise events.

    * Ghana’s Soccernet website is using it to aggregate news and views on the country’s footballers and the game from all over the world on social media. Soccernet is one of Ghana’s larger local online sites by traffic level.

    * South Africa’s Bokradio aggregates traffic updates from its listeners. The DJ on the broadcast programme will read out one or two at a time but the rest will go up on the Mimiboard section of the website that is integrated into the main pages of its site.

    It has simplified its business model from the earlier iterations. It wants to become a large network of users that are hyper-local, within a geography (like a town or city) or within an interest (a school, a church group). The scale of the number of users will be interesting to the larger display advertisers, particularly combined with the ability to choose which communities their ad can go out to.

    It will also be interesting to the equivalent of local community “classified” advertisers: people or small businesses doing things like selling motorbike parts; advertising their café or restaurant; or looking for tenants for a flat.

    Umuntu Media is at an advanced stage with a new round of investment and wants to use this to add effective business developers and software developers. Thus far, it has reached the current figures without any market so it also wants to add a level of marketing to achieve 5 million users by February 2013. As Jaco Liebenberg told us:”All our growth so far has been organic and we will grow much faster with a proper marketing budget.”

     

    To get up-to-the minute news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    Kwabena Smith, Orun Energy on saving diesel costs on base stations

    Justin Hartman, Social Code on South Africa's ICT entrepreneurialism and the failure to support it

    Julian Macharia, Buni TV on this new online video delivery platform

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on its acquisition of Afinis

    Envir Fraser, Convergence Partners on investment opportunities in ICT

    Tayo Oviosu, CEO, Paga on the mobile money market in Nigeria

    Nigerian ICT blogger Loy Okezi
    e on Nigeria's online successes

    Victor Dibia, CEO, Denvycom.com
     on his games portfolio and plans to monetize

    Oluseye Soyode-Johnson, consultant to Maliyo Games
     on the business model

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Mike Best, Georgia Tech on using interactive media with Liberia's Truth Commission

    Leonard Ah Kun from South Africa’s on augmented reality, Leap Motion and Google glasses

    Emma Kaye on an African mobile platform to make music and films

    Michael Ugwu, iROKING on Nigeria's Spotify-type service

telecoms

  • Vodafone Ghana, the second largest telecom operator in the country has been dragged to an Accra High Court by some workers dismissed by the company.

    Vodafone Ghana, formerly Ghana Telecom, a state-owned telecom was sold in 2008 at paltry sum of $900million to Vodafone Plc, a British telecom giant. The sale of Ghana Telecom to Vodafone group generated hue and cry in the West African country, but the then government stuck to its guns.

    After the transaction closed, Vodafone had a 70% stake in the company, while the Ghanaian government holds a 30% stake.

    On 16 April, 2009, the company was rebranded as Vodafone Ghana, where some Ghanaian workers lost their jobs in an unfair retrenchment programme introduced by the new owners of the telecom firm.

    Unsatisfied with these and other maltreatment, some of the dismissed workers of the network operator, therefore, dragged the company to the court. They filed a writ of summons at the Accra High Court over their termination of their appointments, as well as unfulfilled promises.

    The affected workers said Vodafone did not follow laid down process, hence their decision to seek legal redress.

    The spokesperson for the group, Abdul Majeed Bawa explained to Citi FM, an Accra-based radio station that "we think that the decision that they have taken was illegal because they did not follow the due process as laid down by the terms and conditions that they brought when they took over Ghana Telecom in 2009.

    They did not also follow the business policy which they themselves have formulated which makes it binding on every employee of Vodafone, so on that basis we thought that the decision was illegal, ill advised and it is against our fundamental human rights."

    "Under the terms and conditions that they themselves proposed, which they gave to every employee when they took over, they stated categorically that under its order regulation, they said where this document is silent, a guidance stated in Vodafone Ghana policy statement shall apply."

    The group's lead Counsel, Alfred Agyei Mensah confirmed the suit saying, "I have been consulted by a group of workers whose appointment with Vodafone has been terminated for non performance and I think my clients are not satisfied or are displeased with the decision of Vodafone that is why we are going to court."

  • Alcatel-Lucent says that it has won a contract to deploy an LTE network in Tanzania for the Mobile Virtual Network Aggregator (MVNA), Telesis.

    For the project Alcatel-Lucent said that it will provide its LTE solution including Radio Access network (RAN) products, the Evolved Packet Core solution (EPC), the Service Aware Manager the Subscriber Data Manager, Convergent Charging System as well as its services expertise including project management, integration and optimization.

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo’s long-awaited connection to the West African Cable System (WACS), which officially launched on 11 May 2012, is expected to occur within the next 20 days.

    The update was revealed by Placide Mbatika, the current director general of the Societe Congolaise des Postes et Telecommunications (SCPT), who confirmed that the installation of transmission equipment at the landing station in Muanda on the Atlantic coast commenced, albeit belatedly, on 15 October.

    If the link up goes ahead as planned, the DRC’s telecoms operators will hope that the somewhat farcical state of affairs surrounding the arrival of the WACS infrastructure has finally been put to bed.

  • The Instituto Nacional das Comunicacoes de Mocambique (INCM) has launched a public tender for the implementation of network infrastructure and the provision of universal telecommunications access services. The tender concerns the provision of voice and data services for rural communities, with the project’s 50 target locations, divided into three geographic regions (see below). The technology to be used will be defined by the operators themselves. Bids can be submitted until 28 January 2013.

    The regions are broken down as follows:

    • Zona Sul (south): Nhongonhane, Chicutso, Catuane, Calanga and Ilha Josina Machel (all Maputo); Saute, Zinhane, Nalazi, Godide and Hatihati (all Gaza); Malamba, Quewene, Zandamela, Jofane and Cupe (all Inhambane);

    • Zona Centro (central): Macorrococho, Grudza, Phango, Maciambozi and Migugune (all Sofala); Rotanda-sede, Macate-sede, Mavonde-sede, Choa-sede and Demaufe-sede (all Manica); Malowera, Charre, Chioco, Chintolo and Muze (all Tete); Micaune-sede, Matilde, Mutala, Gorro and Muemue (all Zambezia);

    • Zona Norte (north): Naminane, Mirrupi, Nataleia, Mahetha and Riane (all Nampula); Mualeia, Nacuale, Massingir, Torroro and Namara (all Cabo-Delgado); Cheia-Muipite, Cobue-sede, Namecuna, Muapula and Lione-sede (Niassa).

  • Politicians seeking to send campaign messages through bulk SMS to the electorate will have to forward them to mobile service operators at least 48 hours before their scheduled dispatch, in new stringent rules revealed by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) on Wednesday.

    The regulator's new guidelines will in essence prohibit politicians from sending unsolicited campaign text messages, in a bid to avoid the unrest experienced in the 2008 General Elections.

    Further, such messages will only be sent during the day between 8 a.m. and 6p.m and only in Kiswahili or English.

    In addition, any messages originating from a political party or individual candidate must be authorised by the political party or individual together with signed copies of the party's registration papers.

    Mobile operators will also be able to filter messages being transmitted through their networks and turn down any content that is deemed inciting or discriminatory.

    In June, Safaricom announced its own guidelines aimed at reining in negative political messages ahead of the General Election.

    Meanwhile, CCK will be switching off unregistered SIM cards on December 31, following its recent crackdown on counterfeit phones in September.

    CCK Director General Francis Wangusi said the regulator will give individuals the months of November and December to register their SIM cards using their national IDs.

    "Kenyans better get their National IDs in order to continue communicating on the networks come 31st December," he said.

    Wangusi said CCK has finalised regulations on the registration of SIM cards with various stakeholders including the service providers and are waiting for the Ministry of Information to promulgate them.

    He adds that with mobile phones increasingly becoming integrated in daily activities, the devices need to be secure as they could one day act as another form of identification.

    "We want the networks to be as secure as your ID. Your phone will soon be your ATM card, credit card and key and unless that phone is secure, those applications will not be possible," he explained.

    The CCK switched off one million fake handsets in September, as part of its efforts to eradicate the market of the estimated 2.5 million counterfeit phones.

  • The National Communications Agency (ANAC) of Cape Verde has launched a tender for the purchase of a system for evaluating the quality of mobile networks in order to analyze the technical functioning of the 2G and 3G networks.

    Also included in the contract should be licences for use, installation services and technical assistance, training services, and warranty and maintenance.

    The technical proposal will account for 80 percent of the selection criteria, while the financial proposal is worth 20 percent. The tender is open until 10 December.

  • MTN has appealed for understanding from its customers and other key stakeholders saying its $1.3 billion network modernisation and swap-out exercise may not meet the first quarter 2013, deadline as the recent flood disasters across 17 states and insecurity in the north east were affecting its plans and customers' quality of experience (QoE) on the network.

    Wale Goodluck, the company's corporate services executive and Mrs. Funmi Omogbenigun, general manager, corporate communications in a chat with the media last week said: "We regret that the pace of work has been considerably challenged by the spate of insecurity coupled with the unprecedented flooding being experienced in many parts of the country.

    "The network optimisation exercise will affect over 4,000 base stations out of over 10, 000 across the country.The task that we are undertaking is tantamount to building a new network, we are seeking to replicate what we achieved over a six- year period in nine months,"he explained.

    Goodluck said that considerable progress has been recorded with regards to the on-going network improvement plans. "Several swap-outs have reached very advanced stages of completion.

    "The entire network modernisation process is a very logistic-intensive one and the problem of insecurity has seriously affected the pace of work in some parts of the country,"he disclosed.

    In addition, in at least 13 states, Goodluck added, flooding has created additional logistic impediments such that the pace of the on-going network modernisation efforts has slowed down. He acknowledged that MTN's customers have been experiencing some disruption over the last few weeks.

internet

  • The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and Zinox Technologies are collaborating with the ICT Publishers Alliance in a project to build capacity in the use of modern ICT tools in news processing and management among West African journalists managers of information within government.

    The partners said they were considering the increasing influence of social media in news delivery which has increased challenges for traditional media practitioners and broader need for engagement by public/government information managers. The added that the project will be focusing on smoothing the rough edges in information coverage, management and delivery.

    The ICT Publishers Alliance is coordinating the training as part of its goal of empowering West African journalists in the use of modern ICT tools and to understand modern trends in global ICT.

    According to the Chairman of the ICT Alliance Aaron Ukodie developments in the ICT sector in form of vision and policy direction and innovation move in very fast pace and journalists whose business it is to report these trends and use these tools must keep abreast of  these emerging trends and vision.

    The capacity building programme which will draw journalists and other participants mainly from Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Senegal and Togo will take place from November 24 to November 27, 2012.

  • Facebook has officially hit 50 million users in Africa, reporting more than 50 per cent growth within 18 months.

    The new finding represents the largest growth in all the six continents, as Africa led Asia and South America, which experienced a 42 percent and 32 percent growth in the last six months respectively.

    Nigeria experienced the largest growth, recording a 61 percent change (over 2.5 million new users), followed by South Africa and Egypt with 1.7 million and 1 million new users respectively.

    Nigeria’s growth has seen it overtake South Africa for the first time ever, to come in second after Egypt. Nigeria has 6.7 million users, and South Africa 6.5 million. Africa’s number one, Egypt, has some 11.7 million users.

    Nigeria’s growth  was highest in the first week of October 2012, given that as at September 2012, South Africa had 6 million Facebook users while Nigeria had 5.8 million users.

    SocialBakers stated that Facebook had at 25 million users as at February 2011, and if the current growth is sustained, then Facebook might soon attain 100 million users in Africa by 2014.

    With over 1 billion  users worldwide, this is good news for the social site, as it has been struggling to decide how to increase its penetration in the developing markets, mainly Africa and Asia.

    In a recent statement, Facebook reported that only 3.15 percent of Africa’s 1 billion people were on the social networking site, ranking lowest with regard to the number of sign-ups.

  • On October 2 2012, Zambia's Finance Deputy Minister Miles Sampa and Minister in Charge of Chiefs Nkandu Luo were caught on camera during a Lusaka Council meeting browsing the online news website Zambian Watchdog.

    The online publication, known for its investigative reporting, was this month threatened with de-registration by the Registrar of Societies.

    Several high ranking government officials including President Michael Sata, Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba, Defence Minister Goeffrey Bwalya Mwamba and Foreign Minister Given Lubinda have openly called for it to be taken offline.

  • A new phone technology will now enable thousands of illiterate farmers and traders in the rural areas of the country to surf the internet in their local languages, an expert Dr Emdad Khan said last week.

    A Nigerian firm with a United States business partner last week said it is targeting over 100,000 illiterate farmers and traders in the rural areas of the country with Internetspeech which would allow them to do businesses through the internet in their local languages or with people of other languages via inbuilt translator.

    Abuja based Adamu Consulting and Internet Speech Inc in collaboration with ICT University of Louisiana USA, who presented the new technology at a press conference in Abuja, said it is an innovation that will bridge the digital and language divides and will allow those who have no formal education access to the internet.

    The trio of Dr Haruna Adamu of Adamu Consulting, Dr Emdad Khan of InternetSpeech USA and Prof Victor Mbarika of ICT University of USA jointly addressed the media and promised that Nigerian agriculture and SMEs would get a boost through the new phone technology.

    Founder and President of InternetSpeech, Dr Emdad Khan, said that Nigerians with no formal education would now be able to access the internet provided they have phones and that would enable them to transact businesses within or across borders.

    According to him, access is provided via any phone to information on any website whether or not that site has been voice-enabled.

    The new technology will also provide all features of internet including audio browsing, searching, sending and receiving emails, doing e-health, e-learning, e-commerce, and e-agriculture capabilities, according to Dr khan.

    He added the patented voice internet technology uses an intelligent agent that performs key tasks which include automating communication between a telephone and the internet and thereby extracting key information from a web page.

computing

  • The Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology (MCST) is implementing the project in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, the Prime Minister's Office- Regional Administration and Local Government and ITU for the targeted schools/ centres, will eventually scale the CSCC project to become "Tanzania Beyond Tomorrow" by December, 2012.

    The e-Schools project is a programme aimed at equipping a number of Tanzanian secondary schools with ICT facilities to enable teachers to use and teach ICTs for a better and more efficient education system.

    Its other objectives are to improve ICT access and use by school children and members of the local community around the schools/centres including the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in remote, rural or underserved areas.

  • Samsung has sealed a partnership agreement with the Government of Rwanda geared at facilitating the rollout of information technology solutions. The partnership is expected to play a key role in bridging the country's digital divide and boosting its Vision 2020 economic and social development plan.

    With the signing of a MoU between Samsung and Rwanda through the Ministry of Youth and ICT, Rwanda becomes the first African state to make a concrete step forward in adopting Samsung e-Government solutions to aid in efficient service delivery.

    Among the MoU highlights will be efforts to collaborate in education and job creation development, youth leadership, consumer electronic devices and mobile applications development programmes featuring the Samsung Smart government Solutions. The MoU may also see Rwanda adopting customised Samsung solutions such as a Solar Powered Internet School (SPIS).

  • The Boston-based Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are putting high tech into high gear with an initiative to bring cell phones, laptops, and other tech products to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    The Sisters have been making regular trips to the region since 1984.  Recently, they noticed a growing demand for use of their personal computers.

    To provide equipment and an Internet connection to the local people, they solicited the help of the Alliance for Global Good‘s Innovation Fund, which provides funds to non-profits that combine a mission and business model for sustainable social good. The Sisters were awarded $20,000 in funds.

    “A few of our locations are so remote that using Skype is the only method of voice communications. One older man walked 80 kilometers to be able to talk with his son via Skype,” Sister Lorraine Connell, the general treasurer for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, told me.

    The nuns told me they are using the grant to build new Cyber cafés in which people can use computers, printers, and the Internet for a small fee, and will continue to provide education and access to disease-free water.

    Since they launched the project a few months ago, several micro-businesses have developed, including phone charging stations.

    According to Sister Lorraine, villagers walk long distances to visit the Cyber cafés because they heard they can “talk through the air” to their children who are living abroad. Members of other religious organizations, school facilities, healthcare workers, and NGO representatives will also travel for several miles to access these Internet cafés.

    The computers are already making a difference in the community: Teachers use them to access information that is more reliable and current for students, and local leaders are surfing the Internet to research business opportunities.

    The nuns’ ultimate goal is to help the local population become self-sufficient. However, they have needed to be sensitive to the country’s cultural limitations related to women operating businesses. To ease acceptance, they framed the Cyber Initiative under the heading of the local ministry.

    With four of the new computers operating for three hours per day (the current capacity of the cafés), the revenue being generated is $360 per month. The Sisters hope to expand the project — additional computers would generate thousands of dollars per year and further bolster the community’s economic growth.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Amana Bank, has introduced mobile banking services that would enable customers to carry out banking transactions through mobile phones.

    "The service offers convenience of accessing banking services anytime, anywhere. It will enable customers to perform transactions at their fingertips," says Amana Bank's Head of Business, Sudi Marungu.

    Mr Marungu explains that Amana mobile banking comprises mobile banking and internet banking. While mobile banking will be done through cellular phones, internet banking will be conducted through computers with access to internet.

  • MTN Ghana has organised a forum to educate members of the Ghana Hairdressers and Beautician Association (GHABA) on how to use modern information technology to enhance their businesses. The participants were taught how to use the internet to search for new hair styles, good customer service tips, and information on MTN Foundation and mobile money.

    Senior sales manager for MTN for the Western and Central Regions, Samuel Appiah, said the network would continue to partner identifiable groups in the country to achieve mutual benefits. He said the MTN had organised similar events in other regions to educate various groups on how to use modern information technology to improve their businesses.

  • Angola's Reserve Bank (BNA) and the Savings and Credit Bank (BPC) have become the two institutions that got the new Japanese technology of money counting, capable of separating at the same time, 60 bank notes from various currencies.

    The manager of the firm TecnoBanc, Daniel Le Maitrê, the machine is dubbed Glory W500, conceived in a period of three years, to replace the former one Glory W100, also made in Japan.

    He said that the machine worths eight million Kwanzas, but it performs the same work of the Cobra machine from Britain.

  • Inlaks Computers, an Information Technology and Systems Integrator in Nigeria, with spread in West African region, has extended its expertise in real time online integration beyond Nigeria.

    The company recently completed the automation of over 700 rural and community banks (RCBs) in Ghana on a single instance of Temenos T24 platform for real time online transaction processing.

    The project was sponsored by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) of the United States of America and implemented by the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), a government agency.

    It was contracted to Inlaks to computerise and centralise the operations of all the 136 RCBs in the country, with over 700 branches on the T24 microfinance version (MCB).

    Chief Executive Officer of Inlaks Computers, Femi Adeoti, who dropped the hint in Lagos in an interactive session said "The computerisation has resolved all the pains associated with manual processes and has rendered the RCBs to be more competitive in the Ghanaian banking sector in terms of profitability and efficient service delivery."

    The RCBs form the largest percentage of the microfinance industry in Ghana, and the project has facilitated the process of online financial integration, just as it has generated public confidence in RCBs, Adeoti said.

    He explained that the resultant effect of the automation rollout, which is the sanitisation of the microfinance industry, has also made it possible for the Ghanaian apex bank to have effective oversight functions over the RCBs.

    According to him, prior to the implementation of the project, majority of the RCBs were manually operated which made turnaround time for serving customers very long. There was also the issue of loss of revenue through income leakages and un-reconciled data.

    "The uniqueness of the project is in its architecture which prevents customer of RCB 'A' from being a customer of RCB 'B' although all the 130 RCBs run on a single database and infrastructure which is hosted at a single data centre by ARB apex bank," he said.

    The Nigeria microfinance banking sub-sector is plagued by lack of inadequate infrastructure which has had negative impact on their bottom-line. This has eroded the confidence in the sub-sector, making it a source of concern to the regulatory authority.

    As part of efforts to revive the operations of the 898 microfinance institutions in Nigeria, CBN has introduced some far-reaching measures, which are part of its reforms agenda for the banking industry, aimed at putting the banks on the path of profitability.

    Since the reforms were introduced, the microfinance banks have been making frantic efforts to improve their operations at a greater cost. While many have adopted cost-cutting measures to stimulate growth, others are fine-tuning plans to get some sizeable shares of the market.

    Adeoti, however, challenged government to introduce some innovative measures that are capable of raising the standards of the micro finance banks in Nigeria, aimed at boosting its activities and the Nigerian economy.

  • The traditional fundraising has not been left behind in the technology craze and is jumping on the bandwagon.

    A local IT start up has designed an SMS based fund raising product that it says can manage a fundraiser from the start to end, in an efficient and cost effective way.

    The product allows users to initiate a fund-raiser, starting with notification to family and friends that are on your phonebook through a text message. It also enables them to send their contribution through mobile money platforms and sends frequent updates on the contributions.

    M-Changa was launched about a month ago and the firm running it said it has so far been used by 300 people for different fundraisers ranging from weddings, funeral and school fees.

    Kyai Mullei, chief executive Mobi Changa Ltd, the firm that owns the product, said there has been growing interest in the product and on average people a day have been signing up to use the product.

    He is counting on the fact that fundraisers by individuals and groups have been embedded in the Kenyan culture to be a key driver for the success of the product.

    Mullei said M-Changa replicated the traditional fundraising concept, only that it eliminated the inefficiencies, inconveniencies and some of the costs associated with the old model.

    “M-Changa is a mobile fundraising product that gives people a platform to manage a fundraiser from the start to end. It fits into the traditional model of fundraising and does not aim to replace it but enhance it and make the load light for the people involved,” he said.

    “When designing the product, we took into consideration the steps that are there in a typical fundraiser and embedded them in the application. It thus follows the natural steps in a fundraiser, there will be regular updates to the people who to how much has been collected.”

    Being SMS based, the product is compatible with all phones and does not require Internet connectivity.

  • The Director of Public Prosecutions, Richard Buteera, has asked the Buganda Road Court to allow him take to over the prosecution of a multi-billion shilling tax evasion case lodged against the largest telecommunication company, MTN Uganda.

    The application follows a private prosecution complaint by Naphatal Were, a former employee of MTN, in which it is alleged that top company bosses, including its board chairman, Charles Mbiire, and the overall company president, Sifiso Dabengwa, who is based in South Africa, are involved in a complex web of tax evasion and conspiracy to do the same in Uganda.

    According to Were’s lawyers, Emmanuel Emoru and Paul Wanyoto, MTN allegedly conspired and evaded paying up to Shs70 billion in taxes over the years. The court had on October 10 issued criminal summons for Mr Mbiire and the 12 other senior MTN officials to appear in court for pre-trial proceedings.

    The day before the matter came to court, Mbiire told this newspaper that the complaint against them is baseless, alleging that Were has stolen company funds worth $4.1 million.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Mobile operator Airtel Tanzania is launching a new promotion to drive subscriber uptake, offering pre-pay users an airtime bonus equivalent to five times their average daily spend on calls. The Daily News quotes Airtel managing director Sam Elangalloor as saying that the new promotion, dubbed ‘Jipatie Mara 5’, will encourage customers to talk more and hopefully entice new users to try out its services. Jipatie Mara 5 does not require any formal enrolment, he said, rather customers will be notified immediately once they have been awarded their 500% bonus.

    - 8ta has introduced a tariff innovation to the South African mobile market, becoming the first mobile service provider in the country to launch an unlimited voice flat-rate subscription. The 8ta Unlimited Voice All-Net allows subscribers to make unlimited calls to all national mobile and fixed line networks at any time of day for a flat rate fee. Calls to Vodacom, MTN and Cell C numbers, as well as to fixed Telkom and Neotel lines are included in the offering.

Digital Content

  • The estimated 3 million Kenyans who are yet to get connected to the power grid can now access affordable power for lighting and charge their phones. Safaricom has partnered with M-KOPA and unveiled SIM-based solar lighting solution d.light solar home system.

    Customers will pay 40 shillings daily for a period of one year, with a requirement of an initial deposit of 2,500 shillings. People from low income households spend 70 shillings daily to light their houses and charge their phones.

  • Technology firm, Avallain Africa has unveiled second version of its mobile and web health application, iAfya Health Information.

    The launch of iAfya version two comes with a Kiswahili module breaking the language barrier to millions of Kenyans who, Swahili is a more natural language to interact and communicate in. “At Avallain Africa, we have taken health care information to a new level. Using innovation and technology leadership; we are putting Kenya on the forefront of the social-economic transformation by offering ICT-based education and information solutions. And now in language easily accessible to majority of Kenyans,” says Ms Shelmith Mumbi Head of Content, Avallain Africa.

    iAfya version two borrows heavily on feedback generated from iAfya consumers majority of whom are lay men and women thus making version two a more accessible and user friendly. One of the key feedback has been on the application ability to bridge the health-literacy gap and divide in the society.

    This is achieved through generation of high quality easy to understand content that is accessible to both the under-privileged and well-placed members of our society.

    In essence, whether health information consumers want to look up medical conditions, browse medical procedures, check treatment options or need basic first aid — the iAfya app will offer them answers to their everyday health questions. iAfya version 2 also goes an extra mile by having a platform where users can create a community or network of health consumers through its new ‘Forums’ feature. Under this, any individual can share his or her experiences and ideas concerning various health and wellness conditions.

    With this, Avallain Africa desires that the ‘forums’ will provide an opportunity for both health professionals and the general public to come together and create awareness concerning various health issues. “Future versions of iAfya will give users tools to create personal health goals and plans as well as a deep connection to social media where iAfya users will act as social media community health workers and enlighten their friends and families on basic health care education,” says Dr John Muthee, Head of Business Development, Avallain Africa.

  • Kampala, Uganda — When the idea of 'hanging out' is mooted in any discussion, very often than not, relaxing in a certain location with a group of friends just catching up is what springs out.

    However on Google+, Hangout is a video-conference that allows you to connect with people in different locations. This is a feature that has the potential to change the way businesses communicate.

    With the onset of social media, interpersonal communication has declined greatly. The flipside with the Google Hangouts though enables up to 10 people to have a face-to-face virtual meeting free of charge. This may be able the antidote to reversing that trend.

    With the ability to see and engage with dozens of people, Google Hangouts on air also allows one to broadcast their Hangouts to people around the world.

    Once the Hangout is completed, Google uploads a full-length recording to your YouTube account, which can then be shared with everyone.

    This also therefore means that, rather than driving across town or walking across the office just to pass on information or make a presentation, the Google Hangout can enable one to have a conversation with someone from the comfort of one's desk.

    According to Google, "Where an email isn't enough, a phone call can be a quick solution. However, a call can interrupt your workflow, and a missed call may go unnoticed. With Google hangout, you can start the conversation, while continuing to working."

    Two heads are better than one, but sometimes even that's not enough, one can add as many people as you want mid-conversation, and see them all face-to-face, be able host an all-company meeting from across the country and be assured that everyone is there and involved.

    President Barack Obama recently held a Hangout session on the White House Google Plus page, more than 225,000 people submitted questions and anyone could tune in to hear his responses Live.

    Recently during a Digital Dialogue conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, Aki Anastasiou, a South African Technology journalist said that the Hangout had helped them relay a press conference by Julius Malema, the former President of the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League to their audience. They also held another hangout with Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa.

    Bernard Alve the General Manager of Citi FM, Accra, Ghana adds, "The Google hangouts have opened a refreshing chapter in the CITI Breakfast Show in terms of scope and audience experience."

    The radio station carries out live interactive video sessions that allow listeners not only to see what happens live in the studio, but also engage with the host and guests in real time on air. "It's amazing how much the listener experience can change with the help of a little bandwidth and the ingenuity of an interactive platform," he adds.

    An expert in media says that Promotions and giveaways can be a great way to get potential customers involved.

    He says, "Do a live giveaway among your customers or clients. Rather than having someone "like" your page to earn entry into a drawing, get them to show up to a hangout. Nothing says customer service like face-to-face communication."

  • Save the Elephants is sposored by the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) who produce leading ArcGIS software for spatial data analysis.  We have written a unique suite of software programs to allow quick and clean output from our elephant tracking database.

    Save the Elephants uses Google Earth to visualize our elephant tracking data from across Africa.  Google Earth is  the rich mapping application that will allow you to fly through a global database of Earth imagery and detailed mapping information.  We use it to track the elephants on a moving 3D backdrop of high definition Quickbirdsatellite images provided by Digital Globe. All this in real time! This allows us to monitor how our elephants live which has greatly enhanced management and security of the elephants by boosting enforcement efforts for ranger patrols.To see a BBC report click here:

  • The government has adopted a web-based tool called 'eRegulations', which seek to help investors and entrepreneurs to understand the procedures of investing and doing business.

    The tool allows investors to obtain all the necessary information regarding steps involved in registering a company, obtaining certificate of incentives, paying taxes, social protection and obtaining visa.

    "We need to create a system that would allow the country to adopt smooth transformation, at the same time attracting investors to come and invest in the country. It's my belief that eRegulation will make it easier for investors to obtain necessary information before investing in the country," Minister for Industry and Trade, Dr. Abdalah Kigoda said.

    Kigoda told the East African Business Week in Dar es Salaam that, eRegulation project will be used as a tool to eradicate bureaucracy and slow processes that for sometimes have been hindering investors to come and invest. He added experience from other countries such as Rwanda, Togo, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and others has shown that there is a positive correlation between raised awareness  and the removal of administrative barriers.

  • 88mph has welcomed 8 new startups to its accelerator program, bringing the total portfolio to 15 of investments, representing around $500k of capital investment. Nikolai Barnwell, program manager, says, “88mph is making a bet on the mobile web industry in Africa and with over 400 applications to our program it’s safe to say that we are not alone in thinking that there’s opportunity here.” About 85% of applications originated in Kenya, with about 10% from the rest of the African continent, and 5% from the rest of the world. “We have brought in some super interesting startups,” says Kresten Buch, founder of 88mph, “And now we would like to entice the local community of investors to support our demo day in mid-December.”

    They are:

    Mdundo: A music distribution platform for mobile phones, working closely with some of the most popular artists in Kenya.
    M-Pepea: A mobile money quick loan advance service.
    Closet49: A fashion portal that allows local Kenyan women to buy, sell, and swap designer clothes.
    Manyatta Rent: A service that allows landlords to receive tenant payments via mobile money.
    Gamsole: A Nigerian startup building mobile games specifically for the African mobile market.
    …And an airtime credit company, a sports competition software and a mobile dating site that are currently in beta testing mode.

  • Search engine giant Google has unveiled a new portal that will educate and highlight news on Ghana’s politics, ahead of the country’s December general elections.

    Ghana Election Hub becomes the home for information on leading candidates and the issues they will tackle should they take office. Users can also watch campaign clips from YouTube from their favorite candidates.

    The integrated Internet search engine giant also educated journalists and politicians alike on how to use online tools during the election period.

    “During the election campaign period, the Internet is increasingly playing a role in how Ghanaian citizens’ search for information about elections, and in how politicians seek to engage with voters,” Ory Okolloh, Google Policy and Government Relations Manager, Sub-Saharan Africa, stated.

    It is with the view that Ghana is one of the few countries with a stable political base that Google decided to enter into this project, with elections usually deemed violent in Africa.

    Google noted that, during campaigns, Ghanaians have a hunger for information on the candidates and other programs surrounding the elections.

    “To meet this growing demand for information online around the elections, we embarked on several activities,” Okolloh added.

    Google has partnered with other players including Citi FM by holding Google+ Hangouts with leading candidates and civil society groups. Google has also partnered with the Google Student Ambassadors in Ghana with a local group, Ghana Decide.

    The company’s focus is to make election related information accessible and drive citizen engagement.

    Similar initiatives have been made by the company in Nigeria and in Senegal.

More

  • Title     Content Strategist
    Categories     Bloggers/Writers, General – IT
    Start Date     2012-11-01
    Salary     Attractive
    Location     PC Tech Magazine – Kampala, Uganda

    Job Information    

    PC Tech is a leading technology Magazine in East and West Africa. Published monthly, the magazine features personal and enterprise technology, reviews, interviews and research on ICTs in Africa.

    It also details consumer interests and perspectives on technology in across the continent.

    It runs several web-based editions for Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria and Ghana, and continues to explore ways in which it can reach as more readers on the continent as possible while developing and publishing world-class technology content.

    The Content Strategist, whose base-station will be at the Head Office in Kampala will be responsible for both planning and generating content for the various readers across the network.

    Requirements:

     A bachelor’s degree in any discipline; however IT/Computer Science, Journalism and English degrees are preferred
     4 years solid experience in an agency or publishing environment – you must be able to move at the speed of light whilst maintaining the composure of a saint
     At least 2 years experience in a team of creative writers, website administrators and graphic designers
     Diligence and tenacity to find solutions in an ever-evolving online space
     The ability to effectively deal with internal and external customers
     Clear, concise written and verbal communication and presentation skills
     Professional writing experience preferred
     Strong IT skills with an understanding of basic HTML, PHP and MySQL as well as general website administration using standard Content Management Systems
     Ability to prioritise workload, work under pressure and meet tight deadlines
     Resilience in high pressure situations
     Flexibility to work hours. You must be prepared to work outside of office hours.
      Positive attitude, energetic approach and a high level of self-motivation

    To apply please click here:

  • AfricaCom 2012
    13th-15th November 2012, CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa

    The digital ecosystem will take centre stage at AfricaCom 2012, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, 13 – 15 November 2012.  Network with over 7000 industry executives at Africa’s largest event embracing all aspects of the continent’s converging telecoms, media and ICT sectors.  Incorporating 11 co-located events all pertinent to future-proofing your business in the digital era, including cloud computing, OTT, apps, broadband and multiplatform content, see and hear how Africa’s communications market is a hotbed for innovation and long term prosperity. 
    Contact: Subuola.akinkugbe@informa.com
    For more information please click here:

    Telecoms Fraud & Revenue Assurance Forum
    26th - 27th November 2012, Dubai
    The only event currently in the region dedicated to telecoms fraud and revenue assurance, Tavess' Telecoms Fraud and Revenue Assurance Forum in Dubai has been designed to provide Revenue Assurance and Fraud professionals from across the Middle East, Asia and Africa the opportunity to learn about the latest RA strategies that the operators are adopting to more effectively detect and prevent revenue leakage and fraudulent activities in an increasingly complex scenario. In addition to an in-depth look at the detection and prevention of various types of fraud, the Forum also explores how to evolve the organization, streamline processes, effectively integrate systems and embed revenue assurance into new products. For more information please click here:

Issue no 627 19th October 2012

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Top story

telecoms

  •  

    Vodacom launched South Africa’s first commercial LTE service in Johannesburg yesterday, in a surprise announcement by CEO Shameel Joosub, winning the race for 4G against rival MTN.

    Joosub surprised attendees at the 2012 MyBroadband Conference, announcing that Vodacom’s Long-Term Evolution network is switched on and commercially available.

    In a further sensational touch, Vodacom’s Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport, and Jannie van Zyl – who rejoined Vodacom in 2010 –  went on to make the first commercial LTE call in South Africa using two Samsung Galaxy S3 phones in front on onlookers.

    Jossub announced that the next generation service is already live in 70 sites – for now, only in Johannesburg – but promised that the company would have 150 sites live by the end of October, with up to 500 sites available for commercial use by the end of the year.

    Vodacom has launched its commercial 4G network using re-farmed 1 ,800Mhz spectrum, however the CEO noted that extra spectrum would need to be added in order to unlock the full potential of the new technology.

