Newsletter English

Issue no 647 22nd March 2013

node ref id: 27449

Top story

  • There’s a growing acknowledgement that the all-data future is upon us but much less idea what the road looks like between here and there. MTN has announced that it will launch Triple Play at some point in the near future and become a “services company”. Russell Southwood looks at the sequence of changes that will need to be made by any successful operator.

    In business terms, the mobile operators’ lot is not a happy one. In most of Africa’s big markets there is now an intense level of competition. Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) is down below the US$10 mark and amongst those who are really hurting, at around US$2-3. So the priority for mobile operators in making the transition to data must not be to see it as the new Eldorado that will add to voice revenues. You will be a lucky if it can be a defensive strategy that helps maintain the existing low levels of ARPUs in key markets.

    Why so? Thus far the data products offered – which have largely been versions of bandwidth packages – have been aimed at the salary boys with laptops. Although prices have in some markets fallen considerably, there’s still much of a premium spring in their step. If everything follows past patterns, this will be the same with LTE data packages. The salary boys will get soaked again for high prices (“They can afford it and they’re not paying themselves.”) and in 18 months to 2 years the prices will cascade down to something approaching reasonable.

    But the data market the operators will need cannot be developed this way. The existing market is a high-value and niche but is crying out for something really transformational. If the cascade in data prices always ends up at the bottom, then why not turn the problem on its head? Start with low prices and create a genuine mass market for data.

    I can already see the blood draining from the Product Managers’ faces so I need to explain why it’s necessary to cut out all that cascading tactical pricing nonsense. In broad terms, all African mobile markets have two pieces: the niche, high-value customers (often post-paid but by no means always) and various stripes of mass market using greater or lesser amounts of voice and SMS.

    In a country like Kenya, Nigeria or Cameroon, the middle ground between these two pieces of the market is capable of affording higher levels of ARPU, whether voice or data. In Liberia, the niche will remain largely a niche: education and income levels will make a transition to data extremely challenging. Different circumstances which will come back to in a future article.

    The mobile operators are all sitting on absolutely humungous amounts of unsold data capacity in the new international pipes that have been built. Prices for this capacity will continue to decline to the sub US$100 level, however much operators try and control things by rationing its introduction. Every day that passes means that you can’t get money for yesterday’s unsold capacity. So the dash for data needs to produce significant growth in wholesale revenues.

    So what follows is not a deeply worked out strategy for the dash to data but something more like a first draft. The overall objective must be to deliver as soon as possible a range of data bundles between US$5-10 per month and accompany this package with smartphones that are in the US$50-70 range.

    Put the foot on the accelerator for maximum growth in both the volume of data and the number of users. Encourage all the international and local social networking brands because these are the “must-have” products, which have been persuading people to use data, sometimes without realizing that’s what they’re doing. Also think about those social networking products like Flickr and Pinterest that require people to transfer photos to the cloud.

    Wireless access in Africa has come on by leaps and bounds in the last five years but operators and their partners need to make near universal Wi-Fi access in urban areas a driving business priority. There should be almost nowhere where people gather that they cannot get a signal.

    Ideally these signals need to be bundled in such a way that there is access to packages that offer the equivalent of universal roaming. People need to be able to turn to this access whether they are in a matatu or a market and not feel constrained by artificial limits: bring an end to capacity bundles and people will not hesitate to do things using data.

    The first step along the road to data is the introduction of video on phones using LTE. You Tube is already widely used despite the fact that bandwidth has not kept up with it. It should be made the key application to drive LTE as a mass market product.

    The next stage on this road is leaving behind old revenues. One of the operators who spoke at Africa Telecoms Forum last week said for the first time that SMS will be phased out as a service. Instead actually encourage people to migrate to services like What’s App and offer simpler e-mail applications that run from address books.

    The last step in this transition is either offering bundled data voice services or reaching deals with existing operators like Skype and Fring. It’s important to make this not a plan B or C service but something users want to turn to first.

    Finally, whatever people say about mobile being the dominant device in Africa, there will be an increased desire amongst Africa’s middle classes for things like high speed DSL or fibre to the home to deliver TV packages as well as voice and Internet.

    So how does the money thing work, I hear you asking yourself? Well if currently someone is paying US$5-10 a month, the aim is to get back approximately that same amount (or slightly more) from these customers by getting them to pay for data rather than voice or SMS. Timescale? 3-5 years so this is not some theoretical future discussion but something you need to be doing now.

    Video briefings on:

    TV White spaces:

    Steve Song, CEO, Village Telco on the TV White Spaces Workshop

    Henk Kleynhans, formerly Chair of WAPA on TV White Spaces proposals in South Africa

    App ideas that might work in African markets:

    Mobile analyst Tomi Ahonen on augmented reality as the 8th mass media

    Lars Forslof, Roadroid on a smartphone app that measures the bumps and holes in the road

    Abbas Adel Ibrahim, Morsi Meter on measuring the Egyptian President's performance online – how you might measure the performance of the next Kenyan President

    The roll-out of LTE in the UK market:

    Ije Nwokorie, Wolff Olins on early lessons from helping launch EE's LTE service in the

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

telecoms

  • Ethio-telecom announced that it will upgrade its current 3G telecom infrastructure networks to LTE. Dr. Mesfin Belachew, e-government directorate director at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, told reporters that, "Ethio-telecom is undertaking a technical evaluation of the proposals submitted by the Huawei Technologies and ZTE corporations companies."

    The state-owned telecom monopoly announced plans two months ago to divide the country into eleven infrastructure zones, in order to better manage each network. The zones are to be distributed between the two companies, Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corporation, presently bidding for the network and upgrade expansion project. The two-year project, estimated to cost 1.5 billion dollars, is aimed at doubling the existing 20 million mobile phone users by 2014/15, and alleviating present network problems.
    Source: The Government of Ethiopia

    Cambium Networks deploys world’s first IP wireless GIGATOWER to expand global service provider broadband reach

     Cambium Networks has introduced the Gigatower, a new wireless broadband access solution that delivers the industry’s highest level of throughput for enterprises and triple-play service providers worldwide. Based on the Canopy point-to-multipoint (PMP) 450 platform, the Gigatower enables service providers to further expand capacity to existing customers and offer high capacity broadband to new customers in urban, suburban and rural environments.

     Service providers and network operators around the globe use PMP access networks to provide significantly higher bandwidth in non-line-of-sight (NLoS) and line-of-sight (LoS) applications. Utilising both licensed and unlicensed bands, Canopy’s installed base of four million modules provides broadband services for demanding enterprise and residential use. For those looking to deploy a more extensive network, the PMP 450’s modular design allows the Gigatower to provide more than 1 gigabit of broadband capacity and extend coverage area to more than 120 square kilometers.

    “Service providers need innovative solutions to deliver broadband to their users. Fiber/DSL is an expensive solution that lacks symmetrical capability. It has generally been deployed where it’s economically viable, leaving many customers underserved (unable to achieve the speeds and symmetry they desire) and unserved due to their proximity to fiber. The PMP 450 and new Gigatower offer the ability to deploy in greenfield locations or to overlay existing DSL footprint with a solution that delivers HD video and IPTV, voice and data services at a cost point that truly changes broadband economics,” says Tony Rodrigues, Regional Sales Managerat Cambium Networks. “We are also introducing an entirely new architecture, the PTP-C, (Point-to-Point Cluster) for small cell backhaul among other applications. It’s our more than 10 years’ experience as the wireless IP market leader and our deep engineering expertise in NLoS and interference mitigation that have enabled us to redefine the function and form factor that will revolutionize how small cell backhaul will be deployed in years to come.”

  • The Nigeria's telecoms regulator NCC has announced that Mobile Number Portability will go live in the country next week, and also a day earlier than originally planned.

    Reuben Muoka, Head, Media and Public Relations of the Commission told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).that contrary to the initial announcement of the launch on March 26, the regulatory body had finalised arrangements to begin the service a day earlier.

    The initial launch will affect just the GSM networks, with CDMA networks required to offer MNP services later on this year.

    Porting between GSM and CDMA networks is however not expected to be available for some time.

    Customers seeking to port their numbers will also be required to reverify their personal ID with the networks.

  • The Libyan government has put a halt to a process to award a management contract for its state-owned telecoms network, the Libyan Post, Telecommunication and Information Technology Co (LIPTIC).

    Citing Etisalat's CEO, Ahmad Julfar the Reuters news agency reported that the tender had been put on by the government for unspecified reasons.

    Etisalat had been one of the companies bidding in the tender.

    A landline monopoly, LIPTIC also owns majority stakes in the country's two mobile networks which were reclaimed from relatives of the former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi following his downfall.

    It was not clear if the tender was for just the landline network, or included the two mobile networks as well.

internet

  • Internet start-up, 10KWEB, is pleased to announce the addition of Burkina Faso in French West Africa to its global family network. This marks the latest country in Africa to join 10KWEB following Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

    The team operates out of the town of Bobo Dioulasso which is the second largest city in the country of Burkina Faso with a population of over five hundred and thirty thousand people. Its primary economic sources consist of agriculture, textiles and the service industry. Since 2000 the area has enjoyed a population and economic growth spurt due to civil unrest in the surrounding countries and the government’s reinvestment in the city. It is the site of the new West African Centre for Economic and Social Studies, a college which is the central component in what will be the country’s second university.

    10KWEB Co-Founder, Anthony Martins, is excited for this new addition because as he puts it, “It is proof of positive word of mouth. Regardless of language or cultural barriers, people recognize opportunity when they see it. And 10KWEB is happy to offer the folks in Bobo Dioulasso that opportunity.”

    10KWEB was created January 2012 by Anthony Martins and Thomas Bang as an online resource for aspiring blog writers and small business owners. Their website launched on March 5th, 2012 and is currently used in the United States, Mexico, Great Britain, Germany, China, Morocco, Trinidad, Italy and New Zealand with more markets in development.

  • Commissioners gathered for the 7th meeting of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, held today in Mexico City, have agreed an ambitious new target designed to spur female access to the power of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

    The new target mandates ‘gender equality in broadband access by the year 2020’. At present, ITU figures confirm that in the developing world, women are much less likely to have access to technology than their male counterparts. While that disparity is lower in developed countries, a measureable gap nonetheless still exists, even in the rich world.

    Photos of the full meeting of the Commission and the Working Group on Gender can be viewed and downloaded from Flickr:

    Broadcast-quality footage can be previewed and downloaded from ITU’s Virtual Video Newsroom here:

    For full text click on this link: http://www.itu.int/net/pressoffice/press_releases/2013/08.aspx

  • The US Embassy and Mobile Web Ghana (MWG), a community of mobile technology entrepreneurs, has held a forum to discuss innovative ways in which Ghana can take advantage of the prevailing Internet freedom in the country.

    The event saw the Internet Freedom Fellow Mac-Jordan Degadjor, who is currently in Geneva, Switzerland, joining in the discussion via Skype. Mac-Jordan, an active blogger, was selected to represent the country at the Internet Freedom Fellowship on-going in Geneva.

    The innovations include the creation of virtual pressure groups and organisations to fight against issues such as human rights violation and environmental degradation within the country.

    The Internet Freedom Fellowship (IFF) is an annual event that aims to continue the struggle for freedom of expression and association on the Internet, and the pursuit of fundamental human rights.

    According to Mac-Jordan, one of the key discussions held at this year’s IFF centred on usage of the Internet to promote human rights in countries where abuses are rampant. “Despite gains being made, it is depressing to hear of governments trying to restrict freedom of expression and association on social media as in the case of China,” Mac-Jordan said.

    The use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are subjected to governmental control in China, a country known for its closed government.

    The “Happy Hour” event, which was moderated by the Information Resource Centre of the US Embassy, brought together students, professionals and social media activists. Some of the discussions bordered on the security challenge posed by the liberal Internet landscape.

    According to MWG’s Eliezer Ayertey: “Making the Internet free and open means people will be free to express their thoughts on key issues that affect them; people will also have access to websites that provide information they need. People can also create virtual groups and organisations to fight against any human rights violation and degradation within their country and beyond.”

    The Information Officer of the United States Embassy, Jeanne Clark, praised Ghana for the Internet freedom that prevails in the country.

  • Channel Islands-based satellite service provider O3b Networks has announced what it describes as a major long-termo3b-networks-ltd capacity deal providing highly resilient and affordable capacity to ‘the leading ISP in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’.

    The agreement will provide for over 500Mbps of ultra-low-latency capacity to deliver high speed broadband services throughout the country, which is home to more than 70 million people. As part of the agreement, O3b’s next generation IP trunking solution will be deployed to provide international capacity in addition to offering mobile backhaul services to connect both urban hubs and villages.

    Omar Trujillo, VP Africa for O3b Networks, commented: ‘Kinshasa and neighbouring Brazzaville are home to more than twelve million people who until now have been without broadband connectivity. By delivering highly affordable and ubiquitous bandwidth with the performance and speed of fibre, DRC will instantaneously move from one of the worst connected to one of the best connected places on the planet, spurring rapid economic and social development in the region’.

  • Ghanaian start-up, Loggu 4G Ghana Limited is gearing up to start offering uncapped, unmetered and affordable high speed internet service in Ghana.

    Founder of Loggu 4G, Gershon Adeklo told Adom Business they have already secured some US$200,000 guaranteed loan from a US EXIM Bank to set up the network to run their broadband service in the next two month though an innovative business model.

    The ITU (International Telecommunications Union) estimates that between 2010 and 2011, broadband access in Ghana grew from 7% to 23%, but that still leaves the broadband market in Ghana widely open.

    Meanwhile, a 2012 World Bank study estimates that effective broadband development will create between 2.5 and 4 additional jobs per broadband job and that 10 percent broadband penetration can increase a country's GDP by 1.5 percent.

    Telecom operators and ISPs (Internet Service Providers) are therefore gearing up to cash in the huge opportunity and also to create jobs and help the country realize the additional GDP growth.

    Adeklo said Loggu 4G has noticed the biggest challenge to internet penetration in Africa and in Ghana is lack of access devices such as laptops and tablets.

    He said Loggu has therefore adopted a business model that would provide prospective customers with laptops as a package with the affordable broadband services on the back of bandwidth from MainOne Cable Company’s fibre optic facility.

    Adeklo said Loggu 4G has obtained guarantees from Togolese-based ECOWAS Guarantee Fund and Nairobi-based African Guarantee Fund to secure the $200,000 loan from USA EXIM Bank.

    He said the company is currently in talks with two local companies to secure about 500 laptops for the business.

    “We would be renting out the laptops to our customers on short-term basis. This means a student who needs a laptop with broadband for research and typing would have to just walk to our office, fill an application form and provide his bio-data. We then review the application and sign a minimum of three hours contract with the customer,” he said.

    The young Internet Entrepreneur said Loggu 4G has measures and systems in place to retrieve the laptops in case a customer does not return it or it is stolen.

    He explained that Loggu is able to track and mine data from the system even if the laptop is taken to the remotest part of the world or if the hard drive is replaced or formatted.

    “Intel has shown interest in our model, but they need proof of its success so we are currently using Ho in the Volta Region as our pilot phase before rolling out across the country,” he said.

    Adeklo said Loggu would ultimately target universities, junior and senior high schools, individual professionals, medium and small scale industries as well as homes with its innovative services to help bridge the digital divide. .

    He said Loggu 4G also plans on offering value added services (VAS) and multimedia services, using broadband wireless networks, based on globally standardized 4G technology.

    The young Internet Entrepreneur said some of the products and services as internet access, hosting and email addresses, among other services, adding that the network design provides fixed and nomadic wireless connectivity for the home and office, as well as mobile services to customers.

  • In what is a step closer to establishing a premier Cloud services marketplace for Africa, Pamoja, the Cloud services business unit of Pan-African ICT enabler SEACOM, has launched its go-to-market strategy to partners and customers at a presentation held in Bryanston, Johannesburg.