    Vodacom has been seen in a battle with competitor MTN in a race to be the first company to bring LTE technology to the South African commercial market.  Both companies had previously announced that they would be rolling out LTE networks by the end of 2012, but today’s launch was unexpected – and sees Vodacom pip MTN to the post in this exciting move.

    “Vodacom was the first network in SA to test LTE more than two years ago, and since then we’ve been busy upgrading base stations and our fibre-optic transmission network in preparation for today,” Joosub told the conference.  He added: “It’s great to claim another South African first for Vodacom with the launch of LTE services to the public, and it’s even more pleasing that we’ve done this ahead of many other advanced economies around the world.”

    Handset providers have also been hurrying to produce top-end handsets with 4G capabilities, and get them on the market in time for LTE launches.  Samsung has clearly won that race – with the Vodacom team producing Galaxy S3 phones in their launch.  However, on the note of handsets, Joosub also spoke up, assuring potential users that a range of selections will be available to Vodacom customers: “LTE devices are in short supply world-wide, but thanks to Vodafone’s global purchasing power we’re confident that Vodacom will have the best possible selection in stores in the very near future.”

     

  • The Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has extended the launch deadline of the new operator, Celcom, to April next year. Celcom’s original deadline was the end of October.

    In a notice signed by MACRA director general Charles Nsaliwa, MACRA says this follows Celcom's application for a six month extension of network roll out from 30 October 2012 to 28 April 2013.

    The company cited lack of foreign exchange as a reason for its failure to meet thedeadline.

    "The authority has therefore agreed to extend the network roll out period for six months from 31st October 2012 to 30th April 2013 to allow CELCOM provide public mobile telecommunications services within the said timeframe," said MACRA.

  • Trying to call someone in Kenya? There’s a fine chance the person you’re trying to reach won’t pick up. No, not because that someone is busy, but because the government has switched his phone off. How many people have been affected? Local sources tell us it could be as many as one million! Talk about Big Brother…but don’t try talking about it via phone.

    “This is a big inconvenience,” says 20-year-old Teresiah Njeri, a student at the University of Nairobi. “Your employer may call you and find that your phone has been switched off.”

    She is referring to the recent move by the Kenya government to deactivate a number of mobile phones. The great switch-off is part of a massive campaign aiming to ban counterfeits from the market. Estimates indicate that over one million handsets have been affected in the first few days of October alone.

     “However," notes Njeri, "the move is good in a way because it curbs people from using it to commit crimes.”

    She has clearly gotten the message conveyed by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), which indicated crime prevention as being one of their incentives. National security services had been concerned about mobile devices using duplicated international mobile equipment (IMEI) codes, the unique identity for each handset. This has made it difficult to track criminals who are suspected of using fake handsets to plan crimes.

    Apart from targeting fake phones, the switch-off process also targeted unregistered cell phone SIM cards.

    To inform Kenyans about what would happen, a large campaign was carried out in the local press in the weeks leading up to the switch-off date. The CCK also set up a special number through which users could verify if their mobile phone handsets were genuine. But preparation hasn’t made the situation any less frustrating for everyday citizens.

    “Government should have taken responsibility and liability for this situation. They should have ensured that these fake phones did not get to market,” said Thomas Kahigwa, a 24-year-old political science graduate. “I think the government should help those people whose phones were switched off to get standard quality phones. The government should take care of 70 percent of the cost while the consumers should take care of 30 percent of the cost.”

    But it's not just customers who are implicated.

    “There are some dealers who are encouraging us to sell those fake phones, but we do not like those fake phones,” says Jeff, who operates a mobile phone shop along Nairobi's Moi Avenue. “For me, I have the original distributors.”

    Cell phone communication is deemed essential by many Kenyans. Statistics indicate that mobile phone penetration in the East African nation was over 60 percent before the great switch-off.

    And just on Friday, Reuters reported that Kenya approved new taxes on, for one thing, its popular mobile phone-based money transfer services. The government says the 10 percent excise duty will help replenish a funding gap that might otherwise scare off foreign investors. Let's hope the potential capitalists who want to discuss business won't be scheduling any conference calls.

internet

  • Stiff competition by Internet service providers has driven up subscription by 82.7 per cent over the past one year to reach 7.7 million, according the latest industry regulator report.

    The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) 2011/2012 report ending June indicates that majority of subscribers access their Internet through mobile handsets especially the youths who are active on social media.

    The report also indicates that most firms are switched to inland fibre optic connections, hurting business satellite providers in the process.

    The increased Internet subscription has resulted in more users and mobile penetration. The number of Internet users rose by 18.5 per cent to reach 14 million while the annual growth of the population that had access to the service reached 35 per cent.

    “Increased demand for Internet and data services and use of social media especially among the youthful population; competitive tariffs by the mobile operators coupled with aggressive promotional and special offers have driven Internet usage,” says the report.

    Mobile data/Internet subscriptions continued to dominate the Internet market contributing 98.9 per cent of the total Internet/data subscriptions.

    Safaricom recorded the highest market share by subscription of 68.7 percent followed by Airtel Networks Kenya Limited (14.0 percent), Telkom Kenya Limited (8.8 per cent) while Essar Telecom Kenya Limited had the lowest market share of 8.4 per cent.

    Airtel gained a market share of 4.5 percentage points while Safaricom experienced the highest reduction in the market share of 2.3 percentage points. Essar gained (1.6 percentage points) accounting while Telkom gained (0.7 percentage points).

    The mobile operators have continued to increase their investment in data as they expect a surge in demand for data services in Kenya, thanks to an explosion of Internet-ready, hand-held devices, an increase in the number of relevant applications and content.

computing

  • Apple has announced a new plan to make its products officially available in Nigeria through its official Apple channels. This is the first time the company will make such move in the Nigerian market.

    The growing importance of the Nigerian market and the need to give Nigerian buyers a new level of customer experience and full product guarantee may have attracted Apple's new move to the Nigerian market.

    The outlets will ensure products available through official channel partners in the country.

    The new Apple Authorised Resellers include iConnect at the Palms, Lekki in Lagos; Superior Equipment - The Orchard at the Civic Centre in Lagos; Cross Energy, Flag Place in Abuja; and iMEED Store, Rivers House, Central Business Area of Abuja.

    Core Group Africa, the Value Added Distributor (VAO) for Apple, officially launched the iPad in Nigeria recently, as part of a global roll out.

    Executive Director for Apple Core Group Africa, Rutger-Jan Van Spaandonk, said "Nigerians can now to purchase with confidence knowing that their Apple iPad has been bought through the official distribution channels. We want customers to have the best Apple experience possible and be able to take advantage of the benefits of purchasing their iPad from an Apple Authorised Resellers. It is in the best interest of Nigerian consumers to buy from the official distribution channel so that they can take advantage also of the 2 year warranty." The warranty is a shield that protects official buyers and gives them peace of mind.

  • New Mozambican operator Movitel has allocated over USD1.5 million toward equipping a communications school for the Mozambican Defence Force.

    The school, to be built in Malhampsene in Matola, will offer training in communications for the armed forces.

    In officially launching the construction of the new school building, the Mozambican Minister of Defence, Filipe Nyusi, highlighted the importance of modern communications capability in the military.

    He noted the strengthening of civil-military relations, as well as the consolidation of relations that Mozambique is developing with Vietnam in the defence sector. Movitel is owned by Vietnam’s Viettel, a military telecoms operator.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Intel Capital — the world’s largest venture capital investor in innovative technology — is seeking to acquire stakes in several IT start-ups in Kenya with an eye on long term gains from the highly lucrative business.

    The company, the investment arm of Intel Corporation, says it has identified a number of early stage technology enterprises involved in Internet content distribution and e-commerce as well as application development firms that it intends to invest in.

    “We are actively and furiously looking high and low for opportunities to invest in, and we will announce the deals as we close them,” said Mr Arvind Sodhani, the chief executive of Intel Capital.

    His firm is keen on investing in start-ups for periods extending to about 15 years as part of a wider strategy that would enable the venture capitalist firm to exit when the targets have become mature companies.

  • Nairobi — Samsung has partnered with local microfinance solutions provider, Kenya Women Finance Trust - Deposit Taking Microfinance (KWFT-DTM) to promote the uptake of mobile technology solutions among women.

    The joint programme by KWFT-DTM and Samsung is geared at bridging the digital divide and facilitating mobile banking solutions for millions of unbanked women in Kenya.

    To kick off the partnership, the two firms have pledged to target the provision of mobile banking services to more than 600,000 women account holders at KWFT-DTM.

    Samsung Electronics East Africa (SEEA) Business Leader Robert Ngeru explained that the firm will provide Samsung phones for onward lending to KWFT-DTM account holders to boost the recently launched KWFT Mobile banking product uptake.

    He disclosed that Samsung will also provide a platform for local Mobile Application Architects to develop suitable mobile banking products to be hosted on the Samsung Apps store, which will be customised to meet local demands including language considerations.

    KWFT-DTM Board Chairperson Mary Okelo termed the M-banking service a great milestone since in the past, clients have had to travel long distances to access financial services.

  • Econet Wireless has announced that businesses that accept payments in EcoCash are now able to exchange them for cash at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe approved banks. In a statement, Econet said hundreds of companies have already signed agreements to take EcoCash payments which they can cash in at TN Bank.

    Other banks were expected to offer the service within two weeks.

    "We are working to get all banks on board by the end of October," said Mr Darlington Mandivenga, a senior Econet executive.

    Meanwhile, more than 200 commuter omnibus operators have also started to accept EcoCash for fares.

    The service, which began a week ago, has proved popular and Econet plans to have the majority of kombis accepting EcoCash before the end of the month.

    The use of EcoCash for payment is simple and quick to complete.

    Almost 2 million Econet customers are already using EcoCash to send money.

    People using EcoCash need not carry cash on them. All they need is load up their E-wallet, which then allows them to make small payments of any amount.

  • A Kenyan sends money through his mobile phone. The sector has witnessed a phenomenal rise, industry regulator data shows.   FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
    Kenyans deposited $8 billion into mobile money services for the year ending June 2012-- a 38 per cent rise that revealed why the country's government has set its sights on the thriving sector for further taxation to meet its obligations.

    According to data released by regulator Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) Tuesday, this was up on the $5.8 billion deposited in the year that ended June 2011.

    M-Pesa, a service run by market leader Safaricom and renowned globally, accounted for the bulk of the increased deposits in what CCK said showed an unmet appetite for financial services in the east African country.

    The number of mobile money agents rose 16 per cent to 49,079 while the number of mobile money subscriptions rose by 12.13 per cent to reach 19.5 million.

    "This upward trend signifies that mobile money transfer service has become instrumental in providing the unmet demand for financial services, thereby promoting financial inclusion in the country,” CCK said.

    It is this vast flow of funds that Kenyan Finance minister Njeru Githae has targeted, with new taxation measures passed by the country's parliament last week.

    The new measures would see the government attach a 10 per cent excise tax on all mobile money transfer fees charged by cellular companies and other financial institutions.

    Mobile phone subscriptions in the period under review rose 17.5 per cent to 29.43 million, meaning penetration in the country is now at 75.4 per cent.

    Safaricom maintained the lead in the industry, with a 64 per cent subscription market share, a four percentage point drop from last year.

    Telkom Orange lost 0.3 percentage points in market share while the other two operators, Airtel and YuMobile, both gained market share.

    "We attribute this strong growth to increased investments in our people, product innovation and improvement in quality of service has been the key driver in making us the network of choice by more customers in Kenya during the last quarter," a statement from Airtel said.

    Despite the increase in the number of mobile subscriptions, Kenyans are talking less. The minutes of use per subscriber per month fell by 20.3 per cent from the similar period of last year.

    Meanwhile, the year was tough for companies in the fixed data market as revenues fell drastically. CCK claims that revenue in the data market, excluding the mobile sector, fell 88.7 per cent in 2011.

  • Businesses that accept payment in EcoCash are now able to exchange it for cash at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe approved banks, the company said today, creating a parallel payment system in a country that relies on foreign money.

    Zimbabwe, whose inflation peaked at 500 billion percent in December 2008, abandoned use of the Zimbabwe dollar after the hyperinflation rendered it worthless, and now mostly uses the US dollar and South African rand.

    Money transfers ventures abound, but EcoCash, powered by Zimbabwe’s largest mobile service provider, is the most popular, with 1.7 million registered users.

    Econet said hundreds of companies have already signed agreements to take EcoCash payments instead of cash payments, which they can redeem at TN Bank. Other banks were expected to offer the service within two weeks.

    "We are working to get all banks on board by the end of October," said Darlington Mandivenga, a senior executive at the company.

    Already, more than 200 commuter omnibus (kombi) operators have also started to accept EcoCash for transport payments.

    The service, which began a week ago, has proved very popular and Econet plans to have the majority of kombis accepting EcoCash payments before the end of the month.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Airtel Tanzania plans to increase its coverage to more remote parts of the country and increase the availability to subscribers of its Air Money financial service, The Daily News reports citing the cellco’s communications director Beatrice Singano Mallya. Airtel currently boasts coverage of 85% of the population the official says, but is looking to increase this, with a focus on delivering access to remote parts of Tanzania. Airtel is also looking to steal a marc on its rivals in a competitive climate by offering state-of-the-art services based on 3.5G technology.

    Vodafone Ghana, a leading telecom operator in the country has offered 70% discount on current roaming charges for Hajj pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia. The incredible offer from the telecommunications giant allows pilgrims who visit the Saudi Arabian kingdom this Hajj to stay connected to their loved ones and pay less during and after the season.

    Mobile service provider, Orange has unveiled an airtime top-up service dubbed Pewa that will enable its customers to receive emergency credit.
    The service is available to its pre-paid customers and the airtime can be used for both on-net and off-net calls, SMS and Data.
    The company CEO Mickael Ghossein said the credit is payable within 24 hours with no interest charged. Interest will be charged if the advance is not repaid within 24 hours. To access the benefit, Orange subscribers will need to dial *133#.
    With the emergency credit the Orange customers to access free on-net calls and SMSs through the Orange Holla tariff

    The service will enhance its customers loyalty. It competitors Safaricom and Airtel have been running the Okoa Jahazi and Kopa credo services.

Digital Content

  • Above: Members of the Deutsche Welle team present at Discop 2014. 

    MTN Ghana subscribers can now learn while on the go with Deutsche Welle's Learning by Ear. The innovative program is now on the MTN Radio (mRadio) platform and available for just 1 Pesewa per minute by dialing 1303.

    MTN Ghana has teamed up with Deutsche Welle (DW) to provide its subscribers an easy way to learn about the most important topics shaping Africa today. DW's series 'Learning by Ear' is now available on-demand for MTN subscribers through the MTN Radio (mRadio) platform - giving MTN customers a new means of accessing news, analysis and education.

    MTN Ghana customers can access individual episodes from 'Learning by Ear' by dialing 1303 from their mobile phone and following the instructions. The audio content is available at a set price of 1 Ghana pesewa per minute.

    Along with this innovative series, customers can also tune in to the political radio program Africa Link on their mobiles. It is one of DW's latest high-lights for the region and will also be included in the mRadio lineup.

    'Learning by Ear' programming is targeted to teenagers and young adults and provides information on important topics like HIV, human rights, democracy and the environment with an exciting mix of stories and features. 'Learning by Ear' is broadcasted as part of the program lineup for Africa in English and Hausa, and is being rebroadcast by more than 25 partner stations in Ghana

    MTN launched the MTN Radio Service (mRadio) in September 2011. The service allows customers to enjoy a wide range of audio content including music, joke and educational materials on their phones. The service is available on MTN Short Code 1303 and costs 1Gp (USD 0.005) per minute for subscribers. mRadio currently has over 500 000 subscribers.

    Deutsche Welle is Germany's international broadcaster. With DW-TV, DW-RADIO and DW-WORLD.DE, it produces news, background information and cultural highlights worldwide, while creating a platform for intercultural dialogue. MTN Ghana is the largest mobile provider in the country with more than 11 million customers.

  • Nairobi City Council recently piloted a scheme to allow motorists to pay parking fees - and fines - on their mobile phones. By eliminating cash payments, the government hopes to reduce corruption and increase its own revenues.

    "You remove all these inefficiencies, you improve governance," says Bitange Ndemo, the top civil servant at Kenya's Ministry for Information and Communication.

    His grand plan is to put the whole of Kenya's notoriously corrupt government online.

    "If we also automated the procurement systems, we would raise another $1bn [£624m]. We would gain far [more] than going out there to look for money from donors."

    Mr Ndemo believes that IT has the power to change life in Africa as radically as steam changed life in Europe in the 19th Century.

    "[There is] a new industrial revolution that is coming in this digital age," he says.

    Civil servant Bitange Ndemo says he wants digital tools to help beat corruption
    "We in the third world, we have so much youth. We can leverage on that and be able to leapfrog the economy, instead of going through the same steps that most countries went through."

    But Mr Ndemo says his plans for a digital revolution frequently meet with resistance, from Kenyan officials who prefer the status quo, to foreign aid donors wedded to an older system.

    But his biggest obstacle may be infrastructure.

    Only around 30% of Kenyans currently have access to the internet. For Mr Ndemo's dream to succeed, Kenya will need to move beyond the low-tech mobile app.

    "We're at a very early stage in East Africa's technology boom," says Mr Hersman.

    But he says he is optimistic about the future. "We don't know quite yet what it will grow up to be.

    "But I am very bullish on the ability of the technology sector in Kenya to push this country forward for a long time to come."

  • Vodacom Tanzania and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced a partnership that will encourage vulnerable, food insecure communities in Mtwara region to take advantage of nutrition and health education through a mobile money platform.

    The pilot project, which will be launched at Nanguruwe Ward, Mtwara District today, will promote positive nutritional practices through the cash transfer platform Vodacom M-Pesa. Mtwara is among the regions with high prevalence of chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency.

    WFP Country Director, Richard Regan said the partnership with Vodacom will help spread nutrition education to an estimated 2,200 targeted households throughout the region by acting as an incentive for women to take part in learning sessions. "Using mobile technology through the M-Pesa platform offers an alternative to the traditional delivery of food," Regan said.

    "With the support of the Vodacom Tanzania, WFP is reinforcing national efforts to tackle under nutrition in Tanzania." Participating women will receive a monthly M-Pesa transfer of Tshs 16,000 (about US $10), which will enable them to purchase healthier, more nutritious food.

    This allocation is based on attendance at a health clinic for education sessions focusing on the importance of nutrition during a child's "First Thousand Days," roughly three years of life, including breastfeeding. Speaking at the launch, the Head of Vodacom Foundation Yessaya Mwakifulefule said Vodacom Tanzania will continue to support Vodacom's Mobile for Good projects, which enriches the lives of vulnerable groups in Tanzania by focusing on key areas in health and social welfare.

    "Using Vodacom's M-Pesa platform, we will help WFP transfer cash entitlements each month directly into the hands of beneficiaries. This, combined with nutrition education, will encourage pregnant and nursing women and mothers with children under the age of two to purchase healthy foods and diversify their diets," said Mwakifulefule.

    "Vodacom Tanzania is delighted to be part of this great project; it is the company's purpose to see its mobile technology transform people's lives in various parts of the country," he added.

  • The Registrar-General's Office will now send SMS messages to passport applicants to collect their documents, while the applicants will now also be able to download application forms on the Internet.

    Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede said last week the digitalisation would bring convenience to the public.

    The applicants download the application forms online and take them to the passport office after filling them in. They would pay a US$33 fee for the form on submission.
    The development is expected to improve efficiency and reduce time spent queueing for the forms.

    "The department has introduced its new website: The website provides the public with all relevant information regarding the department's offices and services," said Mudede.

    "As part of the website, we have introduced a new computerised passport application form.

    "This will enable anyone with Internet access to fill in the passport application form within the website from the ease of their home or office, print it and apply for a new passport using this printed form."

    Mudede said the new website was free from abuse because it had security features.

    "Since security of such a procedure is paramount, the passport application form can only be printed after it has been completely filled in," he said.

    "The form cannot be downloaded empty. The passport application form cannot be saved on the local computer.

    "The website also enables one to find any relevant information about the activities and services provided by the department as well as addresses of all their offices around Zimbabwe."

    Mudede said with such measures in place, it would be impossible for one to download the forms and sell them on the streets.

    Those without access to the Internet would still get the forms at the RG's Office.

    An ordinary passport costs US$50 and takes a month to be processed, while an emergency passport, which takes three days, costs US$250.

    "While an applicant is filling out the passport application form, they will be requested to fill in a mobile phone number which will be used to get an SMS update the moment the passport is ready and waiting for collection.

    "The department has invested in a top-of-the-line SMS solution and has developed unique applications which will enable the RG to give better service to the Zimbabwean citizen."

    The SMS service, Mudede said, would enter its pilot stage in the next few days.

    Of late, Zimbabwe has witnessed a reduction in the number of people seeking passports and temporary travelling documents at the RG's offices countrywide compared to previous years when hundreds of passport applicants would spend nights in queues to get the forms.

    The RG's Office resorted to a system whereby passport seekers would make appointments for them to be attended to in a bid to cope with the increased demand.

More

  • AfricaCom 2012
    13th-15th November 2012, CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa

    The digital ecosystem will take centre stage at AfricaCom 2012, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, 13 – 15 November 2012.  Network with over 7000 industry executives at Africa’s largest event embracing all aspects of the continent’s converging telecoms, media and ICT sectors.  Incorporating 11 co-located events all pertinent to future-proofing your business in the digital era, including cloud computing, OTT, apps, broadband and multiplatform content, see and hear how Africa’s communications market is a hotbed for innovation and long term prosperity. 
    Contact: Subuola.akinkugbe@informa.com
    For more information please click here:

    Telecoms Fraud & Revenue Assurance Forum
    26th - 27th November 2012, Dubai
    The only event currently in the region dedicated to telecoms fraud and revenue assurance, Tavess' Telecoms Fraud and Revenue Assurance Forum in Dubai has been designed to provide Revenue Assurance and Fraud professionals from across the Middle East, Asia and Africa the opportunity to learn about the latest RA strategies that the operators are adopting to more effectively detect and prevent revenue leakage and fraudulent activities in an increasingly complex scenario. In addition to an in-depth look at the detection and prevention of various types of fraud, the Forum also explores how to evolve the organization, streamline processes, effectively integrate systems and embed revenue assurance into new products. For more information please click here:

  • ITU launches Tech Needs Girls Prize to spark creativity

    Seeking the unique voices and talents of girls to invent our future
    To mark the first ever International Day of the Girl Child, ITU members and partners are  joining forces to launch the Tech Needs Girls Prize, a new global technology competition designed to inspire more girls to embrace technology and invent the future.

    Working in partnership with lead players in the ICT, education and media industries, ITU’s new annual Tech Needs Girls Prize aims to dramatically shift perceptions. The prize targets girls between the ages of 9 to 18 at the very time when they start forming opinions about their place in the world and their choice of career path. ITU and its partners will name and tailor a suite of competitions to different specialist areas, offering girls around the world a variety of options to get involved, gain confidence in their abilities, demonstrate their creativity, explore their ‘inner entrepreneur’ and learn first-hand how ICT can make a real difference.
    “Empowering women and girls is a key part of ITU’s mandate of ‘connecting the world’. I am looking forward enormously to seeing the imaginative submissions that will come in from girls right around the world, and hope that this new prize will encourage many of them to consider a future in this most exciting of industries,” said Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General.

    The Tech Needs Girls Prize 2013 will be awarded as part of the annual Girls in ICT Day celebrations. ITU is working with leading players including Cisco, Intel Corporation and the G(irls)20 Summit to inspire girls to take the tech challenge. Geena Davis, ITU’s own Special Envoy for Girls and ICT, will also be lending her voice and the important work of her institute to ensure that girls are better equipped to be leaders and creators in the world of technology. Full details of the prize, partners and the competitions will be released over the coming weeks.
    The prize forms part of ITU’s Tech Needs Girls campaign, launched at Girls in ICT Day this year, which is leveraging the convening power of ITU to bring players in the ICT, education and media industries together. This global call to action aims to transform the wide-ranging number of programmes and organizational initiatives into a force for movement on the urgent issue of ensuring girls and women play a much more substantive role in the ICT sector and are better empowered to harness technology to transform their lives and their futures.
    Today also sees the launch of a mapping tool allowing all players to publicly pin their events and programmes to the campaign website. The crowd-sourced map provides a global picture of initiatives and enables girls and women to quickly locate initiatives available to them locally.

    As the United Nations’ specialized agency for ICT, ITU has long championed the catalytic role ICT can play in empowering women and girls. In 2010, ITU membership established Girls in ICT Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in April every year and designed to raise visibility on the many exciting opportunities offered by an ICT career. For Girls in ICT Day 2012, over 1,320 events were held in nearly 90 countries, providing an estimated 30,000 young women with a better understanding of the opportunities offered by the ICT sector.

    A multilingual Girls in ICT Portal has also been launched by ITU to assist girls and young women prepare for and pursue a technology career. The portal currently houses some 500 programmes, including over 100 scholarships, 70 contests and awards, more than 100 training and internship opportunities, over 100 online networks offering career support and mentoring, as well as tech camps and other activities.
    Source: Press Release

Issue no 627 19th October 2012

node ref id: 26214

Top story

telecoms

  •  

    Vodacom launched South Africa’s first commercial LTE service in Johannesburg yesterday, in a surprise announcement by CEO Shameel Joosub, winning the race for 4G against rival MTN.

    Joosub surprised attendees at the 2012 MyBroadband Conference, announcing that Vodacom’s Long-Term Evolution network is switched on and commercially available.

    In a further sensational touch, Vodacom’s Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport, and Jannie van Zyl – who rejoined Vodacom in 2010 –  went on to make the first commercial LTE call in South Africa using two Samsung Galaxy S3 phones in front on onlookers.

    Jossub announced that the next generation service is already live in 70 sites – for now, only in Johannesburg – but promised that the company would have 150 sites live by the end of October, with up to 500 sites available for commercial use by the end of the year.

    Vodacom has launched its commercial 4G network using re-farmed 1 ,800Mhz spectrum, however the CEO noted that extra spectrum would need to be added in order to unlock the full potential of the new technology.

    Vodacom has been seen in a battle with competitor MTN in a race to be the first company to bring LTE technology to the South African commercial market.  Both companies had previously announced that they would be rolling out LTE networks by the end of 2012, but today’s launch was unexpected – and sees Vodacom pip MTN to the post in this exciting move.

    “Vodacom was the first network in SA to test LTE more than two years ago, and since then we’ve been busy upgrading base stations and our fibre-optic transmission network in preparation for today,” Joosub told the conference.  He added: “It’s great to claim another South African first for Vodacom with the launch of LTE services to the public, and it’s even more pleasing that we’ve done this ahead of many other advanced economies around the world.”

    Handset providers have also been hurrying to produce top-end handsets with 4G capabilities, and get them on the market in time for LTE launches.  Samsung has clearly won that race – with the Vodacom team producing Galaxy S3 phones in their launch.  However, on the note of handsets, Joosub also spoke up, assuring potential users that a range of selections will be available to Vodacom customers: “LTE devices are in short supply world-wide, but thanks to Vodafone’s global purchasing power we’re confident that Vodacom will have the best possible selection in stores in the very near future.”

     

  • The Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has extended the launch deadline of the new operator, Celcom, to April next year. Celcom’s original deadline was the end of October.

    In a notice signed by MACRA director general Charles Nsaliwa, MACRA says this follows Celcom's application for a six month extension of network roll out from 30 October 2012 to 28 April 2013.

    The company cited lack of foreign exchange as a reason for its failure to meet thedeadline.

    "The authority has therefore agreed to extend the network roll out period for six months from 31st October 2012 to 30th April 2013 to allow CELCOM provide public mobile telecommunications services within the said timeframe," said MACRA.

  • Trying to call someone in Kenya? There’s a fine chance the person you’re trying to reach won’t pick up. No, not because that someone is busy, but because the government has switched his phone off. How many people have been affected? Local sources tell us it could be as many as one million! Talk about Big Brother…but don’t try talking about it via phone.

    “This is a big inconvenience,” says 20-year-old Teresiah Njeri, a student at the University of Nairobi. “Your employer may call you and find that your phone has been switched off.”

    She is referring to the recent move by the Kenya government to deactivate a number of mobile phones. The great switch-off is part of a massive campaign aiming to ban counterfeits from the market. Estimates indicate that over one million handsets have been affected in the first few days of October alone.

     “However," notes Njeri, "the move is good in a way because it curbs people from using it to commit crimes.”

    She has clearly gotten the message conveyed by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), which indicated crime prevention as being one of their incentives. National security services had been concerned about mobile devices using duplicated international mobile equipment (IMEI) codes, the unique identity for each handset. This has made it difficult to track criminals who are suspected of using fake handsets to plan crimes.

    Apart from targeting fake phones, the switch-off process also targeted unregistered cell phone SIM cards.

    To inform Kenyans about what would happen, a large campaign was carried out in the local press in the weeks leading up to the switch-off date. The CCK also set up a special number through which users could verify if their mobile phone handsets were genuine. But preparation hasn’t made the situation any less frustrating for everyday citizens.

    “Government should have taken responsibility and liability for this situation. They should have ensured that these fake phones did not get to market,” said Thomas Kahigwa, a 24-year-old political science graduate. “I think the government should help those people whose phones were switched off to get standard quality phones. The government should take care of 70 percent of the cost while the consumers should take care of 30 percent of the cost.”

    But it's not just customers who are implicated.

    “There are some dealers who are encouraging us to sell those fake phones, but we do not like those fake phones,” says Jeff, who operates a mobile phone shop along Nairobi's Moi Avenue. “For me, I have the original distributors.”

    Cell phone communication is deemed essential by many Kenyans. Statistics indicate that mobile phone penetration in the East African nation was over 60 percent before the great switch-off.

    And just on Friday, Reuters reported that Kenya approved new taxes on, for one thing, its popular mobile phone-based money transfer services. The government says the 10 percent excise duty will help replenish a funding gap that might otherwise scare off foreign investors. Let's hope the potential capitalists who want to discuss business won't be scheduling any conference calls.

internet

  • Stiff competition by Internet service providers has driven up subscription by 82.7 per cent over the past one year to reach 7.7 million, according the latest industry regulator report.

    The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) 2011/2012 report ending June indicates that majority of subscribers access their Internet through mobile handsets especially the youths who are active on social media.

    The report also indicates that most firms are switched to inland fibre optic connections, hurting business satellite providers in the process.

    The increased Internet subscription has resulted in more users and mobile penetration. The number of Internet users rose by 18.5 per cent to reach 14 million while the annual growth of the population that had access to the service reached 35 per cent.

    “Increased demand for Internet and data services and use of social media especially among the youthful population; competitive tariffs by the mobile operators coupled with aggressive promotional and special offers have driven Internet usage,” says the report.

    Mobile data/Internet subscriptions continued to dominate the Internet market contributing 98.9 per cent of the total Internet/data subscriptions.

    Safaricom recorded the highest market share by subscription of 68.7 percent followed by Airtel Networks Kenya Limited (14.0 percent), Telkom Kenya Limited (8.8 per cent) while Essar Telecom Kenya Limited had the lowest market share of 8.4 per cent.

    Airtel gained a market share of 4.5 percentage points while Safaricom experienced the highest reduction in the market share of 2.3 percentage points. Essar gained (1.6 percentage points) accounting while Telkom gained (0.7 percentage points).

    The mobile operators have continued to increase their investment in data as they expect a surge in demand for data services in Kenya, thanks to an explosion of Internet-ready, hand-held devices, an increase in the number of relevant applications and content.

computing

  • Apple has announced a new plan to make its products officially available in Nigeria through its official Apple channels. This is the first time the company will make such move in the Nigerian market.

    The growing importance of the Nigerian market and the need to give Nigerian buyers a new level of customer experience and full product guarantee may have attracted Apple's new move to the Nigerian market.

    The outlets will ensure products available through official channel partners in the country.

    The new Apple Authorised Resellers include iConnect at the Palms, Lekki in Lagos; Superior Equipment - The Orchard at the Civic Centre in Lagos; Cross Energy, Flag Place in Abuja; and iMEED Store, Rivers House, Central Business Area of Abuja.

    Core Group Africa, the Value Added Distributor (VAO) for Apple, officially launched the iPad in Nigeria recently, as part of a global roll out.

    Executive Director for Apple Core Group Africa, Rutger-Jan Van Spaandonk, said "Nigerians can now to purchase with confidence knowing that their Apple iPad has been bought through the official distribution channels. We want customers to have the best Apple experience possible and be able to take advantage of the benefits of purchasing their iPad from an Apple Authorised Resellers. It is in the best interest of Nigerian consumers to buy from the official distribution channel so that they can take advantage also of the 2 year warranty." The warranty is a shield that protects official buyers and gives them peace of mind.

  • New Mozambican operator Movitel has allocated over USD1.5 million toward equipping a communications school for the Mozambican Defence Force.

    The school, to be built in Malhampsene in Matola, will offer training in communications for the armed forces.

    In officially launching the construction of the new school building, the Mozambican Minister of Defence, Filipe Nyusi, highlighted the importance of modern communications capability in the military.

    He noted the strengthening of civil-military relations, as well as the consolidation of relations that Mozambique is developing with Vietnam in the defence sector. Movitel is owned by Vietnam’s Viettel, a military telecoms operator.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Intel Capital — the world’s largest venture capital investor in innovative technology — is seeking to acquire stakes in several IT start-ups in Kenya with an eye on long term gains from the highly lucrative business.

    The company, the investment arm of Intel Corporation, says it has identified a number of early stage technology enterprises involved in Internet content distribution and e-commerce as well as application development firms that it intends to invest in.

    “We are actively and furiously looking high and low for opportunities to invest in, and we will announce the deals as we close them,” said Mr Arvind Sodhani, the chief executive of Intel Capital.

    His firm is keen on investing in start-ups for periods extending to about 15 years as part of a wider strategy that would enable the venture capitalist firm to exit when the targets have become mature companies.

  • Nairobi — Samsung has partnered with local microfinance solutions provider, Kenya Women Finance Trust - Deposit Taking Microfinance (KWFT-DTM) to promote the uptake of mobile technology solutions among women.

    The joint programme by KWFT-DTM and Samsung is geared at bridging the digital divide and facilitating mobile banking solutions for millions of unbanked women in Kenya.

    To kick off the partnership, the two firms have pledged to target the provision of mobile banking services to more than 600,000 women account holders at KWFT-DTM.

    Samsung Electronics East Africa (SEEA) Business Leader Robert Ngeru explained that the firm will provide Samsung phones for onward lending to KWFT-DTM account holders to boost the recently launched KWFT Mobile banking product uptake.

    He disclosed that Samsung will also provide a platform for local Mobile Application Architects to develop suitable mobile banking products to be hosted on the Samsung Apps store, which will be customised to meet local demands including language considerations.

    KWFT-DTM Board Chairperson Mary Okelo termed the M-banking service a great milestone since in the past, clients have had to travel long distances to access financial services.

  • Econet Wireless has announced that businesses that accept payments in EcoCash are now able to exchange them for cash at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe approved banks. In a statement, Econet said hundreds of companies have already signed agreements to take EcoCash payments which they can cash in at TN Bank.

    Other banks were expected to offer the service within two weeks.

    "We are working to get all banks on board by the end of October," said Mr Darlington Mandivenga, a senior Econet executive.

    Meanwhile, more than 200 commuter omnibus operators have also started to accept EcoCash for fares.