    The company, established in 2011 by SEACOM’s founder Brian Herlihy and Stafford Masie, former GM of Google SA, is a provider of wholesale Cloud computing services via telecommunication companies, ISPs and other service providers in Southern and East Africa.

    These institutions have also recognised the Cloud as a source of new revenues, with global investments in cloud services projected to more than double from an estimated US$55 billion in 2011 to almost US$130 billion annually by 2015.

    Pamoja is focused on a wider market, incorporating the fast-growing Small-to-medium Enterprise (SME) segment, and will leverage off  SEACOM’s infrastructure, exposure to partnerships and Africa’s growing mobile and Internet market to entrench its services model.

    Albie Bester, General Manager of Pamoja, said the company is differentiated by access to SEACOM’s extended network, which covers the entire continent, and its role as Cloud business unit for the Channel.

    “Our wholesale model rules out conflict in the channel… there are no downstream issues resulting from us competing with our resellers. Another benefit to partnership with Pamoja is that we eliminate the risk for organisations entering the Cloud computing market. This is about creating economies of scale,” said Bester.

    “Aside from funding and infrastructure, we also have access to SEACOM’s relationships with telco and ISP’s. Pamoja exists because of what is happening in the Cloud … according to Forbes’ top ten strategic CIO issues for 2013, at number six is “Upgrade ‘Cloud Strategy’ to ‘Business Transformation Enabled by the Cloud’. At the end of the day, the Cloud is not a technology matter to an organisation, it is about empowerment. In Africa, it is about business agility and for businesses to become more competitive,” he added.

    Steven Ambrose, CEO of Strategy Worx, said connectivity is critical to the growth of mobile and the realisation of the internet in Africa.

    “Researchers say 50 billion devices are going to be connected to the Internet by 2020… the number is so large. There are seven billion people in the world and there are approximately five billion with mobile phones, so connections are key and will change the world. We are living in a time when new thinking has to come into play. In 2008 a total of 80Gbps of internet capacity was available to the continent… it now stands at 35460 Gbps. There has been a huge shift in sheer capacity to Africa,” said Ambrose.

    “We are also seeing a massive explosion in terrestrial connectivity. The fact is that you cannot do what people are doing on mobile unless you have terrestrial connections and connections to the Internet, nothing much would be happening in Africa,” he added.

    Pamoja’s Cloud services will be provided via the company’s network of datacentres, located directly on the SEACOM submarine infrastructure. The first Cloud platform is running in the Mtunzini cable landing station near Richards Bay. The second platform is planned for Kenya, after which roll out will occur as and where there is demand.

    As SEACOM’s strategic arm leading entry into content aggregation and associated Cloud computing services, Pamoja is leveraging off its parent company to build an SME Cloud services marketplace and take its white-labelled Cloud services to the market through an exclusive channel of resellers.

    To date Pamoja has three channel partners in South Africa, three in Kenya and in discussion with others in Tanzania, Rwanda and Zambia.

    Speaking at the launch Mark Simpson, CEO of SEACOM, said, “Our rapidly growing IP network has been, in recent times, a key enabler for SEACOM and its customers, providing services that are more flexible and much more resilient. Our IP transit and Ethernet products have deepened our relationships within the market, particularly with emerging ISPs and customers working hard to build Africa’s ICT future. We continue to monitor and participate in what we called the African Internet ecosystem.”

computing

  • Solar truck equipped with remarkable range of facilities could revolutionise healthcare in rural parts of sub-Saharan Africa

    At the back of the truck is a small soundproof booth with a chair, light and pair of headphones. Outside the door sits a "screening memory audiometer" with a laptop and printer. This is an ear clinic on wheels, designed to reach the far-flung corners of Africa.

    "Before they go to school, children are tested so we know their specific needs," says Kea' Modimoeng, of Samsung, unveiling the $250,000 (£168,000) vehicle in Cape Town, South Africa, this week. "If David has a hearing difficulty, let him sit at the front of the class instead of the back, where he's not able to take part in the lesson."

    The ear clinic is just one element of what is billed as Africa's first solar-powered mobile health centre. The seven-metre truck also contains a fully equipped eye and blood clinic and a dental surgery. Its target is the six in 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa who live in rural areas, often lacking the time and money to travel long distances to reach health services.

    Patients will be screened for conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, tooth decay and cataracts. There will be an emphasis on health education and encouraging tests as a preventative measure.

    In the next 10 weeks, Samsung plans to add a mother-and-child clinic capable of 4D ultrasound scans and delivering babies.

    "Healthcare and education are the key challenges in Africa," Modimoeng says. "The challenges are huge. In Africa our existing healthcare system is overcrowded. We are trying to ease that burden."

    On Wednesday, the truck was parked on Grand Parade, where thousands gathered to hear Nelson Mandela's first speech from the city hall after his release from prison in 1990. It was among innovations promoted by Samsung, the South Korean giant better known for mobile phones and televisions, under the slogan, "Built for Africa".

    The mobile health centre was constructed in Johannesburg, painted in Samsung's corporate blue and white, and included, under an awning, a TV screen. Modimoeng said public information videos would be shown to communities as they queued. Inside, many of the products are made by specialist manufacturers or pharmaceutical companies.

    At the front is the eye and blood clinic, with a reclining chair for the patient, a sink and mirror, and hi-tech equipment including a blood analyser, spectacle repair kit and "Reichert PT100 portable NCT" – a non-contact tonometry test to measure pressure inside the eye. It is likely to have a staff of four.

    The facility would enable testing for HIV, malaria and numerous other conditions, Modimoeng says. "You can get blood test results instantly. They can print a prescription for you."

    Next comes the dental clinic, much like any other with its familiar chair and overhead light. It also has an x-ray unit, air motor, mobile suction unit, water distiller and needle incinerator. It will have three staff.

    At the rear is the ear clinic, expected to have two staff.

    This is the first of its kind, Modimoeng says, and the ambition is to reach 1 million people in Africa by 2015. "We are scaling up with Africa in mind. We want to collaborate with governments. The intent is there from various countries."

    But he admitted that solar power alone is still not enough. "This uses a lot of energy. The solar power charges the lighting, TV and so on. The rest relies on an inbuilt generator using unleaded fuel or a power plug. It's a step in the right direction and, as time unfolds, we are looking at getting equipment that uses less energy."

    But can the health centre withstand Africa's notorious potholed, bone-jarring roads? "Definitely," Modimoeng insists.

    Also on show at the Samsung forum, where the Guardian was among 200 invited media guests, was a solar-powered internet school – a 12-metre container that can accommodate at least 21 pupils, each with a laptop, and has 24 solar panels providing nine hours of power a day.

    Fully charged, the batteries last three to five days. Since their launch in 2011, the $100,000 schools have begun operating in Angola, Botswana, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa, helping an estimated 7,000 children. Nearby was a solar power generator that can be connected to conventional classrooms. Samsung says that, on average, less than 25% of rural areas in Africa have access to electricity.

    Leonard Tleane, smart schools solutions provider for the company, says solar energy is a growing part of the solution. "The costs are definitely coming down and most of corporate South Africa is moving into solar power. You walk into the townships these days and almost every house has a solar geyser."

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The government has set up an online identity and verification system in order to create a secure online transaction environment.

    Kenya ICT Board Project Manager Evans Kahuthu said that the digital certificates will be issued by Accredited Certification Authorities, through the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK).

    "The Kenya Information and Communication Act has specified how to issue certificates, CCK will issue the authority through a requirement process to online business users who apply so that they have the power to issue the certificates," he explained.

    Kahuthu added that once the accredited certification authorities have been given a green light, a user will apply for the certificate to the Accredited Certification Authorities website.

    "Before we can give out the digital certificates, the user has to meet face to face authentication with the Accredited Authorities to verify their identity and their information," he added.

    Kahuthu said that the digital certificate has one to two years validity and one has to have a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) enabled application to use it.

    "The certificate can be downloaded on a computer hard disc or a USB token and a secret password will be given, however be careful to give out your certificate less someone else uses it," he cautioned.

    The digital certificates will be used as online identity cards and will be used in all online business transactions.

    He also added that all issued digital certificates will be published in a public website for confirmation on whom they correspond to and their validity for users' verification.

    The project was contracted to Samsung SDS a Korean company - leading in creating innovative changes and will be finished in three months time.

    Kahuthu also said that the pilot of the project will be done this October by the Kenya revenue authority and there after open to other online business users.

  • Zain Sudan has been able to repatriate a portion of its operating profit abroad in 2012, a senior banking official told Sudan Tribune today.

    The official who spoke on background said the telecom company, which is a unit of the Kuwait's Zain, was able to move approximately $450 million outside of the country through Sudan's Central bank.

    "This is an important step that eliminated the problems regarding the lack of foreign currency available to foreign companies that invest in Sudan," said the official.

    Foreign firms operating in Sudan particularly airlines and telecom companies have been barred by the central bank for several years from repatriating its profits abroad.

    The policy was a result of the continued depreciation in the value of the Sudanese pound relative to major currencies in recent years particularly after the secession of the oil-rich Sudan in July 2011.

    Last June, the government devalued the official foreign exchange rate as part of measures to compensate for the loss of South Sudanese oil.

    Also in n late 2011, Sudan raised sales taxes on telecoms companies to 30 percent from 20 percent and a profit tax to 30 percent from 15 percent.

    Last month a delegation from Zain Telecom's board of directors met with Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir to discuss issues facing its operations in the country.

    Bashir reportedly promised to remove all impediments faced by Kuwaiti investors in Sudan.

    Sudan is one of Zain's key markets, accounting for 30 percent of the group's 41.3 million subscribers and 20 percent of revenue in the nine-months to Sept. 30, the most recently available figures.

    A senior official from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has told reporters in Khartoum recently that he would discuss with Sudanese officials the issue of repatriating profits.

    "We are closely monitoring the process of repatriating profits abroad and we will work to remove barriers" said Ibrahim Sano the head of the Communication Development Department at the ITU,

  • Signalhorn has completed the rollout of over 400 point of sale (PoS) sites which service a global fuel retailer’s South African network. This global fuel retailer benefits from Signalhorn’s hybrid solution which utilizes DSL, 3G, and VSAT technologies to deliver cost-effective and fail-safe communications.

     This Signalhorn customer is one of the world's leading oil and gas companies and fuel retailers. With retail presence across South Africa and the world, the company requires a robust and global solution that can be rolled out country by country, guaranteeing the same network quality of service to support secure transactions. Signalhorn, with its global reach, operating experience, and proven expertise, has successfully rolled out the more than 400 South African retail sites and also provides the complete end-to-end managed service in support of the network.

    The two companies achieved this expansion objective two months ahead of schedule in spite of infrastructure challenges in South Africa. For years, Signalhorn has been solving regional service issues for customers including special license acquisitions, pertinent security and risk measures, as well as necessary qualifications and training to ensure uninterrupted service and connectivity for customers regardless of location or situation.   

    “Our retail customers rely on debit and credit card transactions for their day-to-day business. The connectivity between point of sale site and headquarters must be up and running at all times,” explains Helmut Böttcher, Signalhorn VP Enterprise Sales. “In Africa, the only communications technology that covers 100% of the continent is satellite. 3G covers 20%, DSL at most 10%. We optimize our customers’ networks based on a combination of the technologies available and we have the talent and global expertise internally to design, build, install, and maintain such large networks,” continues Mr. Böttcher.

    “Through working with various global retail customers, Signalhorn learned that DSL and 3G are either not available for all sites, are often unreliable, or are not available with a defined Service Level Agreement from other operators or providers,” says Robert Kubbernus, Signalhorn President & CEO. “Therefore, Signalhorn designed a solution that addresses these issues by combining standard building blocks (VSAT, DSL, and 3G) into a robust solution based on European quality standards supported by a Signalhorn SLA.  With around 10,000 locations now benefiting from our managed services, we are looking forward to the further expansion of this highly reliable offering by Signalhorn,” continues Mr. Kubbernus.

Digital Content

  • Lovers of literature have the opportunity, anywhere they live in the world, to buy books by Angolan authors, through the site of the Angolan Writers Union (UEA), which contains the formalities for the fulfilment of this desire.

    This information was released by the secretary general of UEA, Carmo Neto, adding that after visiting the site, you can find the item shop, where there are the needed clarifications for payment via Western Union.

    After following this procedure the UEA, in the possession of client's addresses will deliver the requested book.

    According to the secretary general, the action stresses the importance of the UEA site, created 12 year ago.

  • South Africa's Vodacom Business division has announced the launch of a number of mHealth initiatives together with its partner Mezzanineware.

    Based on a centralised mobile/cloud environment, Vodacom's Mezzanine mHealth services allow health care or technology providers to improve their access to clients, assets and employees. This is done through secure, real-time data collection, information processing, management and reporting.

    Originally built for the health industry, the services have been customised to work across various industry verticals.

    "This partnership enables the latest mobile health services and solutions to be delivered to any part of the African continent. We already have a dozen live commercial deployments, delivering a cross section of our solutions to the benefit of citizens. A stable, robust and wide ranging GSM network is essential to the success of any mobile health solution. While we are network agnostic, locally our partnership with Vodacom enables health providers to cost-effectively manage people, products and services over a distributed area utilizing secure data hosting and innovative mobile technology," said Jaques De Vos, Mezzanine's Managing Director.

    LoveLife, the largest national HIV prevention initiative for young people already uses the Vodacom Mezzanine platform to monitor and report on its events hosted across South Africa.

  • Within a period of four months since Rwanda's Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), ".rw" was formally re-delegated from Belgium, more companies/individuals have started registering their websites under the '.rw' domain.

    Previously Rwandans had opted for .com, .org, .uk, because ".rw" was managed from Belgium and Rwandans were not aware of the procedures involved to access it.

    But after a seven-year long process of transferring ccTLD, last year in September, Rwanda Information Communication Technology Association (RICTA) gained all the rights from Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to manage the government's web domain after using formal procedures to apply for its repatriation.

    Speaking to The New Times on Monday, Ghislain Nkeramugaba, the CEO of RICTA, said that web domain has received huge public response and many companies and individuals are using it for their websites.

    "Since September, we have registered over 160 web domain names both companies and individuals directly under .rw, which is really encouraging. This promotes our national top level internet identity," he said.

    Registering a web domain takes a maximum of six hours

    "Some people have become aware of the domain's management presence in Rwanda and we are going to start awareness campaigns to enable the general public understand the procedures involved in accessing '.rw'," the RICTA CEO said, adding that they are planning to launch second level domains among others, .co.rw, .org.rw, .net.rw, and ac.rw.

    "Utilising our country's internet domain name promotes creation of local content, enhances cyber security and efficiently ranks Rwanda's web content on to search engines."

    RICTA is a non-profit making organisation representing the Rwandan Internet community. It comprises of different ICT institutions and individuals.

    It was formed in 2005 with the objective of managing the country code top level domains, among other purposes.

    .rw, was formerly managed in Belgium by Frederic Gregoire, a Belgian entrepreneur, under his Swiss-based company NIC Congo - Interpoint.

    Gregoire had held registration rights for the domain since 1995 after registering it through the ICANN, the organisation charged with coordinating the internet's domain names-during that time Rwanda's internet compliance was very minimal since the country was still recovering from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

    According to Didier Rutayomba, who recently registered his company under .rw, the web domain works well and it's easy to register than it was when in Belgium.

    Rutayomba is hosting several company websites under his company 'ipromo.rw'.

    RICTA provides registry services such as registrar management, domain name registration, renewal, dispute settlement services and maintains the entire .rw register system.

  • A crowdmap is live in Zimbabwe allowing citizens to report on cases of intimidation and corruption in tomorrow’s constitutional referendum, in spite of government attempts to crack down on monitoring.

    The Zimbabwe Elections 2013 crowdmap, powered by Ushahidi, has so far logged 62 reports, with 20 of these alleging intimidation.

    Zimbabweans go to the polls tomorrow to vote in a referendum on a new constitution, which sets the stage for full national elections later in the year. However, both President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change back the “yes” vote.

    The crowdmap is encouraging Zimbabweans to report cases of abuse as well as take to Twitter to discuss the referendum and upcoming elections using the hashtags #ZimElection, #ZimElections13 and #ZimElections.

    Technology is being utilised as part of the referendum process despite attempts to crack down on monitoring. Zimbabwean police took peace activist Jestina Mukoko in for questioning as she was establishing a Kenya-inspired social media network to warn voters of political violence.

    The Zimbabwe Mail reported her Zimbabwe Peace Project was raided by police who took smartphones that would be used as tools for Ushahidi users to report where incidences of violence and corruption were taking place. Police said the smartphones were “spying gadgets” supplied by hostile western governments.

    Effie Ncube, chairman of the National Association of Non Governmental Organisations (NANGO) told the Zimbabwe Mail ignorance of technology reigned within the national police force.

    “The police still use typewriters in Zimbabwe,” he said. “They have no idea about IT, or social media. They don’t know about Facebook or Twitter, so they probably have no idea about Ushahidi.

    “There was nothing secretive about this project. It was set up quite openly.

    “There is a generational problem with the ZRP (Zimbabwe Republic Police). They are stuck behind many developments in IT.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Nigerian subscribers' demand for the cost of voice tariffs to be lowered has been answered with a new mobile termination rates (MTRs) also known as interconnect rates introduced yesterday night by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) with effect from April 1, 2013.

    According to the regulator who retained Asymmetrical Rate, which favours newer operators, the new entrants and small operators irrespective of the originating network charge N6.40kobo from April 1, 2013; N5.20kobo from April 1, 2014 and N3.90kobo from April 1, 2015.

    The termination rates for voice services provided by other operators irrespective of the originating network shall be N4.90kobo from 1st of April, 2013; N4.40k from 1st of April, 2014; and N3.90k from 1st of April 2015.This new determination rate shall take effect from 1st of April 2013, and remain valid and binding on licencees for the next three years until further review by the Commission.

    A statement from Mr. Tony Ojobo, director, public affairs, NCC, said the new MTRs which have been significantly reviewed downwards were informed by the depth of competition in the industry while taken into consideration the position of new entrants.

    Ojobo said NCC "After comprehensive consultations with various stakeholders, has released a new set of interconnection rates determination for voice services. New entrant is defined as newly licenced operator entering an existing or new market within zero to three years. Small operator is defined, for the purpose of the determination, as an existing operator with a market share of 0 - 7.5 per cent in terms of subscriber base."

    He said the current interconnection rate regulation was implemented through the Commission's Interconnection Rate Determination issued on 21st December, 2009. "Since then, the Nigerian Communications Market has seen tremendous growth in both subscriber numbers as well as traffic volumes and available technologies (e.g. 3G). The current rate which is symmetric to all operators is N8.2."

    In June 2012, the NCC appointed PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP to undertake a cost study for voice interconnection. In line with its commitment to a policy of openness, transparency, fairness, and participatory regulation, the comission informed stakeholders in July 2012 of its engagement of PWC to advise on the review of interconnection rates for mobile and fixed telephony services.

    Mobile operators in the market have kicked against asymmetrical rates saying the regulator should approve a single call determination rate instead of offering new entrants into the market. At a stakeholder forum held in Lagos early February to discuss the incoming interconnect rates, the GSM operators asked for a level playing field.

  • Mobile network operator Airtel Tanzania has launched a new service that enables its customers to make off-net voice calls and SMS at savings of up to 75% compared to previous rates, without the need to change their SIM card. The new service, dubbed ‘Airtel Yatosha’, combines a one SIM, one tariff proposition bundling voice, SMS and data in one package that can be mixed to suit the customers daily needs. Prices for the new service start at TZS349 (USD0.22) for ten minutes of voice calls to any network, 100 text messages and 25MB of internet downloads (per 24hr period). Commenting on the launch, Airtel managing director Sunil Colaso said: The ’Airtel Yatosha service makes it easy, more affordable for customers and the whole of Tanzania to communicate across all networks at the most competitive rates.’ Airtel Yatosha is available in two options: the aforementioned daily subscription and a weekly one costing from TZS1,999 for 70 calls minutes, 700 SMS and 75MB of data.

  • Orange has launched a reverse charge call service dubbed ‘Nisort’ that will allow callers to make reverse charged calls. This service will allow callers to make calls and have the call recipients pay for the calls.

    The Orange Kenya Nisort service will only be available for Orange-to-Orange calls (on-net) and only complete the call if the recipient accepts the charges.  Orange allows customers a 10 number white-list; whereby the recipient can set ten telephone numbers whose Nisort calls will be accepted automatically.

    The Nisort (Pay4Me) service will, naturally, allow you to make calls even without any airtime on your phone (with zero credit).

More

  • 2nd Annual Cloud World Forum Africa
    23rd-24th April 2013
    Sandton Sun Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Combining the Cloud Computing World Forum Africa and Cloud Africa, this two day conference and exhibition covers every aspect of cloud, giving attending delegates all the information they need to begin or to expand on their cloud adoption needs.
    For more information please click here:

    The Social Media Week Lagos Team is excited to announce that our official schedule is now LIVE and registration is open!  
    At present we have 84 events scheduled and will be adding some very exciting evening events that will soon be announced.  We ask that you please join us in letting your readers, network and the world know that Africa did not disappoint and we are delivering a world-class event.  Social Media Week Lagos is truly history in the making and we invite the world to take part.
    You can find the SMW Lagos schedule here: 
    See this link for our 30 second spot that starts airing next week across the continent on Channel O TV: Download Link for SMW Lagos Media Package:

    iWeek 2013
    09 - 12 September 2013
    Thaba Ya Batswana, Impala Road, Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Now in its second decade, iWeek brings together everybody who matters in the Internet industry—and then some. It provides an important platform for established players to interact with start-ups and visionaries, and for the South African industry to connect with international experts. This year’s event will be focusing on bringing some of the globe’s most important thinkers to South Africa to act as a catalyst for lively discussion and new ideas.

  • The 2013 Development Leaders Scholarship - worth £15,200 - is available for developing country applicants to the one-year MSc ICT4D programme; creating ICT4D champions.
     
    It is also tenable on the MSc Management and Information Systems programme; which develops “hybrid” information systems professionals.
     
    Applicants apply first for the programme.  On receipt of an offer, send a scholarship application statement by June 2013.  Scholarship covers all tuition fees.  Details here:

Issue no 646 15th March 2013

node ref id: 27360

Top story

  • A joint venture between the ISP Indigo, Microsoft and the Kenyan Government has rolled out a TV White Spaces Proof of Concept in two parts of rural Kenya. This is the one of the first commercial trials of TV White Spaces on the continent. It offers another route through which connectivity can be delivered in rural areas. Russell Southwood spoke to Indigo’s Chairman Peter Henderson and Louis Otieno, General Manager, Microsoft East & Southern Africa.

    TV White Spaces (or dynamic spectrum, as it is sometimes called) operates in the “guard band” space between different TV spectrum transmissions. It can either operate with equipment that dynamically assigns bandwidth to the user or that has a database look-up table.

    Peter Henderson, Indigo went to see Malcolm Brew’s TV White Spaces (TVWS) installation on the Isle Bute in Scotland. What’s the connection between Scotland and Kenya? Well, Malcolm Brew used to work in the industry in Kenya and his TVWS pilot has attracted considerable attention. Henderson was knocked out by it:”I was overwhelmed by the distance the signal was travelling and by the speed it delivered. So I went back to Kenya to introduce it.”

    He met with Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications Bitange Ndemo:”He said to me:’Some God has sent you. This is exactly what we need.’” Out of that conversation a Private-Public-Partnership was formed between the Government of Kenya, Indigo and Microsoft.

    The proof of concept currently covers Nanyuki (where it was launched on 4 February), where it connects 3 schools and a health care clinic. A community centre is about to be added. Nanyuki is a small trading town where local people go for shopping and the markets:”Some people walk 4 hours there to do their Facebook page.”

    It is also being rolled out in Kalema in the Rift Valley where it will connect a Government office and schools. Kalema is a lot smaller than Nanyuki, with a single “High Street” at its heart but very much part of a farming community. Henderson says it’s about the 3 Cs:”Coverage, cost and content. Is the content relevant?”

    The second part of the delivery – devices and content, particularly in schools – is a work in progress. The schools will get refurbished computers. Microsoft is talking to Nokia about apps delivering education content.

    The Nanyuki implementation uses a 10 metre mast that transmits 10 kms down a valley from a school to 2 other schools and the health clinic: “The mast can transmit 10 kms in any direction. It uses 400 Mghz UHF frequency, usually assigned to TV transmission. When we tested whether there was any other users of the frequency, the machine flat-lined. This is unlicensed spectrum so there are no spectrum licensing charges to increase overall delivery costs.

    So which of the two TVWS technologies does it use?:”It uses dynamically assigned spectrum and one of the benefits for the regulator is that the equipment will dynamically track spectrum. Microsoft and Google (who are working on the TVWS initiative together) have produced the databases. When selecting frequency. It checks out whether there is anything interfering and assigns to avoid interference.”

    The cost of delivering the bandwidth to the pilot areas has been kept to a minimum:”The Government of Kenya has done deals to get the international leg cheaply and through relationships with the power utility KPLC, we’ve been able to use their fibre cheaply for the national leg. We’re delivering 1 Gbps from Nairobi to Nanyuki for under US$5 a month.”

    The aim is to deliver a high speed connection not only to Government premises but also to individuals for US$1 a week. The link delivers 18 mbps into Nanyuki and obviously that is contended until there is a larger number of users, it will deliver significant speeds to all users:”We want to create hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs in the rural areas”. The installations are charged by solar power and locals can use surplus power to charge their phones, laptops, tablets or lanterns. One of the ideas is to encourage local entrepreneurs to run a service for charging phones locally.

    The TVWS initiative is part of Microsoft’s overall 4Africa Initiative which has three legs: 1) Innovation; 2) skills development; and 3) access, covering both bandwidth and affordable smart devices. This TVWS initiative is part of the access leg of the work.

    As Louis Otieno explains it:”We have to address the 80% of people in rural areas because the current beneficiaries of Internet access are largely in the urban areas. There’s currently not much motivation to roll-out in the rural areas, which is why we chose to focus on dynamic spectrum access.”

    Without wishing to sound carping, the only drawback I can see is that the Government of Kenya is not yet signing cheques for the services to the schools, health centres and Government offices. With the devolution of Government under the new constitution, each of the new administrative units will need to be connected to central Government. You will know that this change has become permanent when Government departments (rather than outsiders) are actually paying their way to use the bandwidth being delivered.

    New Balancing Act video clip interviews this week:
    Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO, Movirtu on its two new products aimed at the BYOD market
    Manfred Tumban, CEO, SNS Mobility on his Cameroon MVNO

    Video briefings on:

    TV White spaces:

    Steve Song, CEO, Village Telco on the TV White Spaces Workshop

    Henk Kleynhans, formerly Chair of WAPA on TV White Spaces proposals in South Africa

    App ideas that might work in African markets:

    Mobile analyst Tomi Ahonen on augmented reality as the 8th mass media

    Lars Forslof, Roadroid on a smartphone app that measures the bumps and holes in the road

    Abbas Adel Ibrahim, Morsi Meter on measuring the Egyptian President's performance online – how you might measure the performance of the next Kenyan President

    The roll-out of LTE in the UK market:

    Ije Nwokorie, Wolff Olins on early lessons from helping launch EE's LTE service in the

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

telecoms

  • At the stakeholders’ forum on the best option for licensing the remaining slot on the 2.3GHz band held last week in Lagos, major internet service providers in the country including Mobitel, Spectranet and Multi-Links who rejected the plan by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to auction the 2.3GHz frequency band most commonly used for broadband wireless commercial service delivery said it was unfair competition.

    The regulatory authority, NCC had invited operators to express their views on auctioning of 30 MHz Bandwidth in 2.3 GHz spectrum and allocating total guard band of 10 MHz for inter-operator and inter-band separation. Meanwhile, NCC had in advertisement categorically announced to auction 1×30 MHz to one new operator.

    However, the operators pointed out that licensing another operator on 2.3GHz will not be in the interest of the country.

    Although Mobitel, Spectranet and DoPC are already sitting on 20MHz each of the 2.3GHz band, leaving 40MHz open for licensing, majority of the operators further argued that technical and operational problems which are inherent in the Nigerian market would not justify any plan to auction the available 40MHz to a fourth operator.

    Accordingly, Qalcomm and Huawei in their input noted that there are alternative frequency planning schemes that may help service providers to optimize the available frequency resources.

    In his presentation on behalf of Mobitel, Spectratnet and DoPC, Atul Ojiha, chief operating officer, Spectranet without mincing words told NCC to allot 10MHz extra each to the three existing operators that had expressed willingness to negotiate and pay for the additional spectrum frequency.

    He told the gathering that using 10 MHz to provide for 5 Guard bands has no meaning as each Guard band will be 2 MHz. According to him, end of 2.3 GHz band would require larger guard band due to uncontrolled emissions in 2.4 GHz.

    He further argued that the proposed sale of 30 MHz to one prospective bidder compared to 20 MHz to the existing operators was totally unfair and lessens the competition, adding that the communication regulations do not allow undue advantage and lessening of competition.

    “One operator has extra infrastructure like International Carrier’s license, as well as metro & national long distance fiber owner ship leading to cross subsidy on ISP business creating unfair competitive advantages. Uneven frequency allocation between GSM & CDMA played a vital role for CDMA operator’s failure, though there are other additional reasons. It is safe to assume that all future spectrum allocations shall provide the adequate guard band.This will lead to uneven playing field in data access network,” he said.

    While additional spectrum allocations is immediate requirement to cope with interference & throughput, the operators according to Ojiha suggested that 2.3GHz Spectrum should be increased from 20 MHz to 30 MHz for existing three operators, adding that guard band of 10 MHz between 2.3GHz and 2.4GHz should be provided.

    “Existing operators should adjust TDD ratio synchronization, provided the allocation is increases from 20 MHz to 30 MHz to manage throughput degradation and interference,” he said.

    Agreeing with Ojiha, the Managing Director of Swift Networks, Charles Anudu, said that rather than complicating the challenges among ISPs by licensing a fourth operator on the 2.3GHz, the NCC should allocate the 30MHz of the remaining slot to the three existing operators.

    “Our regulator should not multiply the misery in the segment of the IT industry. We cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. The more we continue to fragment the segment, the more miserable we will become,” he said.

    Similarly, Mobitel CEO, Mr. Johnson Salako while warning on the implication of auctioning additional slot on the band to a new operator, noted that it would compound the problems of the current operators.

    “The 2.3GHz spectrum is not the only spectrum that can be used for broadband service. The NCC has said it will be licensing the 2.5GHz spectrum, which means that there are huge opportunities for anybody who requires spectrum, ” he explained.

  • Airtel has announced the launch of the mobile HD voice service for its subscribers in Africa. The development comes as the first step in Airtel’s ambition to make mobile HD voice accessible in all its operations across the continent.

    HD voice is the most significant improvement in voice communications in the past two decades. Mobile HD voice offers crystal clear audio quality and will enhance user experience on Airtel mobile networks. “Surveys confirm that customers place a high value on HD Voice”, explains Andre Beyers, the Chief Marketing Officer, Airtel Africa. “The new service will enrich end-user experience for Airtel subscribers”.

    Mobile HD Voice enables high-quality voice calls because it reduces background noise often heard on a regular call. Airtel customers on 3G networks will experience a significant improvement in their voice communications as the new service will enable them to hear better in noisy environments.