    The service, which began a week ago, has proved popular and Econet plans to have the majority of kombis accepting EcoCash before the end of the month.

    The use of EcoCash for payment is simple and quick to complete.

    Almost 2 million Econet customers are already using EcoCash to send money.

    People using EcoCash need not carry cash on them. All they need is load up their E-wallet, which then allows them to make small payments of any amount.

  • A Kenyan sends money through his mobile phone. The sector has witnessed a phenomenal rise, industry regulator data shows.   FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
    Kenyans deposited $8 billion into mobile money services for the year ending June 2012-- a 38 per cent rise that revealed why the country's government has set its sights on the thriving sector for further taxation to meet its obligations.

    According to data released by regulator Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) Tuesday, this was up on the $5.8 billion deposited in the year that ended June 2011.

    M-Pesa, a service run by market leader Safaricom and renowned globally, accounted for the bulk of the increased deposits in what CCK said showed an unmet appetite for financial services in the east African country.

    The number of mobile money agents rose 16 per cent to 49,079 while the number of mobile money subscriptions rose by 12.13 per cent to reach 19.5 million.

    "This upward trend signifies that mobile money transfer service has become instrumental in providing the unmet demand for financial services, thereby promoting financial inclusion in the country,” CCK said.

    It is this vast flow of funds that Kenyan Finance minister Njeru Githae has targeted, with new taxation measures passed by the country's parliament last week.

    The new measures would see the government attach a 10 per cent excise tax on all mobile money transfer fees charged by cellular companies and other financial institutions.

    Mobile phone subscriptions in the period under review rose 17.5 per cent to 29.43 million, meaning penetration in the country is now at 75.4 per cent.

    Safaricom maintained the lead in the industry, with a 64 per cent subscription market share, a four percentage point drop from last year.

    Telkom Orange lost 0.3 percentage points in market share while the other two operators, Airtel and YuMobile, both gained market share.

    "We attribute this strong growth to increased investments in our people, product innovation and improvement in quality of service has been the key driver in making us the network of choice by more customers in Kenya during the last quarter," a statement from Airtel said.

    Despite the increase in the number of mobile subscriptions, Kenyans are talking less. The minutes of use per subscriber per month fell by 20.3 per cent from the similar period of last year.

    Meanwhile, the year was tough for companies in the fixed data market as revenues fell drastically. CCK claims that revenue in the data market, excluding the mobile sector, fell 88.7 per cent in 2011.

  • Businesses that accept payment in EcoCash are now able to exchange it for cash at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe approved banks, the company said today, creating a parallel payment system in a country that relies on foreign money.

    Zimbabwe, whose inflation peaked at 500 billion percent in December 2008, abandoned use of the Zimbabwe dollar after the hyperinflation rendered it worthless, and now mostly uses the US dollar and South African rand.

    Money transfers ventures abound, but EcoCash, powered by Zimbabwe’s largest mobile service provider, is the most popular, with 1.7 million registered users.

    Econet said hundreds of companies have already signed agreements to take EcoCash payments instead of cash payments, which they can redeem at TN Bank. Other banks were expected to offer the service within two weeks.

    "We are working to get all banks on board by the end of October," said Darlington Mandivenga, a senior executive at the company.

    Already, more than 200 commuter omnibus (kombi) operators have also started to accept EcoCash for transport payments.

    The service, which began a week ago, has proved very popular and Econet plans to have the majority of kombis accepting EcoCash payments before the end of the month.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Airtel Tanzania plans to increase its coverage to more remote parts of the country and increase the availability to subscribers of its Air Money financial service, The Daily News reports citing the cellco’s communications director Beatrice Singano Mallya. Airtel currently boasts coverage of 85% of the population the official says, but is looking to increase this, with a focus on delivering access to remote parts of Tanzania. Airtel is also looking to steal a marc on its rivals in a competitive climate by offering state-of-the-art services based on 3.5G technology.

    Vodafone Ghana, a leading telecom operator in the country has offered 70% discount on current roaming charges for Hajj pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia. The incredible offer from the telecommunications giant allows pilgrims who visit the Saudi Arabian kingdom this Hajj to stay connected to their loved ones and pay less during and after the season.

    Mobile service provider, Orange has unveiled an airtime top-up service dubbed Pewa that will enable its customers to receive emergency credit.
    The service is available to its pre-paid customers and the airtime can be used for both on-net and off-net calls, SMS and Data.
    The company CEO Mickael Ghossein said the credit is payable within 24 hours with no interest charged. Interest will be charged if the advance is not repaid within 24 hours. To access the benefit, Orange subscribers will need to dial *133#.
    With the emergency credit the Orange customers to access free on-net calls and SMSs through the Orange Holla tariff

    The service will enhance its customers loyalty. It competitors Safaricom and Airtel have been running the Okoa Jahazi and Kopa credo services.

Digital Content

  • Above: Members of the Deutsche Welle team present at Discop 2014. 

    MTN Ghana subscribers can now learn while on the go with Deutsche Welle's Learning by Ear. The innovative program is now on the MTN Radio (mRadio) platform and available for just 1 Pesewa per minute by dialing 1303.

    MTN Ghana has teamed up with Deutsche Welle (DW) to provide its subscribers an easy way to learn about the most important topics shaping Africa today. DW's series 'Learning by Ear' is now available on-demand for MTN subscribers through the MTN Radio (mRadio) platform - giving MTN customers a new means of accessing news, analysis and education.

    MTN Ghana customers can access individual episodes from 'Learning by Ear' by dialing 1303 from their mobile phone and following the instructions. The audio content is available at a set price of 1 Ghana pesewa per minute.

    Along with this innovative series, customers can also tune in to the political radio program Africa Link on their mobiles. It is one of DW's latest high-lights for the region and will also be included in the mRadio lineup.

    'Learning by Ear' programming is targeted to teenagers and young adults and provides information on important topics like HIV, human rights, democracy and the environment with an exciting mix of stories and features. 'Learning by Ear' is broadcasted as part of the program lineup for Africa in English and Hausa, and is being rebroadcast by more than 25 partner stations in Ghana

    MTN launched the MTN Radio Service (mRadio) in September 2011. The service allows customers to enjoy a wide range of audio content including music, joke and educational materials on their phones. The service is available on MTN Short Code 1303 and costs 1Gp (USD 0.005) per minute for subscribers. mRadio currently has over 500 000 subscribers.

    Deutsche Welle is Germany's international broadcaster. With DW-TV, DW-RADIO and DW-WORLD.DE, it produces news, background information and cultural highlights worldwide, while creating a platform for intercultural dialogue. MTN Ghana is the largest mobile provider in the country with more than 11 million customers.

  • Nairobi City Council recently piloted a scheme to allow motorists to pay parking fees - and fines - on their mobile phones. By eliminating cash payments, the government hopes to reduce corruption and increase its own revenues.

    "You remove all these inefficiencies, you improve governance," says Bitange Ndemo, the top civil servant at Kenya's Ministry for Information and Communication.

    His grand plan is to put the whole of Kenya's notoriously corrupt government online.

    "If we also automated the procurement systems, we would raise another $1bn [£624m]. We would gain far [more] than going out there to look for money from donors."

    Mr Ndemo believes that IT has the power to change life in Africa as radically as steam changed life in Europe in the 19th Century.

    "[There is] a new industrial revolution that is coming in this digital age," he says.

    Civil servant Bitange Ndemo says he wants digital tools to help beat corruption
    "We in the third world, we have so much youth. We can leverage on that and be able to leapfrog the economy, instead of going through the same steps that most countries went through."

    But Mr Ndemo says his plans for a digital revolution frequently meet with resistance, from Kenyan officials who prefer the status quo, to foreign aid donors wedded to an older system.

    But his biggest obstacle may be infrastructure.

    Only around 30% of Kenyans currently have access to the internet. For Mr Ndemo's dream to succeed, Kenya will need to move beyond the low-tech mobile app.

    "We're at a very early stage in East Africa's technology boom," says Mr Hersman.

    But he says he is optimistic about the future. "We don't know quite yet what it will grow up to be.

    "But I am very bullish on the ability of the technology sector in Kenya to push this country forward for a long time to come."

  • Vodacom Tanzania and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced a partnership that will encourage vulnerable, food insecure communities in Mtwara region to take advantage of nutrition and health education through a mobile money platform.

    The pilot project, which will be launched at Nanguruwe Ward, Mtwara District today, will promote positive nutritional practices through the cash transfer platform Vodacom M-Pesa. Mtwara is among the regions with high prevalence of chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency.

    WFP Country Director, Richard Regan said the partnership with Vodacom will help spread nutrition education to an estimated 2,200 targeted households throughout the region by acting as an incentive for women to take part in learning sessions. "Using mobile technology through the M-Pesa platform offers an alternative to the traditional delivery of food," Regan said.

    "With the support of the Vodacom Tanzania, WFP is reinforcing national efforts to tackle under nutrition in Tanzania." Participating women will receive a monthly M-Pesa transfer of Tshs 16,000 (about US $10), which will enable them to purchase healthier, more nutritious food.

    This allocation is based on attendance at a health clinic for education sessions focusing on the importance of nutrition during a child's "First Thousand Days," roughly three years of life, including breastfeeding. Speaking at the launch, the Head of Vodacom Foundation Yessaya Mwakifulefule said Vodacom Tanzania will continue to support Vodacom's Mobile for Good projects, which enriches the lives of vulnerable groups in Tanzania by focusing on key areas in health and social welfare.

    "Using Vodacom's M-Pesa platform, we will help WFP transfer cash entitlements each month directly into the hands of beneficiaries. This, combined with nutrition education, will encourage pregnant and nursing women and mothers with children under the age of two to purchase healthy foods and diversify their diets," said Mwakifulefule.

    "Vodacom Tanzania is delighted to be part of this great project; it is the company's purpose to see its mobile technology transform people's lives in various parts of the country," he added.

  • The Registrar-General's Office will now send SMS messages to passport applicants to collect their documents, while the applicants will now also be able to download application forms on the Internet.

    Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede said last week the digitalisation would bring convenience to the public.

    The applicants download the application forms online and take them to the passport office after filling them in. They would pay a US$33 fee for the form on submission.
    The development is expected to improve efficiency and reduce time spent queueing for the forms.

    "The department has introduced its new website: The website provides the public with all relevant information regarding the department's offices and services," said Mudede.

    "As part of the website, we have introduced a new computerised passport application form.

    "This will enable anyone with Internet access to fill in the passport application form within the website from the ease of their home or office, print it and apply for a new passport using this printed form."

    Mudede said the new website was free from abuse because it had security features.

    "Since security of such a procedure is paramount, the passport application form can only be printed after it has been completely filled in," he said.

    "The form cannot be downloaded empty. The passport application form cannot be saved on the local computer.

    "The website also enables one to find any relevant information about the activities and services provided by the department as well as addresses of all their offices around Zimbabwe."

    Mudede said with such measures in place, it would be impossible for one to download the forms and sell them on the streets.

    Those without access to the Internet would still get the forms at the RG's Office.

    An ordinary passport costs US$50 and takes a month to be processed, while an emergency passport, which takes three days, costs US$250.

    "While an applicant is filling out the passport application form, they will be requested to fill in a mobile phone number which will be used to get an SMS update the moment the passport is ready and waiting for collection.

    "The department has invested in a top-of-the-line SMS solution and has developed unique applications which will enable the RG to give better service to the Zimbabwean citizen."

    The SMS service, Mudede said, would enter its pilot stage in the next few days.

    Of late, Zimbabwe has witnessed a reduction in the number of people seeking passports and temporary travelling documents at the RG's offices countrywide compared to previous years when hundreds of passport applicants would spend nights in queues to get the forms.

    The RG's Office resorted to a system whereby passport seekers would make appointments for them to be attended to in a bid to cope with the increased demand.

More

  • AfricaCom 2012
    13th-15th November 2012, CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa

    The digital ecosystem will take centre stage at AfricaCom 2012, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, 13 – 15 November 2012.  Network with over 7000 industry executives at Africa’s largest event embracing all aspects of the continent’s converging telecoms, media and ICT sectors.  Incorporating 11 co-located events all pertinent to future-proofing your business in the digital era, including cloud computing, OTT, apps, broadband and multiplatform content, see and hear how Africa’s communications market is a hotbed for innovation and long term prosperity. 
    Contact: Subuola.akinkugbe@informa.com
    For more information please click here:

    Telecoms Fraud & Revenue Assurance Forum
    26th - 27th November 2012, Dubai
    The only event currently in the region dedicated to telecoms fraud and revenue assurance, Tavess' Telecoms Fraud and Revenue Assurance Forum in Dubai has been designed to provide Revenue Assurance and Fraud professionals from across the Middle East, Asia and Africa the opportunity to learn about the latest RA strategies that the operators are adopting to more effectively detect and prevent revenue leakage and fraudulent activities in an increasingly complex scenario. In addition to an in-depth look at the detection and prevention of various types of fraud, the Forum also explores how to evolve the organization, streamline processes, effectively integrate systems and embed revenue assurance into new products. For more information please click here:

  • ITU launches Tech Needs Girls Prize to spark creativity

    Seeking the unique voices and talents of girls to invent our future
    To mark the first ever International Day of the Girl Child, ITU members and partners are  joining forces to launch the Tech Needs Girls Prize, a new global technology competition designed to inspire more girls to embrace technology and invent the future.

    Working in partnership with lead players in the ICT, education and media industries, ITU’s new annual Tech Needs Girls Prize aims to dramatically shift perceptions. The prize targets girls between the ages of 9 to 18 at the very time when they start forming opinions about their place in the world and their choice of career path. ITU and its partners will name and tailor a suite of competitions to different specialist areas, offering girls around the world a variety of options to get involved, gain confidence in their abilities, demonstrate their creativity, explore their ‘inner entrepreneur’ and learn first-hand how ICT can make a real difference.
    “Empowering women and girls is a key part of ITU’s mandate of ‘connecting the world’. I am looking forward enormously to seeing the imaginative submissions that will come in from girls right around the world, and hope that this new prize will encourage many of them to consider a future in this most exciting of industries,” said Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General.

    The Tech Needs Girls Prize 2013 will be awarded as part of the annual Girls in ICT Day celebrations. ITU is working with leading players including Cisco, Intel Corporation and the G(irls)20 Summit to inspire girls to take the tech challenge. Geena Davis, ITU’s own Special Envoy for Girls and ICT, will also be lending her voice and the important work of her institute to ensure that girls are better equipped to be leaders and creators in the world of technology. Full details of the prize, partners and the competitions will be released over the coming weeks.
    The prize forms part of ITU’s Tech Needs Girls campaign, launched at Girls in ICT Day this year, which is leveraging the convening power of ITU to bring players in the ICT, education and media industries together. This global call to action aims to transform the wide-ranging number of programmes and organizational initiatives into a force for movement on the urgent issue of ensuring girls and women play a much more substantive role in the ICT sector and are better empowered to harness technology to transform their lives and their futures.
    Today also sees the launch of a mapping tool allowing all players to publicly pin their events and programmes to the campaign website. The crowd-sourced map provides a global picture of initiatives and enables girls and women to quickly locate initiatives available to them locally.

    As the United Nations’ specialized agency for ICT, ITU has long championed the catalytic role ICT can play in empowering women and girls. In 2010, ITU membership established Girls in ICT Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in April every year and designed to raise visibility on the many exciting opportunities offered by an ICT career. For Girls in ICT Day 2012, over 1,320 events were held in nearly 90 countries, providing an estimated 30,000 young women with a better understanding of the opportunities offered by the ICT sector.

    A multilingual Girls in ICT Portal has also been launched by ITU to assist girls and young women prepare for and pursue a technology career. The portal currently houses some 500 programmes, including over 100 scholarships, 70 contests and awards, more than 100 training and internship opportunities, over 100 online networks offering career support and mentoring, as well as tech camps and other activities.
    Source: Press Release

Issue no 627 19th October 2012

node ref id: 26214

Top story

telecoms

  •  

    Vodacom launched South Africa’s first commercial LTE service in Johannesburg yesterday, in a surprise announcement by CEO Shameel Joosub, winning the race for 4G against rival MTN.

    Joosub surprised attendees at the 2012 MyBroadband Conference, announcing that Vodacom’s Long-Term Evolution network is switched on and commercially available.

    In a further sensational touch, Vodacom’s Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport, and Jannie van Zyl – who rejoined Vodacom in 2010 –  went on to make the first commercial LTE call in South Africa using two Samsung Galaxy S3 phones in front on onlookers.

    Jossub announced that the next generation service is already live in 70 sites – for now, only in Johannesburg – but promised that the company would have 150 sites live by the end of October, with up to 500 sites available for commercial use by the end of the year.

    Vodacom has launched its commercial 4G network using re-farmed 1 ,800Mhz spectrum, however the CEO noted that extra spectrum would need to be added in order to unlock the full potential of the new technology.

    Vodacom has been seen in a battle with competitor MTN in a race to be the first company to bring LTE technology to the South African commercial market.  Both companies had previously announced that they would be rolling out LTE networks by the end of 2012, but today’s launch was unexpected – and sees Vodacom pip MTN to the post in this exciting move.

    “Vodacom was the first network in SA to test LTE more than two years ago, and since then we’ve been busy upgrading base stations and our fibre-optic transmission network in preparation for today,” Joosub told the conference.  He added: “It’s great to claim another South African first for Vodacom with the launch of LTE services to the public, and it’s even more pleasing that we’ve done this ahead of many other advanced economies around the world.”

    Handset providers have also been hurrying to produce top-end handsets with 4G capabilities, and get them on the market in time for LTE launches.  Samsung has clearly won that race – with the Vodacom team producing Galaxy S3 phones in their launch.  However, on the note of handsets, Joosub also spoke up, assuring potential users that a range of selections will be available to Vodacom customers: “LTE devices are in short supply world-wide, but thanks to Vodafone’s global purchasing power we’re confident that Vodacom will have the best possible selection in stores in the very near future.”

     

  • The Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has extended the launch deadline of the new operator, Celcom, to April next year. Celcom’s original deadline was the end of October.

    In a notice signed by MACRA director general Charles Nsaliwa, MACRA says this follows Celcom's application for a six month extension of network roll out from 30 October 2012 to 28 April 2013.

    The company cited lack of foreign exchange as a reason for its failure to meet thedeadline.

    "The authority has therefore agreed to extend the network roll out period for six months from 31st October 2012 to 30th April 2013 to allow CELCOM provide public mobile telecommunications services within the said timeframe," said MACRA.

  • Trying to call someone in Kenya? There’s a fine chance the person you’re trying to reach won’t pick up. No, not because that someone is busy, but because the government has switched his phone off. How many people have been affected? Local sources tell us it could be as many as one million! Talk about Big Brother…but don’t try talking about it via phone.

    “This is a big inconvenience,” says 20-year-old Teresiah Njeri, a student at the University of Nairobi. “Your employer may call you and find that your phone has been switched off.”

    She is referring to the recent move by the Kenya government to deactivate a number of mobile phones. The great switch-off is part of a massive campaign aiming to ban counterfeits from the market. Estimates indicate that over one million handsets have been affected in the first few days of October alone.

     “However," notes Njeri, "the move is good in a way because it curbs people from using it to commit crimes.”

    She has clearly gotten the message conveyed by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), which indicated crime prevention as being one of their incentives. National security services had been concerned about mobile devices using duplicated international mobile equipment (IMEI) codes, the unique identity for each handset. This has made it difficult to track criminals who are suspected of using fake handsets to plan crimes.

    Apart from targeting fake phones, the switch-off process also targeted unregistered cell phone SIM cards.

    To inform Kenyans about what would happen, a large campaign was carried out in the local press in the weeks leading up to the switch-off date. The CCK also set up a special number through which users could verify if their mobile phone handsets were genuine. But preparation hasn’t made the situation any less frustrating for everyday citizens.

    “Government should have taken responsibility and liability for this situation. They should have ensured that these fake phones did not get to market,” said Thomas Kahigwa, a 24-year-old political science graduate. “I think the government should help those people whose phones were switched off to get standard quality phones. The government should take care of 70 percent of the cost while the consumers should take care of 30 percent of the cost.”

    But it's not just customers who are implicated.

    “There are some dealers who are encouraging us to sell those fake phones, but we do not like those fake phones,” says Jeff, who operates a mobile phone shop along Nairobi's Moi Avenue. “For me, I have the original distributors.”

    Cell phone communication is deemed essential by many Kenyans. Statistics indicate that mobile phone penetration in the East African nation was over 60 percent before the great switch-off.

    And just on Friday, Reuters reported that Kenya approved new taxes on, for one thing, its popular mobile phone-based money transfer services. The government says the 10 percent excise duty will help replenish a funding gap that might otherwise scare off foreign investors. Let's hope the potential capitalists who want to discuss business won't be scheduling any conference calls.

internet

  • Stiff competition by Internet service providers has driven up subscription by 82.7 per cent over the past one year to reach 7.7 million, according the latest industry regulator report.

    The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) 2011/2012 report ending June indicates that majority of subscribers access their Internet through mobile handsets especially the youths who are active on social media.

    The report also indicates that most firms are switched to inland fibre optic connections, hurting business satellite providers in the process.

    The increased Internet subscription has resulted in more users and mobile penetration. The number of Internet users rose by 18.5 per cent to reach 14 million while the annual growth of the population that had access to the service reached 35 per cent.

    “Increased demand for Internet and data services and use of social media especially among the youthful population; competitive tariffs by the mobile operators coupled with aggressive promotional and special offers have driven Internet usage,” says the report.

    Mobile data/Internet subscriptions continued to dominate the Internet market contributing 98.9 per cent of the total Internet/data subscriptions.

    Safaricom recorded the highest market share by subscription of 68.7 percent followed by Airtel Networks Kenya Limited (14.0 percent), Telkom Kenya Limited (8.8 per cent) while Essar Telecom Kenya Limited had the lowest market share of 8.4 per cent.

    Airtel gained a market share of 4.5 percentage points while Safaricom experienced the highest reduction in the market share of 2.3 percentage points. Essar gained (1.6 percentage points) accounting while Telkom gained (0.7 percentage points).

    The mobile operators have continued to increase their investment in data as they expect a surge in demand for data services in Kenya, thanks to an explosion of Internet-ready, hand-held devices, an increase in the number of relevant applications and content.

computing

  • Apple has announced a new plan to make its products officially available in Nigeria through its official Apple channels. This is the first time the company will make such move in the Nigerian market.

    The growing importance of the Nigerian market and the need to give Nigerian buyers a new level of customer experience and full product guarantee may have attracted Apple's new move to the Nigerian market.

    The outlets will ensure products available through official channel partners in the country.

    The new Apple Authorised Resellers include iConnect at the Palms, Lekki in Lagos; Superior Equipment - The Orchard at the Civic Centre in Lagos; Cross Energy, Flag Place in Abuja; and iMEED Store, Rivers House, Central Business Area of Abuja.

    Core Group Africa, the Value Added Distributor (VAO) for Apple, officially launched the iPad in Nigeria recently, as part of a global roll out.

    Executive Director for Apple Core Group Africa, Rutger-Jan Van Spaandonk, said "Nigerians can now to purchase with confidence knowing that their Apple iPad has been bought through the official distribution channels. We want customers to have the best Apple experience possible and be able to take advantage of the benefits of purchasing their iPad from an Apple Authorised Resellers. It is in the best interest of Nigerian consumers to buy from the official distribution channel so that they can take advantage also of the 2 year warranty." The warranty is a shield that protects official buyers and gives them peace of mind.

  • New Mozambican operator Movitel has allocated over USD1.5 million toward equipping a communications school for the Mozambican Defence Force.

    The school, to be built in Malhampsene in Matola, will offer training in communications for the armed forces.

    In officially launching the construction of the new school building, the Mozambican Minister of Defence, Filipe Nyusi, highlighted the importance of modern communications capability in the military.

    He noted the strengthening of civil-military relations, as well as the consolidation of relations that Mozambique is developing with Vietnam in the defence sector. Movitel is owned by Vietnam’s Viettel, a military telecoms operator.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Intel Capital — the world’s largest venture capital investor in innovative technology — is seeking to acquire stakes in several IT start-ups in Kenya with an eye on long term gains from the highly lucrative business.

    The company, the investment arm of Intel Corporation, says it has identified a number of early stage technology enterprises involved in Internet content distribution and e-commerce as well as application development firms that it intends to invest in.

    “We are actively and furiously looking high and low for opportunities to invest in, and we will announce the deals as we close them,” said Mr Arvind Sodhani, the chief executive of Intel Capital.

    His firm is keen on investing in start-ups for periods extending to about 15 years as part of a wider strategy that would enable the venture capitalist firm to exit when the targets have become mature companies.

  • Nairobi — Samsung has partnered with local microfinance solutions provider, Kenya Women Finance Trust - Deposit Taking Microfinance (KWFT-DTM) to promote the uptake of mobile technology solutions among women.

    The joint programme by KWFT-DTM and Samsung is geared at bridging the digital divide and facilitating mobile banking solutions for millions of unbanked women in Kenya.

    To kick off the partnership, the two firms have pledged to target the provision of mobile banking services to more than 600,000 women account holders at KWFT-DTM.

    Samsung Electronics East Africa (SEEA) Business Leader Robert Ngeru explained that the firm will provide Samsung phones for onward lending to KWFT-DTM account holders to boost the recently launched KWFT Mobile banking product uptake.

    He disclosed that Samsung will also provide a platform for local Mobile Application Architects to develop suitable mobile banking products to be hosted on the Samsung Apps store, which will be customised to meet local demands including language considerations.

    KWFT-DTM Board Chairperson Mary Okelo termed the M-banking service a great milestone since in the past, clients have had to travel long distances to access financial services.

  • Econet Wireless has announced that businesses that accept payments in EcoCash are now able to exchange them for cash at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe approved banks. In a statement, Econet said hundreds of companies have already signed agreements to take EcoCash payments which they can cash in at TN Bank.

    Other banks were expected to offer the service within two weeks.

    "We are working to get all banks on board by the end of October," said Mr Darlington Mandivenga, a senior Econet executive.

    Meanwhile, more than 200 commuter omnibus operators have also started to accept EcoCash for fares.

    The service, which began a week ago, has proved popular and Econet plans to have the majority of kombis accepting EcoCash before the end of the month.

    The use of EcoCash for payment is simple and quick to complete.

    Almost 2 million Econet customers are already using EcoCash to send money.

    People using EcoCash need not carry cash on them. All they need is load up their E-wallet, which then allows them to make small payments of any amount.

  • A Kenyan sends money through his mobile phone. The sector has witnessed a phenomenal rise, industry regulator data shows.   FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
    Kenyans deposited $8 billion into mobile money services for the year ending June 2012-- a 38 per cent rise that revealed why the country's government has set its sights on the thriving sector for further taxation to meet its obligations.

    According to data released by regulator Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) Tuesday, this was up on the $5.8 billion deposited in the year that ended June 2011.

    M-Pesa, a service run by market leader Safaricom and renowned globally, accounted for the bulk of the increased deposits in what CCK said showed an unmet appetite for financial services in the east African country.

    The number of mobile money agents rose 16 per cent to 49,079 while the number of mobile money subscriptions rose by 12.13 per cent to reach 19.5 million.

    "This upward trend signifies that mobile money transfer service has become instrumental in providing the unmet demand for financial services, thereby promoting financial inclusion in the country,” CCK said.

    It is this vast flow of funds that Kenyan Finance minister Njeru Githae has targeted, with new taxation measures passed by the country's parliament last week.

    The new measures would see the government attach a 10 per cent excise tax on all mobile money transfer fees charged by cellular companies and other financial institutions.

    Mobile phone subscriptions in the period under review rose 17.5 per cent to 29.43 million, meaning penetration in the country is now at 75.4 per cent.

    Safaricom maintained the lead in the industry, with a 64 per cent subscription market share, a four percentage point drop from last year.

    Telkom Orange lost 0.3 percentage points in market share while the other two operators, Airtel and YuMobile, both gained market share.

    "We attribute this strong growth to increased investments in our people, product innovation and improvement in quality of service has been the key driver in making us the network of choice by more customers in Kenya during the last quarter," a statement from Airtel said.

    Despite the increase in the number of mobile subscriptions, Kenyans are talking less. The minutes of use per subscriber per month fell by 20.3 per cent from the similar period of last year.

    Meanwhile, the year was tough for companies in the fixed data market as revenues fell drastically. CCK claims that revenue in the data market, excluding the mobile sector, fell 88.7 per cent in 2011.

  • Businesses that accept payment in EcoCash are now able to exchange it for cash at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe approved banks, the company said today, creating a parallel payment system in a country that relies on foreign money.

    Zimbabwe, whose inflation peaked at 500 billion percent in December 2008, abandoned use of the Zimbabwe dollar after the hyperinflation rendered it worthless, and now mostly uses the US dollar and South African rand.

    Money transfers ventures abound, but EcoCash, powered by Zimbabwe’s largest mobile service provider, is the most popular, with 1.7 million registered users.

    Econet said hundreds of companies have already signed agreements to take EcoCash payments instead of cash payments, which they can redeem at TN Bank. Other banks were expected to offer the service within two weeks.

    "We are working to get all banks on board by the end of October," said Darlington Mandivenga, a senior executive at the company.

    Already, more than 200 commuter omnibus (kombi) operators have also started to accept EcoCash for transport payments.

    The service, which began a week ago, has proved very popular and Econet plans to have the majority of kombis accepting EcoCash payments before the end of the month.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Airtel Tanzania plans to increase its coverage to more remote parts of the country and increase the availability to subscribers of its Air Money financial service, The Daily News reports citing the cellco’s communications director Beatrice Singano Mallya. Airtel currently boasts coverage of 85% of the population the official says, but is looking to increase this, with a focus on delivering access to remote parts of Tanzania. Airtel is also looking to steal a marc on its rivals in a competitive climate by offering state-of-the-art services based on 3.5G technology.

    Vodafone Ghana, a leading telecom operator in the country has offered 70% discount on current roaming charges for Hajj pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia. The incredible offer from the telecommunications giant allows pilgrims who visit the Saudi Arabian kingdom this Hajj to stay connected to their loved ones and pay less during and after the season.

    Mobile service provider, Orange has unveiled an airtime top-up service dubbed Pewa that will enable its customers to receive emergency credit.
    The service is available to its pre-paid customers and the airtime can be used for both on-net and off-net calls, SMS and Data.
    The company CEO Mickael Ghossein said the credit is payable within 24 hours with no interest charged. Interest will be charged if the advance is not repaid within 24 hours. To access the benefit, Orange subscribers will need to dial *133#.
    With the emergency credit the Orange customers to access free on-net calls and SMSs through the Orange Holla tariff

    The service will enhance its customers loyalty. It competitors Safaricom and Airtel have been running the Okoa Jahazi and Kopa credo services.

Digital Content

  • Above: Members of the Deutsche Welle team present at Discop 2014. 

    MTN Ghana subscribers can now learn while on the go with Deutsche Welle's Learning by Ear. The innovative program is now on the MTN Radio (mRadio) platform and available for just 1 Pesewa per minute by dialing 1303.

    MTN Ghana has teamed up with Deutsche Welle (DW) to provide its subscribers an easy way to learn about the most important topics shaping Africa today. DW's series 'Learning by Ear' is now available on-demand for MTN subscribers through the MTN Radio (mRadio) platform - giving MTN customers a new means of accessing news, analysis and education.

    MTN Ghana customers can access individual episodes from 'Learning by Ear' by dialing 1303 from their mobile phone and following the instructions. The audio content is available at a set price of 1 Ghana pesewa per minute.

    Along with this innovative series, customers can also tune in to the political radio program Africa Link on their mobiles. It is one of DW's latest high-lights for the region and will also be included in the mRadio lineup.

    'Learning by Ear' programming is targeted to teenagers and young adults and provides information on important topics like HIV, human rights, democracy and the environment with an exciting mix of stories and features. 'Learning by Ear' is broadcasted as part of the program lineup for Africa in English and Hausa, and is being rebroadcast by more than 25 partner stations in Ghana

    MTN launched the MTN Radio Service (mRadio) in September 2011. The service allows customers to enjoy a wide range of audio content including music, joke and educational materials on their phones. The service is available on MTN Short Code 1303 and costs 1Gp (USD 0.005) per minute for subscribers. mRadio currently has over 500 000 subscribers.

    Deutsche Welle is Germany's international broadcaster. With DW-TV, DW-RADIO and DW-WORLD.DE, it produces news, background information and cultural highlights worldwide, while creating a platform for intercultural dialogue. MTN Ghana is the largest mobile provider in the country with more than 11 million customers.

  • Nairobi City Council recently piloted a scheme to allow motorists to pay parking fees - and fines - on their mobile phones. By eliminating cash payments, the government hopes to reduce corruption and increase its own revenues.

    "You remove all these inefficiencies, you improve governance," says Bitange Ndemo, the top civil servant at Kenya's Ministry for Information and Communication.

    His grand plan is to put the whole of Kenya's notoriously corrupt government online.

    "If we also automated the procurement systems, we would raise another $1bn [£624m]. We would gain far [more] than going out there to look for money from donors."

    Mr Ndemo believes that IT has the power to change life in Africa as radically as steam changed life in Europe in the 19th Century.

    "[There is] a new industrial revolution that is coming in this digital age," he says.

    Civil servant Bitange Ndemo says he wants digital tools to help beat corruption
    "We in the third world, we have so much youth. We can leverage on that and be able to leapfrog the economy, instead of going through the same steps that most countries went through."

    But Mr Ndemo says his plans for a digital revolution frequently meet with resistance, from Kenyan officials who prefer the status quo, to foreign aid donors wedded to an older system.

    But his biggest obstacle may be infrastructure.

    Only around 30% of Kenyans currently have access to the internet. For Mr Ndemo's dream to succeed, Kenya will need to move beyond the low-tech mobile app.

    "We're at a very early stage in East Africa's technology boom," says Mr Hersman.

    But he says he is optimistic about the future. "We don't know quite yet what it will grow up to be.

    "But I am very bullish on the ability of the technology sector in Kenya to push this country forward for a long time to come."

  • Vodacom Tanzania and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced a partnership that will encourage vulnerable, food insecure communities in Mtwara region to take advantage of nutrition and health education through a mobile money platform.

    The pilot project, which will be launched at Nanguruwe Ward, Mtwara District today, will promote positive nutritional practices through the cash transfer platform Vodacom M-Pesa. Mtwara is among the regions with high prevalence of chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency.

    WFP Country Director, Richard Regan said the partnership with Vodacom will help spread nutrition education to an estimated 2,200 targeted households throughout the region by acting as an incentive for women to take part in learning sessions. "Using mobile technology through the M-Pesa platform offers an alternative to the traditional delivery of food," Regan said.

    "With the support of the Vodacom Tanzania, WFP is reinforcing national efforts to tackle under nutrition in Tanzania." Participating women will receive a monthly M-Pesa transfer of Tshs 16,000 (about US $10), which will enable them to purchase healthier, more nutritious food.

    This allocation is based on attendance at a health clinic for education sessions focusing on the importance of nutrition during a child's "First Thousand Days," roughly three years of life, including breastfeeding. Speaking at the launch, the Head of Vodacom Foundation Yessaya Mwakifulefule said Vodacom Tanzania will continue to support Vodacom's Mobile for Good projects, which enriches the lives of vulnerable groups in Tanzania by focusing on key areas in health and social welfare.