    To enjoy the maximum benefits of this new technology, both the calling and the called party need an HD-Voice compatible mobile phone. However, improvements in call quality are also perceived when using an HD voice-enabled phone to call a non-HD Voice phone.

    Mobile HD Voice based on AMR (Adaptive Multi Rate) Wideband technology (W-AMR) operates with nine different bit rates, providing high-quality voice calls. Compared to the current narrowband speech codec, the W-AMR speech-compression algorithm doubles voice bandwidth and produces better results.

    After years of trials, HD Voice services were launched in 2009 and they are now available in 35 countries around the world. According to the results of a recent survey, 96% of customers are satisfied with HD Voice calls, hence the rapid pace of commercialization of the services across the globe.

    Airtel becomes the third operator to launch a mobile HD voice service in Africa. The telecommunications company aims to make HD voice a reality on the continent. Further launches will be scheduled in 2013.

  • South African wireless communication specialist Multisource Telecoms has won a contract that will see 20 low-cost GSM towers bringing cell phone communications to rural Zambians for the first time.

    Supplied by US-based Vanu, these Compact RAN base stations are both optimized allowing them to operate purely on "green power", solar and battery only.

    "The order was placed following a successful pilot phase which proved that in addition to the capital outlay being less than a tenth of that of traditional macro base stations, maintenance costs of the compact base stations are minimal," said Richard Smuts-Steyn, chief executive officer of Multisource.

    The decision to extend GSM network coverage to Zambia's isolated rural areas followed a call by the country's telecommunications regulatory authority for network operators to fulfil their universal service obligations.

    Lack of GSM network coverage in deeply rural areas is not unique to Zambia. Worldwide there are an estimated 3.2 billion unique subscribers, 1.8 billion short of the 5 billion addressable market expected by 2017. The vast majority of this potential market is based in rural areas, especially those in the developing African nations, not serviced by cell phone networks.

    "Compact base stations are a particularly apt solution to the constraints inherent in rural areas," said Smuts-Steyn. "Being solar and battery powered, they don't rely on the existence of a terrestrial power grid, generators or a constant supply of diesel, and the need for good road access to deliver the diesel is eliminated."

  • Etisalat-owned Atlantique Telecom, which has operations in Benin, the Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Niger and Togo, has signed a five-year multi-country managed services agreement with Ericsson.

    Under the deal, the Swedish vendor will manage Atlantique Telecom’s mobile networks in western and central Africa, enabling around ten million subscribers to benefit from improved network quality. ‘With the evolution of the competitive landscape in our markets, we need to adapt our operating model to provide a better service to our end users,’ commented Atlantique Telecom’s CEO Nagi Abboud, adding: ‘Adopting this business outsourcing model is therefore an important step in our group strategy execution that will be for the benefit of our subscribers, who remain our top priority, and this will, as well, open new growth opportunities to our employees.’

    The contract covers network operations, field maintenance, network optimisation and spare parts management for Etisalat’ s multivendor mobile networks, including access, core and transmission, as well as value added services.

    Moribund Sierra Leone Operator Promises Launch Shortly

    Libya's Lap Green Networks says that it is committed to launching its network in Sierra Leone, despite a controversy over how it acquired its majority stake in the local mobile subsidiary.

    The company bought an 85% stake in Ambitel in 2007 from its founder, Michael Kenneth Ondaan. However he claims that there is a payment of US$2 million still outstanding and that conditions of the sale have not been met.

    The mobile network had planned to launch services in 2011, but these were stalled by the uncertainty at the parent company following the downfall of the Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi.

    The regulator has been pressing the company to launch mobile services, and the company said that a launch would be "soon", without elaborating.

  • Telecom Egypt has posted a near 13 percent fall in its full-year profits of EGP2.61 billion (US$386 million) as the country's economy was hurt in the post-Mubarak confusion.

    However, the company's CEO, Mohamed Elnawawy said he was optimistic about the prospects for the year ahead.

    He also confirmed that the company is hoping to launch an LTE based mobile network next year, once it secures the necessary permits from the telecoms regulator.

    The company is due to be granted a reseller license and as a 45% shareholder in Vodafone Egypt, is expected to launch its own MVNO later this year.

    There are still discussions about the future of its Vodafone stake - as the company may be blocked from owning stakes in two mobile networks.

internet

  • New generation of performance-enhanced satellite-based VPN services immediately available across entire KA-SAT coverage in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa

    Paris, 12 March 2013 - Eutelsat Communications (Euronext Paris: ETL) and OneAccess, the leading manufacturer of multi-service routers and Carrier Ethernet access devices, have joined forces to develop the first performance-enhanced platform for businesses designed to deliver services operated on Eutelsat's KA-SAT High Throughput Satellite in a secure VPN environment. Set to launch in March 2013, and immediately available across KA-SAT's entire footprint, the new service makes satellite communications even more affordable for businesses by delivering DSL-like service at DSL-like prices.

  • South Africa’s biggest gaming service provider MWEB Gaming has launched local Dota 2 servers into the test build with the Valve Corporation, an American video game development and digital distribution company. MWEB is awaiting confirmation from Valve as to when it will be deployed into the full build, which could be as early as tomorrow. As well as figuratively putting African gaming on the gaming map, a “South Africa” region will be added to the game, literally putting our continent on the map alongside Europe, North America and Asia.

    Dota 2 is one of the biggest online titles internationally, with occasions of up to 297,000 players online at the same time in spite of the fact that it is still in Beta. Proving it has an equally impressive South African following, 29 teams competed in the MWEB Dota 2 Inaugural Cup held last year in July. It is a highly team-oriented multiplayer online battle arena game, where players must coordinate with their teams in order to achieve victory. Reaction speed is a priority and the local servers will mean that finally SA gamers will be able to show off their agility and reflexes.

  • Airspan Networks Inc has announced that RCS-Communication Ltd has selected its solution for a 4G WiMAX network deployment. According to the company, Air4G is a dual platform 4G base station enabling operators to run either long-term evolution (LTE), WiMAX or both concurrently.

    “The Airspan network shows excellent results in terms of coverage and enables us to serve our clients in areas where we were previously unable to reach them on our terrestrial network”, said Philip Gerber, RCS-Communication’s country manager for South Sudan.

    The first phase of the network implementation has reportedly started in the South Sudanese capital, Juba,

    According to RCS-Communication’s managing director for South Sudan, Flippie Odenda, the company made the investment to upgrade its current WiMAX network to the latest generation technology in preparation for further network improvements and specific service offerings planned.

    “Airspan was selected as our vendor because we believe their solution offers us the best scalability and widest choice of future options,” Odendal said in the statement.

    Meanwhile, in addition to the macro base stations and other related products and services, Airspan is reportedly supplying RCS with a “comprehensive network management system” called Netspan,” which will also manage any LTE network when deployed if and when activated.

    Earlier this year, an official said South Sudan plans to lay a fibre-optic network that will link Juba with submarine cables in East Africa, in order to cut the high cost of using the Internet.

    “We are targeting this year, within this year, that we will be connected to the submarine cable,” Juma Stephen, the under-secretary in the country’s telecommunications and postal service ministry told Reuters.

    “Construction of fibre-optic cables will more than halve internet prices and make it twice as fast”, he said, adding that government wants to cut that cost by reducing reliance on satellite bandwidth.

    Almost two years since the country gained independence, internet access remains a patchy in the young nation, despite several entities, mainly mobile telecommunications companies, providing such services.

  • The African Development Bank (AfDB) has launched Open Data Platforms for the following 20 African countries: Algeria, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Open Data Platform program is part of the AfDB’s recently launched “Africa Information Highway” initiative aimed at significantly improving data management and dissemination in Africa. Work is on course to complete platforms for the rest of African countries by July 2013.

    The Open Data Platform is a user-friendly tool for extracting data, creating and sharing own customized reports, and visualizing data across themes, sectors and countries in tables, charts and maps. Through the Open Data Platform, users can access a wide range of development data on African countries from multiple international and national official sources. The platform also facilitates the collection, analysis and sharing of data among countries and with international development partners. The platform offers a unique opportunity for various users, such as policymakers, analysts, researchers, business leaders and investors around the world, to gain access to reliable and timely data on Africa. Users can visualize time series development indicators over a period of time, perform comprehensive analysis at country and regional levels, utilize presentation-ready graphics or create their own, blog, and share their views and work with others, thereby creating an informed community of users.

    The Open Data Platform initiative is a response by the African Development Bank Group aimed at significantly increasing access to quality data necessary for managing and monitoring development results in African countries, including the MDGs. It responds to a number of important global and regional initiatives to scale up the availability of quality data on Africa and so foster evidence-based decision-making, public accountability and good governance.

    Once implemented, the Open Data Platform will be used by African countries for all data submission flows to the AfDB and possibly other international development partners, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), EU Commission, World Health Organization (WHO), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), African Union Commission (AUC) and UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). This initiative presents a unique opportunity for African countries to take the lead in implementation and promotion of international statistical standards across all countries in the region and in enhancing the quality of the data disseminated by African countries.

computing

  • The African Development Bank (AfDB) has launched Open Data Platforms (www.afdb.org/statistics) for the following 20 African countries: Algeria, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Open Data Platform program is part of the AfDB’s recently launched “Africa Information Highway” initiative aimed at significantly improving data management and dissemination in Africa. Work is on course to complete platforms for the rest of African countries by July 2013.

    The Open Data Platform is a user-friendly tool for extracting data, creating and sharing own customized reports, and visualizing data across themes, sectors and countries in tables, charts and maps. Through the Open Data Platform, users can access a wide range of development data on African countries from multiple international and national official sources. The platform also facilitates the collection, analysis and sharing of data among countries and with international development partners. The platform offers a unique opportunity for various users, such as policymakers, analysts, researchers, business leaders and investors around the world, to gain access to reliable and timely data on Africa. Users can visualize time series development indicators over a period of time, perform comprehensive analysis at country and regional levels, utilize presentation-ready graphics or create their own, blog, and share their views and work with others, thereby creating an informed community of users.

  • Teraco Data Environments, South Africa’s first provider of vendor-neutral data centres, has announced that it has now connected with the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), which interconnects over 550 IP networks, making it the world’s leading Internet hub. The direct link to Teraco’s peering service, NAPAfrica, which is effective from March 2013, brings Africa substantially closer to Europe in terms of connectivity, and ultimately offers endless opportunities for European carriers to connect across Africa.

    Lex van Wyk, Chief Executive Officer of Teraco Data Environments, says the perfect storm now exists for African Internet service providers to tap further into global carrier networks through vendor-neutral peering at NAPAfrica, thereby offering African consumers access to high-speed connections at a dramatically reduced cost, as well as rich global content from international carrier.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Pastel Software Zimbabwe, in partnership with Utande, on Tuesday launched Sage Pastel My Business Online, a cloud-based accounting programme designed for start-up and small businesses.

    The programme enables businesses to access and work on their accounts online from anywhere in the world.

    This is the first cloud-computing accounting programme in Zimbabwe, enabling small businesses to store their accounts information ‘in the cloud’ rather than on their office computer, making it accessible to them anywhere where there is Internet connection.

    Pastel Software Zimbabwe, the distributor of Sage Pastel accounting software, is providing the “My Business online” programme, while Internet service provider Utande is the host partner.

    My Business Online, South Africa-based Sage Pastel managing director Steven Cohen, said My Business Online worked in the same way that Facebook does.
    “With Facebook you can log in from home, office or the moon, if you ever decide to go there,” he said.

    “My Business Online works in the same way. Even if your computer gets stolen you can still log in.”

    Dandemutande chief technical officer Collin Franco explained that “cloud” was simply another name for Internet, which he said was every marketer’s dream tool. He said because of stiff competition, it was essential that every company has an online presence.

    Franco said the Internet had the advantage of being dynamic, interactive and attractive to customers.

    “If you want to be part of the growth, embrace the Internet,” he said. “It is useful, influential in daily life and has a place in daily strategy.”

  • Money transferred through the mobile money platform offered by mobile phone companies grew by 211 per cent last year, hitting the highest amount since its inception in Uganda about four years ago.

    The Deputy Bank of Uganda governor, Dr Louis Kasekende, told stakeholders at a function at which MTN Uganda released its 2012 financial results that Shs11.7 trillion went through the mobile money platform provided by the major players including MTN, Aitrel, Warid and Uganda Telecom’s systems last year.

    The growth in mobile money platform means that more Ugandans have gained confidence in the use of the mobile money platform to send and receive
    money, as opposed to commercial banks and other traditional such as Western Union.

    The massive uptake of mobile money service— an electronic platform that enables mobile phone subscribers to send and receive money using their phones— can be explained by the rapid growth in mobile phone penetration.

    Currently, total mobile subscription numbers stand at 15 million according to figures from the Uganda Communications Commission, as opposed to commercial banks outreach, creating a fertile ground for mobile money
    to thrive.

    In 2011, it was estimated that 84.7 million mobile money transactions were
    made, with a total value of Shs3.75 trillion wired through the platform.
    These figures are far higher than individual banks’ reserves and the
    number of bank accounts, which is estimated at about 3.6 million.

    At the end of December 2011, mobile commerce users in Uganda stood at 2.8
    million, up from 1.8 million in 2010 and now stands at 8.9 million as of
    December last year.

    According to Dr Kasekende, telecommunication companies are playing a crucial role in financial inclusion and taking banking services closer to people.

    MTN Uganda chief executive officer Mazen Maroue, said the telecom’s mobile money platform had 3.5 million active mobile money subscribers by December 2012 and about 20 million transactions were made through its platform over
    the period.

    He added that MTN’s revenue from mobile money increased by 60 per cent.
    Although there have been several concerns over mobile-money related fraud, Dr Kasekende said BoU is working with UCC to develop mobile money regulations to streamline operations.

  • The transaction cost of M-Pesa could be lowered after bankers got a court injunction against the Kenya Revenue Authority over the taxation of money transfer services.

    Safaricom has said it is considering the options that could see the transaction costs go down to the previous level.

    The the High Court last week stopped KRA from charging excise duty on money transfer products run by banks until the case filed by Kenya Bankers Association is heard on March 18.

    "We are of course following this matter very keenly and have sought independent legal and tax advice before taking any action of our own," said Nzioka Waita, Safaricom corporate affairs director.

    "The ruling (made last week) does not delve in to the substance of the suit per se, but recognises that there are important legal issues to be addressed at the full hearing," he added.

    Finance minister Njeru Githae introduced amendments to the Customs & Excise Duty Act imposing a 10 per cent excise duty tax on transaction fees for all money transfer services provided by cellular phone providers, banks, money transfer agencies and other financial service providers. The government expects to raise up to Sh4.5 billion annually form this.

    The amendments were gazetted last month prompting Safaricom to review its M-Pesa tariffs with effect from February 8. Transaction charges for amounts from Sh101 were increased by 10 per cent, while the company absorbed the tax for remittances of lower than Sh100.

    "We do however recognise that the new tax imposes a significant burden on the consumer and as we seek clarity on the new law we shall explore all possibilities at our disposal to mitigate this burden," said Waita.

    But for now consumers will continue paying the 10 per cent.

    Only Safaricom and Essar Telecom have announced an increase in their money transfer tariffs so far.

Digital Content

  • A smartphone, a strip of double-sided tape and a simple glass lens could have a significant impact on the diagnosis of intestinal parasites that affect millions in remote, rural parts of the world, where even the most basic medical testing is hard to come by.

    A recent, proof-of-concept study in rural Tanzania compared the effectiveness of a lens attached to an iPhone with the effectiveness of a standard light microscope in searching for roundworm and hookworm eggs in 199 children's stool samples.

    Although not as sensitive as the light microscope, the mobile phone microscope "revealed a sensitivity of 69.4 percent and a specificity of 61.5 percent for detecting any soil-transmitted helminth [parasitic worm] infection."

    "Mobile phone microscopy has been used in the laboratory setting, but we thought it would be a good idea to test it in a real-world setting," Isaac Bogoch, the lead investigator of the study and a doctor at Toronto General Hospital, told IRIN. "We need to improve the image quality and get a better lens and better slides, but it is quite close to the gold standard."

    "The advantage of the mobile phone microscope is that it's cheap: a smartphone - any phone with a decent camera and zoom would probably work as well as the iPhone - a glass lens that costs between US$8 and $10, and a basic flashlight.

    A lay health worker can do it, and the device is portable, which means it can be used as a point-of-care test," he added. "The standard diagnostic process requires a microscope, a person trained to use one, electricity and a decent light source, which is often not widely available in many places affected by parasitic infection."

    According to the UN World Health Organization, close to one-quarter of the world's population is infected with soil-transmitted worms: "Over 270 million preschool-age children and over 600 million school-age children live in areas where these parasites are intensively transmitted, and are in need of treatment and preventive interventions."

    Worms are transmitted by eggs in human faeces that contaminate the soil; transmission is exacerbated by poor sanitation. Children infected by worms can be physically, mentally or nutritionally impaired. A number of medications are available to control infection.

    "We plan to test it in the clinical setting - the big picture is to get these diagnostic tests into the field, into the hands of people who need them most," Bogoch said.

  • Kenya is known for its high mobile phone penetration, as well as related innovations like M-PESA (mobile money) and Ushahidi, a crisis-mapping tool that had its roots in the 2007-2008 post-election violence that marred the previous Kenyan elections.

    For the March 2013 elections, Al Jazeera used Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology to create an additional interface to connect feature phones to the web.

    Cynara Vetch, the project manager of Al Jazeera Voices, explains, “Al Jazeera Voices is an audio system that allows audiences to listen to, interact with and create citizen reports for Al Jazeera via low-end handsets, without any need for a data plan. The concept is to connect with audiences that are offline and off grid, people that Al Jazeera often cannot access or hear from. Voices is one solution in bridging the gap between vocal, connected voices, whose stories are having an impact on the media through social media, and those that still remain relatively unheard because they don't have the same access.”

    The Al Jazeera Voices system was built in collaboration with The World Wide Web Foundation and has been rolled out with various community partners. 

    Subscribers on the Safaricom network in Kenya could access the service by calling a toll-free number. Kenyan Voices received 2066 calls, with the callers listening to 942 bulletins and leaving 609 reports.

    Al Jazeera worked with The National Youth Sector Alliance and Kibera TV to set up virtual newsrooms, where content was moderated locally and meta-data attached before being forwarded to the Al Jazeera newsrooms.

    A similar pilot project was conducted in Ghana during their December 2012 elections, where about 2000 people dialed into the service, with a 50% content consumption rate and a 20% engagement rate.

    “Both Kenya and Ghana have been conducted as pilots and not mass marketed services,” says Soud Hyder, Al Jazeera English’s new media analyst. “The aim is to evaluate the use of IVR in citizen reporting, as well as to distribute news and information to audiences we would not otherwise reach.”

    For more information, visit here:

  • Customers of one of the leading telecommunications services provider, Airtel Nigeria can now access popular social networking platform, Facebook via a USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) Code. With this innovation, Airtel customers will be able to launch Facebook on their mobile devices by dialing *688#.

    According to Airtel, Facebook via USSD service aims to deliver Facebook to customers who have no access to the Internet.

    This new service will empower customers to connect with their family and friends anytime, anywhere on Facebook without using the internet or activating GPRS capabilities on their mobile devices.

    Speaking on the new initiative, Chief Marketing Officer, Airtel Nigeria, Olu Akanmu said Airtel is committed to enabling Nigerian youths connect to their friends and have all the fun they desire on-line through the most compelling innovative services in the Nigeria market.

    "At Airtel, the quest for total satisfaction of our customers drives us to continuously respond with customized offerings and services that will delight and engage telecom consumers.

    We will always occupy the front row in innovation that will enable Nigerians to build great bonds of friendships and fulfill their life aspirations.

    Airtel is committed to making the immense benefits of Facebook available to the widest number of Nigerians," he said.

    With the USSD service, customers can carry out the following activities from their mobile devices: Update Facebook status messages; View, like and comment on posts; Post on friends' walls; find/add friends; confirm friend requests; view notifications and View and send messages.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • TELECEL Zimbabwe has introduced Telecel Broadband Plus and is giving subscribers double the data they pay for when they buy data bundles worth $10 or more.

    It is also giving away 300 megabyte of data and 30 text messages with its dongle.

    If a bundle is renewed within 30 days, the account will be credited with another 100% bonus.

    In a statement the company said the new data service comes with four bundles — Compact, Lite, Standard and Heavy.

    “In the past, data was regarded as a luxury and seen as a privilege of the elite.
    “That has changed. People from all walks of life are now using data for different reasons.
    “Access to the Internet has become universal and essential for all people,” Telecel Zimbabwe’s data services & terminals supervisor Chenai Penduka said.

    “More and more people are now using data than ever before, many of them accessing it on their mobile phone.
    “They are not just accessing the Internet for fun or leisure, but for communication and research.

    “This is why we launched Telecel Broadband Plus, which provides data bundles cheaply for everyone, whether they are light, moderate or heavy users.”

  • Data from a climate vulnerability monitor for 184 nations are now available via an interactive online portal, making them more accessible to researchers, academics and policymakers worldwide.

    The data are based on the Climate Vulnerability Monitor report, first released at the UN climate conference (COP 16) in Cancun, Mexico, in 2010, and updated in September 2012.

    The revised data are now available through a searchable Online Data Portal — launched last month (14 February) — which aims to serve as a reference for less developed countries to help them devise strategies for climate change adaptation.

    The monitor is co-published by DARA, a non-profit research organisation based in Spain, and its Climate Vulnerable Forum, a network of countries that are heavily affected by climate change.

    The 2010 edition of the report considered four indicators: weather and environmental disasters; health impacts; habitat loss; and economic stress. The revised report takes into account 34 areas of climate-related concern, including fisheries, biodiversity, oil spills, droughts, agriculture, and vector-borne diseases.

    "The revised monitor has a new section of analysis labelled 'carbon', focusing on the socio-economic ramifications of pursuing carbon-intensive and climate unsafe activities," Matthew McKinnon, editor of the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, tells SciDev.Net.

    It draws on peer-reviewed scientific literature and datasets released by the UN, World Bank and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

    But it adds value to the existing reports by extracting climate change data individually for 184 countries from published reports, such as IPCC assessment reports, its designers say.

    "Our reports have a specific challenge and focus — to assess the impact of the climate change challenge in socio-economic terms with estimates of impact and vulnerability for 184 countries for 2010 and 2030," says McKinnon. "The IPCC has a much broader focus that goes further into the future."

    Country-wise analyses for economic costs and mortality resulting from climate change in 2010 and 2030 are available on the data portal.

    "The data portal will now provide the public, and all interested parties, with direct access to the full set of statistical information that was published in the Monitor last September," McKinnon explains. "The portal allows download, sorting and interactive screen views of the entire Monitor's data, including world maps and also two-page country profiles."

    Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow in the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, and a member of the monitor's advisory panel, tells SciDev.Net: "We hope that with the online version, more people will access and use the Monitor at a national level. So far, it's been primarily used to inform policy and debate at the global level."

  • In a bid to improve provision of information on flights schedules and other related issues at major airports in the country, the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) will soon introduce a new digital method.

    The new method will send the information using ATS Message Handling System (AMHS) to cut down on time and human costs that were deployed using analogue system of Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunication Network (AFTN).

    According to TCAA Director General, Mr Fadhili Manongi, the AMHS system will enable stakeholders to easily get information without visiting those centres at airports.

    The project, he said, expected to begin before the end of this fiscal year-2012/2013. The AMHS also known as Aeronautical Message Handling System assists in collecting aeronautical ground to ground communications such as the transmission of flight plans or meteorological data.

More

  • Broadband MEA 
    19 - 20 March 2013 
    The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, 

    The region’s premier broadband event attracting 750  decision makers from across The Middle East and Africa. Now in its 5th year, the event is the only place to meet the entire industry under 1 roof.
    The 2 day comprehensive programme including 2 pre conference workshops brings together 70+ speakers including 40+ operator case studies to address the current issues surrounding broadband.
    With our most impressive speaker line-up to date, the conference focuses on both Business and Technology Strategy covering all the topics surrounding broadband. Plus the 2 workshops hosted by MENOG and Etisalat on the 18th March will provide a deep dive into IPv6 and LTE issues and developments.  For more information or book your place at the event visit here: 

    Operators – don’t forget to claim your exclusive 50% discount when purchasing a full conference pass!

    2nd Annual Cloud World Forum Africa
    23rd-24th April 2013
    Sandton Sun Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Combining the Cloud Computing World Forum Africa and Cloud Africa, this two day conference and exhibition covers every aspect of cloud, giving attending delegates all the information they need to begin or to expand on their cloud adoption needs.
    For more information please click here:

    The Social Media Week Lagos Team is excited to announce that our official schedule is now LIVE and registration is open!  
    At present we have 84 events scheduled and will be adding some very exciting evening events that will soon be announced.  We ask that you please join us in letting your readers, network and the world know that Africa did not disappoint and we are delivering a world-class event.  Social Media Week Lagos is truly history in the making and we invite the world to take part.
    You can find the SMW Lagos schedule here: 
    See this link for our 30 second spot that starts airing next week across the continent on Channel O TV: Download Link for SMW Lagos Media Package:

    iWeek 2013
    09 - 12 September 2013
    Thaba Ya Batswana, Impala Road, Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Now in its second decade, iWeek brings together everybody who matters in the Internet industry—and then some. It provides an important platform for established players to interact with start-ups and visionaries, and for the South African industry to connect with international experts. This year’s event will be focusing on bringing some of the globe’s most important thinkers to South Africa to act as a catalyst for lively discussion and new ideas.

  • Christoph Limmer Joins Signalhorn as VP Marketing & Strategy

    Signalhorn announces that Mr. Christoph Limmer has joined its marketing team in the position of VP Marketing & Strategy. In this role, Mr. Limmer will lead Signalhorn's Marketing & Strategy Department into the company’s next major phase of growth.

    Mr. Limmer brings over 15 years of global marketing and business development skills to his role at Signalhorn. With his unique experience in defining strategies in developed as well as emerging markets around the world—most recently in dedicated marketing and distribution strategies for SES in Africa—Mr. Limmer's expertise fits perfectly with Signalhorn's strategy to deliver Trusted Networks and superior customer service globally.

Issue no 645 8th March 2013

node ref id: 27332

Top story

  • A global football social community network called Gbamm! has been soft-launched by entrepreneur Ayo Alli, who divides his time between London and Lagos. Asa licensed Premier League Football agent who has already worked on marketing other social networks, he has the skills and connections to make it work. Russell Southwood talked to Gbamm!’s Ayo Alli about what he’s planning.

    Two things are happening that make it an auspicious time for a footballing social networking site. The TV habit is changing with people using a second screen device (like a smartphone or tablet) to interact with friends and comment on what’s happening. Secondly, those that can’t get to a live match or TV screen are using the second screen to take part along with their friends and other fans. A detailed global study has already identified these trends elsewhere and they will undoubtedly
    Come to Africa. See the video clip interview with Alistair Hill, On Device Research here:

    What Alli is setting out to do is to create the best possible circumstances for this kind of social behavious:”Users can form their own groups and there will be white label spaces for brands to get involved. There will be pundits and stats and posts from fans. It will be like a big circle, with lots of little circles for fans of different clubs”.

    “Watching football is an inherently social experience, whether you watch at home or in bars or in a stadium. Imagine if you’re on business, you can still interact with people. It will be available on feature phones and smartphones, anywhere you can get the Internet.”

    The soft launch is a B2B one targeted at those who control the brand spend. These brand people are among the three groups of initial users. The other two groups are a control group (aged 16-40) who like football and a developer community to help add things into it. Gbamm! draws inspiration from the Woza Blackberry site that was created for the World Cup. “We’re developing Gbamm! in Africa because Africa has a mobile advantage but it’s going to be global.”

    There are several online football communities in existence but they have not really taken off as a second screen experience. So Alli believes that the killer app aspect of Gbamm! will be the ability to create different circles of fans, rather like circles in Google+.

    It will also have a set of online incentives, Gbamm! cash, an online currency. If you’re team loses you get sent to the bunker but can pay cash to get access again. If you do well, then additional services will become availailable:”There will be the ability to access more and more information and things like fantasy gaming and bespoke emoticons.”

    The lead developer is a women called Ade Goode and 40% of the team are women. The initial work is being done in London but the next stage will involve hacker teams in Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg.

    New Balancing Act video clip interviews this week:

    Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO, Movirtu on its two new products aimed at the BYOD market

    Manfred Tumban, CEO, SNS Mobility on his Cameroon MVNO

    Video briefings on:

    App ideas that might work in African markets:

    Oliver Koch, QTom on its music playlist software that can suit the mood you're in – looking for markets outside Germany

    Mobile analyst Tomi Ahonen on augmented reality as the 8th mass media

    Lars Forslof, Roadroid on a smartphone app that measures the bumps and holes in the road

    Abbas Adel Ibrahim, Morsi Meter on measuring the Egyptian President's performance online – how you might measure the performance of the next Kenyan President

    The roll-out of LTE in the UK market:

    Ije Nwokorie, Wolff Olins on early lessons from helping launch EE's LTE service in the

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

     

     

telecoms

  • Extensive use of mobile phones to issue alerts on possible spate of attacks such as animal disease outbreaks has been widely reported among farmers and veterinarians across Africa.

    Until five years ago, veterinarians had to travel to remote regions to record data and then back to district-level offices to process the paperwork, a process that took weeks. Mobile phone apps are today in extensive use to make early stage warning, in just seconds, once a disease has attacked the livestock.

    Using the mobile technology, and specifically the Global Positioning System (GPS) function that has today been directly integrated in most mobile phones, animal diseases can be promptly detected and isolated once alerts are received by experts digitally.

    Early warnings, according to a study, can prevent the death of thousands of animals, as a result safeguarding livelihoods and food security, and even preventing diseases that can sometimes be transmitted to humans.

    According to FAO, fundamental veterinary care can be tracked with clear-cut accuracy and speed, attributable to the GPS function.

    “FAO and partners are piggy-backing on this enormous uptake of mobile phone technology for uses in reporting animal disease outbreaks, tracking vaccination campaigns and the delivery of veterinary treatments, such as deworming animals,” said Robert Allport, FAO Kenya’s Assistant FAO representative for programme implementation.

    In Kenya, where some three out of four people own a mobile phone, FAO has partnered with the Royal Veterinary College and local NGO Vetaid to support the pilot testing of a mobile phone application developed by researchers at the Imperial College London’s School of Public Health.

    The application dubbed EpiCollect, which helps track animal treatment or vaccination campaigns, monitors animals’ medical history using the mobile Web.
    The application and storage space are offered at no cost on the EpiCollect website that also assigns a unique location for each project.

    “Cellular phones eliminate delays in receiving field data, since all the information is relayed via the mobile network,” Allport said.

    “In addition, the information is assigned a geographic location, so locations are extremely accurate and available in real-time.”

    The information, which initially took weeks to process, can today be processed in a matter of minutes in addition to transmitting the info in real time. For instance, the data on the population of livestock in a herd and the number of those vaccinated is stored before being relayed to the project location on a project-specific website in seconds.

    As the herds move about, their movements can be tracked recurrently and updated. Presently, EpiCollect is solely in use by field veterinarians with cell phones provided by Google Kenya for the pilot phase.