    "Using Vodacom's M-Pesa platform, we will help WFP transfer cash entitlements each month directly into the hands of beneficiaries. This, combined with nutrition education, will encourage pregnant and nursing women and mothers with children under the age of two to purchase healthy foods and diversify their diets," said Mwakifulefule.

    "Vodacom Tanzania is delighted to be part of this great project; it is the company's purpose to see its mobile technology transform people's lives in various parts of the country," he added.

  • The Registrar-General's Office will now send SMS messages to passport applicants to collect their documents, while the applicants will now also be able to download application forms on the Internet.

    Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede said last week the digitalisation would bring convenience to the public.

    The applicants download the application forms online and take them to the passport office after filling them in. They would pay a US$33 fee for the form on submission.
    The development is expected to improve efficiency and reduce time spent queueing for the forms.

    "The department has introduced its new website: The website provides the public with all relevant information regarding the department's offices and services," said Mudede.

    "As part of the website, we have introduced a new computerised passport application form.

    "This will enable anyone with Internet access to fill in the passport application form within the website from the ease of their home or office, print it and apply for a new passport using this printed form."

    Mudede said the new website was free from abuse because it had security features.

    "Since security of such a procedure is paramount, the passport application form can only be printed after it has been completely filled in," he said.

    "The form cannot be downloaded empty. The passport application form cannot be saved on the local computer.

    "The website also enables one to find any relevant information about the activities and services provided by the department as well as addresses of all their offices around Zimbabwe."

    Mudede said with such measures in place, it would be impossible for one to download the forms and sell them on the streets.

    Those without access to the Internet would still get the forms at the RG's Office.

    An ordinary passport costs US$50 and takes a month to be processed, while an emergency passport, which takes three days, costs US$250.

    "While an applicant is filling out the passport application form, they will be requested to fill in a mobile phone number which will be used to get an SMS update the moment the passport is ready and waiting for collection.

    "The department has invested in a top-of-the-line SMS solution and has developed unique applications which will enable the RG to give better service to the Zimbabwean citizen."

    The SMS service, Mudede said, would enter its pilot stage in the next few days.

    Of late, Zimbabwe has witnessed a reduction in the number of people seeking passports and temporary travelling documents at the RG's offices countrywide compared to previous years when hundreds of passport applicants would spend nights in queues to get the forms.

    The RG's Office resorted to a system whereby passport seekers would make appointments for them to be attended to in a bid to cope with the increased demand.

More

  • AfricaCom 2012
    13th-15th November 2012, CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa

    The digital ecosystem will take centre stage at AfricaCom 2012, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, 13 – 15 November 2012.  Network with over 7000 industry executives at Africa’s largest event embracing all aspects of the continent’s converging telecoms, media and ICT sectors.  Incorporating 11 co-located events all pertinent to future-proofing your business in the digital era, including cloud computing, OTT, apps, broadband and multiplatform content, see and hear how Africa’s communications market is a hotbed for innovation and long term prosperity. 
    Contact: Subuola.akinkugbe@informa.com
    For more information please click here:

    Telecoms Fraud & Revenue Assurance Forum
    26th - 27th November 2012, Dubai
    The only event currently in the region dedicated to telecoms fraud and revenue assurance, Tavess' Telecoms Fraud and Revenue Assurance Forum in Dubai has been designed to provide Revenue Assurance and Fraud professionals from across the Middle East, Asia and Africa the opportunity to learn about the latest RA strategies that the operators are adopting to more effectively detect and prevent revenue leakage and fraudulent activities in an increasingly complex scenario. In addition to an in-depth look at the detection and prevention of various types of fraud, the Forum also explores how to evolve the organization, streamline processes, effectively integrate systems and embed revenue assurance into new products. For more information please click here:

  • ITU launches Tech Needs Girls Prize to spark creativity

    Seeking the unique voices and talents of girls to invent our future
    To mark the first ever International Day of the Girl Child, ITU members and partners are  joining forces to launch the Tech Needs Girls Prize, a new global technology competition designed to inspire more girls to embrace technology and invent the future.

    Working in partnership with lead players in the ICT, education and media industries, ITU’s new annual Tech Needs Girls Prize aims to dramatically shift perceptions. The prize targets girls between the ages of 9 to 18 at the very time when they start forming opinions about their place in the world and their choice of career path. ITU and its partners will name and tailor a suite of competitions to different specialist areas, offering girls around the world a variety of options to get involved, gain confidence in their abilities, demonstrate their creativity, explore their ‘inner entrepreneur’ and learn first-hand how ICT can make a real difference.
    “Empowering women and girls is a key part of ITU’s mandate of ‘connecting the world’. I am looking forward enormously to seeing the imaginative submissions that will come in from girls right around the world, and hope that this new prize will encourage many of them to consider a future in this most exciting of industries,” said Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General.

    The Tech Needs Girls Prize 2013 will be awarded as part of the annual Girls in ICT Day celebrations. ITU is working with leading players including Cisco, Intel Corporation and the G(irls)20 Summit to inspire girls to take the tech challenge. Geena Davis, ITU’s own Special Envoy for Girls and ICT, will also be lending her voice and the important work of her institute to ensure that girls are better equipped to be leaders and creators in the world of technology. Full details of the prize, partners and the competitions will be released over the coming weeks.
    The prize forms part of ITU’s Tech Needs Girls campaign, launched at Girls in ICT Day this year, which is leveraging the convening power of ITU to bring players in the ICT, education and media industries together. This global call to action aims to transform the wide-ranging number of programmes and organizational initiatives into a force for movement on the urgent issue of ensuring girls and women play a much more substantive role in the ICT sector and are better empowered to harness technology to transform their lives and their futures.
    Today also sees the launch of a mapping tool allowing all players to publicly pin their events and programmes to the campaign website. The crowd-sourced map provides a global picture of initiatives and enables girls and women to quickly locate initiatives available to them locally.

    As the United Nations’ specialized agency for ICT, ITU has long championed the catalytic role ICT can play in empowering women and girls. In 2010, ITU membership established Girls in ICT Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in April every year and designed to raise visibility on the many exciting opportunities offered by an ICT career. For Girls in ICT Day 2012, over 1,320 events were held in nearly 90 countries, providing an estimated 30,000 young women with a better understanding of the opportunities offered by the ICT sector.

    A multilingual Girls in ICT Portal has also been launched by ITU to assist girls and young women prepare for and pursue a technology career. The portal currently houses some 500 programmes, including over 100 scholarships, 70 contests and awards, more than 100 training and internship opportunities, over 100 online networks offering career support and mentoring, as well as tech camps and other activities.
    Source: Press Release

Issue no 626 12th October 2012

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Top story

  • Two contrasting news announcements about LTE this week highlight what will become the next front in the struggle between Africa’s mobile incumbents and the insurgent challengers. Vodacom made a surprise announcement that it was launching LTE before MTN in South Africa. A less well-known operator in DRC – Cielux – also signed contracts to buy equipment to roll-out. Russell Southwood looks at how LTE will change the landscape in terms of the Internet market.

    There has been an ebb and flow in the struggle over how the internet is developed in Africa. Initially there were small-scale ISPs and they had to fight to get decent terms for wholesale access from the then fixed line incumbents. Once these were established in more competitive countries, the balance of power shifted back to the incumbents with the roll-out of ADSL. 

    Then along came 3G and 3G+ and the larger mobile operators (by now themselves incumbents) began to drive up the number of Internet users taking between 70-95% of the whole market. There have been some insurgent challengers offering triple play and Fibre-To-The-Home (Wananchi and Jamii Telecom in Kenya) but the numbers have been relatively modest.

    LTE offers a chance to create a much more competitive Internet ecology but too many African countries are likely to pursue a policy that will simply reinforce the existing duopoly or tri-opoly. What on earth does tri-opoly mean, I here you say? Well with anything less than four or five players, the market tends to find a particular level of pricing and stay there. Only a market where there are more players and it’s easy to get access for insurgent challengers, do things happen differently.

    I was recently having a conversation in a Ministry of Communications in a country which has to remain un-named. The civil servant responsible for policy said that the big operators had the money and that this was the best way for the Government to raise revenues.

    This is a short-sighted policy for two reasons: firstly, the mobile operators will pay the high prices if they have to but they will charge back these high costs to their customers to recover their outlay; secondly, the high costs of LTE usable spectrum will deter smaller Internet and data operators who might shake the market up.

     

    The first issue comes from an attitude in many Governments on the continent that very-high speed Internet access (or indeed most Internet access) is a luxury that should remain the privilege of the upper end of the middle classes. The alternative in policy terms is quite clear: charge less for spectrum and ensure that the mobile operators charge less to customers. This will create a large critical mass of users for services like video and music downloads at one end and e-medicine at the other end of the “what people want” to “it does you good” spectrum.

    Furthermore, cheaper LTE spectrum will allow non-mobile operators of a smaller scale to enter the market and innovate more quickly than the sometimes rather more slow moving mobile operators. But what about voice threatening mobile operators’ voice revenues? Well, the new generation of smaller LTE operators can be restricted to data if that makes it easier for all this to happen. However, this will allow them to offer fixed VoiP calls as they do in the more competitive East African countries already.

    So what’s the current scorecard in the “big guys” vs insurgent challenger stakes for LTE licensing.

    So far LTE has gone to the “big guys” in Angola (Movicel), Namibia (MTC) and South Africa (Vodacom). We also understand that MTN is testing LTE in Zambia. Kenya has a consortium of big guys with equipment vendors under public guidance but Safaricom continues to threaten to go its own way.

    Interestingly, Africa’s first two LTE roll-outs went to state-owned mobile operators. Movicel in Angola will provide LTE coverage to all major cities across the country and is using ZTE LTE-enabled handsets to spearhead the push for the service.

    MTC’s new ‘Netman 4G’ services are offered via three devices, the Samsung Galaxy TAB 8.9 LTE tablet computer, the Samsung Galaxy SII LTE smartphone and an MTC-branded 4G dongle modem. Initially, a monthly 4G data subscription costs NAD349 (USD41.50) for a ‘Netman 4G Extreme’ package with 5GB data (plus 10GB additional data per month under a promotion until 30 September 2012), with unused data rolled over to the following month, and maximum upload/download speeds of 50Mbps/25Mbps. An unlimited monthly data package, ‘Netman 4G Unlimited’, costs NAD949, with higher peak download/upload rates of 100Mbps/50Mbps. After 30 September the subscriptions for Extreme and Unlimited will revert to standard rates of NAD399 and NAD999, respectively. MTC also offers data bundles at a cost ranging from NAD0.20 to NAD0.50 per MB depending on size, compared to standard out-of-bundle rate of NAD0.90 per MB.

    MTC intends to cover the whole of Windhoek with LTE by the end of July and to cover 45% of Namibia’s population in twelve months, including rural areas, compared to its existing 3G network which serves Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, other main urban areas and some rural communities by 2013. In August 2012, it reported that it had 1,000 post-paid users and that they were averaging  1.6 GB per day, representing 23% of all its existing data use.

    Vodacom in South Africa is also going with Samsung handsets (two Galaxy S3 phones) and has a service live in 70 sites that will expand to 500 sites by the end of the year.

    On the small, insurgent challengers’ front, the most interesting announcement so far has been from Smile in Tanzania. Following a limited pilot launch in April, 4G LTE services have been rolled out by Smile in several districts of Dar es Salaam, including Mikocheni, Massani Peninsula, Oysterbay and Sinza. Broadband routers are used to access the services and have been installed in homes, offices and public places, such as shopping malls and Internet cafes. Smile plans to extend coverage through Tanzania in 2012, followed by the launch of similar services in the other three countries where Smile currently operates.

    This week saw DRC’s Cielux, an ISP, buy LTE equipment and services to upgrade from WiMAX to roll-out under the brand name INET. The upgrade supports Cielux’s ongoing effort to rollout convergent 4G services across the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It says it will roll out to all major cities by early next year.

    There are also several companies we know of that have either acquired spectrum or are waiting to acquire spectrum that fit into this category.

    The task of getting Africa connected is so huge that it needs to be tackled by as competitive a market as possible. The shortfall in local access coverage and the invisibility of most rural areas for data access will only be overcome by more rather than fewer operators.

    To get up-to-the minute news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

     

    Kwabena Smith, Orun Energy on saving diesel costs on base stations

    Justin Hartman, Social Code on South Africa's ICT entrepreneurialism and the failure to support it

    Julian Macharia, Buni TV on this new online video delivery platform

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on its acquisition of Afinis

    Envir Fraser, Convergence Partners on investment opportunities in ICT

    Tayo Oviosu, CEO, Paga on the mobile money market in Nigeria

    Nigerian ICT blogger Loy Okezi
    e on Nigeria's online successes

    Victor Dibia, CEO, Denvycom.com
     on his games portfolio and plans to monetize

    Oluseye Soyode-Johnson, consultant to Maliyo Games
     on the business model

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Mike Best, Georgia Tech on using interactive media with Liberia's Truth Commission

    Leonard Ah Kun from South Africa’s on augmented reality, Leap Motion and Google glasses

    Emma Kaye on an African mobile platform to make music and films

    Michael Ugwu, iROKING on Nigeria's Spotify-type service

     

     

telecoms

  • Vodacom launched South Africa’s first commercial LTE service in Johannesburg last week, in a surprise announcement by CEO Shameel Joosub, winning the race for 4G against rival MTN.

    Joosub surprised attendees at the 2012 MyBroadband Conference, announcing that Vodacom’s Long-Term Evolution network is switched on and commercially available.

    In a further sensational touch, Vodacom’s Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport, and Jannie van Zyl – who rejoined Vodacom in 2010 –  went on to make the first commercial LTE call in South Africa using two Samsung Galaxy S3 phones in front of onlookers.

    Jossub announced that the next generation service is already live in 70 sites – for now, only in Johannesburg – but promised that the company would have 150 sites live by the end of October, with up to 500 sites available for commercial use by the end of the year.

    Vodacom has launched its commercial 4G network using re-farmed 1 ,800Mhz spectrum, however the CEO noted that extra spectrum would need to be added in order to unlock the full potential of the new technology.

    Vodacom has been seen in a battle with competitor MTN in a race to be the first company to bring LTE technology to the South African commercial market.  Both companies had previously announced that they would be rolling out LTE networks by the end of 2012, but today’s launch was unexpected – and sees Vodacom pip MTN to the post in this exciting move.

    “Vodacom was the first network in SA to test LTE more than two years ago, and since then we’ve been busy upgrading base stations and our fibre-optic transmission network in preparation for today,” Joosub told the conference.  He added: “It’s great to claim another South African first for Vodacom with the launch of LTE services to the public, and it’s even more pleasing that we’ve done this ahead of many other advanced economies around the world.”

    Handset providers have also been hurrying to produce top-end handsets with 4G capabilities, and get them on the market in time for LTE launches.  Samsung has clearly won that race – with the Vodacom team producing Galaxy S3 phones in their launch.  However, on the note of handsets, Joosub also spoke up, assuring potential users that a range of selections will be available to Vodacom customers: “LTE devices are in short supply world-wide, but thanks to Vodafone’s global purchasing power we’re confident that Vodacom will have the best possible selection in stores in the very near future.”

  • The Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has extended the launch deadline of the new operator, Celcom, to April next year. Celcom’s original deadline was the end of October.

    In a notice signed by MACRA director general Charles Nsaliwa, MACRA says this follows Celcom's application for a six month extension of network roll out from 30 October 2012 to 28 April 2013. The company cited lack of foreign exchange as a reason for its failure to meet the deadline.

    "The authority has therefore agreed to extend the network roll out period for six months from 31st October 2012 to 30th April 2013 to allow CELCOM provide public mobile telecommunications services within the said timeframe," said MACRA.

  • Trying to call someone in Kenya? There’s a fine chance the person you’re trying to reach won’t pick up. No, not because that someone is busy, but because the government has switched his phone off. How many people have been affected? Local sources tell us it could be as many as one million! Talk about Big Brother…but don’t try talking about it via phone.

    “This is a big inconvenience,” says 20-year-old Teresiah Njeri, a student at the University of Nairobi. “Your employer may call you and find that your phone has been switched off.”

    She is referring to the recent move by the Kenya government to deactivate a number of mobile phones. The great switch-off is part of a massive campaign aiming to ban counterfeits from the market. Estimates indicate that over one million handsets have been affected in the first few days of October alone.

    Crime curbing? “However," notes Njeri, "the move is good in a way because it curbs people from using it to commit crimes.”

    She has clearly gotten the message conveyed by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), which indicated crime prevention as being one of their incentives. National security services had been concerned about mobile devices using duplicated international mobile equipment (IMEI) codes, the unique identity for each handset. This has made it difficult to track criminals who are suspected of using fake handsets to plan crimes.

    Apart from targeting fake phones, the switch-off process also targeted unregistered cell phone SIM cards.

    To inform Kenyans about what would happen, a large campaign was carried out in the local press in the weeks leading up to the switch-off date. The CCK also set up a special number through which users could verify if their mobile phone handsets were genuine. But preparation hasn’t made the situation any less frustrating for everyday citizens.

    “Government should have taken responsibility and liability for this situation. They should have ensured that these fake phones did not get to market,” said Thomas Kahigwa, a 24-year-old political science graduate. “I think the government should help those people whose phones were switched off to get standard quality phones. The government should take care of 70 percent of the cost while the consumers should take care of 30 percent of the cost.”

    But it's not just customers who are implicated. “There are some dealers who are encouraging us to sell those fake phones, but we do not like those fake phones,” says Jeff, who operates a mobile phone shop along Nairobi's Moi Avenue. “For me, I have the original distributors.”

    Cell phone communication is deemed essential by many Kenyans. Statistics indicate that mobile phone penetration in the East African nation was over 60 percent before the great switch-off.

    And just on Friday, Reuters reported that Kenya approved new taxes on, for one thing, its popular mobile phone-based money transfer services. The government says the 10 percent excise duty will help replenish a funding gap that might otherwise scare off foreign investors. Let's hope the potential capitalists who want to discuss business won't be scheduling any conference calls.

internet

  • Stiff competition by Internet service providers has driven up subscription by 82.7 per cent over the past one year to reach 7.7 million, according the latest industry regulator report.

    The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) 2011/2012 report ending June indicates that majority of subscribers access their Internet through mobile handsets especially the youths who are active on social media.

    The report also indicates that most firms are switched to inland fibre optic connections, hurting business satellite providers in the process.

    The increased Internet subscription has resulted in more users and mobile penetration. The number of Internet users rose by 18.5 per cent to reach 14 million while the annual growth of the population that had access to the service reached 35 per cent.

    “Increased demand for Internet and data services and use of social media especially among the youthful population; competitive tariffs by the mobile operators coupled with aggressive promotional and special offers have driven Internet usage,” says the report.

    Mobile data/Internet subscriptions continued to dominate the Internet market contributing 98.9 per cent of the total Internet/data subscriptions.

    Safaricom recorded the highest market share by subscription of 68.7 percent followed by Airtel Networks Kenya Limited (14.0 percent), Telkom Kenya Limited (8.8 per cent) while Essar Telecom Kenya Limited had the lowest market share of 8.4 per cent.

    Airtel gained a market share of 4.5 percentage points while Safaricom experienced the highest reduction in the market share of 2.3 percentage points. Essar gained (1.6 percentage points) accounting while Telkom gained (0.7 percentage points).

    The mobile operators have continued to increase their investment in data as they expect a surge in demand for data services in Kenya, thanks to an explosion of Internet-ready, hand-held devices, an increase in the number of relevant applications and content.

computing

  • Apple has announced a new plan to make its products officially available in Nigeria through its official Apple channels. This is the first time the company will make such move in the Nigerian market.

    The growing importance of the Nigerian market and the need to give Nigerian buyers a new level of customer experience and full product guarantee may have attracted Apple's new move to the Nigerian market.

    The outlets will ensure products available through official channel partners in the country.

    The new Apple Authorised Resellers include iConnect at the Palms, Lekki in Lagos; Superior Equipment - The Orchard at the Civic Centre in Lagos; Cross Energy, Flag Place in Abuja; and iMEED Store, Rivers House, Central Business Area of Abuja.

    Core Group Africa, the Value Added Distributor (VAO) for Apple, officially launched the iPad in Nigeria recently, as part of a global roll out.

    Executive Director for Apple Core Group Africa, Mr. Rutger-Jan Van Spaandonk, said "Nigerians can now to purchase with confidence knowing that their Apple iPad has been bought through the official distribution channels. We want customers to have the best Apple experience possible and be able to take advantage of the benefits of purchasing their iPad from an Apple Authorised Resellers. It is in the best interest of Nigerian consumers to buy from the official distribution channel so that they can take advantage also of the 2 year warranty." The warranty is a shield that protects official buyers and gives them peace of mind.

  • New Mozambican operator Movitel has allocated over USD1.5 million toward equipping a communications school for the Mozambican Defence Force.

    The school, to be built in Malhampsene in Matola, will offer training in communications for the armed forces.

    In officially launching the construction of the new school building, the Mozambican Minister of Defence, Filipe Nyusi, highlighted the importance of modern communications capability in the military.

    He noted the strengthening of civil-military relations, as well as the consolidation of relations that Mozambique is developing with Vietnam in the defence sector. Movitel is owned by Vietnam’s Viettel, a military telecoms operator.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Intel Capital — the world’s largest venture capital investor in innovative technology — is seeking to acquire stakes in several IT start-ups in Kenya with an eye on long term gains from the highly lucrative business.

    The company, the investment arm of Intel Corporation, says it has identified a number of early stage technology enterprises involved in Internet content distribution and e-commerce as well as application development firms that it intends to invest in.

    “We are actively and furiously looking high and low for opportunities to invest in, and we will announce the deals as we close them,” said Arvind Sodhani, the Chief Executive of Intel Capital.

    His firm is keen on investing in start-ups for periods extending to about 15 years as part of a wider strategy that would enable the venture capitalist firm to exit when the targets have become mature companies.

  • Samsung has partnered with local microfinance solutions provider, Kenya Women Finance Trust - Deposit Taking Microfinance (KWFT-DTM) to promote the uptake of mobile technology solutions among women.

    The joint programme by KWFT-DTM and Samsung is geared at bridging the digital divide and facilitating mobile banking solutions for millions of unbanked women in Kenya.

    To kick off the partnership, the two firms have pledged to target the provision of mobile banking services to more than 600,000 women account holders at KWFT-DTM.

    Samsung Electronics East Africa (SEEA) Business Leader Robert Ngeru explained that the firm will provide Samsung phones for onward lending to KWFT-DTM account holders to boost the recently launched KWFT Mobile banking product uptake.

    He disclosed that Samsung will also provide a platform for local Mobile Application Architects to develop suitable mobile banking products to be hosted on the Samsung Apps store, which will be customised to meet local demands including language considerations.

    KWFT-DTM Board Chairperson Mary Okelo termed the M-banking service a great milestone since in the past, clients have had to travel long distances to access financial services.

  • Econet Wireless has announced that businesses that accept payments in EcoCash are now able to exchange them for cash at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe approved banks. In a statement, Econet said hundreds of companies have already signed agreements to take EcoCash payments which they can cash in at TN Bank.

    Other banks were expected to offer the service within two weeks.

    "We are working to get all banks on board by the end of October," said Darlington Mandivenga, a senior Econet executive.

    Meanwhile, more than 200 commuter omnibus operators have also started to accept EcoCash for fares.

    The service, which began a week ago, has proved popular and Econet plans to have the majority of kombis accepting EcoCash before the end of the month.

    The use of EcoCash for payment is simple and quick to complete.

    Almost 2 million Econet customers are already using EcoCash to send money.

    People using EcoCash need not carry cash on them. All they need is load up their E-wallet, which then allows them to make small payments of any amount.

  • A Kenyan sends money through his mobile phone. The sector has witnessed a phenomenal rise, industry regulator data shows.   Kenyans deposited $8 billion into mobile money services for the year ending June 2012-- a 38 per cent rise that revealed why the country's government has set its sights on the thriving sector for further taxation to meet its obligations.

    According to data released by regulator Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) Tuesday, this was up on the $5.8 billion deposited in the year that ended June 2011.

    M-Pesa, a service run by market leader Safaricom and renowned globally, accounted for the bulk of the increased deposits in what CCK said showed an unmet appetite for financial services in the east African country.

    The number of mobile money agents rose 16 per cent to 49,079 while the number of mobile money subscriptions rose by 12.13 per cent to reach 19.5 million.

    "This upward trend signifies that mobile money transfer service has become instrumental in providing the unmet demand for financial services, thereby promoting financial inclusion in the country,” CCK said.

    It is this vast flow of funds that Kenyan Finance minister Njeru Githae has targeted, with new taxation measures passed by the country's parliament last week.

    The new measures would see the government attach a 10 per cent excise tax on all mobile money transfer fees charged by cellular companies and other financial institutions.

    Mobile phone subscriptions in the period under review rose 17.5 per cent to 29.43 million, meaning penetration in the country is now at 75.4 per cent.

    Safaricom maintained the lead in the industry, with a 64 per cent subscription market share, a four percentage point drop from last year.

    Telkom Orange lost 0.3 percentage points in market share while the other two operators, Airtel and YuMobile, both gained market share.

    "We attribute this strong growth to increased investments in our people, product innovation and improvement in quality of service has been the key driver in making us the network of choice by more customers in Kenya during the last quarter," a statement from Airtel said.

    Despite the increase in the number of mobile subscriptions, Kenyans are talking less. The minutes of use per subscriber per month fell by 20.3 per cent from the similar period of last year.

    Meanwhile, the year was tough for companies in the fixed data market as revenues fell drastically. CCK claims that revenue in the data market, excluding the mobile sector, fell 88.7 per cent in 2011.

  • Businesses that accept payment in EcoCash are now able to exchange it for cash at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe approved banks, the company said today, creating a parallel payment system in a country that relies on foreign money.

    Zimbabwe, whose inflation peaked at 500 billion percent in December 2008, abandoned use of the Zimbabwe dollar after the hyperinflation rendered it worthless, and now mostly uses the US dollar and South African rand.

    Money transfers ventures abound, but EcoCash, powered by Zimbabwe’s largest mobile service provider, is the most popular, with 1.7 million registered users.

    Econet said hundreds of companies have already signed agreements to take EcoCash payments instead of cash payments, which they can redeem at TN Bank.

    Other banks were expected to offer the service within two weeks.

    "We are working to get all banks on board by the end of October," said Darlington Mandivenga, a senior executive at the company.

    Already, more than 200 commuter omnibus (kombi) operators have also started to accept EcoCash for transport payments.

    The service, which began a week ago, has proved very popular and Econet plans to have the majority of kombis accepting EcoCash payments before the end of the month.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • * Airtel Tanzania plans to increase its coverage to more remote parts of the country and increase the availability to subscribers of its Air Money financial service, The Daily News reports citing the cellco’s communications director Beatrice Singano Mallya. Airtel currently boasts coverage of 85% of the population the official says, but is looking to increase this, with a focus on delivering access to remote parts of Tanzania. Airtel is also looking to steal a marc on its rivals in a competitive climate by offering state-of-the-art services based on 3.5G technology.

    * Vodafone Ghana, a leading telecom operator in the country has offered 70% discount on current roaming charges for Hajj pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia. The incredible offer from the telecommunications giant allows pilgrims who visit the Saudi Arabian kingdom this Hajj to stay connected to their loved ones and pay less during and after the season.

    * Mobile service provider, Orange has unveiled an airtime top-up service dubbed Pewa that will enable its customers to receive emergency credit.

    The service is available to its pre-paid customers and the airtime can be used for both on-net and off-net calls, SMS and Data.
    The company CEO Mickael Ghossein said the credit is payable within 24 hours with no interest charged. Interest will be charged if the advance is not repaid within 24 hours. To access the benefit, Orange subscribers will need to dial *133#.

    With the emergency credit the Orange customers to access free on-net calls and SMSs through the Orange Holla tariff

    The service will enhance its customers loyalty. It competitors Safaricom and Airtel have been running the Okoa Jahazi and Kopa credo services.

    * Tunisia’s leading telecom operator Tunisie Telecom announced that it would give 50 percent off all voice calls from Tunisia to Saudi Arabia as part of its Hajj pilgrimage offering.

    The company said that the rates will apply for all calls to the Gulf Kingdom from October 6 through November 11 as thousands of Tunisians head to Saudi to perform the annual Islamic pilgrimage.

Digital Content

  • MTN Ghana subscribers can now learn while on the go with Deutsche Welle's Learning by Ear. The innovative program is now on the MTN Radio (mRadio) platform and available for just 1 Pesewa per minute by dialing 1303.

    MTN Ghana has teamed up with Deutsche Welle (DW) to provide its subscribers an easy way to learn about the most important topics shaping Africa today. DW's series 'Learning by Ear' is now available on-demand for MTN subscribers through the MTN Radio (mRadio) platform - giving MTN customers a new means of accessing news, analysis and education.

    MTN Ghana customers can access individual episodes from 'Learning by Ear' by dialing 1303 from their mobile phone and following the instructions. The audio content is available at a set price of 1 Ghana pesewa per minute.

    Along with this innovative series, customers can also tune in to the political radio program Africa Link on their mobiles. It is one of DW's latest high-lights for the region and will also be included in the mRadio lineup.

    'Learning by Ear' programming is targeted to teenagers and young adults and provides information on important topics like HIV, human rights, democracy and the environment with an exciting mix of stories and features. 'Learning by Ear' is broadcasted as part of the program lineup for Africa in English and Hausa, and is being rebroadcast by more than 25 partner stations in Ghana

    MTN launched the MTN Radio Service (mRadio) in September 2011. The service allows customers to enjoy a wide range of audio content including music, joke and educational materials on their phones. The service is available on MTN Short Code 1303 and costs 1Gp (USD 0.005) per minute for subscribers. mRadio currently has over 500 000 subscribers.

    Deutsche Welle is Germany's international broadcaster. With DW-TV, DW-RADIO and DW-WORLD.DE, it produces news, background information and cultural highlights worldwide, while creating a platform for intercultural dialogue. MTN Ghana is the largest mobile provider in the country with more than 11 million customers.

  • Nairobi City Council recently piloted a scheme to allow motorists to pay parking fees - and fines - on their mobile phones. By eliminating cash payments, the government hopes to reduce corruption and increase its own revenues.

    "You remove all these inefficiencies, you improve governance," says Bitange Ndemo, the top civil servant at Kenya's Ministry for Information and Communication.

    His grand plan is to put the whole of Kenya's notoriously corrupt government online.

    "If we also automated the procurement systems, we would raise another $1bn [£624m]. We would gain far [more] than going out there to look for money from donors."

    Ndemo believes that IT has the power to change life in Africa as radically as steam changed life in Europe in the 19th Century. "[There is] a new industrial revolution that is coming in this digital age," he says.

    Civil servant Bitange Ndemo says he wants digital tools to help beat corruption
    "We in the third world, we have so much youth. We can leverage on that and be able to leapfrog the economy, instead of going through the same steps that most countries went through."

    But Ndemo says his plans for a digital revolution frequently meet with resistance, from Kenyan officials who prefer the status quo, to foreign aid donors wedded to an older system. But his biggest obstacle may be infrastructure.

    Only around 30% of Kenyans currently have access to the internet. For Ndemo's dream to succeed, Kenya will need to move beyond the low-tech mobile app.

    "We're at a very early stage in East Africa's technology boom," says Mr Hersman.

    But he says he is optimistic about the future. "We don't know quite yet what it will grow up to be."But I am very bullish on the ability of the technology sector in Kenya to push this country forward for a long time to come."

  • Vodacom Tanzania and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced a partnership that will encourage vulnerable, food insecure communities in Mtwara region to take advantage of nutrition and health education through a mobile money platform.

    The pilot project, which will be launched at Nanguruwe Ward, Mtwara District today, will promote positive nutritional practices through the cash transfer platform Vodacom M-Pesa. Mtwara is among the regions with high prevalence of chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency.

    WFP Country Director, Richard Regan said the partnership with Vodacom will help spread nutrition education to an estimated 2,200 targeted households throughout the region by acting as an incentive for women to take part in learning sessions. "Using mobile technology through the M-Pesa platform offers an alternative to the traditional delivery of food," Regan said.

    "With the support of the Vodacom Tanzania, WFP is reinforcing national efforts to tackle under nutrition in Tanzania." Participating women will receive a monthly M-Pesa transfer of Tshs 16,000 (about US $10), which will enable them to purchase healthier, more nutritious food.

    This allocation is based on attendance at a health clinic for education sessions focusing on the importance of nutrition during a child's "First Thousand Days," roughly three years of life, including breastfeeding. Speaking at the launch, the Head of Vodacom Foundation Yessaya Mwakifulefule said Vodacom Tanzania will continue to support Vodacom's Mobile for Good projects, which enriches the lives of vulnerable groups in Tanzania by focusing on key areas in health and social welfare.

    "Using Vodacom's M-Pesa platform, we will help WFP transfer cash entitlements each month directly into the hands of beneficiaries. This, combined with nutrition education, will encourage pregnant and nursing women and mothers with children under the age of two to purchase healthy foods and diversify their diets," said Mwakifulefule.

    "Vodacom Tanzania is delighted to be part of this great project; it is the company's purpose to see its mobile technology transform people's lives in various parts of the country," he added.

  • The Registrar-General's Office will now send SMS messages to passport applicants to collect their documents, while the applicants will now also be able to download application forms on the Internet.

    Registrar-General Mr Tobaiwa Mudede last week said the digitalisation would bring convenience to the public.The applicants download the application forms online and take them to the passport office after filling them in.

    They would pay a US$33 fee for the form on submission.The development is expected to improve efficiency and reduce time spent queueing for the forms.

    "The department has introduced its new website: http://www.rg.gov.zw. The website provides the public with all relevant information regarding the department's offices and services," said Mr Mudede.

    "As part of the website, we have introduced a new computerised passport application form.

    "This will enable anyone with Internet access to fill in the passport application form within the website from the ease of their home or office, print it and apply for a new passport using this printed form."

    Mr Mudede said the new website was free from abuse because it had security features.

    "Since security of such a procedure is paramount, the passport application form can only be printed after it has been completely filled in," he said.

    "The form cannot be downloaded empty. The passport application form cannot be saved on the local computer.

    "The website also enables one to find any relevant information about the activities and services provided by the department as well as addresses of all their offices around Zimbabwe."

    Mr Mudede said with such measures in place, it would be impossible for one to download the forms and sell them on the streets.

    Those without access to the Internet would still get the forms at the RG's Office.

    An ordinary passport costs US$50 and takes a month to be processed, while an emergency passport, which takes three days, costs US$250.

    "While an applicant is filling out the passport application form, they will be requested to fill in a mobile phone number which will be used to get an SMS update the moment the passport is ready and waiting for collection.

    "The department has invested in a top-of-the-line SMS solution and has developed unique applications which will enable the RG to give better service to the Zimbabwean citizen."

    The SMS service, Mr Mudede said, would enter its pilot stage in the next few days.

    Of late, Zimbabwe has witnessed a reduction in the number of people seeking passports and temporary travelling documents at the RG's offices countrywide compared to previous years when hundreds of passport applicants would spend nights in queues to get the forms.

    The RG's Office resorted to a system whereby passport seekers would make appointments for them to be attended to in a bid to cope with the increased demand.