    “Eventually, the tools could be made available to village elders and well-established networks of community animal health workers, as more and more Kenyans upgrade to Internet-enabled phones and prices for the technology inevitably come down,” Google said.

    Though a third of Kenyans currently have access to the Internet, some 99 percent of them use the mobile Web. This means information on possible epidemics can be to a large population in a matter of seconds.

    “Prevention, preparedness and early response are powerful concepts that when translated into tools can be effectively used against infectious diseases, thereby safeguard people’s livelihoods, fend off hunger and, in some cases, human illness,” said Juan Lubroth, the FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer.

  • Safaricom has issued a statement clarifying its role in the election, saying its VPN had 100% uptime in the areas it covered. This comes in response to ‘public concern’ over technical glitches during the election.

    Safaricom noted that it was one of several service providers contracted by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission “IEBC” to provide network connectivity for the electronic transmission of electoral results.

    In a statement, signed by CEO Bob Collymore, the telco said: “In accordance with the terms of our contract with the IEBC , Safaricom’s responsibilities were twofold, the first was to provide the virtual private network (VPN) for the conveyance of the results from polling stations across the country previously identified as having sufficient mobile coverage to the IEBC’s constituency, county and national tallying center infrastructure. The second was to deliver 17,900 original manufacturer warranted handsets to the IEBC for use by polling staff for purposes of transmitting electronic results. Safaricom was neither involved in the supply of the software to be used on the mobile handsets nor the distribution and storage of the devices.”

    “The observed traffic on the VPN provided by Safaricom did not exceed 3.5 Mbps at any time. When put in to context this is a small fraction of the 3,000 Mbps traffic we observe at any time in our network. The total number of mobile devices provisioned to be used by the IEBC polling staff to relay results on the Safaricom VPN were 32,000, this represents only 2% of the 1.5 million devices connected to our data network at any given time.”

    It said Safaricom’s role was simply to provide connectivity between the mobile devices and the IEBC tallying centers. “Safaricom did not and does not have any role in the technical design, management or specification of the servers, the mobile software application nor the graphic presentation of the results data used by the IEBC. The Safaricom mobile and virtual private network has remained robust with 100% uptime in all areas where coverage was to be provided. Safaricom has provided unrestricted access to representatives of the 8 presidential candidates to assess and monitor its network performance. All of them were and still are confident in our network quality.”

  • The Libyan Government is seeking public relations support for its attempts to liberalise the country's telecoms and internet industries.

    The country, which is emerging from a brutal civil war, intends to open up a restricted business sector that has been dominated by Libya Telecom & Technology (LTT). The company was established in 1997 under the regime of former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

    International telcos, including China's Huawei and ZTE and Middle East companies Etisalat, Saudi Telecom and Qatar Telecom, are understood to be keen on entering the country, attracted by a wealthy market and limited competition. Both of the country's mobile operators are state-owned, while broadband and internet penetration lag the rest of North Africa.

    Libya's Ministry of Communication & Informatics, formed by the country's new government last year, has released an RFP that aims to build public support for its plans, which include developing ICT capacity and promoting free enterprise, private sector development and liberalisation.

    The one-year initiative requires a range of services, including content creation, media relations, monitoring, media training and digital engagement. It is overseen by Hadi Alghanai, the Ministry's director of media relations.

  • The Djibouti Data Center (DDC), a joint venture between Djibouti Telecom and Djibouti Data Center SARL, a group of local and international investors, has announced the commercial launch of a Tier 3 data centre facility in Djibouti City.

    The DDC is designed to leverage Djibouti’s strategic position in the region as the major hub for submarine fibre-optic cable systems connecting Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, to Africa. The new data centre is collocated close to Djibouti Telecom’s new cable landing station and will offer international telecoms carriers and content delivery network (CDN) providers ‘neutral’ collocation facilities, internet exchange (IX), and other enhanced services in one of the fastest growing regions in the world.

    The DDC added that it has already been selected by MTN Group to provide cable cross connect and backhaul services from the cable landing station in Djibouti.

  • Bharti Airtel has announced the launch of the mobile HD voice service for its subscribers in Africa. The development comes as the first step in Airtel's ambition to make mobile HD voice accessible in all its operations across the continent.

    HD voice is the most significant improvement in voice communications in the past two decades. Mobile HD voice offers crystal clear audio quality and will enhance user experience on Airtel mobile networks. "Surveys confirm that customers place a high value on HD Voice", explained Andre Beyers, the Chief Marketing Officer, Airtel Africa. "The new service will enrich end-user experience for Airtel subscribers".

    Mobile HD Voice enables high-quality voice calls because it reduces background noise often heard on a regular call. Airtel customers on 3G networks will experience a significant improvement in their voice communications as the new service will enable them to hear better in noisy environments.

    Airtel becomes the third operator to launch a mobile HD voice service in Africa. The telecommunications company aims to make HD voice a reality on the continent. Further launches will be scheduled in 2013.

internet

  • Nigerian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have kicked against moves by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to sell the remaining spectrum in the 2.3 gigahertz (GHz) band, arguing that such a move will further compound the misery of operators licensed and currently operating within the band. The operators are Mobitel, Spectranet and Direct on Personal Computer (DoPC).

    Atel Ajha, chief operating officer (COO) of Spectranet, who spoke on behalf the  operators at a forum organised by the NCC on the ‘Best Option for Licensing the Remaining Slots in the 2.3Ghz Band’, argued that instead of selling the remaining slots to fresh operators, they should be given the opprotunity to buy it.

    He averred that the standard practice all over the world is that operators in the band range get 30 MHz, suggesting that guardband of between 2.3Ghz and 2.4Ghz should also be provided to take care of interference and spurious emission.

    He said their request is predicated on the need for them to extend service deployement to other states of the federation with superior technology and new customers’ experience.

    “Today’s planning must provide for future technology requirement,” he warned, arguing that the proposal of the NCC to open bid for the 30 MHz will unleash an era of “unfair competition” on the industry.

    Ajha lamented that there are no significant wireless operators in the country when in fact, globally, they are the ones that provide the primary network operations.

    He said international bandwidth rate is the country is one of the highest in the world, adding that when the country is compared with the rest of the world, its national long distance and metro network is also too exorbitant so is also the rental cost too.

    He fears that if another operator is licensed and that operator has infrastructure like international carrier licence as well as metro and national long distance fibre ownership may lead to cross-subsidy on ISPs, creating an “unfair competition” in the industry.

    In his opening remarks, the executive vice chairman and chief executive officer of the NCC, Eugene Juwah, said convening the forum in line with the NCC’s participatory regulatory approach. “The objective of this forum, in line with the Commission’s policy of participatory regulation amongst other things is to provide an avenue for stakeholders and users of the 2.3 GHz band to discuss, technically criticise, exchange ideas and proffer options that will help the Commission in arriving at a decision on the further licensing of the remaining 40 MHz bandwidth in the band for the benefit of all Nigerians.

  • The website of South Sudan ruling party (SPLM) has temporarily been suspended. StartLogic, a source told Sudan Tribune, pulled down the party's website early this week. "This site has been suspended", reads a statement on visiting the party website.

    It is not clear why the US based web hosting company; a subsidiary of Endurance International Group, suspended the south-ruling party's site. No official statement has so far been issued by the party in relation to the matter.

    On Tuesday, senior officials were locked up in the party's political bureau meeting, seeking to review and adopt drafts of the SPLM basic documents ahead of their forthcoming National Liberation Council (NLC) and extra ordinary conventions. The convention, Anne Itto, the deputy SPLM secretary general said, aims to review the party's manifesto, constitution, basic rules and regulations as well as the code of conduct.

  • Internet Gabon Telecom (Telecom IG) and the Railway Company Congo-Ocean (Chemin de Fer Congo Ocean or CFCO) have signed an agreement on the supply of telecommunications services and the maintenance of a private VSAT Network, reports local news agency Pana.

    The two companies signed a two-year contract valued at CFA 1.5 billion (about USD 3 million) which will equip 29 CFCO stations with modern telecommunications equipment.

    It will be the first VSAT operator in the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC) with more than 500 installed sites. The contract will enable the better use of trains and enforce discipline by drivers throughout the rail network.

computing

  • Ericsson has donated computers worth 30m/- to KADEA Secondary School in Kagera Region.The donation was presented to the school's administration by Echezana Ozumbe, Ericsson's Project Manager in Tanzania over the weekend.

    Ozumbe said at the presentation ceremony held at the school that this is part of the company's corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme for 2013. Ericsson has an annual programme of assisting the community in its development efforts, with emphasis to marginalised rural areas.

  • The City of Kigali, on Wednesday, donated a flat screen television set and a desktop computer to each of the 50 villages in the outskirts of the city to help the citizens remain updated.

    The gadgets are to be placed under what is being termed as "Knowledge Room" in each village, and will be accessed by all free of charge.

    The benefitting villages were drawn from the three urban districts; Gasabo (20 villages), Nyarugenge (14 villages) and Kicukiro where the programme was launched with the distribution of the facilities to 16 villages.

    The television screens have cable signal, while the computers are connected to the Internet.

    The launch was held at Nyarurama cell office, Kicukiro district, but the idea, according to city officials, is to eventually work to ensure all households in the city have access to television and Internet.

    Kigali City mayor Fidele Ndayisaba said the programme aims at helping Rwandans to have updated information about the various government programmes and what is going on in the world.

    "Use this technology to keep updated and to develop by yourselves," the mayor told the residents.

    "ICT is the key driver to development. This is the way of helping them to develop as they already had the fundamental infrastructure such as electricity and roads," Ndayisaba said.

    He said leaders will help look after the equipment and be responsible for meeting operational charges such as Internet cost.

    The facilities were donated in partnership with Tigo Rwanda.

    "We're grateful for being able to partner in initiatives that keep Tigo close to the people and that could potentially change the lives of entire communities," said Diego Camberos, the Tigo Rwanda chief executive officer.

    He said such initiatives are ideal platforms for Rwandans to stay connected with the world and develop new skills as a community.

    The event was also attended by the Minister for Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Airtel Money has added a new product to its growing bouquet. The “School Pocket Money Service” is aimed at eliminating the stress associated with parents and guardians who struggle to send pocket money to their wards in senior secondary schools.

    Corporate Relations Manager of Airtel Ghana, Kwame Gyan, explains that Airtel Money has partnered some Senior High Schools to provide a convenient and safe mode of transfer of pocket monies from parents to wards.

    “So far we have mainly Senior Housemasters from PRESEC, Labone, Ada Senior High, Accra Girls, Kumasi Girls, Accra Academy, St. Augustine’s College, Mfantsipim School, Aggrey Memorial and Prempeh College who serve as Airtel Money agents in these schools. Parents and guardians with wards in these schools are thus able to send monies to them using Airtel Money”.

    Airtel Money has consolidated its position as the leading mobile money service in Ghana, and remains the only mobile service that allows customers to link their Airtel Money wallets with their bank accounts.

  • Absa has introduced a mobile branch that can be operational anywhere in SA, within 24 hours of arrival.

    The big four bank yesterday announced the launch of its first “mobile village branch model” (Branch-on-the-move) – a mobile bank branch Absa will run on a trial basis in Idutywa, in the Eastern Cape, which recently saw the original branch razed by a fire.

    Absa says its Branch-on-the-move serves as an emergency branch and does not require technology or equipment to be dissembled before being transported. “In a commitment to improve access to financial services, the Idutywa pilot was built in only six weeks to serve the community while a new bank branch is being planned.” The financial services  group says this is in line with Absa’s commitment to meet the growing need for community banking services. Arrie Rautenbach, Absa’s head of retail markets, says the mobile bank is designed to simulate the functionality of an entire bank branch in the form of a large container on wheels, that can be set up to be fully functional anywhere in the country.

    Rautenbach says the portable bank will move to areas of the country to extend its banking services where renovations, fire damage, water damage, ATM bombings or even construction interrupt normal branch operations. “This service will especially be felt in remote rural villages.”

    Branch-on-the-move offers full banking services with two tellers, two sales consultants, a branch manager and an ATM.

Digital Content

  • Bantu Babel is a product of a Randon Hacks of Kindness hackathon, The Peace Corps Innovation Challenge Hackathon, which was held in December 2012 at BongoHive, Lusaka’s Technology and Innovation Hub. The project team included a group of developers and Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs).
     Bantu Babel is an African Language Translation mobile application available on the Android platform. You can translate words and get translations of useful survival phrases in popular African languages, on your mobile phone. No network required. Bantu Babel currently offers translations in all 7 major Zambian Languages.

  • In Northern Mali, one of the towns where French and African troops have been trying to unseat Islamist rebels is Kidal — a small, dusty hub of trans-Saharan traffic and trade.

    Portland, Ore., musicologist Christopher Kirkley spent several months there in 2009 and 2010, collecting music rarely heard by the rest of the world.

    He had traveled to West Africa with an acoustic guitar, a digital recorder and a small laptop, with the intention of recording traditional guitar music.

    Instead he found the Saharan soundscape full of tinny digital audio blaring from cheap, off-brand cellphones.

    “People use them as portable hard drives,” Kirkley said. “It actually was kind of a pain when I first encountered it, because I was there with my microphone, expecting to be trading these folk songs while people were playing them on guitar. And a lot of times I’d ask somebody, I’d say, ‘Play that song you were talking about, that old rebellion song.’ And rather than play it, someone would take out their cellphone and hit play.”

    People were sharing the songs using Bluetooth wireless technology, which works without phone service or Internet.

    With villagers, nomads, immigrants, traders, truck drivers and refugees all crossing paths in Kidal, the web of music Kirkley found there was like “the Internet without the Internet,” he said.

    He started collecting the MP3s from the cellphone memory cards, and has since put out two compilations of Saharan cellphone music — the latest was just released on vinyl.

    “These MP3s that are on cellphones often don’t have any information on them besides a file name and an ID3 tag, so when it came to tracking down the musicians, it was a really laborious process of trying to decode this really minimal information and find out A, where the musician was coming from and B, who they were,” Kirkley said.

    Much of the music he collected from cellphones is the product of a “DIY revolution of cheap technology,” Kirkley said — songs created on computers in homemade studios in villages and towns. Occasionally, songs were recorded directly onto cellphones.

    Many of the people Kirkley met in Kidal have since fled, because of the extremists who took over. In some places, extremists have instituted Sharia law, essentially banning cellphone music.

    “The Islamists have actually even taken to destroying cellphone towers, seeing them as indicative of this popular music culture,” Kirkley said.

    The phones have also been one of the only ways to capture the conflict there.

    Kirkley plans to return to Mali next month — this time with the goal of collecting videos relating to the rebellion.

    “Once the data isn’t transferred anymore, then it does disappear, due to size constraints on cellphones and the fact that it’s not being archived,” Kirkley said. “So in particular with the rebellion, I think that the really important story of what’s been happening in Northern Mali does exist on cellphone medium. And we’ll see what happens.”

  • South African taxi ordering solution Zapacab is set to launch before April this year, seeking to provide reliable and efficient taxi services on the streets of Cape Town.

    Zapacab aims to transform the current model of taxi ordering, where group affiliated drivers are obliged to operate through a centralised despatch system.

    “We are completely replacing that despatch service and providing and empowering directly to the customer,” founder Paul Donner told HumanIPO.

    Zapacab is one of nine startups part of the 88mph accelerator programme in Woodstock, Cape Town.

  • The Ministry of Trade and Industry yesterday launched a National Web Based Product Gallery  in Accra aimed at enhancing the businesses of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in the country.

    The Minister for Trade and Industry, Haruna Iddrissu who launched the site said the web based product gallery would position Ghanaian businesses to participate effectively on the platform.

    The National Web-Based Product Gallery which was developed with assistance from the World Bank would seek to provide detailed and reliable products and company information of participating firms across the country.

    He noted that the project was in line with government’s effort to transform enterprises, create jobs opportunities as well as improve livelihood in the country.

    Iddrisu challenged MSME in the country to take advantage of the technological drive to grow their business. “We are living in a digital world-technology drive where the use of internet has become a key contribution to economic growth”, he stressed.

    He added that the portal would also be a good avenue for advertising and marketing product information such as prices, market offers and contacts.

  • With the shelf life of local films expiring some time after a glitzy debut night and some cracks at international film festivals, Namibian film directors have been looking for a way to extend their products longevity while getting paid in the process.

    Cut to AfricAvenir Namibia and its director, Hans-Christian Mahnke, who have recently secured a relationship with video-on-demand platform, AfricaFilms.TV, which will afford Namibian filmmakers the opportunity to sell their films online to a global market.

    Founded by Senegal's Enrico Chiesa in close cooperation with Studio Sankara and the European Union's support programme for African, Caribbean and Pacific group states' cinema and audio visual sectors, AfricaFilms.TV is no less than a website where consumers can search for specific African films and either rent or download them for a fee.

    "In terms of a filmmaker's profit, the rights share is pretty easy and it's all very transparent," says Mahnke.

    "50 percent goes to AFTV and the rest is divided by the rights owners and their legal bindings with others. The contract is a non-exclusive VOD contract hence one can still sell film rights to other VOD channels at the same time. The territories are defined by the seller and one can choose the best option for oneself."

    Boasting films by our own Simon Wilkie, Andrew Botelle, Tim Huebschle and with films by Perivi Katjavivi on the way, Namibian filmmakers join the ranks of what AfricaFilms.TV considers the best films, soaps, cinema, documentaries, concerts and shows from the whole continent and from the Diaspora.

    "The aim is to reinforce the African film sector," say Mahnke. "To help African rights owners of film content to take hold of the digital distribution of their films, using VOD to extend their lifecycle and expand their reach to worldwide audiences."

    In terms of local filmmakers wanting to get in on the action, Mahnke urges them to contact AfricAvenir.

    "We act as agents; I can only sign the films which give us the go-ahead. The films we currently have signed with AFTV are 'Wanahepo - The Return of a Namibian Hero' by Per Sanden, 'Power Stone - The story of the Kwanyama Kingdom' and 'Born in Etosha', by Andrew Botelle, 'Testimony - Breaking the Wall of Silence' by Simon Wilkie and short films by Tim Huebschle, which are 'Beef', 'Looking for Iilonga', 'Rider without a Horse' and 'Orange Juice'.

    Support local cinema by visiting the website here  and adding one or all of the above to your online shopping cart.

  • A conservation group claims that Google is helping fuel a dramatic surge in ivory demand in Asia that is killing African elephants at record levels.

    A conservation group claims that Google has something in common with illicit ivory traders in China and Thailand: It says the Internet search giant is helping fuel a dramatic surge in ivory demand in Asia that is killing African elephants at record levels.

    The Environmental Investigation Agency, a conservation advocacy group, said in a statement Tuesday that there are some 10,000 ads on Google Japan’s shopping site that promote the sale of ivory.

    About 80 percent of the ads are for “hanko,” small wooden stamps widely used in Japan to affix signature seals to official documents. The rest are carvings and other small objects.

    Hanko are used for everything from renting a house to opening a bank account. The stamps are legal and typically inlaid with ivory lettering.

    The EIA said Japan’s hanko sales are a “major demand driver for elephant ivory (and) have contributed to the wide-scale resumption of elephant poaching across Africa.”

    Google said in an emailed response to The Associated Press, “Ads for products obtained from endangered or threatened species are not allowed on Google. As soon as we detect ads that violate our advertising policies, we remove them.”

    The EIA said it had written a letter to Google CEO Larry Page on Feb. 22 urging the company to remove the ads because they violate Google’s own policies. It said Google had not responded to the letter or taken down the advertisements.

    “While elephants are being mass slaughtered across Africa to produce ivory trinkets, it is shocking to discover that Google, with the massive resources it has at its disposal, is failing to enforce its own policies designed to help protect endangered elephants,” said Allan Thorton, the U.S.-based president of the EIA.

    Curbing the trade in so-called “blood ivory” is at the top of the agenda of the 178-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, which is meeting in Bangkok this week to discuss how to protect the planet’s biodiversity by regulating the legal trade of flora and fauna and clamping down on smuggling.

    Around 70 years ago, up to 5 million elephants are believed to have roamed sub-Saharan Africa. Today, just several hundred thousand are left.

    Over the last few years, as Asian economies have grown and demand for ivory has risen, the slaughter of elephants has reached its worst level in more than two decades. Last year alone, some 32,000 elephants were killed in Africa, according to the Born Free Foundation, which says black-market ivory sells for around $1,300 per pound. Much of it ends up as tourist trinkets and carvings.

    CITES banned the international ivory trade in 1989, but the move did not address domestic markets.

    Google’s advertising policies state that Google “doesn’t allow the promotion of products obtained from endangered or threatened species,” including elephant tusks, rhino horns and products made from whales, sharks and dolphins.

    Thorton said the policies were laudable “but sadly these are not being enforced and that’s devastating.”

    Concerned Internet shoppers have alleged that ivory is being sold on other sites as well, including eBay. Some objects now offered for more than $1,000 apiece are marketed as “ox-bone” or “faux ivory.”

    At least one wildlife group, the United Kingdom-based International Fund for Animal Welfare, has said it has worked with eBay to help them enforce anti-ivory trading policies by showing them how their rules are being flouted and improving efforts to flag suspicious items.

    In 2007, IFAW alleged that eBay was “one of the main channels through which trafficking in wildlife and wildlife products are conducted online,” but it has said the shopping site clamped down after IFAW shared research with them concerning illegal trading.

  • The Plataform KALLUN  (meaning slang), founded by Leocarpo Mário, is a recent collaborative project with the ultimate goal of gathering in just one place all the slang with Angolan origins. Kallun enables interactive search of terms and their meanings.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Nigeria’s telecom operator Globacom (Glo) has announced the launch of a new Internet wireless router in the hope that it will boost ”on-the-go and office” connections for users.

    According to the operator, the launch offers users greater access and higher Internet speeds, particularly within the home environment.

    “The Glo Mobile Wi-Fi is a mobile portable device that can connect up to five Wi-Fi gadgets (PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones and PSPs) to mobile broadband,” the company stated in a media release announcing the launch of the new router and increased services.

More

  • Broadband MEA 
    19 - 20 March 2013 
    The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, 

    The region’s premier broadband event attracting 750  decision makers from across The Middle East and Africa. Now in its 5th year, the event is the only place to meet the entire industry under 1 roof.
    The 2 day comprehensive programme including 2 pre conference workshops brings together 70+ speakers including 40+ operator case studies to address the current issues surrounding broadband.
    With our most impressive speaker line-up to date, the conference focuses on both Business and Technology Strategy covering all the topics surrounding broadband. Plus the 2 workshops hosted by MENOG and Etisalat on the 18th March will provide a deep dive into IPv6 and LTE issues and developments.  For more information or book your place at the event visit here: 

    Operators – don’t forget to claim your exclusive 50% discount when purchasing a full conference pass!

    2nd Annual Cloud World Forum Africa
    23rd-24th April 2013
    Sandton Sun Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Combining the Cloud Computing World Forum Africa and Cloud Africa, this two day conference and exhibition covers every aspect of cloud, giving attending delegates all the information they need to begin or to expand on their cloud adoption needs.
    For more information please click here:

    The Social Media Week Lagos Team is excited to announce that our official schedule is now LIVE and registration is open!  
    At present we have 84 events scheduled and will be adding some very exciting evening events that will soon be announced.  We ask that you please join us in letting your readers, network and the world know that Africa did not disappoint and we are delivering a world-class event.  Social Media Week Lagos is truly history in the making and we invite the world to take part.
    You can find the SMW Lagos schedule here: 
    See this link for our 30 second spot that starts airing next week across the continent on Channel O TV: Download Link for SMW Lagos Media Package:

    iWeek 2013
    09 - 12 September 2013
    Thaba Ya Batswana, Impala Road, Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Now in its second decade, iWeek brings together everybody who matters in the Internet industry—and then some. It provides an important platform for established players to interact with start-ups and visionaries, and for the South African industry to connect with international experts. This year’s event will be focusing on bringing some of the globe’s most important thinkers to South Africa to act as a catalyst for lively discussion and new ideas.

  • Call For Candidates: Internet Security Trainings For Gulf of Guinea Journalists and Activists

    On May 27, and July 15, 2013, Internet Sans Frontières and the University of Clemson will organise five-day "Data Security Camps" for journalists and activists from the Gulf of Guinea. The deadline has been extended: Interested candidates can now send their applications until March 29, 2013.

    In Paris and Abidjan, on May 27, and July 15, 2013, Internet Sans Frontières and Clemson University of South Carolina will organize five-day “Internet security” training seminars. These seminars will be held to allow Gulf of Guinea journalists, social media, human rights and democracy activists to learn how to proactively counteract online repression. The training seminars will be led by Doctor Richard Brooks of Clemson University in the United States, who has been working for the past year on a project called « Internet Democracy Support for West Africa ».

    The education seminars provided will teach human rights and democracy activists, journalists and activist social media users how to use the counter-surveillance technologies developed by Doctor Brooks and his team at Clemson University. The seminars will also cover network security and privacy issues. Participants will be taught how to ensure secure communications and avoid online tracking. Technologies such as Tor and I2P provide anonymous communications, but repressive governments use network filtering to block access to these services. The technical approach developed by Doctor Brooks counters existing network surveillance regimes.

    Suitably qualified people are requested to apply for places in these training seminars (see below for more details). The seminars will be offered free of charge to suitably qualified candidates, but participants will have to cover all travel and subsistence costs themselves. The seminars will be held in French and English.

    Who can Apply?

    In principle any human rights or democracy activist currently active in the Gulf of Guinea who has a record of using the Internet to further the causes of democracy or human rights, and any journalist or social media activist who reports on respect of human rights or democracy is suitably qualified. West Africans who develop counter-surveillance technologies for such activists are also suitably qualified. Universities in of the Gulf of Guinea region, which would like to participate in the project, and receive the support of Doctor Brooks and his team, are also invited to contact us.

    To allow us to assess your qualifications, please send an email, in French or English, to idswaone@gmail.com . The email should be titled “Paris – Data Security Camp” if you wish to attend the training beginning in Paris on May 27, 2013 or “Abidjan – Data Security Camp” if you wish to attend the training seminar in Abidjan that begins on July 15, 2013.  It should detail your record in human rights, democracy activism, and journalism or as an activist user of social media. If you would like more details before applying by email, please call the following telephone number (in the United States) 00-1-864-986-0813 and leave a message, including your telephone number, so that we can call you back.

    Candidates can apply until March 29th 2013 23h59 GMT. Applicants will receive a response in April 2013. Once your candidature has been accepted you will be provided with more detailed information about the training seminars. Demand for places in the training seminars will be high and the number of places is limited. To ensure a good chance of participating, please apply as soon as possible.

    Why are these training seminars needed?

    A number of recent cases tend to prove that the increased use of online media is being used by repressive regimes to identify and attack democracy advocates in the Gulf of Guinea, especially those who are novices in the use of social media. Unfortunately, it is easy for repressive Governments to find telecommunications companies ready to provide them with Internet surveillance and filtering technologies which can be used against journalists and human rights and democracy advocates.

    Network monitoring also permits repressive regimes to track the consumers of online content. This can place not only journalists and activists but also social media users at risk. There is an active debate as to whether on-line media is more beneficial to democratic activists or to repressive governments. Recent unrest in the Middle East and Iran include instances of governments using social media to identify dissidents. Participants in the training seminars will learn about systems of internet surveillance and how to counteract them.

    The Goal of the “Internet Democracy Support for West Africa” Project

    The main goal of the project named “Internet Democracy Support for West Africa” is to enable unfettered Internet access by inhabitants of countries whose regimes restrict freedom of expression, freedom of the press, democracy and human rights. The aim of the training seminars is to teach groups of people deemed to be “at risk” (journalists, social media activists, human rights and democracy advocates) how best to use Counter-Censorship technologies. Following the seminars, participants will be integrated into the program’s secure online network. They will continue to be provided with regular updates and new versions of the technologies with which they were familiarized at the training seminars. At the end of this project, many more human rights and democracy advocates in West Africa will have the tools and knowledge they need to securely circumvent current Internet censorship and surveillance technologies.

    Duration of the project

    The project is designed to last for three years, by which time partnerships between Doctor Brooks’ team at Clemson, universities in the Gulf of Guinea and activist user-groups will make the project self-sustaining. Participants at the training seminars given during the first, second and third years will receive ongoing online support.
    Source: Internet Sans Frontieres

Issue no 644 1st March 2013

node ref id: 27259

Top story

  • This week the mobile operators’ trade association, the GSMA issued a report saying that overall revenues from data would exceed those of voice by 2018. The steady shift of different traffic elements to IP will be with us sooner than expected. The report predicted that data revenues in Kenya would exceed voice by 2016, a mere three years away. As part of this broader trend, operators are beginning to gear up their MPLS services in Africa. Russell Southwood looks at what’s happening.

    MPLS (Multi Protocol Label Switching) started back in the mid 1990s and was aimed at speeding up traffic between network nodes. Now its main advantage is that it is a much more controlled channel than public IP and can handle network protocols for voice, data and video. Typically, it has been particularly popular for corporate VPNs.

    Indeed the main customers for MPLS services are international and regional corporates. According to Yossi Barkan, PCCW:”MPLS is certainly more expensive than the public Internet. But it’s 30-40% less expensive than buying the leased line, which it’s replacing.” So for example, a company might buy a 512 Kbps connection into a particular place and the services it wants to use flow over that connection. The operator supplies a managed router and monitors the performance of the network.

    Improvements in international bandwidth have meant that corporate customers have been able to increase what they can do and how they operate. Before it was difficult or impossible to run certain ERP services over a satellite link. Now many organisations can centralize their ERP functions, whether with a head office in Europe or the USA or within the continent.

    More reliable fibre capacity across the continent has increased the number of companies that are centralizing their data centre functions and providing more than one back-up option. For example, Ecobank has data centres in both Ghana and Togo.

    For as Gilles Blanquart, Africa and Middle East Number one program manager, Orange observed:”Companies are doing business recovery in a wider number of places because of improvements in international bandwidth.” One of its customers, AngloGold Ashanti has a two recovery options, one in Johannesburg and the other in France and there is a “failover” between the two locations.

    The new trading order means that one of PCCW’s customers, Huawei, has MPLS connectivity between its many offices in Africa and China. And obviously in the other direction. Likewise a Nigerian company may look for an MPLS link into India. But wherever the links are going, the biggest MPLS demand has come from African countries that are part of the “fast track” group in terms of growth: South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Angola and Kenya. The high-growth areas amongst corporate customers have been financial services and the oil and gas industry as new finds come on stream in places like Ghana.

    Nevertheless improved business communication across the continent is still being held back regulatory restrictions in a significant number of countries. International MPLS operators often still have to deal with monopoly incumbent operators and are not allowed to run IP telephony and trunking. Connections that could as easily travel cheaply within the continent (if there were no incumbent protecting restrictions), are still being sent via somewhere outside the continent. The liberalization of cross-border connections would significantly lower the cost of business and trade.

    The next wave of services and applications on MPLS is likely to include the use of video. One of Orange’s customers, AngloGold Ashanti, has 40 video presence points (with some run over satellite) with both standard and high-definition cameras. The next version up from that is immersive video (from the likes of Tandberg and Polycom) where those sitting round a table seem to be in the same room as those they are video-meeting with.