More

  • Broadband World Forum

    16 – 18 October 2012, Amsterdam RAI Convention Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    The event, now in its 12th year, is the most respected in the regions Telecoms calendar and the comprehensive agenda includes breakfast briefings, 3 co-located summits,  keynote plenary sessions and a choice of 4 tracks for delegates each day as well as the world class exhibition area. For more information please click here:

    AfricaCom 2012
    13th-15th November 2012, CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa

    The digital ecosystem will take centre stage at AfricaCom 2012, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, 13 – 15 November 2012.  Network with over 7000 industry executives at Africa’s largest event embracing all aspects of the continent’s converging telecoms, media and ICT sectors.  Incorporating 11 co-located events all pertinent to future-proofing your business in the digital era, including cloud computing, OTT, apps, broadband and multiplatform content, see and hear how Africa’s communications market is a hotbed for innovation and long term prosperity. 
    Contact: Subuola.akinkugbe@informa.com
    For more information please click here:

    Telecoms Fraud & Revenue Assurance Forum
    26th - 27th November 2012, Dubai
    The only event currently in the region dedicated to telecoms fraud and revenue assurance, Tavess' Telecoms Fraud and Revenue Assurance Forum in Dubai has been designed to provide Revenue Assurance and Fraud professionals from across the Middle East, Asia and Africa the opportunity to learn about the latest RA strategies that the operators are adopting to more effectively detect and prevent revenue leakage and fraudulent activities in an increasingly complex scenario. In addition to an in-depth look at the detection and prevention of various types of fraud, the Forum also explores how to evolve the organization, streamline processes, effectively integrate systems and embed revenue assurance into new products. For more information please click here:

  • ITU launches Tech Needs Girls Prize to spark creativity

    Seeking the unique voices and talents of girls to invent our future
    To mark the first ever International Day of the Girl Child, ITU members and partners are  joining forces to launch the Tech Needs Girls Prize, a new global technology competition designed to inspire more girls to embrace technology and invent the future.

    Working in partnership with lead players in the ICT, education and media industries, ITU’s new annual Tech Needs Girls Prize aims to dramatically shift perceptions. The prize targets girls between the ages of 9 to 18 at the very time when they start forming opinions about their place in the world and their choice of career path. ITU and its partners will name and tailor a suite of competitions to different specialist areas, offering girls around the world a variety of options to get involved, gain confidence in their abilities, demonstrate their creativity, explore their ‘inner entrepreneur’ and learn first-hand how ICT can make a real difference.
    “Empowering women and girls is a key part of ITU’s mandate of ‘connecting the world’. I am looking forward enormously to seeing the imaginative submissions that will come in from girls right around the world, and hope that this new prize will encourage many of them to consider a future in this most exciting of industries,” said Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General.

    The Tech Needs Girls Prize 2013 will be awarded as part of the annual Girls in ICT Day celebrations. ITU is working with leading players including Cisco, Intel Corporation and the G(irls)20 Summit to inspire girls to take the tech challenge. Geena Davis, ITU’s own Special Envoy for Girls and ICT, will also be lending her voice and the important work of her institute to ensure that girls are better equipped to be leaders and creators in the world of technology. Full details of the prize, partners and the competitions will be released over the coming weeks.
    The prize forms part of ITU’s Tech Needs Girls campaign, launched at Girls in ICT Day this year, which is leveraging the convening power of ITU to bring players in the ICT, education and media industries together. This global call to action aims to transform the wide-ranging number of programmes and organizational initiatives into a force for movement on the urgent issue of ensuring girls and women play a much more substantive role in the ICT sector and are better empowered to harness technology to transform their lives and their futures.
    Today also sees the launch of a mapping tool allowing all players to publicly pin their events and programmes to the campaign website. The crowd-sourced map provides a global picture of initiatives and enables girls and women to quickly locate initiatives available to them locally.

    As the United Nations’ specialized agency for ICT, ITU has long championed the catalytic role ICT can play in empowering women and girls. In 2010, ITU membership established Girls in ICT Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in April every year and designed to raise visibility on the many exciting opportunities offered by an ICT career. For Girls in ICT Day 2012, over 1,320 events were held in nearly 90 countries, providing an estimated 30,000 young women with a better understanding of the opportunities offered by the ICT sector.
    A multilingual Girls in ICT Portal has also been launched by ITU to assist girls and young women prepare for and pursue a technology career. The portal currently houses some 500 programmes, including over 100 scholarships, 70 contests and awards, more than 100 training and internship opportunities, over 100 online networks offering career support and mentoring, as well as tech camps and other activities.

Issue no 626 12th October 2012

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Top story

  • Two contrasting news announcements about LTE this week highlight what will become the next front in the struggle between Africa’s mobile incumbents and the insurgent challengers. Vodacom made a surprise announcement that it was launching LTE before MTN in South Africa. A less well-known operator in DRC – Cielux – also signed contracts to buy equipment to roll-out. Russell Southwood looks at how LTE will change the landscape in terms of the Internet market.

    There has been an ebb and flow in the struggle over how the internet is developed in Africa. Initially there were small-scale ISPs and they had to fight to get decent terms for wholesale access from the then fixed line incumbents. Once these were established in more competitive countries, the balance of power shifted back to the incumbents with the roll-out of ADSL. 

    Then along came 3G and 3G+ and the larger mobile operators (by now themselves incumbents) began to drive up the number of Internet users taking between 70-95% of the whole market. There have been some insurgent challengers offering triple play and Fibre-To-The-Home (Wananchi and Jamii Telecom in Kenya) but the numbers have been relatively modest.

    LTE offers a chance to create a much more competitive Internet ecology but too many African countries are likely to pursue a policy that will simply reinforce the existing duopoly or tri-opoly. What on earth does tri-opoly mean, I here you say? Well with anything less than four or five players, the market tends to find a particular level of pricing and stay there. Only a market where there are more players and it’s easy to get access for insurgent challengers, do things happen differently.

    I was recently having a conversation in a Ministry of Communications in a country which has to remain un-named. The civil servant responsible for policy said that the big operators had the money and that this was the best way for the Government to raise revenues.

    This is a short-sighted policy for two reasons: firstly, the mobile operators will pay the high prices if they have to but they will charge back these high costs to their customers to recover their outlay; secondly, the high costs of LTE usable spectrum will deter smaller Internet and data operators who might shake the market up.

     

    The first issue comes from an attitude in many Governments on the continent that very-high speed Internet access (or indeed most Internet access) is a luxury that should remain the privilege of the upper end of the middle classes. The alternative in policy terms is quite clear: charge less for spectrum and ensure that the mobile operators charge less to customers. This will create a large critical mass of users for services like video and music downloads at one end and e-medicine at the other end of the “what people want” to “it does you good” spectrum.

    Furthermore, cheaper LTE spectrum will allow non-mobile operators of a smaller scale to enter the market and innovate more quickly than the sometimes rather more slow moving mobile operators. But what about voice threatening mobile operators’ voice revenues? Well, the new generation of smaller LTE operators can be restricted to data if that makes it easier for all this to happen. However, this will allow them to offer fixed VoiP calls as they do in the more competitive East African countries already.

    So what’s the current scorecard in the “big guys” vs insurgent challenger stakes for LTE licensing.

    So far LTE has gone to the “big guys” in Angola (Movicel), Namibia (MTC) and South Africa (Vodacom). We also understand that MTN is testing LTE in Zambia. Kenya has a consortium of big guys with equipment vendors under public guidance but Safaricom continues to threaten to go its own way.

    Interestingly, Africa’s first two LTE roll-outs went to state-owned mobile operators. Movicel in Angola will provide LTE coverage to all major cities across the country and is using ZTE LTE-enabled handsets to spearhead the push for the service.

    MTC’s new ‘Netman 4G’ services are offered via three devices, the Samsung Galaxy TAB 8.9 LTE tablet computer, the Samsung Galaxy SII LTE smartphone and an MTC-branded 4G dongle modem. Initially, a monthly 4G data subscription costs NAD349 (USD41.50) for a ‘Netman 4G Extreme’ package with 5GB data (plus 10GB additional data per month under a promotion until 30 September 2012), with unused data rolled over to the following month, and maximum upload/download speeds of 50Mbps/25Mbps. An unlimited monthly data package, ‘Netman 4G Unlimited’, costs NAD949, with higher peak download/upload rates of 100Mbps/50Mbps. After 30 September the subscriptions for Extreme and Unlimited will revert to standard rates of NAD399 and NAD999, respectively. MTC also offers data bundles at a cost ranging from NAD0.20 to NAD0.50 per MB depending on size, compared to standard out-of-bundle rate of NAD0.90 per MB.

    MTC intends to cover the whole of Windhoek with LTE by the end of July and to cover 45% of Namibia’s population in twelve months, including rural areas, compared to its existing 3G network which serves Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, other main urban areas and some rural communities by 2013. In August 2012, it reported that it had 1,000 post-paid users and that they were averaging  1.6 GB per day, representing 23% of all its existing data use.

    Vodacom in South Africa is also going with Samsung handsets (two Galaxy S3 phones) and has a service live in 70 sites that will expand to 500 sites by the end of the year.

    On the small, insurgent challengers’ front, the most interesting announcement so far has been from Smile in Tanzania. Following a limited pilot launch in April, 4G LTE services have been rolled out by Smile in several districts of Dar es Salaam, including Mikocheni, Massani Peninsula, Oysterbay and Sinza. Broadband routers are used to access the services and have been installed in homes, offices and public places, such as shopping malls and Internet cafes. Smile plans to extend coverage through Tanzania in 2012, followed by the launch of similar services in the other three countries where Smile currently operates.

    This week saw DRC’s Cielux, an ISP, buy LTE equipment and services to upgrade from WiMAX to roll-out under the brand name INET. The upgrade supports Cielux’s ongoing effort to rollout convergent 4G services across the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It says it will roll out to all major cities by early next year.

    There are also several companies we know of that have either acquired spectrum or are waiting to acquire spectrum that fit into this category.

    The task of getting Africa connected is so huge that it needs to be tackled by as competitive a market as possible. The shortfall in local access coverage and the invisibility of most rural areas for data access will only be overcome by more rather than fewer operators.

    To get up-to-the minute news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

     

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    Envir Fraser, Convergence Partners on investment opportunities in ICT

    Tayo Oviosu, CEO, Paga on the mobile money market in Nigeria

    Nigerian ICT blogger Loy Okezi
    e on Nigeria's online successes

    Victor Dibia, CEO, Denvycom.com
     on his games portfolio and plans to monetize

    Oluseye Soyode-Johnson, consultant to Maliyo Games
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    Mike Best, Georgia Tech on using interactive media with Liberia's Truth Commission

    Leonard Ah Kun from South Africa’s on augmented reality, Leap Motion and Google glasses

    Emma Kaye on an African mobile platform to make music and films

    Michael Ugwu, iROKING on Nigeria's Spotify-type service

     

     

telecoms

  • Vodacom launched South Africa’s first commercial LTE service in Johannesburg last week, in a surprise announcement by CEO Shameel Joosub, winning the race for 4G against rival MTN.

    Joosub surprised attendees at the 2012 MyBroadband Conference, announcing that Vodacom’s Long-Term Evolution network is switched on and commercially available.

    In a further sensational touch, Vodacom’s Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport, and Jannie van Zyl – who rejoined Vodacom in 2010 –  went on to make the first commercial LTE call in South Africa using two Samsung Galaxy S3 phones in front of onlookers.

    Jossub announced that the next generation service is already live in 70 sites – for now, only in Johannesburg – but promised that the company would have 150 sites live by the end of October, with up to 500 sites available for commercial use by the end of the year.

    Vodacom has launched its commercial 4G network using re-farmed 1 ,800Mhz spectrum, however the CEO noted that extra spectrum would need to be added in order to unlock the full potential of the new technology.

    Vodacom has been seen in a battle with competitor MTN in a race to be the first company to bring LTE technology to the South African commercial market.  Both companies had previously announced that they would be rolling out LTE networks by the end of 2012, but today’s launch was unexpected – and sees Vodacom pip MTN to the post in this exciting move.

    “Vodacom was the first network in SA to test LTE more than two years ago, and since then we’ve been busy upgrading base stations and our fibre-optic transmission network in preparation for today,” Joosub told the conference.  He added: “It’s great to claim another South African first for Vodacom with the launch of LTE services to the public, and it’s even more pleasing that we’ve done this ahead of many other advanced economies around the world.”

    Handset providers have also been hurrying to produce top-end handsets with 4G capabilities, and get them on the market in time for LTE launches.  Samsung has clearly won that race – with the Vodacom team producing Galaxy S3 phones in their launch.  However, on the note of handsets, Joosub also spoke up, assuring potential users that a range of selections will be available to Vodacom customers: “LTE devices are in short supply world-wide, but thanks to Vodafone’s global purchasing power we’re confident that Vodacom will have the best possible selection in stores in the very near future.”

  • The Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has extended the launch deadline of the new operator, Celcom, to April next year. Celcom’s original deadline was the end of October.

    In a notice signed by MACRA director general Charles Nsaliwa, MACRA says this follows Celcom's application for a six month extension of network roll out from 30 October 2012 to 28 April 2013. The company cited lack of foreign exchange as a reason for its failure to meet the deadline.

    "The authority has therefore agreed to extend the network roll out period for six months from 31st October 2012 to 30th April 2013 to allow CELCOM provide public mobile telecommunications services within the said timeframe," said MACRA.

  • Trying to call someone in Kenya? There’s a fine chance the person you’re trying to reach won’t pick up. No, not because that someone is busy, but because the government has switched his phone off. How many people have been affected? Local sources tell us it could be as many as one million! Talk about Big Brother…but don’t try talking about it via phone.

    “This is a big inconvenience,” says 20-year-old Teresiah Njeri, a student at the University of Nairobi. “Your employer may call you and find that your phone has been switched off.”

    She is referring to the recent move by the Kenya government to deactivate a number of mobile phones. The great switch-off is part of a massive campaign aiming to ban counterfeits from the market. Estimates indicate that over one million handsets have been affected in the first few days of October alone.

    Crime curbing? “However," notes Njeri, "the move is good in a way because it curbs people from using it to commit crimes.”

    She has clearly gotten the message conveyed by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), which indicated crime prevention as being one of their incentives. National security services had been concerned about mobile devices using duplicated international mobile equipment (IMEI) codes, the unique identity for each handset. This has made it difficult to track criminals who are suspected of using fake handsets to plan crimes.

    Apart from targeting fake phones, the switch-off process also targeted unregistered cell phone SIM cards.

    To inform Kenyans about what would happen, a large campaign was carried out in the local press in the weeks leading up to the switch-off date. The CCK also set up a special number through which users could verify if their mobile phone handsets were genuine. But preparation hasn’t made the situation any less frustrating for everyday citizens.

    “Government should have taken responsibility and liability for this situation. They should have ensured that these fake phones did not get to market,” said Thomas Kahigwa, a 24-year-old political science graduate. “I think the government should help those people whose phones were switched off to get standard quality phones. The government should take care of 70 percent of the cost while the consumers should take care of 30 percent of the cost.”

    But it's not just customers who are implicated. “There are some dealers who are encouraging us to sell those fake phones, but we do not like those fake phones,” says Jeff, who operates a mobile phone shop along Nairobi's Moi Avenue. “For me, I have the original distributors.”

    Cell phone communication is deemed essential by many Kenyans. Statistics indicate that mobile phone penetration in the East African nation was over 60 percent before the great switch-off.

    And just on Friday, Reuters reported that Kenya approved new taxes on, for one thing, its popular mobile phone-based money transfer services. The government says the 10 percent excise duty will help replenish a funding gap that might otherwise scare off foreign investors. Let's hope the potential capitalists who want to discuss business won't be scheduling any conference calls.

internet

  • Stiff competition by Internet service providers has driven up subscription by 82.7 per cent over the past one year to reach 7.7 million, according the latest industry regulator report.

    The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) 2011/2012 report ending June indicates that majority of subscribers access their Internet through mobile handsets especially the youths who are active on social media.

    The report also indicates that most firms are switched to inland fibre optic connections, hurting business satellite providers in the process.

    The increased Internet subscription has resulted in more users and mobile penetration. The number of Internet users rose by 18.5 per cent to reach 14 million while the annual growth of the population that had access to the service reached 35 per cent.

    “Increased demand for Internet and data services and use of social media especially among the youthful population; competitive tariffs by the mobile operators coupled with aggressive promotional and special offers have driven Internet usage,” says the report.

    Mobile data/Internet subscriptions continued to dominate the Internet market contributing 98.9 per cent of the total Internet/data subscriptions.

    Safaricom recorded the highest market share by subscription of 68.7 percent followed by Airtel Networks Kenya Limited (14.0 percent), Telkom Kenya Limited (8.8 per cent) while Essar Telecom Kenya Limited had the lowest market share of 8.4 per cent.

    Airtel gained a market share of 4.5 percentage points while Safaricom experienced the highest reduction in the market share of 2.3 percentage points. Essar gained (1.6 percentage points) accounting while Telkom gained (0.7 percentage points).

    The mobile operators have continued to increase their investment in data as they expect a surge in demand for data services in Kenya, thanks to an explosion of Internet-ready, hand-held devices, an increase in the number of relevant applications and content.

computing

  • Apple has announced a new plan to make its products officially available in Nigeria through its official Apple channels. This is the first time the company will make such move in the Nigerian market.

    The growing importance of the Nigerian market and the need to give Nigerian buyers a new level of customer experience and full product guarantee may have attracted Apple's new move to the Nigerian market.

    The outlets will ensure products available through official channel partners in the country.

    The new Apple Authorised Resellers include iConnect at the Palms, Lekki in Lagos; Superior Equipment - The Orchard at the Civic Centre in Lagos; Cross Energy, Flag Place in Abuja; and iMEED Store, Rivers House, Central Business Area of Abuja.

    Core Group Africa, the Value Added Distributor (VAO) for Apple, officially launched the iPad in Nigeria recently, as part of a global roll out.

    Executive Director for Apple Core Group Africa, Mr. Rutger-Jan Van Spaandonk, said "Nigerians can now to purchase with confidence knowing that their Apple iPad has been bought through the official distribution channels. We want customers to have the best Apple experience possible and be able to take advantage of the benefits of purchasing their iPad from an Apple Authorised Resellers. It is in the best interest of Nigerian consumers to buy from the official distribution channel so that they can take advantage also of the 2 year warranty." The warranty is a shield that protects official buyers and gives them peace of mind.

  • New Mozambican operator Movitel has allocated over USD1.5 million toward equipping a communications school for the Mozambican Defence Force.

    The school, to be built in Malhampsene in Matola, will offer training in communications for the armed forces.

    In officially launching the construction of the new school building, the Mozambican Minister of Defence, Filipe Nyusi, highlighted the importance of modern communications capability in the military.

    He noted the strengthening of civil-military relations, as well as the consolidation of relations that Mozambique is developing with Vietnam in the defence sector. Movitel is owned by Vietnam’s Viettel, a military telecoms operator.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Intel Capital — the world’s largest venture capital investor in innovative technology — is seeking to acquire stakes in several IT start-ups in Kenya with an eye on long term gains from the highly lucrative business.

    The company, the investment arm of Intel Corporation, says it has identified a number of early stage technology enterprises involved in Internet content distribution and e-commerce as well as application development firms that it intends to invest in.

    “We are actively and furiously looking high and low for opportunities to invest in, and we will announce the deals as we close them,” said Arvind Sodhani, the Chief Executive of Intel Capital.

    His firm is keen on investing in start-ups for periods extending to about 15 years as part of a wider strategy that would enable the venture capitalist firm to exit when the targets have become mature companies.

  • Samsung has partnered with local microfinance solutions provider, Kenya Women Finance Trust - Deposit Taking Microfinance (KWFT-DTM) to promote the uptake of mobile technology solutions among women.

    The joint programme by KWFT-DTM and Samsung is geared at bridging the digital divide and facilitating mobile banking solutions for millions of unbanked women in Kenya.

    To kick off the partnership, the two firms have pledged to target the provision of mobile banking services to more than 600,000 women account holders at KWFT-DTM.

    Samsung Electronics East Africa (SEEA) Business Leader Robert Ngeru explained that the firm will provide Samsung phones for onward lending to KWFT-DTM account holders to boost the recently launched KWFT Mobile banking product uptake.

    He disclosed that Samsung will also provide a platform for local Mobile Application Architects to develop suitable mobile banking products to be hosted on the Samsung Apps store, which will be customised to meet local demands including language considerations.

    KWFT-DTM Board Chairperson Mary Okelo termed the M-banking service a great milestone since in the past, clients have had to travel long distances to access financial services.

  • Econet Wireless has announced that businesses that accept payments in EcoCash are now able to exchange them for cash at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe approved banks. In a statement, Econet said hundreds of companies have already signed agreements to take EcoCash payments which they can cash in at TN Bank.

    Other banks were expected to offer the service within two weeks.

    "We are working to get all banks on board by the end of October," said Darlington Mandivenga, a senior Econet executive.

    Meanwhile, more than 200 commuter omnibus operators have also started to accept EcoCash for fares.

    The service, which began a week ago, has proved popular and Econet plans to have the majority of kombis accepting EcoCash before the end of the month.

    The use of EcoCash for payment is simple and quick to complete.

    Almost 2 million Econet customers are already using EcoCash to send money.

    People using EcoCash need not carry cash on them. All they need is load up their E-wallet, which then allows them to make small payments of any amount.

  • A Kenyan sends money through his mobile phone. The sector has witnessed a phenomenal rise, industry regulator data shows.   Kenyans deposited $8 billion into mobile money services for the year ending June 2012-- a 38 per cent rise that revealed why the country's government has set its sights on the thriving sector for further taxation to meet its obligations.

    According to data released by regulator Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) Tuesday, this was up on the $5.8 billion deposited in the year that ended June 2011.

    M-Pesa, a service run by market leader Safaricom and renowned globally, accounted for the bulk of the increased deposits in what CCK said showed an unmet appetite for financial services in the east African country.

    The number of mobile money agents rose 16 per cent to 49,079 while the number of mobile money subscriptions rose by 12.13 per cent to reach 19.5 million.

    "This upward trend signifies that mobile money transfer service has become instrumental in providing the unmet demand for financial services, thereby promoting financial inclusion in the country,” CCK said.

    It is this vast flow of funds that Kenyan Finance minister Njeru Githae has targeted, with new taxation measures passed by the country's parliament last week.

    The new measures would see the government attach a 10 per cent excise tax on all mobile money transfer fees charged by cellular companies and other financial institutions.

    Mobile phone subscriptions in the period under review rose 17.5 per cent to 29.43 million, meaning penetration in the country is now at 75.4 per cent.

    Safaricom maintained the lead in the industry, with a 64 per cent subscription market share, a four percentage point drop from last year.

    Telkom Orange lost 0.3 percentage points in market share while the other two operators, Airtel and YuMobile, both gained market share.

    "We attribute this strong growth to increased investments in our people, product innovation and improvement in quality of service has been the key driver in making us the network of choice by more customers in Kenya during the last quarter," a statement from Airtel said.

    Despite the increase in the number of mobile subscriptions, Kenyans are talking less. The minutes of use per subscriber per month fell by 20.3 per cent from the similar period of last year.

    Meanwhile, the year was tough for companies in the fixed data market as revenues fell drastically. CCK claims that revenue in the data market, excluding the mobile sector, fell 88.7 per cent in 2011.

  • Businesses that accept payment in EcoCash are now able to exchange it for cash at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe approved banks, the company said today, creating a parallel payment system in a country that relies on foreign money.

    Zimbabwe, whose inflation peaked at 500 billion percent in December 2008, abandoned use of the Zimbabwe dollar after the hyperinflation rendered it worthless, and now mostly uses the US dollar and South African rand.

    Money transfers ventures abound, but EcoCash, powered by Zimbabwe’s largest mobile service provider, is the most popular, with 1.7 million registered users.

    Econet said hundreds of companies have already signed agreements to take EcoCash payments instead of cash payments, which they can redeem at TN Bank.

    Other banks were expected to offer the service within two weeks.

    "We are working to get all banks on board by the end of October," said Darlington Mandivenga, a senior executive at the company.

    Already, more than 200 commuter omnibus (kombi) operators have also started to accept EcoCash for transport payments.

    The service, which began a week ago, has proved very popular and Econet plans to have the majority of kombis accepting EcoCash payments before the end of the month.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • * Airtel Tanzania plans to increase its coverage to more remote parts of the country and increase the availability to subscribers of its Air Money financial service, The Daily News reports citing the cellco’s communications director Beatrice Singano Mallya. Airtel currently boasts coverage of 85% of the population the official says, but is looking to increase this, with a focus on delivering access to remote parts of Tanzania. Airtel is also looking to steal a marc on its rivals in a competitive climate by offering state-of-the-art services based on 3.5G technology.

    * Vodafone Ghana, a leading telecom operator in the country has offered 70% discount on current roaming charges for Hajj pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia. The incredible offer from the telecommunications giant allows pilgrims who visit the Saudi Arabian kingdom this Hajj to stay connected to their loved ones and pay less during and after the season.

    * Mobile service provider, Orange has unveiled an airtime top-up service dubbed Pewa that will enable its customers to receive emergency credit.

    The service is available to its pre-paid customers and the airtime can be used for both on-net and off-net calls, SMS and Data.
    The company CEO Mickael Ghossein said the credit is payable within 24 hours with no interest charged. Interest will be charged if the advance is not repaid within 24 hours. To access the benefit, Orange subscribers will need to dial *133#.

    With the emergency credit the Orange customers to access free on-net calls and SMSs through the Orange Holla tariff

    The service will enhance its customers loyalty. It competitors Safaricom and Airtel have been running the Okoa Jahazi and Kopa credo services.

    * Tunisia’s leading telecom operator Tunisie Telecom announced that it would give 50 percent off all voice calls from Tunisia to Saudi Arabia as part of its Hajj pilgrimage offering.

    The company said that the rates will apply for all calls to the Gulf Kingdom from October 6 through November 11 as thousands of Tunisians head to Saudi to perform the annual Islamic pilgrimage.

Digital Content

  • MTN Ghana subscribers can now learn while on the go with Deutsche Welle's Learning by Ear. The innovative program is now on the MTN Radio (mRadio) platform and available for just 1 Pesewa per minute by dialing 1303.

    MTN Ghana has teamed up with Deutsche Welle (DW) to provide its subscribers an easy way to learn about the most important topics shaping Africa today. DW's series 'Learning by Ear' is now available on-demand for MTN subscribers through the MTN Radio (mRadio) platform - giving MTN customers a new means of accessing news, analysis and education.

    MTN Ghana customers can access individual episodes from 'Learning by Ear' by dialing 1303 from their mobile phone and following the instructions. The audio content is available at a set price of 1 Ghana pesewa per minute.

    Along with this innovative series, customers can also tune in to the political radio program Africa Link on their mobiles. It is one of DW's latest high-lights for the region and will also be included in the mRadio lineup.

    'Learning by Ear' programming is targeted to teenagers and young adults and provides information on important topics like HIV, human rights, democracy and the environment with an exciting mix of stories and features. 'Learning by Ear' is broadcasted as part of the program lineup for Africa in English and Hausa, and is being rebroadcast by more than 25 partner stations in Ghana

    MTN launched the MTN Radio Service (mRadio) in September 2011. The service allows customers to enjoy a wide range of audio content including music, joke and educational materials on their phones. The service is available on MTN Short Code 1303 and costs 1Gp (USD 0.005) per minute for subscribers. mRadio currently has over 500 000 subscribers.

    Deutsche Welle is Germany's international broadcaster. With DW-TV, DW-RADIO and DW-WORLD.DE, it produces news, background information and cultural highlights worldwide, while creating a platform for intercultural dialogue. MTN Ghana is the largest mobile provider in the country with more than 11 million customers.

  • Nairobi City Council recently piloted a scheme to allow motorists to pay parking fees - and fines - on their mobile phones. By eliminating cash payments, the government hopes to reduce corruption and increase its own revenues.

    "You remove all these inefficiencies, you improve governance," says Bitange Ndemo, the top civil servant at Kenya's Ministry for Information and Communication.

    His grand plan is to put the whole of Kenya's notoriously corrupt government online.

    "If we also automated the procurement systems, we would raise another $1bn [£624m]. We would gain far [more] than going out there to look for money from donors."

    Ndemo believes that IT has the power to change life in Africa as radically as steam changed life in Europe in the 19th Century. "[There is] a new industrial revolution that is coming in this digital age," he says.

    Civil servant Bitange Ndemo says he wants digital tools to help beat corruption
    "We in the third world, we have so much youth. We can leverage on that and be able to leapfrog the economy, instead of going through the same steps that most countries went through."

    But Ndemo says his plans for a digital revolution frequently meet with resistance, from Kenyan officials who prefer the status quo, to foreign aid donors wedded to an older system. But his biggest obstacle may be infrastructure.

    Only around 30% of Kenyans currently have access to the internet. For Ndemo's dream to succeed, Kenya will need to move beyond the low-tech mobile app.

    "We're at a very early stage in East Africa's technology boom," says Mr Hersman.

    But he says he is optimistic about the future. "We don't know quite yet what it will grow up to be."But I am very bullish on the ability of the technology sector in Kenya to push this country forward for a long time to come."

  • Vodacom Tanzania and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced a partnership that will encourage vulnerable, food insecure communities in Mtwara region to take advantage of nutrition and health education through a mobile money platform.

    The pilot project, which will be launched at Nanguruwe Ward, Mtwara District today, will promote positive nutritional practices through the cash transfer platform Vodacom M-Pesa. Mtwara is among the regions with high prevalence of chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency.

    WFP Country Director, Richard Regan said the partnership with Vodacom will help spread nutrition education to an estimated 2,200 targeted households throughout the region by acting as an incentive for women to take part in learning sessions. "Using mobile technology through the M-Pesa platform offers an alternative to the traditional delivery of food," Regan said.

    "With the support of the Vodacom Tanzania, WFP is reinforcing national efforts to tackle under nutrition in Tanzania." Participating women will receive a monthly M-Pesa transfer of Tshs 16,000 (about US $10), which will enable them to purchase healthier, more nutritious food.

    This allocation is based on attendance at a health clinic for education sessions focusing on the importance of nutrition during a child's "First Thousand Days," roughly three years of life, including breastfeeding. Speaking at the launch, the Head of Vodacom Foundation Yessaya Mwakifulefule said Vodacom Tanzania will continue to support Vodacom's Mobile for Good projects, which enriches the lives of vulnerable groups in Tanzania by focusing on key areas in health and social welfare.

    "Using Vodacom's M-Pesa platform, we will help WFP transfer cash entitlements each month directly into the hands of beneficiaries. This, combined with nutrition education, will encourage pregnant and nursing women and mothers with children under the age of two to purchase healthy foods and diversify their diets," said Mwakifulefule.

    "Vodacom Tanzania is delighted to be part of this great project; it is the company's purpose to see its mobile technology transform people's lives in various parts of the country," he added.

  • The Registrar-General's Office will now send SMS messages to passport applicants to collect their documents, while the applicants will now also be able to download application forms on the Internet.

    Registrar-General Mr Tobaiwa Mudede last week said the digitalisation would bring convenience to the public.The applicants download the application forms online and take them to the passport office after filling them in.

    They would pay a US$33 fee for the form on submission.The development is expected to improve efficiency and reduce time spent queueing for the forms.

    "The department has introduced its new website: http://www.rg.gov.zw. The website provides the public with all relevant information regarding the department's offices and services," said Mr Mudede.

    "As part of the website, we have introduced a new computerised passport application form.

    "This will enable anyone with Internet access to fill in the passport application form within the website from the ease of their home or office, print it and apply for a new passport using this printed form."

    Mr Mudede said the new website was free from abuse because it had security features.

    "Since security of such a procedure is paramount, the passport application form can only be printed after it has been completely filled in," he said.

    "The form cannot be downloaded empty. The passport application form cannot be saved on the local computer.

    "The website also enables one to find any relevant information about the activities and services provided by the department as well as addresses of all their offices around Zimbabwe."

    Mr Mudede said with such measures in place, it would be impossible for one to download the forms and sell them on the streets.

    Those without access to the Internet would still get the forms at the RG's Office.

    An ordinary passport costs US$50 and takes a month to be processed, while an emergency passport, which takes three days, costs US$250.

    "While an applicant is filling out the passport application form, they will be requested to fill in a mobile phone number which will be used to get an SMS update the moment the passport is ready and waiting for collection.

    "The department has invested in a top-of-the-line SMS solution and has developed unique applications which will enable the RG to give better service to the Zimbabwean citizen."

    The SMS service, Mr Mudede said, would enter its pilot stage in the next few days.

    Of late, Zimbabwe has witnessed a reduction in the number of people seeking passports and temporary travelling documents at the RG's offices countrywide compared to previous years when hundreds of passport applicants would spend nights in queues to get the forms.

    The RG's Office resorted to a system whereby passport seekers would make appointments for them to be attended to in a bid to cope with the increased demand.

More

  • Broadband World Forum

    16 – 18 October 2012, Amsterdam RAI Convention Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    The event, now in its 12th year, is the most respected in the regions Telecoms calendar and the comprehensive agenda includes breakfast briefings, 3 co-located summits,  keynote plenary sessions and a choice of 4 tracks for delegates each day as well as the world class exhibition area. For more information please click here:

    AfricaCom 2012
    13th-15th November 2012, CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa

    The digital ecosystem will take centre stage at AfricaCom 2012, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, 13 – 15 November 2012.  Network with over 7000 industry executives at Africa’s largest event embracing all aspects of the continent’s converging telecoms, media and ICT sectors.  Incorporating 11 co-located events all pertinent to future-proofing your business in the digital era, including cloud computing, OTT, apps, broadband and multiplatform content, see and hear how Africa’s communications market is a hotbed for innovation and long term prosperity. 
    Contact: Subuola.akinkugbe@informa.com
    For more information please click here:

    Telecoms Fraud & Revenue Assurance Forum
    26th - 27th November 2012, Dubai
    The only event currently in the region dedicated to telecoms fraud and revenue assurance, Tavess' Telecoms Fraud and Revenue Assurance Forum in Dubai has been designed to provide Revenue Assurance and Fraud professionals from across the Middle East, Asia and Africa the opportunity to learn about the latest RA strategies that the operators are adopting to more effectively detect and prevent revenue leakage and fraudulent activities in an increasingly complex scenario. In addition to an in-depth look at the detection and prevention of various types of fraud, the Forum also explores how to evolve the organization, streamline processes, effectively integrate systems and embed revenue assurance into new products. For more information please click here:

  • ITU launches Tech Needs Girls Prize to spark creativity

    Seeking the unique voices and talents of girls to invent our future
    To mark the first ever International Day of the Girl Child, ITU members and partners are  joining forces to launch the Tech Needs Girls Prize, a new global technology competition designed to inspire more girls to embrace technology and invent the future.

    Working in partnership with lead players in the ICT, education and media industries, ITU’s new annual Tech Needs Girls Prize aims to dramatically shift perceptions. The prize targets girls between the ages of 9 to 18 at the very time when they start forming opinions about their place in the world and their choice of career path. ITU and its partners will name and tailor a suite of competitions to different specialist areas, offering girls around the world a variety of options to get involved, gain confidence in their abilities, demonstrate their creativity, explore their ‘inner entrepreneur’ and learn first-hand how ICT can make a real difference.
    “Empowering women and girls is a key part of ITU’s mandate of ‘connecting the world’. I am looking forward enormously to seeing the imaginative submissions that will come in from girls right around the world, and hope that this new prize will encourage many of them to consider a future in this most exciting of industries,” said Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General.

    The Tech Needs Girls Prize 2013 will be awarded as part of the annual Girls in ICT Day celebrations. ITU is working with leading players including Cisco, Intel Corporation and the G(irls)20 Summit to inspire girls to take the tech challenge. Geena Davis, ITU’s own Special Envoy for Girls and ICT, will also be lending her voice and the important work of her institute to ensure that girls are better equipped to be leaders and creators in the world of technology. Full details of the prize, partners and the competitions will be released over the coming weeks.
    The prize forms part of ITU’s Tech Needs Girls campaign, launched at Girls in ICT Day this year, which is leveraging the convening power of ITU to bring players in the ICT, education and media industries together. This global call to action aims to transform the wide-ranging number of programmes and organizational initiatives into a force for movement on the urgent issue of ensuring girls and women play a much more substantive role in the ICT sector and are better empowered to harness technology to transform their lives and their futures.
    Today also sees the launch of a mapping tool allowing all players to publicly pin their events and programmes to the campaign website. The crowd-sourced map provides a global picture of initiatives and enables girls and women to quickly locate initiatives available to them locally.

    As the United Nations’ specialized agency for ICT, ITU has long championed the catalytic role ICT can play in empowering women and girls. In 2010, ITU membership established Girls in ICT Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in April every year and designed to raise visibility on the many exciting opportunities offered by an ICT career. For Girls in ICT Day 2012, over 1,320 events were held in nearly 90 countries, providing an estimated 30,000 young women with a better understanding of the opportunities offered by the ICT sector.
    A multilingual Girls in ICT Portal has also been launched by ITU to assist girls and young women prepare for and pursue a technology career. The portal currently houses some 500 programmes, including over 100 scholarships, 70 contests and awards, more than 100 training and internship opportunities, over 100 online networks offering career support and mentoring, as well as tech camps and other activities.

Issue no 626 12th October 2012

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Top story

  • Two contrasting news announcements about LTE this week highlight what will become the next front in the struggle between Africa’s mobile incumbents and the insurgent challengers. Vodacom made a surprise announcement that it was launching LTE before MTN in South Africa. A less well-known operator in DRC – Cielux – also signed contracts to buy equipment to roll-out. Russell Southwood looks at how LTE will change the landscape in terms of the Internet market.

    There has been an ebb and flow in the struggle over how the internet is developed in Africa. Initially there were small-scale ISPs and they had to fight to get decent terms for wholesale access from the then fixed line incumbents. Once these were established in more competitive countries, the balance of power shifted back to the incumbents with the roll-out of ADSL. 

    Then along came 3G and 3G+ and the larger mobile operators (by now themselves incumbents) began to drive up the number of Internet users taking between 70-95% of the whole market. There have been some insurgent challengers offering triple play and Fibre-To-The-Home (Wananchi and Jamii Telecom in Kenya) but the numbers have been relatively modest.

    LTE offers a chance to create a much more competitive Internet ecology but too many African countries are likely to pursue a policy that will simply reinforce the existing duopoly or tri-opoly. What on earth does tri-opoly mean, I here you say? Well with anything less than four or five players, the market tends to find a particular level of pricing and stay there. Only a market where there are more players and it’s easy to get access for insurgent challengers, do things happen differently.

    I was recently having a conversation in a Ministry of Communications in a country which has to remain un-named. The civil servant responsible for policy said that the big operators had the money and that this was the best way for the Government to raise revenues.

    This is a short-sighted policy for two reasons: firstly, the mobile operators will pay the high prices if they have to but they will charge back these high costs to their customers to recover their outlay; secondly, the high costs of LTE usable spectrum will deter smaller Internet and data operators who might shake the market up.

     

    The first issue comes from an attitude in many Governments on the continent that very-high speed Internet access (or indeed most Internet access) is a luxury that should remain the privilege of the upper end of the middle classes. The alternative in policy terms is quite clear: charge less for spectrum and ensure that the mobile operators charge less to customers. This will create a large critical mass of users for services like video and music downloads at one end and e-medicine at the other end of the “what people want” to “it does you good” spectrum.

    Furthermore, cheaper LTE spectrum will allow non-mobile operators of a smaller scale to enter the market and innovate more quickly than the sometimes rather more slow moving mobile operators. But what about voice threatening mobile operators’ voice revenues? Well, the new generation of smaller LTE operators can be restricted to data if that makes it easier for all this to happen. However, this will allow them to offer fixed VoiP calls as they do in the more competitive East African countries already.

    So what’s the current scorecard in the “big guys” vs insurgent challenger stakes for LTE licensing.

    So far LTE has gone to the “big guys” in Angola (Movicel), Namibia (MTC) and South Africa (Vodacom). We also understand that MTN is testing LTE in Zambia. Kenya has a consortium of big guys with equipment vendors under public guidance but Safaricom continues to threaten to go its own way.

    Interestingly, Africa’s first two LTE roll-outs went to state-owned mobile operators. Movicel in Angola will provide LTE coverage to all major cities across the country and is using ZTE LTE-enabled handsets to spearhead the push for the service.

    MTC’s new ‘Netman 4G’ services are offered via three devices, the Samsung Galaxy TAB 8.9 LTE tablet computer, the Samsung Galaxy SII LTE smartphone and an MTC-branded 4G dongle modem. Initially, a monthly 4G data subscription costs NAD349 (USD41.50) for a ‘Netman 4G Extreme’ package with 5GB data (plus 10GB additional data per month under a promotion until 30 September 2012), with unused data rolled over to the following month, and maximum upload/download speeds of 50Mbps/25Mbps. An unlimited monthly data package, ‘Netman 4G Unlimited’, costs NAD949, with higher peak download/upload rates of 100Mbps/50Mbps. After 30 September the subscriptions for Extreme and Unlimited will revert to standard rates of NAD399 and NAD999, respectively. MTC also offers data bundles at a cost ranging from NAD0.20 to NAD0.50 per MB depending on size, compared to standard out-of-bundle rate of NAD0.90 per MB.

    MTC intends to cover the whole of Windhoek with LTE by the end of July and to cover 45% of Namibia’s population in twelve months, including rural areas, compared to its existing 3G network which serves Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, other main urban areas and some rural communities by 2013. In August 2012, it reported that it had 1,000 post-paid users and that they were averaging  1.6 GB per day, representing 23% of all its existing data use.

    Vodacom in South Africa is also going with Samsung handsets (two Galaxy S3 phones) and has a service live in 70 sites that will expand to 500 sites by the end of the year.

    On the small, insurgent challengers’ front, the most interesting announcement so far has been from Smile in Tanzania. Following a limited pilot launch in April, 4G LTE services have been rolled out by Smile in several districts of Dar es Salaam, including Mikocheni, Massani Peninsula, Oysterbay and Sinza. Broadband routers are used to access the services and have been installed in homes, offices and public places, such as shopping malls and Internet cafes. Smile plans to extend coverage through Tanzania in 2012, followed by the launch of similar services in the other three countries where Smile currently operates.

    This week saw DRC’s Cielux, an ISP, buy LTE equipment and services to upgrade from WiMAX to roll-out under the brand name INET. The upgrade supports Cielux’s ongoing effort to rollout convergent 4G services across the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It says it will roll out to all major cities by early next year.

    There are also several companies we know of that have either acquired spectrum or are waiting to acquire spectrum that fit into this category.

    The task of getting Africa connected is so huge that it needs to be tackled by as competitive a market as possible. The shortfall in local access coverage and the invisibility of most rural areas for data access will only be overcome by more rather than fewer operators.

    To get up-to-the minute news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

     

    Kwabena Smith, Orun Energy on saving diesel costs on base stations

    Justin Hartman, Social Code on South Africa's ICT entrepreneurialism and the failure to support it

    Julian Macharia, Buni TV on this new online video delivery platform

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on its acquisition of Afinis

    Envir Fraser, Convergence Partners on investment opportunities in ICT

    Tayo Oviosu, CEO, Paga on the mobile money market in Nigeria

    Nigerian ICT blogger Loy Okezi
    e on Nigeria's online successes

    Victor Dibia, CEO, Denvycom.com
     on his games portfolio and plans to monetize

    Oluseye Soyode-Johnson, consultant to Maliyo Games
     on the business model

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Mike Best, Georgia Tech on using interactive media with Liberia's Truth Commission

    Leonard Ah Kun from South Africa’s on augmented reality, Leap Motion and Google glasses

    Emma Kaye on an African mobile platform to make music and films

    Michael Ugwu, iROKING on Nigeria's Spotify-type service

     

     

telecoms

  • Vodacom launched South Africa’s first commercial LTE service in Johannesburg last week, in a surprise announcement by CEO Shameel Joosub, winning the race for 4G against rival MTN.

    Joosub surprised attendees at the 2012 MyBroadband Conference, announcing that Vodacom’s Long-Term Evolution network is switched on and commercially available.

    In a further sensational touch, Vodacom’s Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport, and Jannie van Zyl – who rejoined Vodacom in 2010 –  went on to make the first commercial LTE call in South Africa using two Samsung Galaxy S3 phones in front of onlookers.

    Jossub announced that the next generation service is already live in 70 sites – for now, only in Johannesburg – but promised that the company would have 150 sites live by the end of October, with up to 500 sites available for commercial use by the end of the year.

    Vodacom has launched its commercial 4G network using re-farmed 1 ,800Mhz spectrum, however the CEO noted that extra spectrum would need to be added in order to unlock the full potential of the new technology.

    Vodacom has been seen in a battle with competitor MTN in a race to be the first company to bring LTE technology to the South African commercial market.  Both companies had previously announced that they would be rolling out LTE networks by the end of 2012, but today’s launch was unexpected – and sees Vodacom pip MTN to the post in this exciting move.

    “Vodacom was the first network in SA to test LTE more than two years ago, and since then we’ve been busy upgrading base stations and our fibre-optic transmission network in preparation for today,” Joosub told the conference.  He added: “It’s great to claim another South African first for Vodacom with the launch of LTE services to the public, and it’s even more pleasing that we’ve done this ahead of many other advanced economies around the world.”

    Handset providers have also been hurrying to produce top-end handsets with 4G capabilities, and get them on the market in time for LTE launches.  Samsung has clearly won that race – with the Vodacom team producing Galaxy S3 phones in their launch.  However, on the note of handsets, Joosub also spoke up, assuring potential users that a range of selections will be available to Vodacom customers: “LTE devices are in short supply world-wide, but thanks to Vodafone’s global purchasing power we’re confident that Vodacom will have the best possible selection in stores in the very near future.”

  • The Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has extended the launch deadline of the new operator, Celcom, to April next year. Celcom’s original deadline was the end of October.

    In a notice signed by MACRA director general Charles Nsaliwa, MACRA says this follows Celcom's application for a six month extension of network roll out from 30 October 2012 to 28 April 2013. The company cited lack of foreign exchange as a reason for its failure to meet the deadline.

    "The authority has therefore agreed to extend the network roll out period for six months from 31st October 2012 to 30th April 2013 to allow CELCOM provide public mobile telecommunications services within the said timeframe," said MACRA.

  • Trying to call someone in Kenya? There’s a fine chance the person you’re trying to reach won’t pick up. No, not because that someone is busy, but because the government has switched his phone off. How many people have been affected? Local sources tell us it could be as many as one million! Talk about Big Brother…but don’t try talking about it via phone.

    “This is a big inconvenience,” says 20-year-old Teresiah Njeri, a student at the University of Nairobi. “Your employer may call you and find that your phone has been switched off.”

    She is referring to the recent move by the Kenya government to deactivate a number of mobile phones. The great switch-off is part of a massive campaign aiming to ban counterfeits from the market. Estimates indicate that over one million handsets have been affected in the first few days of October alone.

    Crime curbing? “However," notes Njeri, "the move is good in a way because it curbs people from using it to commit crimes.”

    She has clearly gotten the message conveyed by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), which indicated crime prevention as being one of their incentives. National security services had been concerned about mobile devices using duplicated international mobile equipment (IMEI) codes, the unique identity for each handset. This has made it difficult to track criminals who are suspected of using fake handsets to plan crimes.

    Apart from targeting fake phones, the switch-off process also targeted unregistered cell phone SIM cards.

    To inform Kenyans about what would happen, a large campaign was carried out in the local press in the weeks leading up to the switch-off date. The CCK also set up a special number through which users could verify if their mobile phone handsets were genuine. But preparation hasn’t made the situation any less frustrating for everyday citizens.

    “Government should have taken responsibility and liability for this situation. They should have ensured that these fake phones did not get to market,” said Thomas Kahigwa, a 24-year-old political science graduate. “I think the government should help those people whose phones were switched off to get standard quality phones. The government should take care of 70 percent of the cost while the consumers should take care of 30 percent of the cost.”

    But it's not just customers who are implicated. “There are some dealers who are encouraging us to sell those fake phones, but we do not like those fake phones,” says Jeff, who operates a mobile phone shop along Nairobi's Moi Avenue. “For me, I have the original distributors.”

    Cell phone communication is deemed essential by many Kenyans. Statistics indicate that mobile phone penetration in the East African nation was over 60 percent before the great switch-off.

    And just on Friday, Reuters reported that Kenya approved new taxes on, for one thing, its popular mobile phone-based money transfer services. The government says the 10 percent excise duty will help replenish a funding gap that might otherwise scare off foreign investors. Let's hope the potential capitalists who want to discuss business won't be scheduling any conference calls.

internet

  • Stiff competition by Internet service providers has driven up subscription by 82.7 per cent over the past one year to reach 7.7 million, according the latest industry regulator report.

    The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) 2011/2012 report ending June indicates that majority of subscribers access their Internet through mobile handsets especially the youths who are active on social media.

    The report also indicates that most firms are switched to inland fibre optic connections, hurting business satellite providers in the process.

    The increased Internet subscription has resulted in more users and mobile penetration. The number of Internet users rose by 18.5 per cent to reach 14 million while the annual growth of the population that had access to the service reached 35 per cent.

    “Increased demand for Internet and data services and use of social media especially among the youthful population; competitive tariffs by the mobile operators coupled with aggressive promotional and special offers have driven Internet usage,” says the report.

    Mobile data/Internet subscriptions continued to dominate the Internet market contributing 98.9 per cent of the total Internet/data subscriptions.

    Safaricom recorded the highest market share by subscription of 68.7 percent followed by Airtel Networks Kenya Limited (14.0 percent), Telkom Kenya Limited (8.8 per cent) while Essar Telecom Kenya Limited had the lowest market share of 8.4 per cent.

    Airtel gained a market share of 4.5 percentage points while Safaricom experienced the highest reduction in the market share of 2.3 percentage points. Essar gained (1.6 percentage points) accounting while Telkom gained (0.7 percentage points).

    The mobile operators have continued to increase their investment in data as they expect a surge in demand for data services in Kenya, thanks to an explosion of Internet-ready, hand-held devices, an increase in the number of relevant applications and content.

computing

  • Apple has announced a new plan to make its products officially available in Nigeria through its official Apple channels. This is the first time the company will make such move in the Nigerian market.

    The growing importance of the Nigerian market and the need to give Nigerian buyers a new level of customer experience and full product guarantee may have attracted Apple's new move to the Nigerian market.

    The outlets will ensure products available through official channel partners in the country.

    The new Apple Authorised Resellers include iConnect at the Palms, Lekki in Lagos; Superior Equipment - The Orchard at the Civic Centre in Lagos; Cross Energy, Flag Place in Abuja; and iMEED Store, Rivers House, Central Business Area of Abuja.

    Core Group Africa, the Value Added Distributor (VAO) for Apple, officially launched the iPad in Nigeria recently, as part of a global roll out.

    Executive Director for Apple Core Group Africa, Mr. Rutger-Jan Van Spaandonk, said "Nigerians can now to purchase with confidence knowing that their Apple iPad has been bought through the official distribution channels. We want customers to have the best Apple experience possible and be able to take advantage of the benefits of purchasing their iPad from an Apple Authorised Resellers. It is in the best interest of Nigerian consumers to buy from the official distribution channel so that they can take advantage also of the 2 year warranty." The warranty is a shield that protects official buyers and gives them peace of mind.

  • New Mozambican operator Movitel has allocated over USD1.5 million toward equipping a communications school for the Mozambican Defence Force.

    The school, to be built in Malhampsene in Matola, will offer training in communications for the armed forces.

    In officially launching the construction of the new school building, the Mozambican Minister of Defence, Filipe Nyusi, highlighted the importance of modern communications capability in the military.

    He noted the strengthening of civil-military relations, as well as the consolidation of relations that Mozambique is developing with Vietnam in the defence sector. Movitel is owned by Vietnam’s Viettel, a military telecoms operator.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Intel Capital — the world’s largest venture capital investor in innovative technology — is seeking to acquire stakes in several IT start-ups in Kenya with an eye on long term gains from the highly lucrative business.

    The company, the investment arm of Intel Corporation, says it has identified a number of early stage technology enterprises involved in Internet content distribution and e-commerce as well as application development firms that it intends to invest in.

    “We are actively and furiously looking high and low for opportunities to invest in, and we will announce the deals as we close them,” said Arvind Sodhani, the Chief Executive of Intel Capital.

    His firm is keen on investing in start-ups for periods extending to about 15 years as part of a wider strategy that would enable the venture capitalist firm to exit when the targets have become mature companies.

  • Samsung has partnered with local microfinance solutions provider, Kenya Women Finance Trust - Deposit Taking Microfinance (KWFT-DTM) to promote the uptake of mobile technology solutions among women.

    The joint programme by KWFT-DTM and Samsung is geared at bridging the digital divide and facilitating mobile banking solutions for millions of unbanked women in Kenya.

    To kick off the partnership, the two firms have pledged to target the provision of mobile banking services to more than 600,000 women account holders at KWFT-DTM.

    Samsung Electronics East Africa (SEEA) Business Leader Robert Ngeru explained that the firm will provide Samsung phones for onward lending to KWFT-DTM account holders to boost the recently launched KWFT Mobile banking product uptake.

    He disclosed that Samsung will also provide a platform for local Mobile Application Architects to develop suitable mobile banking products to be hosted on the Samsung Apps store, which will be customised to meet local demands including language considerations.

    KWFT-DTM Board Chairperson Mary Okelo termed the M-banking service a great milestone since in the past, clients have had to travel long distances to access financial services.

  • Econet Wireless has announced that businesses that accept payments in EcoCash are now able to exchange them for cash at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe approved banks. In a statement, Econet said hundreds of companies have already signed agreements to take EcoCash payments which they can cash in at TN Bank.

    Other banks were expected to offer the service within two weeks.

    "We are working to get all banks on board by the end of October," said Darlington Mandivenga, a senior Econet executive.

    Meanwhile, more than 200 commuter omnibus operators have also started to accept EcoCash for fares.

    The service, which began a week ago, has proved popular and Econet plans to have the majority of kombis accepting EcoCash before the end of the month.

    The use of EcoCash for payment is simple and quick to complete.

    Almost 2 million Econet customers are already using EcoCash to send money.

    People using EcoCash need not carry cash on them. All they need is load up their E-wallet, which then allows them to make small payments of any amount.

  • A Kenyan sends money through his mobile phone. The sector has witnessed a phenomenal rise, industry regulator data shows.   Kenyans deposited $8 billion into mobile money services for the year ending June 2012-- a 38 per cent rise that revealed why the country's government has set its sights on the thriving sector for further taxation to meet its obligations.

    According to data released by regulator Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) Tuesday, this was up on the $5.8 billion deposited in the year that ended June 2011.

    M-Pesa, a service run by market leader Safaricom and renowned globally, accounted for the bulk of the increased deposits in what CCK said showed an unmet appetite for financial services in the east African country.

    The number of mobile money agents rose 16 per cent to 49,079 while the number of mobile money subscriptions rose by 12.13 per cent to reach 19.5 million.

    "This upward trend signifies that mobile money transfer service has become instrumental in providing the unmet demand for financial services, thereby promoting financial inclusion in the country,” CCK said.

    It is this vast flow of funds that Kenyan Finance minister Njeru Githae has targeted, with new taxation measures passed by the country's parliament last week.

    The new measures would see the government attach a 10 per cent excise tax on all mobile money transfer fees charged by cellular companies and other financial institutions.

    Mobile phone subscriptions in the period under review rose 17.5 per cent to 29.43 million, meaning penetration in the country is now at 75.4 per cent.

    Safaricom maintained the lead in the industry, with a 64 per cent subscription market share, a four percentage point drop from last year.

    Telkom Orange lost 0.3 percentage points in market share while the other two operators, Airtel and YuMobile, both gained market share.

    "We attribute this strong growth to increased investments in our people, product innovation and improvement in quality of service has been the key driver in making us the network of choice by more customers in Kenya during the last quarter," a statement from Airtel said.

    Despite the increase in the number of mobile subscriptions, Kenyans are talking less. The minutes of use per subscriber per month fell by 20.3 per cent from the similar period of last year.

    Meanwhile, the year was tough for companies in the fixed data market as revenues fell drastically. CCK claims that revenue in the data market, excluding the mobile sector, fell 88.7 per cent in 2011.

  • Businesses that accept payment in EcoCash are now able to exchange it for cash at Econet Wireless Zimbabwe approved banks, the company said today, creating a parallel payment system in a country that relies on foreign money.

    Zimbabwe, whose inflation peaked at 500 billion percent in December 2008, abandoned use of the Zimbabwe dollar after the hyperinflation rendered it worthless, and now mostly uses the US dollar and South African rand.

    Money transfers ventures abound, but EcoCash, powered by Zimbabwe’s largest mobile service provider, is the most popular, with 1.7 million registered users.

    Econet said hundreds of companies have already signed agreements to take EcoCash payments instead of cash payments, which they can redeem at TN Bank.

    Other banks were expected to offer the service within two weeks.

    "We are working to get all banks on board by the end of October," said Darlington Mandivenga, a senior executive at the company.

    Already, more than 200 commuter omnibus (kombi) operators have also started to accept EcoCash for transport payments.

    The service, which began a week ago, has proved very popular and Econet plans to have the majority of kombis accepting EcoCash payments before the end of the month.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • * Airtel Tanzania plans to increase its coverage to more remote parts of the country and increase the availability to subscribers of its Air Money financial service, The Daily News reports citing the cellco’s communications director Beatrice Singano Mallya. Airtel currently boasts coverage of 85% of the population the official says, but is looking to increase this, with a focus on delivering access to remote parts of Tanzania. Airtel is also looking to steal a marc on its rivals in a competitive climate by offering state-of-the-art services based on 3.5G technology.

    * Vodafone Ghana, a leading telecom operator in the country has offered 70% discount on current roaming charges for Hajj pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia. The incredible offer from the telecommunications giant allows pilgrims who visit the Saudi Arabian kingdom this Hajj to stay connected to their loved ones and pay less during and after the season.

    * Mobile service provider, Orange has unveiled an airtime top-up service dubbed Pewa that will enable its customers to receive emergency credit.

    The service is available to its pre-paid customers and the airtime can be used for both on-net and off-net calls, SMS and Data.
    The company CEO Mickael Ghossein said the credit is payable within 24 hours with no interest charged. Interest will be charged if the advance is not repaid within 24 hours. To access the benefit, Orange subscribers will need to dial *133#.

    With the emergency credit the Orange customers to access free on-net calls and SMSs through the Orange Holla tariff

    The service will enhance its customers loyalty. It competitors Safaricom and Airtel have been running the Okoa Jahazi and Kopa credo services.

    * Tunisia’s leading telecom operator Tunisie Telecom announced that it would give 50 percent off all voice calls from Tunisia to Saudi Arabia as part of its Hajj pilgrimage offering.

    The company said that the rates will apply for all calls to the Gulf Kingdom from October 6 through November 11 as thousands of Tunisians head to Saudi to perform the annual Islamic pilgrimage.

Digital Content

  • MTN Ghana subscribers can now learn while on the go with Deutsche Welle's Learning by Ear. The innovative program is now on the MTN Radio (mRadio) platform and available for just 1 Pesewa per minute by dialing 1303.

    MTN Ghana has teamed up with Deutsche Welle (DW) to provide its subscribers an easy way to learn about the most important topics shaping Africa today. DW's series 'Learning by Ear' is now available on-demand for MTN subscribers through the MTN Radio (mRadio) platform - giving MTN customers a new means of accessing news, analysis and education.

    MTN Ghana customers can access individual episodes from 'Learning by Ear' by dialing 1303 from their mobile phone and following the instructions. The audio content is available at a set price of 1 Ghana pesewa per minute.

    Along with this innovative series, customers can also tune in to the political radio program Africa Link on their mobiles. It is one of DW's latest high-lights for the region and will also be included in the mRadio lineup.

    'Learning by Ear' programming is targeted to teenagers and young adults and provides information on important topics like HIV, human rights, democracy and the environment with an exciting mix of stories and features. 'Learning by Ear' is broadcasted as part of the program lineup for Africa in English and Hausa, and is being rebroadcast by more than 25 partner stations in Ghana

    MTN launched the MTN Radio Service (mRadio) in September 2011. The service allows customers to enjoy a wide range of audio content including music, joke and educational materials on their phones. The service is available on MTN Short Code 1303 and costs 1Gp (USD 0.005) per minute for subscribers. mRadio currently has over 500 000 subscribers.

    Deutsche Welle is Germany's international broadcaster. With DW-TV, DW-RADIO and DW-WORLD.DE, it produces news, background information and cultural highlights worldwide, while creating a platform for intercultural dialogue. MTN Ghana is the largest mobile provider in the country with more than 11 million customers.

  • Nairobi City Council recently piloted a scheme to allow motorists to pay parking fees - and fines - on their mobile phones. By eliminating cash payments, the government hopes to reduce corruption and increase its own revenues.

    "You remove all these inefficiencies, you improve governance," says Bitange Ndemo, the top civil servant at Kenya's Ministry for Information and Communication.

    His grand plan is to put the whole of Kenya's notoriously corrupt government online.

    "If we also automated the procurement systems, we would raise another $1bn [£624m]. We would gain far [more] than going out there to look for money from donors."

    Ndemo believes that IT has the power to change life in Africa as radically as steam changed life in Europe in the 19th Century. "[There is] a new industrial revolution that is coming in this digital age," he says.

    Civil servant Bitange Ndemo says he wants digital tools to help beat corruption
    "We in the third world, we have so much youth. We can leverage on that and be able to leapfrog the economy, instead of going through the same steps that most countries went through."

    But Ndemo says his plans for a digital revolution frequently meet with resistance, from Kenyan officials who prefer the status quo, to foreign aid donors wedded to an older system. But his biggest obstacle may be infrastructure.

    Only around 30% of Kenyans currently have access to the internet. For Ndemo's dream to succeed, Kenya will need to move beyond the low-tech mobile app.

    "We're at a very early stage in East Africa's technology boom," says Mr Hersman.

    But he says he is optimistic about the future. "We don't know quite yet what it will grow up to be."But I am very bullish on the ability of the technology sector in Kenya to push this country forward for a long time to come."

  • Vodacom Tanzania and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced a partnership that will encourage vulnerable, food insecure communities in Mtwara region to take advantage of nutrition and health education through a mobile money platform.

    The pilot project, which will be launched at Nanguruwe Ward, Mtwara District today, will promote positive nutritional practices through the cash transfer platform Vodacom M-Pesa. Mtwara is among the regions with high prevalence of chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency.

    WFP Country Director, Richard Regan said the partnership with Vodacom will help spread nutrition education to an estimated 2,200 targeted households throughout the region by acting as an incentive for women to take part in learning sessions. "Using mobile technology through the M-Pesa platform offers an alternative to the traditional delivery of food," Regan said.

    "With the support of the Vodacom Tanzania, WFP is reinforcing national efforts to tackle under nutrition in Tanzania." Participating women will receive a monthly M-Pesa transfer of Tshs 16,000 (about US $10), which will enable them to purchase healthier, more nutritious food.

    This allocation is based on attendance at a health clinic for education sessions focusing on the importance of nutrition during a child's "First Thousand Days," roughly three years of life, including breastfeeding. Speaking at the launch, the Head of Vodacom Foundation Yessaya Mwakifulefule said Vodacom Tanzania will continue to support Vodacom's Mobile for Good projects, which enriches the lives of vulnerable groups in Tanzania by focusing on key areas in health and social welfare.

    "Using Vodacom's M-Pesa platform, we will help WFP transfer cash entitlements each month directly into the hands of beneficiaries. This, combined with nutrition education, will encourage pregnant and nursing women and mothers with children under the age of two to purchase healthy foods and diversify their diets," said Mwakifulefule.

    "Vodacom Tanzania is delighted to be part of this great project; it is the company's purpose to see its mobile technology transform people's lives in various parts of the country," he added.

  • The Registrar-General's Office will now send SMS messages to passport applicants to collect their documents, while the applicants will now also be able to download application forms on the Internet.

    Registrar-General Mr Tobaiwa Mudede last week said the digitalisation would bring convenience to the public.The applicants download the application forms online and take them to the passport office after filling them in.

    They would pay a US$33 fee for the form on submission.The development is expected to improve efficiency and reduce time spent queueing for the forms.

    "The department has introduced its new website: http://www.rg.gov.zw. The website provides the public with all relevant information regarding the department's offices and services," said Mr Mudede.

    "As part of the website, we have introduced a new computerised passport application form.

    "This will enable anyone with Internet access to fill in the passport application form within the website from the ease of their home or office, print it and apply for a new passport using this printed form."

    Mr Mudede said the new website was free from abuse because it had security features.

    "Since security of such a procedure is paramount, the passport application form can only be printed after it has been completely filled in," he said.

    "The form cannot be downloaded empty. The passport application form cannot be saved on the local computer.

    "The website also enables one to find any relevant information about the activities and services provided by the department as well as addresses of all their offices around Zimbabwe."

    Mr Mudede said with such measures in place, it would be impossible for one to download the forms and sell them on the streets.

    Those without access to the Internet would still get the forms at the RG's Office.

    An ordinary passport costs US$50 and takes a month to be processed, while an emergency passport, which takes three days, costs US$250.

    "While an applicant is filling out the passport application form, they will be requested to fill in a mobile phone number which will be used to get an SMS update the moment the passport is ready and waiting for collection.

    "The department has invested in a top-of-the-line SMS solution and has developed unique applications which will enable the RG to give better service to the Zimbabwean citizen."

    The SMS service, Mr Mudede said, would enter its pilot stage in the next few days.

    Of late, Zimbabwe has witnessed a reduction in the number of people seeking passports and temporary travelling documents at the RG's offices countrywide compared to previous years when hundreds of passport applicants would spend nights in queues to get the forms.

    The RG's Office resorted to a system whereby passport seekers would make appointments for them to be attended to in a bid to cope with the increased demand.

More

  • Broadband World Forum

    16 – 18 October 2012, Amsterdam RAI Convention Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    The event, now in its 12th year, is the most respected in the regions Telecoms calendar and the comprehensive agenda includes breakfast briefings, 3 co-located summits,  keynote plenary sessions and a choice of 4 tracks for delegates each day as well as the world class exhibition area. For more information please click here:

    AfricaCom 2012
    13th-15th November 2012, CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa

    The digital ecosystem will take centre stage at AfricaCom 2012, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, 13 – 15 November 2012.  Network with over 7000 industry executives at Africa’s largest event embracing all aspects of the continent’s converging telecoms, media and ICT sectors.  Incorporating 11 co-located events all pertinent to future-proofing your business in the digital era, including cloud computing, OTT, apps, broadband and multiplatform content, see and hear how Africa’s communications market is a hotbed for innovation and long term prosperity. 
    Contact: Subuola.akinkugbe@informa.com
    For more information please click here:

    Telecoms Fraud & Revenue Assurance Forum
    26th - 27th November 2012, Dubai
    The only event currently in the region dedicated to telecoms fraud and revenue assurance, Tavess' Telecoms Fraud and Revenue Assurance Forum in Dubai has been designed to provide Revenue Assurance and Fraud professionals from across the Middle East, Asia and Africa the opportunity to learn about the latest RA strategies that the operators are adopting to more effectively detect and prevent revenue leakage and fraudulent activities in an increasingly complex scenario. In addition to an in-depth look at the detection and prevention of various types of fraud, the Forum also explores how to evolve the organization, streamline processes, effectively integrate systems and embed revenue assurance into new products. For more information please click here:

  • ITU launches Tech Needs Girls Prize to spark creativity

    Seeking the unique voices and talents of girls to invent our future
    To mark the first ever International Day of the Girl Child, ITU members and partners are  joining forces to launch the Tech Needs Girls Prize, a new global technology competition designed to inspire more girls to embrace technology and invent the future.

    Working in partnership with lead players in the ICT, education and media industries, ITU’s new annual Tech Needs Girls Prize aims to dramatically shift perceptions. The prize targets girls between the ages of 9 to 18 at the very time when they start forming opinions about their place in the world and their choice of career path. ITU and its partners will name and tailor a suite of competitions to different specialist areas, offering girls around the world a variety of options to get involved, gain confidence in their abilities, demonstrate their creativity, explore their ‘inner entrepreneur’ and learn first-hand how ICT can make a real difference.
    “Empowering women and girls is a key part of ITU’s mandate of ‘connecting the world’. I am looking forward enormously to seeing the imaginative submissions that will come in from girls right around the world, and hope that this new prize will encourage many of them to consider a future in this most exciting of industries,” said Dr Hamadoun I. Touré, ITU Secretary-General.

    The Tech Needs Girls Prize 2013 will be awarded as part of the annual Girls in ICT Day celebrations. ITU is working with leading players including Cisco, Intel Corporation and the G(irls)20 Summit to inspire girls to take the tech challenge. Geena Davis, ITU’s own Special Envoy for Girls and ICT, will also be lending her voice and the important work of her institute to ensure that girls are better equipped to be leaders and creators in the world of technology. Full details of the prize, partners and the competitions will be released over the coming weeks.
    The prize forms part of ITU’s Tech Needs Girls campaign, launched at Girls in ICT Day this year, which is leveraging the convening power of ITU to bring players in the ICT, education and media industries together. This global call to action aims to transform the wide-ranging number of programmes and organizational initiatives into a force for movement on the urgent issue of ensuring girls and women play a much more substantive role in the ICT sector and are better empowered to harness technology to transform their lives and their futures.
    Today also sees the launch of a mapping tool allowing all players to publicly pin their events and programmes to the campaign website. The crowd-sourced map provides a global picture of initiatives and enables girls and women to quickly locate initiatives available to them locally.

    As the United Nations’ specialized agency for ICT, ITU has long championed the catalytic role ICT can play in empowering women and girls. In 2010, ITU membership established Girls in ICT Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in April every year and designed to raise visibility on the many exciting opportunities offered by an ICT career. For Girls in ICT Day 2012, over 1,320 events were held in nearly 90 countries, providing an estimated 30,000 young women with a better understanding of the opportunities offered by the ICT sector.
    A multilingual Girls in ICT Portal has also been launched by ITU to assist girls and young women prepare for and pursue a technology career. The portal currently houses some 500 programmes, including over 100 scholarships, 70 contests and awards, more than 100 training and internship opportunities, over 100 online networks offering career support and mentoring, as well as tech camps and other activities.

Issue no 625 5th October 2012

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Top story

  • The growth of data traffic and Internet and social media users has been the big story over the last two years. But more quietly behind the scenes, Africa has begun to develop a more sophisticated data architecture through a combination of exchange points and data centres. Russell Southwood looks at the progress so far.

    One cascade of changes affecting the continent has become very clear. With new, competitive international cables and improved, cheaper fibre access at a national level, wholesale prices in both of these parts of the value chain have dropped.

    These wholesale price drops have encouraged retail price drops to end users that have accelerated the growth of Internet use, particularly on mobile phones. Internet subscriber levels that used to be in the hundreds or thousands are now in the tens of thousands to the millions.

    There are still blockages at the local loop access level in the value chain and some countries have still not yet got the message on competitive bandwidth costs. On a recent visit to a Central African country, I discovered that an mbps of international bandwidth still costs over US$1,500 compared to the low hundreds or lower in more competitive countries.

    But alongside this more public set of changes, a whole set of backroom changes are taking place to accommodate this increased data demand and to create the kind of data architecture found elsewhere in the world. Increased demand – particularly interactive data demand of the kind driven by smartphones and increased video use – need networks that are capable of delivering fast and locally.

    There are now two types of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) where local traffic can flow locally rather than having to be routed out and back via New York, Paris or London. There are the shared IXPs created by agreement between carriers and operated at a neutral point and a second category now being offered by neutral data centre provider Teraco out of South Africa.

    Of the first category, there are 20 across Africa. Nearly half of these are from countries where there is more than one IXP: South Africa (3), Tanzania (2), Kenya (2) and Nigeria (2). In 2011, there were two new additions in Lesotho and Sudan.

    Although some of these have been created in less competitive countries, they have tended to be more successful in more competitive countries. There is a real gap in IXP presence in francophone West Africa where more competitive market regimes have yet to arrive. Take the example of Senegal, where Orange-owned Sonatel controls well over 95% of the data market and the independent ISPs still remaining would all fit comfortably in a small lift. It’s hard to see the rationale for an IXP where there is only one dominant carrier.

    A more successful example is Ghana where after a complicated start where there were two competing IXPs, GIXP now brings together 13 carriers, of which Vodafone Ghana is by far the largest. However, its presence has not overwhelmed and put out of business the other 13 data carriers that exist in the country. Furthermore, there is a local Google cache server that improves response time.

    GIXP is reaching a peak traffic of 961.21 mbps, most of which is You Tube traffic. Traffic through other IXPs varies from 128 kbps (Swaziland) through to 911 mbps (Kenya). South Africa has two big IXP and one much smaller ones: Johannesburg with 3.3 gbps, Cape Town with 1.5 gbps and Grahamstown with 4.3 mbps. These figures date back to mid-year 2012 and undoubtedly have increased since that point.

    The second category of IXP being offered is from Teraco and is called NAPAfrica. Launched 5 months ago, it now has 1 gbps of traffic. It is focused not only on local Internet Service Providers (ISPs), but on large content providers, carriers and enterprise, both local and international to service the whole of Africa.

    NAPAfrica started as an initial exchange of just 64 mbps and the recent growth makes it one of the largest multi-lateral peering exchanges in Africa. NAPAfrica argues that it offers customers an immediately visible and continuously growing network of peers with just one peering agreement. “The simplicity of just one agreement is further enhanced by settlement-free interconnection,” says Lex Van Wyk, Managing Director, Teraco.

    The pitch is that instead of having to establish, manage and maintain individual peering sessions with each exchange participant, peers at NAPAfrica have the option of creating only one peering session with the route servers. “Currently we manage 1045 interconnects and offer access to over 20 carriers offering our clients access to a total capacity of 23tbps.” says van Wyk. “We’ve also seen over 4gbps of private peering live within the data centre which truly demonstrates the core benefit of an exchange like NAPAfrica.” NAPAfrica works Africa Cloud eXchange (ACX), which Teraco launched earlier in the year.

    These kinds of shared data delivery network that will help reduce the operating costs to both consumers and corporates, rely on the existence of data centres. The number and size of these have been growing rapidly over the last 12 months but outside of South Africa most are still well below the 1,000 sq m level. However, some of these will fit into global networks of data centres. Orange will open a data centre in Johannesburg that will form part of its global data centre delivery network.

    As with every kind of infrastructure, these have become new “pinch points” where the dominant mobile players try to assert their control over this emerging market. For example, a mobile operator will build a data centre and tell potential customers that they can only use it if they buy connectivity from them. The larger, more dominant players have more peering relationships and therefore can use this to capture market share. Neutral data centre providers can offer a much more cost effective service and if they achieve “critical mass” will succeed in gaining significant market share and peering connections.

    However, the mind-set change required to see data centres as essential part of operating a data network is slow in coming. One small neutral data centre operator told us in some frustration:”If their office building hasn’t burnt down yet, they can’t see the point.”

    But the global relationships that will improve data centre delivery are beginning to fall into place. Nigerian international cable Main One has a Tier 3 power rated rack space that is connected to a backbone, via diverse physical and logical network paths. This week it became part of the International Data Centre Group (IDC-G), the first global data centre alliance with 33 carrier neutral data centres across 5 continents. Beyond the existing facilities, the company is actively planning the construction of additional data centres in Lagos.

      My thanks to Michuki Mwangi, Internet Society for the IXP data from a presentation he made in May 2012 to the ITU African regional meeting.

    To get up-to-the minute news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    Kwabena Smith, Orun Energy on saving diesel costs on base stations

    Justin Hartman, Social Code on South Africa's ICT entrepreneurialism and the failure to support it

    Julian Macharia, Buni TV on this new online video delivery platform

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on its acquisition of Afinis

    Envir Fraser, Convergence Partners on investment opportunities in ICT

    Tayo Oviosu, CEO, Paga on the mobile money market in Nigeria

    Nigerian ICT blogger Loy Okezi
    e on Nigeria's online successes

    Victor Dibia, CEO, Denvycom.com
     on his games portfolio and plans to monetize

    Oluseye Soyode-Johnson, consultant to Maliyo Games
     on the business model

     

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Mike Best, Georgia Tech on using interactive media with Liberia's Truth Commission

    Leonard Ah Kun from South Africa’s on augmented reality, Leap Motion and Google glasses

    Emma Kaye on an African mobile platform to make music and films

    Michael Ugwu, iROKING on Nigeria's Spotify-type service

telecoms

  • The prices of recharge cards have been increased in some parts of Moyamba District despite relentless efforts by the National Telecommunication Commission (NATCOM) to ensure that the prices remain the same across the country.

    Investigation carried out by Concord Times revealed that a 100 units recharge card is sold by vendors at Le4,600 in Shenge and Le5,000 in some remote areas in the Kargboro chiefdom. At Taiama, 100 units recharge card goes for Le4,400 and Le5,000 or more at Mondokor village in the Upper Banta chiefdom.

    Many top-up vendors interviewed by this reporter said they had decided to increase the prices on recharge cards because the profit they make from selling them at the normal price is very small and alleged that NATCOM is even aware of the increase. They threatened to stop selling the products should the regulatory body try to force them to revert to the normal rates.

    When contacted, NATCOM District Superintendent, Ahmed Kannah, noted that a lot of sensitization has been done by the commission to ensure the prices of top-up remain uniform throughout the country.

    "Normally, consumers refuse to complain those dealers that are selling top-up above the legal price. I will visit the said locations where this illegal practice is being carried out," he promised.

    However, Kannah admitted that dealers only make little profit from the sale of top-up cards but refused to comment on what the commission would do to persuade mobile companies to reduce the prices of their recharge cards for those who buy in large quantity to sell to the public.

    He denied the allegation that the commission is aware of the illegal prices, saying they have embarked on several sensitization programmes, preaching against the illegal sale of top-up cards.

  • Tunisia believes the future of their telecom market is in the 3G sector and not in fixed-lines. The government has announced that in their push to boost the 3G and mobile markets, they will break up the country’s fixed-line monopoly to promote diversification and competition.

    According to the ministry of communications, the country’s telecom sector accounts for roughly 11 percent of Tunisia’s Gross Domestic Product. It currently has three operators in the country, Orange Tunisia, Tunisiana and Tunisia Telecom, with a reported penetration of 115.3 percent through last year.

    A report from Frost & Sullivan says that by 2018, the telecom market could near the $3 billion in revenue target as it continues to see positive growth.

    “The arrival of the new fixed and mobile service operator in 2010 dissolved the monopoly of the fixed-line incumbent,” noted Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Jonas Zelba.

    “At the same time, it increased competition which is likely to drive growth in the telecom market,” added Zelba.

    With the operators grabbing 3G licenses, the study of the North African country’s telecom industry notes that they expect Tunisia to see continued exponential growth as more and more citizens are able to use their smartphones. It will also open up the market for hand devices as citizens want to be able to get onto the Internet as they go about their daily life.

    The only concern Frost & Sullivan had for Tunisia going forward was the political instability in the country. As a result of the 2011 uprising, the telecommunication market has been significantly affected by the unrest as the market’s revenue shank by 3.6 per cent in 2011, but experts and the government believe it will be back on track this year.

    “It is critical for Tunisia to resolve the political instability quickly to ensure healthy and much needed investments in the country,” says Zelba.

  • The union of Niger’s state-owned national PTO Societe Nigerienne des Telecommunications (Sonitel) and its mobile arm SahelCom has criticised the country’s private operators for rolling out fibre-optic infrastructure in areas where such networks have already been deployed by the incumbent.

    Afriquinfos reports that after parliament voted to keep Sonitel in government hands (abandoning a renewed attempt to find a buyer for the telco) in May 2012, Niger granted the company exclusivity on international calls and the rollout of fibre-optic infrastructure for a period of five years, although this was later withdrawn following protests from Orange and Airtel.

    The government subsequently awarded Sonitel a contract to deploy a 900km fibre-optic backbone from the capital Niamey to Dosso, which began in August 2012. According to the report, Orange began deploying its own fibre-optic network between the two cities at the same time, prompting Sonitel’s unions to ask the government to ban the duplication of fibre-optic networks in the country, arguing that the telco would lose a valuable source of revenue if this were to continue.

  • While neighbour Kenya has seen nearly one million phones turned off as a result of the government registration of hand devices, Uganda could be facing an even larger figure with many residents still unregistered.

    According to the ministry of communications, the country has 10 million SIM card users to register, with many still outstanding, sparking fears that the result could be disastrous to the telecom sector.

    The ministry issued late last month a new directive to help inform users of the need to register their SIM in order to maintain services, but many still remain on the outside.

    Residents have until March of next year to register, so the government is not in panic mode just yet.

    However, after Kenya saw massive black-outs of users, Kamapala wants to ensure that its mobile phone users are on the same page and understand the importance of registering.

    According to the Uganda Communications Commission, only 40 percent of the 17 million SIM cards have been registered.

    Experts say there is still time to get customers to register, but the ministry believes that without a concerted effort to educate and inform, millions could see their services cut in 6 months time.

internet

  • Tigo Tanzania has launched a text message internet service to cater for those who cannot afford to get hold of smart phones.

    The service, dubbed "Tigo SMS Internet" is designed for phones that do not have internet capabilities or for people who lack access to the digital world internet-enabled phones and laptops. "This platform is an innovative SMS-based application that will give our customers access to the internet," said David Zacharia, Tigo Entertainment Category Manager.

    He added: "(The service) provides customers with the easiest way to access the internet from their handsets via normal text messages." Tigo SMS Internet is designed to bridge a digital gap in society by enabling access to the digital world for millions of customers at a very affordable cost.

    The service comes with a cost after free trial period ends where a customer would be given an option to opt out or continue to enjoy the service at 97/- per day, with unlimited access to all WebPages.

  • iROKING, Africa’s number one online digital music platform, has launched a brand new mobile website that allows users to download tracks on the go – anytime, anywhere. The new site m.iroking.com comes with a whole host of exciting features for Africa’s 700 million+ mobile phone subscribers.

    The site has been optimised to ensure downloads are fast and that they are available for all mobile handsets across Africa. For the very first time, iROKING users will be able to download their favourite tracks, so they can listen to them and make playlists on their own mobile devices offline. To celebrate the launch of the iROKING mobile site, free track downloads from the mobile site will be available for a limited period.

     The new mobile site has been designed to enhance each user’s experience on iROKING and has incorporated sophisticated search capabilities where users can see their search results by artist, track or album. For those with a love of all things visual, iROKING has built in a one-click functionality that takes listeners directly to artists’ YouTube videos. Users will also be able to share their favourite iROKING tracks with the rest of the world at the click of a button via email, Twitter and Facebook.

     The brand new mobile site launches in the same week the leading music company unveils a total redesign for its web platform www.iroking.com. Apart from a super-slick makeover, making the site’s navigation simpler and more intuitive, the iROKING team has introduced genre-based radio channels for its users to tune into. The new site also sees music videos from iROKING managed YouTube artists being streamed for the first time.

     Michael Ugwu, CEO of iROKING says: “This week sees the launch of iROKING 2.0 – the next generation. We know that our listeners want to access awesome, fresh tunes from the best of West Africa’s artists anytime, anywhere – so we’ve built them the ultimate mobile platform to do that.

     “The stunning new mobile site is going to revolutionise the way music fans can listen to and access digital music from Africa – there is nothing out there like this and we hope that our fans, both old and new, will love this new mobile site as much as we do.”

    The new mobile site launch comes just weeks after the company announced it had reached the impressive milestone of 100,000 registered users in just 7 months.

     Veteran Nigerian rapper, 2Shotz says: “This has clearly been made with music lovers in mind. I’m loving the look and feel of the mobile site and I’m already addicted to it – it’s amazing! I can listen to my fellow Nigerian artists literally anywhere, I can get the tracks I want straight to my phone at the touch of a button and I can push them out to my fans on Facebook and Twitter. What more could I want? Try it NOW people – it’s the smartest thing you’ll do all year.”

     Since launch, iROKING boasts over 400 recording artists and 35,000 tracks in its catalogue. iROKING’s biggest stars include Bez, 2face, Bracket, Flavour, Omawumi, Timaya, Iyanya, Duncan Mighty – more are signing up every day.

  • Benin’s University of Abomey now has access to 20 Mbps bandwidth to supports its work and research.

    Max Ahouke, Benin’s Minister of Communication Technologies and ICT, officially launched the new bandwidth at the campus of Abomey Calavi. He said this access was in line with the government’s willingness to support the rollout of ICTs as a tool for development.

    The university said now students, teachers and researchers would benefit from broadband WiFi, making and the information society a reality on the campus of Abomey Calavi.

  • As part of its contribution to the Social Good Summit held in New York with parallel sessions in Nairobi and Beijing on Monday September 24, 2012, Swedish-based IT firm Ericsson has announced its commitment to join Oscar-winning actor, humanist and Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO, Forest Whitaker, in a new foundation whose mission it is to promote peace among youth everywhere, from troubled urban neighbourhoods in Africa – especially South Sudan and Uganda – as well as the United States.

    Ericsson's engagement will begin by providing ICT solutions to schools in two locations, South Sudan and Uganda, in conjunction with the global education initiative Connect To Learn. This will enable the PeaceEarth Foundation to establish access to the internet and create a collaborative environment among the participating youth and further develop the education initiatives.

    Also through Connect To Learn, Ericsson will provide on-site project management resources, Wi-Fi coverage, and basic ICT training for teachers and students on the use of the Ericsson cloud computing solution.

    Ericsson President and CEO Hans Vestberg said that the company’s work with PeaceEarth Foundation is a natural extension of how to bring its competence to advocate for Technology for Good around the world.

    “We know that our technology has a positive link to development, where 10% of increased broadband penetration leads to more than 1% sustainable growth in GDP. You can't have positive social and economic development where people are suffering from conflicts or natural disasters. I hope that extending access to education will help enable the PeaceEarth Foundation further its goals," said Vestberg.

    Lars Lindén, head of Ericsson Sub-Saharan Africa, who introduced a panel discussion on ‘African digital entrepreneurs’ at the Nairobi session which discussed ways in which the internet has revolutionized African businesses and the role played by organizations like Ericsson in driving this, underscored the importance of broadband revolution.

    “Today, broadband is recognized as a basic need, a core part of societal infrastructure as essential as roads and bridges. It is revolutionizing all areas of our lives and enabling a new era of empowerment for people, business and society. We see this forum as an occasion to explore new ways in which we can exploit the opportunities the technology avails,” said Lindén.

    The PeaceEarth Foundation brings together public and private entities and aims to serve as a vehicle for an array of programs, initiatives and campaigns in the U.S. and around the world.

    "Ericsson's support to PeaceEarth will establish a truly connected program in South Sudan and Uganda. The commitment will allow us to advance our shared goal to collectively move our world towards peace, one day at a time," said Forest Whitaker.

    Currently, 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by violent conflict, and more than 8 million children have been killed or disabled through violent conflict. Working in partnership with local and regional experts, civil society and multilateral organizations, governments and businesses, PeaceEarth will work to promote peaceful conflict resolution through youth empowerment, access to knowledge, capacity-building and cultural diversity.

    PeaceEarth Foundation recently launched an interactive website that gives people the power to learn, engage and act. It serves to connect and foster dialogue among communities, practitioners and scholars, giving people key information about conflict zones, best practices in peace-building, and solutions.

computing

  • rlg Communications expects  to deliver the last 34,249 laptops to Ghana’s Basic School Computerisation Project by the end of this month.

    rlg, which assembles the laptops locally, has already supplied 25,751 laptops to the Ministry of Education for onward distribution to selected Basic Schools across the country as part of the project, which began last year.

    The remaining laptops are to be supplied by the end of the October. In all, a total of 60,000 laptops are to be supplied to 2,500 basic schools in ten regions.

    The Corporate Affairs Manager of rlg Communications, Emmanuel Arthur, said  this was in line with the agreed deadline for the supply of all laptops before the end of this year.

  • MTN Uganda has embraced social media to reach its customers, saying its Facebook page now attracts more than 50,000 people. The mobile operator in 2011 took a new focus on social media by opening official pages on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with the intention of developing critical mass and loyalty from a specific segment of the market.

    A large majority of the followers of social media are young people, who comprise more than 60 percent of Uganda's population. MTN Uganda currently has the largest community network on Facebook in Uganda with over 50,000 followers, plus 4,200 followers on Twitter.

  • AccessKenya Group has deployed the first High Definition Telepresence solution.
    Telepresence is technology that allows feeling of real presence in virtual meetings enabling people in different offices around the world to meet virtually via video call and transact business irrespective of distance.

    Speaking during the official launch, AccessKenya Managing Director Kris Senanu said the company is committed to deploying high value technologies with the aim of improving the business environment and enhancing mobility for its clients.

    "We are continuously investing in research for the best solutions for all our clients and will remain consistent in our delivery of service," he said.

    AccessKenya will be offering the Telepresence Solution as a Value Addition Service to its clients.

    The Telepresence service is targeting corporate companies looking to achieve efficiency in their day-to-day business at a reasonably lower cost.

    "In this time of high inflationary pressures and high cost of doing business, companies are looking to reduce overheads incurred on utility and concessional expenses such as travel. This technology provides a unique opportunity for any business to achieve this all year round," Senanu said.

    Last year, AccessKenya together in partnership with Aga Khan University Hospital showcased the country's first Video Telesurgery using the High Definition Polycom HDX-8000 series equipment.

    The telesurgery transmitted live surgical procedures at a Pan African Urological Surgeons' Association (PAUSA) Conference held in Nairobi heralding a new age in telemedicine in Kenya.

    "With this technology, most corporate organizations will be able to reduce their carbon footprint and this will greatly impact on the future of this globe," Senanu said about the Telepresence product.

    The solution was launched in partnership with Polycom through its Certified Reseller in the East African region - Sight & Sound Limited.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Leading officials within the Ghana government have called on the country to float its minority shares of Vodafone Ghana and Airtel Ghana in an effort to boost productivity and trade volumes on the country’s stock market.

    The government of Ghana has a 30 percent share of Vodafone Ghana and 25 percent of Airtel Ghana via the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC).

    Ghana Stock Exchange Chairman Sam Mensah said at the exchange’s annual general meeting in Accra that these stakes should be “separately floated in the interest of the bourse and the market at large.”

    Mensah argued that the stocks would enable the market and could be of interest to investors.

    He said Ghana needed to take “far reaching listing and divestiture decisions” to help support the growth of the GSE and the market at large.

    Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission Adu Anane Antwi also reiterated the call on government to make it compulsory for all telecommunication companies in the country to list a stake on the GSE after five years of operations.

    The operators, in response, said they are considering the move to list on the GSE to “economically empower locals,”

    Vodafone Ghana CEO Kyle Whitehill said he expects operators to list on the local bourse “in the next couple of years.”

  • Visa Inc. and the government of Rwanda on Wednesday officially launched financial literacy in schools across the country dubbed 'Visa Financial Football game.'

    Financial Football is a free computer game that combines the world's most popular sport with a financial literacy curriculum developed especially for Rwanda. The interactive game provides essential information on personal financial management.

    Pichette Kampeta Sayinzoga, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Finance and economic planning, explained that it is in line with the government's commitment to increase financial literacy and to make children familiar with managerial skills at an early age so that they can be able to manage little resources they have and preparing them to be financial literate in the future.

    "The idea is that students should understand that managing money doesn't start when you are adult - it's starts when you are a young person and the real message is to get information about financial literacy, what is to have an account, have a loan, how to use an ATM card and the message is really to say that you can learn while having a fun," she explained.

    The PS was talking to journalist on Wednesday after officially launching the Visa Financial Football game at Lycee de Kigali. The same campaign is to be undertaken throughout the country in both.

    The game, which will be distributed for free in public and private schools, is available in both Kinyarwanda and English. Ginger Baker, managing director of Visa Rwanda, expressed his excitement to introduce the Financial Football game in Rwanda given that access to financial services is essential for economic progress.

    "We hope this game will bear tangible results for financial access in Rwanda, empowering young people to tackle real-life personal finance situations with confidence," he said.

    Accessible at www.rwanda.financialfootball.com, the game challenges players on their level of financial literacy through a set of multiple choice questions. The questions cover a wide range of topics including saving, budgeting, setting financial goals and what to do in the event of losing a bank card.

    The Financial Football game is part of a nation-wide financial literacy program announced last year in December by Visa and the government of Rwanda in a bid to develop a wide range of solutions of electronic financial services in the country.

  • THE information and communications technology (ICT) sector attracted the lion's share of venture capital funding in the three and a half years to July, according to data released this week.

    A survey by specialist advisory firm Venture Solutions, on behalf of the Southern African Venture Capital & Private Equity Association, showed the ICT sector accounted for 32% of the total deal flow in the period.

    This rose from 23% in the previous survey to July 2010. ICT outpaced the life sciences (biotechnology, health technology and medical devices) sector, which previously accounted for 41% of total investments.

    ICT received around R265.6-million as venture capital investments reached the R830-million mark. The researchers said numbers could be close to double that because the research did not take into account certain deals not disclosed to the association, including enterprise development activities and "angel" funding.

    Adrian Dommisse, a corporate finance attorney at Dommisse Attorneys, said the ICT sector attracted the most funding deals because of the potential it held for fast growth.

    "Venture capitalists require returns over a shortish time frame relative to other investors," said Dommisse. "There is often good potential in ICT to achieve a faster return and exit, which is the sweet spot for venture capital investors."

    Venture capital firms backed by government were the most active, accounting for 51% of deals compared with 46% of deals executed by private-equity players.

    "Government-backed investors were the most active during the period under review, despite [the Technology Innovation Agency or TIA] making considerably fewer equity investments following its incorporation, than when operating as seven separate entities," reads the survey report.

    "This was due to limitations on the TIA's ability to conduct equity-type investments post amalgamation. The agency did however conclude a substantial number of loan-type transactions, about R100-million, during the period."

    The TIA was formed through the merger of the Department of Science and Technology's Innovation Fund, Tshumisano Trust, Cape Biotech Trust, PlantBio Trust, LIFElab, BioPAD Trust, and the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy.

    Though venture capital fund managers were reluctant to indicate how much they made on exiting their investments, the overall figure is estimated at more than R1-billion. But this figure was skewed by the mega-acquisition of mobile financial services provider Fundamo, whose investors walked away with $110-million from global payments company Visa.

    "South Africa's high-growth entrepreneurial system is producing notable exits, such as Visa's acquisition of Fundamo, as well as a spate of recent start-up acquisitions, many of which are based in Cape Town," said Stephan Lamprecht, Venture Solutions's CEO.

    Justin Stanford, founding partner at 4Di Capital, which provides early-stage venture capital to technology start-ups, said the ICT sector would continue to be very attractive to investors because it was easily accessible.

    "This is one of the sectors that is democratised globally due to wide availability of free tools and education, broadband internet, and cloud infrastructure, meaning that there aren't any geographical or other barriers or advantages, really, any more, which is allowing many 'secondary' markets like South Africa to tap this sector on a global basis and compete internationally," said Stanford.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - South Africa’s Cell C has announced its latest data bundle promotional offer called GigaNite, which has been launched in response to customer demand. As of 10 October, new and existing postpaid (contract) customers will be able to bolt on a 10 GB GigaNite bundle for R149 per month or 20 GB GigaNite bundle for R249 per month onto any Cell C SmartData postpaid contract, depending on their overnight data needs.

    - A new a mobile-based entertainment platform called Gbedumobile will launch later this month in Nigeria enabling mobile users to search for music, buy premium content, download free content and share with friends via social media channels.

Digital Content

  • South Sudan will soon benefit from tele-education and tele-medicine projects funded by the Government of India as part of a capacity building programme.

    Equipment for the project have already been dispatched to South Sudan for installation, Vimal Wakhlu, Chairman and Managing Director for Telecommunication Consultants India Limited (TCIL) disclosed this to African journalists participating in a specialised training in India.

    "South Sudan will soon benefit from the project since it is the baby country born to the African continent and to the world at large," Wakhlu stated. He added that the basic objectives of the Pan-Africa e-Network Project was to help build the capacity of the African countries by imparting quality education to students from some of the Indian universities.

    He further explained that the Pan Africa e-Network had been funded by the Indian government with an approved budget of over US$116 million which was inaugurated earlier in 2009. This came as a follow up to the initiative taken by Dr. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India.

    "Today this project exists in many African countries and before its end in 2014, we believe African countries will be able to sustain it for the next generation," asserted Wahklu. He further pointed out that within a period of five years over 10,000 students from Africa will learn tele-education and medicine.

    The project also covers Continuing Medical Education (CME) to practising doctors and nursing staff with a view to update their knowledge and skills. The Africa Union member states signed the agreement with Telecommunication Consultants India Limited (TCIL) with its hub station at Dakar in Senegal. It has been working since 2008.

  • Just like napkins and packets of tomato sauce, WI-FI hotspot connections are becoming standard fare in several restaurants in Kenya. Google, Eat Out and Wazi Wi-Fi have inked an agreement to connect restaurants in Nairobi and other cities, the three companies announced this morning. The new agreement is a collaboration of these three to make sure diners and hotel owners take full advantage of the online platform in their digital life.

    Riyaz Bachani, the CTO Wananchi Group says Wazi Wi-Fi has over 200 hotspots in Nairobi that can be accessed by users on one account. Steers which has received over 5,000 diners connected via Wazi Wi-Fi charges for the food and seats, otherwise customers have ten minutes on the Wi-Fi per device. “For those who want to have unlimited Internet access per day, they will pay KSh50 per device. One month access per device will cost KSh. 500." 

    Just like Steers, Blancos and Brew Bistro who are on Wazi Wi-Fi believe that the more time customers are sitting at their tables, the more money they are going to spend in the restaurant. Offering wireless access to the Internet for those customers with a Wi-Fi-enabled laptop or smartphone will add even more sales to the bottom line and make customers more loyal to their brand.

    Speaking at the partnership breakfast, Mikul Shah the CEO and founder of Eat Out Kenya, says Wi-Fi brings more people into businesses and improves customer loyalty, while Eat Out through the connection will help restaurant owners learn what their customer needs and behaviors. The company has been working for a while tweaking its systems and expanding their portfolio, at the moment 400 restaurants are registered with Eat Out. Mikul says they are going to launch “Eat In” soon in the market.

    “The technology this collaboration is based on will ensure restaurants’ websites are well optimized for easy search through Google Web crawlers both for PCs and on mobile devices”, says Joe Mucheru, Google’s Country lead.

    Wi-Fi hotspots aren't just confined to retail and coffee joints, however. Hospitals, airports and hotels are three other classes of businesses that offer wireless connectivity in and around their facilities.

    Kai Wulff, Google Access Field Development Director compares a Wi-Fi connection in a hotel as necessary as the toilets and the seats, “Wireless hotspots are a must have for restaurants that want to stay on top of the game. People bring their lives into the restaurants and it is therefore vital for these business owners to reach out to their customers by providing them with a platform that enables them to extend this online presence”

  • According to a research by Africa’s largest independent mobile ad network, InMobi Nigerians currently appreciate mobile apps more than mobile websites, with three out of five users recorded to have paid for a mobile app.

    Nigerian publication BusinessDay, reports Inmobi recently conducted a survey with 1007 respondents in Nigeria selected through the InMobi Ad network, which produced the finding.

    Sales director for InMobi Moses Kemibaro said the research was conducted to inform prospective mobile apps or mobile webs entrepreneurs what the average Nigerian thinks so they can take advantage of this.

    “We want them to understand the usage and preferences; where Nigerians are concerned in terms of mobile apps; Nigerians’ attitudes, opinions, expectations, etc,” Moses said.

    The research revealed 60 percent of the sample population preferred mobile apps to mobile web; 63 percent of whom are young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 with 68 percent being mothers. According to date from the research work by the global leader in the mobile technology space, social media and entertainment rank highest as the regularly most accessed mobile content with 81 percent, followed by games with 73 percent, news (70 percent), sports (55 percent), Finance (40 percent) and shopping (38 percent).

    According to Moses,  “In terms of generating revenue through mobile devices, as far as Nigeria is concerned, social media, entertainment, news and sports are areas one needs to focus on.”

More

  • Johannesburg Stock Exchange listed IT firm Gijima has announced that its Chief Executive Officer Jonas Bogoshi has tendered his resignation, coinciding with the company reporting on Wednesday that they had a decline in revenue for the financial year ending June 30.

  • Broadband World Forum

    16 – 18 October 2012, Amsterdam RAI Convention Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    The event, now in its 12th year, is the most respected in the regions Telecoms calendar and the comprehensive agenda includes breakfast briefings, 3 co-located summits,  keynote plenary sessions and a choice of 4 tracks for delegates each day as well as the world class exhibition area. For more information please click here:

    AfricaCom 2012
    13th-15th November 2012, CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa

    The digital ecosystem will take centre stage at AfricaCom 2012, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, 13 – 15 November 2012.  Network with over 7000 industry executives at Africa’s largest event embracing all aspects of the continent’s converging telecoms, media and ICT sectors.  Incorporating 11 co-located events all pertinent to future-proofing your business in the digital era, including cloud computing, OTT, apps, broadband and multiplatform content, see and hear how Africa’s communications market is a hotbed for innovation and long term prosperity. 
    Contact: Subuola.akinkugbe@informa.com
    For more information please click here:

    Telecoms Fraud & Revenue Assurance Forum
    26th - 27th November 2012, Dubai
    The only event currently in the region dedicated to telecoms fraud and revenue assurance, Tavess' Telecoms Fraud and Revenue Assurance Forum in Dubai has been designed to provide Revenue Assurance and Fraud professionals from across the Middle East, Asia and Africa the opportunity to learn about the latest RA strategies that the operators are adopting to more effectively detect and prevent revenue leakage and fraudulent activities in an increasingly complex scenario. In addition to an in-depth look at the detection and prevention of various types of fraud, the Forum also explores how to evolve the organization, streamline processes, effectively integrate systems and embed revenue assurance into new products. For more information please click here:

  • Startup Knight competition launched for software developers

    Do you have an inspirational idea ready to take the software world by storm? Startup Knight is a competition for software-based tech start-ups that are aiming to make it big in the world of business.

    Hosting the event is Byte Orbit, the force behind Startup Knight, alongside companies such as Microsoft, Nokia, Bandwidth Barn and 8ta, who have come onboard with significant sponsorship for the winning start-up.
     
    Microsoft will be providing software packages for the winners to run their business for three years as well as $60 000 (±R502 500) worth of Azure Services. Bandwidth Barn is offering office space for the duration of six months, while Nokia is a product sponsor. In addition, 8ta will provide a 3G data modem loaded with its 60 Gig + 60 Gig offering.
     
    The grand prize will be sponsored by Byte Orbit and will consist of software development to the value of R100 000 and ongoing mentorship. Byte Orbit is set to take a 15% equity stake in the winning business and will subsequently support them on an ongoing basis, leveraging nine years of industry experience to increase their ability to succeed.
     
    Participants can enter online at www.byteorbit.com, with entries closing on 25 October. Fifteen finalists will be announced by 26 October and they will be required to pitch to a judging panel at Byte Orbit Offices in Durbanville, Cape Town on 3 November 2012.
     
    The judging panel will include:
     
    Amit Ramdath, Byte Orbit CEO
    Anthony Stonefield, Nokia head of Ecosystem
    Kethan Parbhoo, Microsoft Equity Equivalent lead
    Amith Maharaj,  8ta senior managing executive
    Charl Norman, Bandwidth Blog / OnNet MD
    Martin Ras, Ching Payments MD.
     
    The winner of the competition will be announced on the evening of 3 November 2012 in Cape Town.

Issue no 624 28th September 2012

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Top story

  • The global debate about “over-the-top” services (delivered by the Internet) vs the walled garden approach (delivered within apps or the mobile operators’ walled space) is not just some distant developed world issue but crucial for Africa. The current African content deals and the frameworks that support them are broken beyond repair. Russell Southwood looks at why and what happens next.

    Historically, the terms for content deals come out of the mobile operators providing SMS services. The mobile operators sometimes deal directly with content owners but in the main these deals go through “VAS aggregators”, the value-added service providers who provide the content delivery platform.

    The terms for the deal vary but they are significantly less good than the terms found elsewhere in the world. The mobile operator takes between 70-80% of revenues generated, leaving the balance to be shared between the VAS aggregator, the content provider and sometimes the artist. Last year both Glo and Airtel moved to keeping 80% of the revenues generated.

    The operator’s rationale for this approach is that they do most of the marketing and own the access to the customers, sometimes rather misleadingly described as owning the customers . Also it’s fair to say that when these services were simply religious texts, goal scores or headlines, the amount of work put in by the content owners was fairly minimal. Even less if these were “retread” international services.

    But if you look at the case of Nigerian musicians the picture is rather different. In 2011, according to Obi Asika, CEO, Storm 360 the mobile operators generated $150 million through ringtones and music related services. The artists and label owners shared only 15% (by his account) with the VAS aggregators. 

    Not surprisingly, he would like to see the iTunes model where the platform operator keeps 30%, leaving 70% for the artists and labels. The difference in income is huge and the mobile operators will find it hard to make the case that they are “marketing the service” when the artists involved are famous in their own right and have no difficulty raising interest whatever media platform they appear on. See Obi Asika in a video clip interview on the Nigerian music industry and this issue.

    I’ve spent the last twelve months talking to people who have been selling content services to the mobile operators and the problem is compounded by the way that mobile operators deal with content owners. The mobile operators treat VAS services as a very narrow channel and understandably only commit marketing resources to a limited number of “content releases” in a year. As a result, perfectly good ideas with respectable content owners or artists attached get backed up in the queue. 

    Mobile operators are conflicted about content and, with a few notable exceptions, do not really understand it. If they did, the size of the sport and entertainment offers would be far more varied. We did a comparison of SMS services in West Africa last year and discovered that well over 95% of the services were identical, in some cases down to having the same underlying information provider. If you use the analogy of newspapers or magazines, individuals don’t buy identical newspapers or magazines, they buy particular ones because they are different.

    The second major obstacle that mobile operators have created is the operation of their payment systems. They each have a monopoly on offering payment systems and the larger operators like Kenya’s Safaricom are in a dominant position. To reach 70% of Kenya’s mobile users, you have to go through Safaricom. 

    You can’t get money paid on the platform and transferred to you as the content owner without going through the onerous deal structure described above. Indeed, given the similarity of the deal structures across operators there is undoubtedly a case for regulatory investigation. There is no cost basis for the 80/20 or 70/30 split to the operators. These are media channels – like radio and television – through which increasingly countries will understand themselves.

    The alternative is “over-the-top” services using the Internet. You don’t have to line up for a mobile operator launch window. You can take the money directly or go through a platform like iTunes where the platform operator will give you something more like 70%. But you don’t need me to tell you that this is Africa and the number of people able to access the Internet – whether on PC, laptop, tablet or phone – is currently probably too small to make this alone a viable alternative.

    But the mobile operators should not get too smug about this. During my recent visits to Lagos, I was struck by the number of sites that are now making a living out of selling things like music, travel and clothes. Currently, it’s no more than a small hole in the walled garden. But we’re at the beginning of the process and that hole is only going to get bigger.

    European operators are already beginning to have to wrestle with how the date business model might operate. Telia Sonera got itself into hot water trying to charge users extra for using Skype. After much protest in Sweden, it backed down but will charge extra for data use above certain levels.

    The issue is of crucial importance for Africa because if the content operators, the rights holders and the artists cannot get something better out of the current system, the speed with which the content and services ecosystem develops will slow down or become still born. 

    Operators have to devise a new, better business model that enables them to make money out of supplying data and platform services, whilst giving more like 70% of the revenues back. Mobile operators do not understand content so they should stick to what they do understand: providing cost-effective network operations. If they don’t, in five to ten years time the Internet will have eaten their lunch.

     

    A bumper crop of video clips this week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Kwabena Smith, Orun Energy on saving diesel costs on base stations

    Justin Hartman, Social Code on South Africa's ICT entrepreneurialism and the failure to support it

    Julian Macharia, Buni TV on this new online video delivery platform

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on its acquisition of Afinis

    Envir Fraser, Convergence Partners on investment opportunities in ICT

    Tayo Oviosu, CEO, Paga on the mobile money market in Nigeria

    Nigerian ICT blogger Loy Okezi
    e on Nigeria's online successes

    Victor Dibia, CEO, Denvycom.com
     on his games portfolio and plans to monetize

    Oluseye Soyode-Johnson, consultant to Maliyo Games
     on the business model

     

     

telecoms

  • Last week, employees of the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (SPTC) became the latest group to go on strike in the public sector in Africa’s last remaining absolute monarchy. The protest was a reaction to the decision by the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) to hold the SPTC in violation of a Joint Venture  Agreement with Swazi MTN (MTN), the only other company trading in the telecommunications sector.

    Yet many claim the Joint-Venture Agreement lacks legitimacy. It prevents SPTC from expanding into specific areas such as internet data services and fixed phone tariffs - designed to secure a trading monopoly for MTN in the most lucrative areas of the telecommunications. And the deal has attracted further controversy because an "esteemed shareholder" in MTN is suspected of having used his influence to obtain the signatures of SPTC officials. That shareholder is believed to be King Mswati III. 

    Raiding the community chest 

    This case bears a wider significance than simply upholding the legal interests of one company. It shows the willingness of a narrow elite to enrich themselves to the detriment of a majority.

    Xolile Dlamini* told Think Africa Press that she could not understand why an international body deemed an agreement so clearly skewed in the interests of one party worthy of protection. 

    The SPTC, by diversifying its business ventures and providing some competition with MTN, brought significant benefits to consumers. While Swazi MTN charges higher rates than anyone else in the region, it is renowned for poor service delivery - internet modems will frequently lose connection, services will be down and text messages are often undelivered. 

    Those who previously could not afford to use MTN were able to take advantage of the lower rates offered by the SPTC. And a continued SPTC presence would have put real pressure on MTN to both review its pricing strategy and improve its provision of services.

    However, with the SPTC no longer allowed to provide these services, many Swazis face a return to life without basic ways of communicating that are taken for granted in so many countries around the world.

    Public sector revolt

    The Joint-Venture Agreement, signed in 1998, was not left to chance. Official papers claim that MTN's "esteemed shareholder", who owns a 10% stake in the company, used his power to force the deal through under conditions of duress. By ensuring that SPTC does not move into the more profitable areas of internet and telephone services it allows a company that the king is invested to operate without accountability - to charge higher prices and capitalise on the growing interest in mobile phones and the internet.

  • Ten years after Algeria's mobile phone industry was opened up to the private sector, the market still remains fragile.Two private-owned networks have been embroiled in a string of crises.

    Market leader Djezzy, a subsidiary of Orascom Telecom, was taken over by the Russian-Norwegian company VimpelCom in 2011. The company boasts over 16 million subscribers, while its rival Nedjma has nine million customers. Eleven million Algerians are subscribed to state-owned operator Mobilis.

    Following Djezzy's example, Nedjma, a subsidiary of Kuwaiti group Wataniya Telecom, has decided to change hands by offering itself to the Qatar-based Qtel group. Both deals have greatly irritated the Algerian authorities.

    If Nedjma sold the remainder of its shares to Qtel, the government would exercise its pre-emptive right to acquire the company, Finance Minister Karim Djoudi said on September 11th. "If Qtel takes over Wataniya completely, that will be a change of ownership, and if there is a change of ownership, there's a rule that applies: 51%/49%," he explained.

    In March 2007, Qtel became a controlling shareholder with a 51% stake in Wataniya Telecom, which allowed the Qatari company to take a 80% stake in Nedjma. Qtel, which aims to become the number one operator across the Maghreb, made a takeover bid to become the sole owner of the Kuwaiti group.

    The pre-emptive right is a mechanism that was created under 2009 Supplementary Finance Act. It gives the Algerian government the right to buy whenever stakes are transferred to or from foreign shareholders. Meanwhile, a different crisis, involving market leader Djezzy, has been brewing in Algeria.

    The company was accused of infringements worth of $189 million between 2007 and 2009 when its capital was transferred abroad. Djezzy was taken over by VimpelCom in 2011, which holds 51% of the shares. The foreign company refuses to sell its stakes to the Algerian government unless an "acceptable" price is offered.

    Djezzy's value is estimated at 6.5 billion dollars. The foes of the company have accused it of monopolising the market. In July, Mobilis CEO Saad Damma called on the Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ARPT) to intervene in order to balance the market and prevent one operator from becoming dominant.

    "The role of the ARPT is to ensure that there is fair competition between operators," ARPT chief Zohra Derdouri said on July 30th. Its goal "is not to prevent dominance, which would be tantamount to stifling competition, but to suppress the banned practice of abusing a dominant position."

    Derdouri added that her organisation seeks to ensure that no product offered for sale can destabilise the market. This statement has not allayed people's fears and the market remains fragile, a decade after it was opened up to the private sector.

    The unresolved conflict has prevented the telecommunications ministry from deploying the 3G mobile system. The award of the 3G license has been put on hold, pending the outcome of the Djezzy affair.

    "The [3G] project is ready, but the government is delaying out of a desire to be fair to Djezzy." The issue is taking a long time to be sorted out," Minister of Post and Telecommunications Moussa Benhamadi told the press in February.

  • The fixed line, mobile and internet operator, Sierratel, has been labouring under millions of dollars in debt for some time. In May this year, Sierra Leone’s National Commission for Privatisation (NCP) signed a three-year contract with the Management and Development Co of Beirut to run the telco, in a bid to turn it around.

    The NCP also tabled a proposal in Parliament on the privatisation of Sierratel. The Minister of Information and Communication, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, told Parliament that privatising the telco would be in the best interests of the country, ensuring proper management and serving to encourage investors. The proposal was unanimously approved.

internet

  • Safaricom is still keen on doing its own 4G-LTE network. This is despite an ongoing public-private partnership (PPP) led by the government to have a country wide 4G-LTE network by the end of 2013. The government aims to kill two birds with one stone through the PPP. The PPP will see better utilisation of spectrum which the country is facing a shortage of while also expected to make 4G broadband affordable to majority of Kenyans by sharing costs between multiple entities.

    TEAMS, also founded on a similar PPP model,  provides undersea fiber capacity at prices less than $ 100 per megabit per second compared with other cables whose pricing starts at between $ 200 to $ 250.

    “We think it is worth exploring both options (PPP and own LTE network), because you may not want to be in the same bucket with some people. You may want to be in control of your own destiny. This is what we are doing with our fibre network - we are trying to put as much of our own fibre down  so that we have control of the quality and delivery of service to our customers and cuts,” Bob Collymore, CEO said.

    The CEO said he was not aware of any such PPP rollout of 4G-LTE in the world. “Not to say it’s not going to work, but it needs a lot of thought, “he said.Safaricom has however satisfied with TEAMS. “TEAMS has been okay, there may be some challenges, but it does work.”

    Commenting on the LTE consortium, Collymore said while it is still early on who are members of the consortium, there needs to be a convincing reason for the role of vendors in such a consortium. The CEO says it will take quite a number of months before the project takes root, especially with the setting up of the legal entity itself expected to take months.

  • 400 senior high schools across 10 regions of Ghana are to get Internet access as part of a Government-driven project.

    The schools have been selected to benefit from the government’s  Senior High School Internet Access Project.

    The Minister for Education, Ambassador Lee Ocran, said the project would provide internet access to schools to aid teaching and learning. 

    The Minister called on the Ghana Education Service (GES) to ensure that appropriate organisational structures were put in place to give way to the effective integration of ICT in Senior High Schools as well as issue appropriate guidelines on the use of the internet in the schools.

  • A decade ago, Senegal was one of the most promising African countries in the area of Internet adoption, with more than double the Internet penetration in Nigeria. Yet today, Nigeria is ahead with 30% of its population enjoying access to the web versus 16% in Senegal. 

    In order to understand the issues, we commissioned a study through Balancing Act. The findings of that study have been summarized in this report titled "Obstacles and Opportunities for the democratization of broadband in Senegal."

    The report identifies a few issues, the most critical of which are rigid licensing and weak regulation. These two issues have resulted in the incumbent operator holding a de facto monopoly on access to the national fiber infrastructure and the copper lines into households. This lack of competition has kept data prices high and inaccessible to many Senegalese.  

    To buttress this point, the report compares the system in Senegal to what obtains in Kenya and South Africa. The report shows that it was indeed the introduction of liberal licensing regime in Kenya and South Africa that made it possible for more operators to come into the market, and increased competition. 

    Balancing Act proposes several key changes, two of which are :

    Internet suppliers must be authorized to build their own infrastructure and compete against incumbents. 

    Government should encourage competition and transparency in international capacity by enforcing existing but until now ignored regional regulation.

  • MozMed is a virtual platform covering all aspects of health, that has recently been launched in Mozambique (August 2012). The platform offers the possibility to ask questions via Internet (www.mozmed.com) and mobile (6640), start conversations and discussions and receive valuable answers from both from other users of the platform and health experts in corresponding areas of health.

    MozMed is officially supported by the Ministry of Health and the Mozambique Red Cross. Those institutions, as well as other NGOs, local and international organizations, provide experts in their areas of specialization (sexual and reproductive health, dermatology, oncology, general practice, etc.). 

    The platform will act as a meeting point between individuals interested in getting answers to questions related to all aspects of health. The platform will also function as an early warning system, in that the users can use it to be informed (via their mobile phones) if a question has already been answered, commented or voted on.

    Mozambique is one of the ten countries in the world with the highest rate of HIV prevalence, with an average of 11.5% of the population living with the disease, according to data from UNAIDS. Malaria and other dangerous diseases are also present in the country, which makes the platform MozMed even more relevant in the local context. Only about 17% of the Mozambicans have access to sanitary facilities, according to UNICEF figures. Furthermore, data from WHO and UNICEF show that there is a great demand for various types of health information, especially about sexual and reproductive health.

    This health forum platform is already running on Internet and offers access codes to the experts who provide answers. It records and stores all questions, responses and discussions, which will remain available for any further reference by anyone interested. To participate in the forum, one needs to register with MozMed. The process is simple and fast. Simply go to www.mozmed.com and click "login" and then connect up or register according to the instructions.

  • Telecom Malagasy (Telma), Madagascar’s monopoly provider of fixed line telecoms services, has announced the launch of a new high speed fixed broadband service which it claims significantly increases the downlink rates on offer to business subscribers. 

    According to L’Express de Madagascar, the telco’s new ‘ADSL Pro’ service will provide download speeds of up to 20Mbps, and Telma CEO Patrick Pisal Hamida was cited as saying that the new product would ‘perfectly meet the expectations of professionals, [and] their growing needs for … internet browsing and large file sharing’.

    Residential subscribers too look set to benefit from improved connection speeds, with Telma also unveiling a new bundled service which includes DSL-based broadband at download speeds of up to 8Mbps; the package also included fixed and mobile voice and satellite TV.

  • Kenyans on social media are demanding the arrest and prosecution of an assistant minister who was caught on camera calling for the eviction of members of the Maasai community from one of Nairobi's estates.

    Kenyans on Twitter want Ferdinand Waititu, who is also a member of parliament, charged with incitement and hate speech for comments he made Monday afternoon sparking unrest and protests.

    Waititu who wants to run for Nairobi governor seat in the next elections, is still at large despite both the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and minister for Internal Security issuing orders for his arrest.

    "We don't want to see any Maasai here in Kayole. And to all people who employed Maasai, to sack them with immediate effect." said Waititu in a video recorded by local media.

    A video posted by broadcaster NTV shows Waititu making the comments in the presence of police officers. Waititu was addressing irate members of the public who were angered by the killing of a youngster, allegedly by guards from the Maasai community for stealing a chicken in Nairobi's Kayole estate.

    Hundreds of social media users have in the last 48 hours used the hashtag #ArrestWaititu to condemn the ministers comments and criticise authorities for failing to arrest and charge him.

    "#Waititu should lose his parliamentary seat and go straight to Guantanamo Bay Jail 4 life without trial!! He is a DISGRACE!,” wrote Eliud Kirui via Twitter.

    “There is a charge known as incitement to violence. Waititu must be arrested, and charged tomorrow. If not, lets conclude that the law favours,” tweeted Francis Gachuri.

    Social media users have raised concerns over the use of hate speech by local politicians that could instigate violence in the next elections with some drawing comparisons to Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

    Waititu's party, TNA, and its presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta - who is also facing charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in connection with the 2008 post election violence- was also criticised for failing to suspend Waititu from the party.

    “If TNA believes in the rule of law they should suspend Waititu. What do you expect when the party leader is ICC suspect. #ArrestWaititu,” wrote Karani Mutonga.

    Andrew Alovi added : “Aljazeera are running a documentary on the Rwanda genocide. Meanwhile Waititu is still Water Assistant Minister under Uhuru's ( Kenyatta) party.”

    Waititu's comments come at a time when Kenya is preparing for the March 4, 2013 general elections, the first presidential election since the 2007 poll which was marred with incitement and violence leading to the killing of 1,300 people and displacement of 300,000 others.

    Waititu has since apologised adding that his comments were directed at Maasai's from Tanzania and not the Kenyan Maasai community.

    “I am fully responsible for what I said. There was nobody who was hurt after my utterances. You can interpret my statements as incitement, but that’s your view. But they were already incited. When I arrived, they had already blocked the roads,” Waititu said at a news conference in Parliament buildings.

    The assistant minister yesterday evening managed to escape from parliament buildings in unclear circumstances and evaded arrest despite police checking all vehicles leaving the buildings.

    Social media users now want the people who helped him escape arrested.

    “Parliament has CCTV, the police can easily get who helped Waititu sneak from the law. Or that's also privileged? #Accomplice #arrestWaititu ,” Mac Otani wrote on Twitter.

    Another assistant minister and member of parliament was this month fired from cabinet and charged in court for allegedly inciting violence that claimed more than 100 lives in the south-eastern Tana River area at the Kenyan coast.

     

     

  • Main One has connected its cable network to the London Internet Exchange Point (LINX), one of the largest internet exchange points in the world with over 430 members from more than 50 countries worldwide.

    Connection to the LINX provides Main One with reliable exchange of Internet traffic with improved routing control and performance. “For businesses connected to the MainOne network, this translates to faster response times to most popular sites. Achieving pioneer status as the first West African carrier to connect directly to the LINX is further evidence of MainOne’s dedication to innovation to improve customers’ broadband experience on our network,” the company said in a statement.

    Last week, MainOne joined over 380 decision-makers from 140 different carriers and service providers to discuss the future of wholesale communications in Africa at the annual “Capacity Africa” event that held at the Hyatt Regency, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

     

  • “Facebook evolved to be of extreme importance for any digital marketing efforts, and understanding all about Facebook users becomes an essential step to start any Facebook marketing activity“, Said Ahmad Nagy; eMarketing Egypt Managing Director.

    “For the third year in row we try to provide marketers with a crystal view of Facebook in Egypt, this year edition is very unique as it included additional Facebook usage insights based on recent survey conducted by the company”, added Ossama El Badawy, The author of the report and the online competitive intelligence manager of eMarketing Egypt.

computing

  • Huawei has partnered with Makerere University’s College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology to promote local ICT talent from the secondary school level through sponsoring of the Science and Technology Innovations Challenge. This was announced during the grand challenge, which had seven schools each with a team of six students.

    This year’s challenge was won by team St. Mary’s College Kisubi and the technology giant will build an E-lab for the school and pay tuition fees for the winning students. The E-lab will seek to provide a richer educational experience to students through exposure to high-end hands on technologies that facilitate appreciation of theoretical concepts aimed at addressing local needs.

    In his speech, the permanent secretary for Information and Communication Technology, Dr. Jimmy Patrick Samanya, said that the challenge stimulates an active interest in science and technology amongst the secondary school students who are on the way to pursuing related careers and contributing to future ground-breaking innovations.  “The competition will assist in providing innovative solutions that can be used to further improve service delivery by government, as well as create a channel for entrepreneurs with innovative ideas to be supported to commercialize their ideas,” he added.

    The challenge, which is overseen by the ilabs@mak project, seeks to identify gifted students in computer programming. The competition has been going on since February has attracted many secondary schools from which the 7 finalists were drawn from various regions to compete in the grand challenge. It involves the Robotics Challenge, focusing on assembly and programming of real-life robotics to undertake meaningful tasks and the Mobile Phone Challenge, involving disassembling and re-assembly of a mobile phone.

  • Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says “ICT-illiterate” senior managers are obstacles to the best use of information and computer technology (ICT) in the civil service.

    She says such circumstances, coupled with unmanaged service providers and consultants, lead to the government buying “solutions for imaginary problems, while leaving out real problems which include responsive solutions that enhance and remove challenges of poverty”. She says for government to overcome this, the main challenge is its ability to “insert the technology into our everyday performance”.

    Sisulu was speaking during the official opening of the seventh GovTech conference, South Africa’s top public sector ICT knowledge-sharing and learning event, which is being held at Durban’s International Convention Centre until tomorrow.

    “ICT-illiterate senior managers are obstacles to the optimum use of ICTs, while at the same time unmanaged whizzkids can lead us down a path of fruitless expenditure and lack of empowerment of the same civil servants,” said Sisulu.

    She added that in order for the goverment to improve its national rating as a user of ICT, it needed to partner with companies that could offer students internships and outreach programmes with schools, tertiary institutions and community-based organisations.

    “I am convinced we cannot rest until there is universal access in public schools and a pool of ICT-competent children, or else what we discuss here is superficial, to say the least. We must cover the basics and provide opportunities in the ICT value chain, lest we entrench inequalities in the next generations,” said Sisulu.

    “The old model of ICT and e-government is that we work and produce services that are designed and structured around the needs of the rich. The new way is that technology and services must be designed and adapted to fit the needs of the poor. We must conduct our business to reflect a new social consciousness and commitment to nation-building and development.

    Asher Bohbot, the CEO of EOH, a listed business and IT solutions provider, has challenged JSE-listed companies to help create jobs instead of looking at government to do so.

    Bohbot says JSE companies are sitting on a cash pile of about R666bn that could be used to create job opportunities for the 5 million able-bodied but unemployed South Africans.

    “If every JSE-listed company took 10% of that money and invested it by offering learnerships and other minor things, unemployement would be history.

    “In South Africa, business must have a much broader role, which must include the wellbeing of our society. The interesting thing is that this kind of thinking is not in conflict with shareholder interest. It is harder to run a successful business in a failing society,” said Bohbot while addressing Govtech delegates during a gala dinner.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Allied Technologies Limited (Altech) has announced that it plans to dispose of its 75% share in Altech West Africa Limited (AWA).

    Altech said in a statement that AWA launched in Nigeria, in 2005. The company produces cash recharge vouchers for the cellular network operators in Nigeria and has more recently commenced the manufacture of plastic card products for Nigerian banks and other clients.

    While AWA was highly profitable for most of the time since its inception, it has become loss-making during the last 18 months. Altech says this is due to a reduction in demand for its secure recharge vouchers (as opposed to cheaper non-secure products made by other suppliers) and delays in the up-take of plastic chip cards by banks. In addition, its “pioneer industry” tax-free status expired recently.

    These factors, plus the costs involved in maintaining Altech management control of AWA from South Africa, additional investment required to enhance AWA’s production facilities, as well as the fact that AWA‘s product area is non-core to the Altech group, has prompted Altech to reached agreement to dispose of its 75% interest in AWA.

  • Orange says this is in line with Orange’s goal to launch the service in all 22 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the Group operates. 

    Since the service was first launched in Cote d’Ivoire in 2008, it has accumulated over 4.6 million customers across its regions.

    Orange Money allows users to transfer money, top up airtime and perform other transactions using their mobile phones.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - South African-based mobile social network MXit has acquired mobile community specialists Motribe. When the deal gets approved, MXit is expected to own 100% of Motribe, after MXit bought out current shareholders 4Di Capital, Nic Haralambous and Vincent Maher.

Digital Content

  • The Zambian government has said the Electronic Voucher (e-voucher) system to be introduced under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) will be implemented in the 2013/2014 farming season.

    Agriculture and Livestock Deputy Minister Rodgers Mwewa told Parliament this week that the Zambian government would initially implement the e-voucher system in a pilot project in 10 selected districts.

    He said under the e-voucher system, beneficiaries could be easily targeted since they would be registered in the system.

    Mwewa said farmers would be easily tracked and the Zambian government would be able to monitor the farmers in their activities.

    Among the districts to benefit from the pilot projects are Chongwe, Kalomo, Chibombo, Mazabuka and Ndola.

    Mwewa said that e-voucher system had been used in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, where it had proved to be successful.

    He said instead of using middlemen in the process, farmers would directly collect vouchers in a transparent and cost-effective manner.

  • Tanzanians could soon have access to an SMS application that enables the country’s ferry passengers to confirm and ensure that the vessel they are set to board on is indeed safe for travel.

    Usizame, or ‘don’t drown’ in the local Kiswahili language, is expected to begin testing the prototype system from today and systematically roll out the product across a series of ferries travelling between Unguja, Pemba and Dar Es Salaam.

    The Usizame initiative comes in response to a series of tragic maritime accidents stretching as far back as 1996 to the capsizing of the MV Bukomba, which saw an estimated 1000 people drown.

    There has, however, been two more recent accidents over the last year that saw the people behind Usizame come together to find a solution.

    “There had been two major ferry accidents in one year, first the sinking of the Spice Islander in September 2011 and then the Skagit in July 2012, and the result was many hundreds of deaths and grieving families,” explains Rachel Hamada, one of the co-founders of Usizame.

    “We decided that enough was enough – and if safety standards were not being adhered to for passengers, that we would help passengers to improve safety standards from the ground up,” adds Hamada.

    The prototype system can receive SMS messages, allow registration via SMS, and receive passenger check-ins and produce auto responses. Once first-stage testing is complete, details of the public trial are planned to be announced.

    Hamada explains that Usizame is an on-going collaboration among a number of professionals across Tanzania and Zanzibar.

    In a country where internet penetration remains low the creation of an SMS-based solution was both inevitable and inspired.

    “The idea is to make use of the high level of mobile phone penetration in Zanzibar and Tanzania to allow people to co-operate to improve their own safety – we will collate information within our system and, if necessary, feed it back to passengers in a way that should help them make informed choices about the risks they are taking,” she said.

    Thanks to Usizame, passengers are set to be able to check into their ferry with their name through a free SMS to help establish a record of exactly who is, and how many passengers are, on each boat.

    In addition Usizame is designed to collect information that will make the solution able to warn passengers in the case of overloading or inclement weather conditions.

    Also passengers can quickly log and verify any emergency situations and notify family members and authorities to ensure a fast response.

    It is designed to create more awareness among ferry users of their right to be safe from harm and at the same time also make the ferry operators more aware and accountable regarding their responsibilities.

    If the boat is in danger after departing, passengers would be able to send a free text alerting Usizame that the vessel is in peril.

    Information would then be verified and subsequently automatic alerts would be sent to the authorities, media and chosen family members in order to ensure the fastest response possible.

  • Cancellation of a $16.5m US project to use Amazon's e-reader to teach English around the world highlights the challenges of achieving effective results from m-learning

    Days before US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos were due to launch a partnership, to promote US culture and provide English lessons to young learners around the world via 35,000 Kindle e-readers, the event was quietly cancelled.

    The proposed partnership with Amazon to develop the Kindle Mobile Learning Initiative was officially terminated on 15 August. The cancellation notice stated that the state department "intends to conduct additional market research and re-examine its requirements for this programme".

    The U-turn was an embarrassment for the state department, which spends close to $40m a year on spreading English language skills around the world. But it is also a tacit acknowledgement that e-readers may not be a quick fix for raising learning achievement and that more needs to be done to learn how to exploit them effectively.

    The reasons behind the withdrawal remain unclear. One factor may have been the US's National Federation of the Blind's (NFB) claim that Kindles are not fully accessible to the visually impaired and therefore the project was illegal. "This agreement would violate US law regarding access to information by the blind," NFB president Marc Maurer said.

    Meanwhile, the apparent commitment to conduct further research has been welcomed by many education experts. Mobile learning has a relatively short history, but there is much to learn from both the successes and failures of early projects.

    The agreement with Amazon would have involved a purchase of 35,000 Kindles over five years, with pre-loaded content and access to further material online. The anticipated value of the contract was $16.5m with the state department aiming to: "Create a global e-reader programme that introduces aspects of US society and culture directly to young people, students, and international audiences in new ways and expands English language learning opportunities worldwide."

    While Amazon's input into the project was clearly outlined in US Federal Business Opportunities documentation, there appeared to have been little focus on exactly how the Kindles would be integrated into current education programmes. Yet a concentration on technology over pedagogy has become a critical factor in determining the success of English language programmes that combine ICT and traditional teaching, also known as blended learning.

    Kindles have already been used to support large-scale education projects. The nonprofit organisation Worldreader aims to improve literacy and language skills of school children in developing countries by providing digital libraries on Kindle devices. With current projects in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda, encouraging results have been reported in evaluation studies. Worldreader is also developing its Book App that can be accessed on mobile phones, with further details on new funding partners for this scheme expected to be announced shortly.

    However, putting in funding and providing hardware for a blended learning project is not enough by itself. The US-based One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has distributed more than 2m low-cost laptops since 2007 to children globally, but a report by the Inter-American Development Bank into OLPC in Peru sparked widespread debate when it appeared in February. It stated that, 15 months after implementation, there appeared to be no significant increase in language test score levels or the quality of teaching in classrooms. The report suggested that the amount of training that teachers received on how to use the technology with their students could have been a factor in the disappointing results.

    When large numbers of expensive and delicate electronic devices are involved, research and training on how to maintain them is key. Over 40% of the Kindles broke during Worldreader's initial pilot in Ghana. According to USAid's final evaluation report: "[the] high breakage rates were primarily a result of the device's fragile screen and vulnerability to dust." Worldreader claims that the breakage rates have been reduced to almost zero in the latest project, following the introduction of a more robust screen and better training for users on care and maintenance.

    Working on ways to ensure that the technology is valued by the students, teachers and administrators is also of crucial importance in ensuring that the devices do not end up being discarded.

    As UK-based ELT learning technologies specialist Pete Sharma states: "Both teachers and students need to hold positive attitudes towards technology. While many teachers are happy to incorporate digital learning, others are less so. If the teacher does not believe in the pedagogical soundness of the digital component, there is a real chance of failure."

    The content that is available for use via the devices must also be closely matched to the existing curriculum.

    The British Council's English projects manager David Pardoe has been working on bringing English language audio content to resource-poor schools in sub-Saharan Africa. British Council-produced podcasts and radio programmes are loaded onto solar-powered, portable devices with integrated speakers, known as Lifeplayers. These are being distributed to rural schools in eight countries in southern Africa.

    "A lot of people get excited when they see the device and that is good, but the initial enthusiasm can quickly be lost if it's not linked to curriculum," Pardoe says. "I would say that right now, matching content is almost more important than the device, because if it's not then it's quite difficult to convince a teacher to use it in lessons."

    Unesco is currently drafting policy guidelines for the development of m‑learning initiatives. According to its programme specialist Steve Vosloo, "[Our] research has found that there is a dearth of policy related to mobile learning at the national level. [The guidelines will] try to fill that vacuum by helping policy makers understand the benefits and challenges related to mobile learning and to offer guidelines for creating an enabling policy environment in which mobile learning can grow."

  • A staff member who made comments on Twitter about an altered photograph published in the Citizen was dismissed on Thursday, according to a statement on the newspaper's website. “A disciplinary hearing under an independent, external chairperson found him guilty on two charges.”

    These were bringing the company name into disrepute by making defamatory comments on Twitter and irretrievably damaging the trust relationship between employer and employee.

    The Citizen also warned of the potential consequences of making irresponsible comments on social networks.

    “An employer, company or institution has a responsibility to take action when it and its employees are defamed and false information about them is spread.

    “In the matter of the 'cloned' photograph published on September 19, the company has dealt individually with all people who had a role in the serious error.”

    The image in question was that of a suicide attack on a minibus in Kabul, Afghanistan, in which eight South Africans were killed.

    At the time, editor Martin Williams said a decision was taken to blur the bodies shown in the photograph as the picture was too gory to publish in its original form.

    Instead, the bodies were digitally removed from the image in error.

    According to a report on the Mail & Guardian's website the dismissed empoyee was photograher Johann “Slang” Hattingh.

    Hattingh drew attention to the newspaper's use of a photograph, sourced from Agence France-Presse, which had been altered to remove the bodies of two South Africans killed in the blast. He tweeted about the Citizen's use of the image shortly after it went to press.

    At his disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, Hattingh argued that the page should have been checked by senior editorial staff and as such it was they - not him - who had brought the company name into disrepute.

    Hattingh told the M&G: “I'm quite disappointed with the outcome but obviously I'll take it up further with the (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration)”. - Sapa

  • Almost every week, African software developers introduce new applications to the market. Two IT students in Uganda have developed an application that shows motorists the cheapest gas stations in the capital, Kampala.

    Edward Sekyewa is driving through Kampala. His  tank's almost empty and he urgently needs to find a gas station.  But fuel is expensive in Uganda and prices vary widely. To find the cheapest price, Edward uses his cellphone.

    With his smart phone and the 'Mafuta-Go' (Gas-Go) application, he is able to find out where he'll get the most fuel for his money. According to Mafuta-Go it's the  City Oil gas station in Kamwokya where a liter costs 3,550 Ugandan shillings (1.10 euros, $1.40). 

     

More

  • Google rolls out ICT scholarship to African students

    Google has announced a scholarship programme targeted at African female students who are enrolled in ICT courses, to encourage students to take an active role in the sector and become role models and leaders across Africa.

    The 2013/14 academic year scholarships will focus on African students in computer science, computer engineering, Informatics or any related courses. Student with excellent academic backgrounds will get the opportunity to study in Europe or Israel.  

    Kenya’s Presbyterian University of East Africa’s acting director of organisation development and e-learning Denis Muchangi told Humanipo he welcomes the move and urges Kenyan students to apply.

    “Google scholarship will empower African females in the ICT sector,” he said.

    Other regions that will benefit from the scholarship include Middle East and Europe.

    The other category of scholarship is aimed students with disabilities studying  computer science, computer engineering, informatics with a disability

    Applications should be received before February 1, 2013. Announcements of successful applicants will be made in May next year.

     

    Growth academy invites applications

    A new Nokia/CcHub Growth Academy in Kenya has invited applications from software startups.

    The academy aims to accelerate the growth of start-ups, to help them develop into high growth mobile application businesses.

    Having successfully completed a pilot, the partner now invite applications the first three-month intensive programme, which will focus on capacity building, product development andlaunch.

    Each start-up will undergo hands-on prototype development and structured training with modules such as business model development, project implementation plan and lean product development. Tailored technical training and support will be provided by Futurice, a global training organization with expertise in mobile application development and user driven design.

    During product development each start-up is complemented with the best of resources i.e. one-on-one mentorship from experienced tech entrepreneurs with a strong understanding of the African market, project implementation plan; and market research support to ensure that solutions meet specific market needs.

    The last phase of the programme is dedicated to product testing, pilot launch and value redesign based on initial customer feedback. Each start-up will also pitch at an open Pitchfest to the wider community and investors as part of the final product launch.

    To apply, visit www.growthacademy.org; applications close by 6pm on 3 October 2012. Ten start-ups will be recruited into programme which culminates in a formal launch of the mobile apps on the Nokia store.

  • Broadband World Forum

    16 – 18 October 2012, Amsterdam RAI Convention Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    The event, now in its 12th year, is the most respected in the regions Telecoms calendar and the comprehensive agenda includes breakfast briefings, 3 co-located summits,  keynote plenary sessions and a choice of 4 tracks for delegates each day as well as the world class exhibition area. For more information please click here:

    AfricaCom 2012
    13th-15th November 2012, CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa

    The digital ecosystem will take centre stage at AfricaCom 2012, at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, 13 – 15 November 2012.  Network with over 7000 industry executives at Africa’s largest event embracing all aspects of the continent’s converging telecoms, media and ICT sectors.  Incorporating 11 co-located events all pertinent to future-proofing your business in the digital era, including cloud computing, OTT, apps, broadband and multiplatform content, see and hear how Africa’s communications market is a hotbed for innovation and long term prosperity. 
    Contact: Subuola.akinkugbe@informa.com
    For more information please click here:

    Telecoms Fraud & Revenue Assurance Forum
    26th - 27th November 2012, Dubai
    The only event currently in the region dedicated to telecoms fraud and revenue assurance, Tavess' Telecoms Fraud and Revenue Assurance Forum in Dubai has been designed to provide Revenue Assurance and Fraud professionals from across the Middle East, Asia and Africa the opportunity to learn about the latest RA strategies that the operators are adopting to more effectively detect and prevent revenue leakage and fraudulent activities in an increasingly complex scenario. In addition to an in-depth look at the detection and prevention of various types of fraud, the Forum also explores how to evolve the organization, streamline processes, effectively integrate systems and embed revenue assurance into new products. For more information please click here:

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