    The competition between operators for corporate MPLS business is quite multi-layered. There are large continental players like Orange, PCCW, Etisalat, Airtel, MTN and Vodacom Business. These all project this pan-continental presence through a mixture of their own MPLS infrastructure and partnerships with local companies where there are gaps. PCCW has recently strengthened its hand by buying the carrier side of Gateway: it now has 27 countries covered through a mixture of its own nodes and those of partners. Some companies like BT and Internet Solutions are strong in South Africa but less strong elsewhere. Medium sized operators include companies like CMC Networks.

    A company like Orange prides itself on the spread of its own infrastructure: it increased the number of its MPLS nodes from 16 in 2011 to 22 in 2012. It has also increased its international capacity by 46% over the same period and anticipates a further 50% increase in 2013.

    If Africa’s strong economic growth is not held back by the economic troubles of the developed world, then MPLS will be a key driver of bandwidth growth over the next five years.

    New Balancing Act video clip interviews this week:

    Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO, Movirtu on its two new products aimed at the BYOD market

    Manfred Tumban, CEO, SNS Mobility on his Cameroon MVNO

    Video briefings on:

    The roll-out of LTE in the UK market:


    Ije Nwokorie, Wolff Olins on early lessons from helping launch EE's LTE service in the

    Film and Music video platforms in Africa:

    Yoel Kenan on the African music market, local talent, killing choruses and mobile digital platforms

    Jesse Oguntimehin on the beta phase launch of African mobile music platform Spinlet

    Chike Maduegbuna on Afrinolly, a new film and music mobile platform

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

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

    Gado on Buni TV

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

telecoms

  • A Kenyan court has allowed Chinese firm Huawei to withdraw its lawsuit challenging the award of a KES 20 billion tender to supply the police with a communication and surveillance system, after the government cancelled the tender. Huawei's lawyer Mohammed Nyaoga told Justice J Odunga that given the government's action, his client did not wish to engage in academic exercise by pursuing the matter in court. Head of Civil Service Francis Kimemia had cancelled the tender and urged the ICT ministry to re-advertise it. According to Kimemia, some officials had been influenced by bidders and the cost of the project had become exaggerated.

    Huawei which was among six companies that submitted their expressions of interest in the tender. It argued there were irregularities in the manner in which the Ministry handled the process. Nyaoga said that the whole purpose of the Public Procurement law is to ensure efficient procedures, maximise economy and efficiency, promote competition and fair play and ensure transparency. Nyaoga argued the issue was of great public interest and had raised questions on the integrity and transparency of the tendering process.

    The tender was for a secure command and control system encompassing telephone facilities, incident handling, radio, voice logging, automated action cards and support for external interfaces to computer systems in the 47 county headquarters. There was to be a national command and control centre in Nairobi and a digital mobile communication network, a computer-aided dispatch, a video surveillance system, a geographic information system and an Automatic Vehicle Location System.

  • The Federal Government may slam fresh rounds of sanctions on telecoms companies over allegations that they flouted an existing regulatory ban imposed on seven major operators from undertaking all promotions and lotteries due to network congestions. big four

    Technology Times has learnt from people conversant with the situation that except there is a last-minute change of mind by the telecoms industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) may impose fresh rounds of varying sums in fines on four big telecoms companies (names withheld) as punishment for allegedly carrying out promotions of their network services, particularly data.

    Officials of the agency as well as operators are keeping sealed lips over the matter that may see some of the companies to be affected in the impending sanction paying fines ranging from N10 million, N6 million and others yet to be ascertained as at press time, following a decision taken by the Abuja-based NCC.

    What has been ascertained is that four big operators may be affected in the fresh regulatory sanctions over allegations that they have continued to carry out promotions on their data services in the wake of last year’s ban imposed on seven companies, according to credible sources.

    Tony Ojobo Director, Public Affairs, NCC, who announced the ban last year said it was imposed because the regulator, “in recent times, has been inundated with several complaints from consumers, industry stakeholders against the various promotions offered by telecommunications operators.”

    According to NCC, the companies affected include MTN Nigeria, the market leader by subscriber numbers owned by South Africa’s MTN Group; Globacom Limited, the Second National Operator (SNO) owned by Nigerian billionaire, Mike Adenuga Jnr; Etisalat Nigeria, owned by a mix of Mubadala and Etisalat of the UAE as well as Nigerian investors led by Hakeem Belo-Osagie and Airtel Nigeria, owned by Bharti Airtel of India.

    Also affected by the regulatory ban are three other CDMA networks including Visafone Communications Limited, owned by Nigerian banker, Jim Ovia; Multi Links Telecoms Ltd (formerly Multi Links Telkom) and Intercellular Nigeria Plc, which has been acquired by SudaTel.    

    The ban on promotions and lotteries imposed late last year caught the affected operators off guard coming amid the yuletide period when they roll out various trade promotion schemes largely to reward and lock in existing subscribers and attract new ones in the competitive market.

    According to official statistics from NCC, Nigeria had over 113, 195,951 active connections at the end of 2012 with mobile phone lines recording more than 95 per cent usage across the country.

    Subscribers continue to face varying degree of network issues including inability to make calls, recharge their phones or other issues often linked to congestions or other challenges from their services providers, says the industry watchdog.

    Ojobo, who announced the sanction said that NCC, “has banned all promotions by Telecommunications Network Operators as well as lotteries being carried out on such networks. This ban covers all proposed and approved promotions and lotteries on which the Commission has given approval further to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered into with the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC).”

    NCC justifies the ban on the problems faced by phone users noting that it, “has carefully evaluated the complaints received especially against the backdrop of sustaining the integrity of the networks, the general interest of the consumers, the socio-economic impact of these promotions on operators and other relevant stakeholders.”

    According to the watchdog, the trade promotions “have increased the number of minutes available to subscribers for use within a limited period of time thereby creating congestion in the networks as subscribers try to use up the available minutes within the stipulated time.”

    It also flayed the practice where, “on-net calls were now being offered by operators at tariffs well below the prevailing inter-connect rates thereby introducing anti-competitive practices and behaviour.”

    Ojobo notes further, “That termination of calls were becoming increasingly difficult from one network to another and overall consumer experience on the networks has become very poor thereby making it extremely difficult for subscribers to make calls successfully.”

  • Telecoms interconnection rates between mobile service providers drop from 115 to 34.92 shillings per minute effective today. Meanwhile, the government plans to build a monitoring telecommunication system by June, this year.

    Speaking to the 'Daily News' on Thursday, the Deputy Minister for Communication, Science and Technology, January Makamba, hailed the move to reduce interconnection charges, noting that the government plans to build a Telecoms Traffic Monitoring System by June to control and improve telecommunication in the country.

    In a bold move, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), last month announced the new rates after reviewing telecommunications charges in the country.Mr Makamba explained that the monitoring system will ensure telecommunication is improved in the country, including monitoring communication time.

    He explained that from 2008 to 2009 the telecommunication charges went down after the National Fibre Optic backbone was constructed. However, interconnection rates remained the same. "To ensure that the lowered interconnection rates are enjoyed fully by the public, the government is constructing a monitoring system that will monitor communication in the country. The target is to remove interconnection charges as it's the case in some countries," he explained.

    He said that the Telecoms traffic monitoring system will also improve telecommunication in the country and ensure government revenue from telephone service providers in the country. Speaking to the 'Daily News' on the move to reduce and harmonize interconnection rates, TTCL Communications Manager, Amin Mbaga expressed his delight in the wake of the move, which he said is for the benefit of the public.

    Mbaga said as much as telecommunication companies are reaping hefty profits, they should ensure the service provided are of low costs to the public, who use telecommunication services to bring about development at individual level and nationally.Airtel Communications Manager, Mr Jackson Mbando affirmed that the telecommunication company will implement the directives, as TCRA has directed.

    Although Tigo has started issuing adverts to its users about new offers following the new interconnection rates, the company's Communications officer Ms Jacquiline Nnunduma declined to comment, explaining that she's not the spokesperson for the issue.When announcing the move to reduce call interconnection rates, the TCRA Director General, Prof John Nkoma, said the cost would come down to 32.40/-.

    The rate for 2014 will be 32/40 dropping to 30/58 by 3015 and further to 28/57 in 2016. The rate will be 26/96 in 2017. Prof Nkoma said the regulatory body conducted an inquiry involving all telecommunications network operators and other stakeholders as per TCRA Procedures for Rules of Inquiry of 2004.

    According to him, the decision was made by a panel of experts from different universities and international organizations after conducting a cost study of each mobile phone firm and coming up with conclusions in accordance with the laws and regulations governing the ICT sector in the country.

    Prof Nkoma said while voice call termination rates for 2013 will be 34.90/- down from 115/-, the rate for 2014 will be 32.40/-, in 2015 the rates will be 30.58/- by 2015 and further to 28.57/- in 2016 and 26.96/- in 2017. He said in reducing the rates, the authority had taken into account that interconnection rates across the world have dropped in the past five years.

    "We established that the current rates are high and customers are forced to carry either more than one mobile phone or SIM (subscriber identification module) card because of the costs of making a call to a different mobile firm," he said. With the application of the new rates, there will be no need for a person to carry more than one phone or SIM cards.

  • Sierra Leone has officially launched its connection to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable system, gaining its first direct link to a global fibre network.

    Sierra Leone President Ernest Koroma, presiding over the launch, described it as a ‘milestone’.

    France Telecom Orange and the other members of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) consortium launched the first phase of the cable in December last year. At a ceremony held in Banjul, The Gambia, the consortium said the cable was now operational for the first phase – nearly 12,000km linking 13 countries from France and Sao Tomé & Principe. It will  extend as far as South Africa for the second phase.

  • Livingstone residents have been angered by mobile phone SMS alerts carrying campaign messages for the ruling Patriotic Front candidate Lawrence Evans ahead of the February 28 parliamentary by-election.

    The two by-elections, taking place in both Livingstone and Mpongwe, are viewed as crucial for the ruling party, who are seeking to achieve a parliamentary majority.  The high stakes contest have unleashed high levels of campaign spending by the government and no shortage of paid youth cadres, advertisements, and frequent text messaging.

    A senior manager at Airtel Livingstone office confirmed the SMS messages promoting the PF candidate are originating from an dummy number sent from the Lusaka office.

    Airtel subscribers in Livingstone have been receiving SMS on their handsets written in English and various local languages asking them to vote for PF.
    One message which was sent to a resident read, “Did you know that your vote for PF candidate Lawrence Evans on 28 February 2013 by-election is the only key to develop Livingstone central? Thank you.”

    The residents complained that they never subscribed to receive the messages which they said sometimes come at awkward hours in the night, causing annoyance and frustration.

    “First of all, why are they sending the messages to people of Livingstone only and how do they know that these numbers belong to Livingstone residents? This goes to show that Airtel is now being controlled by the PF government.  I’m sure this is why they wanted people to register their sim-cards so that they can be sending propaganda messages to citizens,” said Mbololwa Simasiku of Dambwa North.

    And another resident Peter Hamududu said he would not vote for PF because he had been frustrated by the SMSs.

    “I strongly believe that the PF candidate could be a better man for Livingstone Central but I did not need to be forced by these SMSs, I can decide on my own. And I also don’t like the fact that the PF is taking advantage of other parties like UPND and MMD who do not have the privileges of using services provided by mobile phone operators,” he said.

    And asked to explain the origin of the messages, a manager at Livingstone Airtel office said Allied Mobile communications which operates Airtel shops was not responsible.

    “This here is a just like a sales office, there is nothing technical that happens here. We have had so many people coming here to complain about the same SMSs but I can guarantee you that the SMSs are coming from Airtel head office in Lusaka, ask them, they should be able to explain,” said a senior manager who sought anonymity.

internet

  • Q-KON, a provider of satellite and wireless access network solutions to niche markets in Africa, has announced a partnership with Angola’s Startel SA (Startel). A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been reached between the two companies and is based on wholesale access to Q-KON’s StarLight offering.

    Q-KON is a South African services provider that has the resources and expertise to empower regional partners to meet the needs of their respective markets and help maximise their presence.

    Startel is an established and fully licensed Angola telecommunication network operator servicing the Angola market. The company operates various satellite and WiMax access networks and wishes to expand its access network product portfolio.

    Both companies have agreed to collaborate with regards to the provisioning, implementation and operation of a satellite broadband access platform.

    Q-KON will supply Startel with access to StarLight, an end-to-end two-way IP access service for broadband access and data communication. The service includes 1st tier Internet access, satellite uplink teleport and satellite communication bandwidth.

    Startel will brand the service as Starnet, a natural addition to the company’s portfolio, inclusive of Netbué Internet access and Falabué voice services.

  • The latest Zimbabwe All Media and Products Survey results show that urban internet use is growing fast, with 42% of people now having access, up from 34% a year ago.  Zimbabwe-wide, total internet access increased by 4% to 22%.

    According to the survey, the most common vehicle is smart-phones, 16% nationally and 32% in towns. It also said Facebook was the most popular website, visited by 15% of Zimbabweans and 31% of city dwellers, followed by Google (10%) and Yahoo (4%).

    At least 85% of Zimbabweans now have cellphones and rural access has increased to 80%, from 66% in the same quarter in 2012.

    The research was carried out by Research Bureau International on behalf of the Zimbabwe Advertising Research Foundation. The results are part of a wider report newspaper readership, television viewership, radio listenership and Internet accessibility.

  • Google has announced its collaboration with two network-driven companies in an attempt to make internet more accessible and effective in sub-Saharan Africa. The company will give USD 3.1 million to the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) for the development of network engineering expertise in local universities and national and education networks in sub-Saharan Africa "to help bring the next billion online".

    Laboratories and training programmes will be launched by the NSRC for network planning, management and operations to help bring the students and staff of more than 50 institutions new skills. Another USD 1.3 million will be provided to the Internet Society (ISOC) for the improvement and setup of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in emerging markets. An ISOC toolkit, for the creation, build and improvement of IXPs, including an industry portal, is also in the pipeline.

  • Mozambican mobile operator mCel and Opera Software have announced a co-branded version of a Opera Mini web browser, which will soon be available to mCel subscribers. Mozambique has fewer than one million landlines, but close to nine million mobile phones. Opera Mini is already popular in Mozambique, with the number of mobile-browsing Mozambicans growing by 164% in the past year.

    Opera Mini is a highly customizable mobile web browser that is compatible with more than 3,000 different makes of handsets, which is important in Mozambique where mostly older phones are used. The co-branded Opera Mini set to be launched by mCel will give consumers a consistent experience, look and feel relevant to country and operator. Opera Mini reduces the data delivered to any handset by up to 90%. This means web users can access the web more often, for the same price. The deal will give mCel’s subscribers one-click web access via Speed Dial shortcuts and Smart Page notifications from their favorite mCel portals or news and social networking sites.

    “We look forward to working with Opera to give even more people a better, faster, less expensive web experience,” says Benjamim Fernandes, Marketing and Sales Director at mCel. “The compression from Opera Mini means that we can have more people surfing without increasing network congestion.”

    mCel has a 3G network across most of the country and approximately 4.6 million subscribers, which is just under a quarter of the entire population of Mozambique.

    “We are eager to bring the best web experience to Africa, and this deal with mCel allows us to get closer to our goal,” says Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera Software. “We have seen very strong uptake of Opera Mini in Mozambique, and we look forward to building on that success with one of the country's largest mobile networks.”

computing

  • Dimension Data has announced the launch of its global Managed Cloud Platform (MCP) that is now available in Nigeria to serve the needs of public and private enterprise, as well as service providers.

    Dimension Data’s cloud offering will enable clients to accelerate their adoption of cloud computing, increase strategic agility, lower Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure management expenses, and reduce cloud migration complexity and risk.

    Announcing the availability of its cloud services, General Manager, Enterprise Solutions, Dimension Data Nigeria, Jide Agbaje, said: “The availability of cloud computing in Nigeria makes it easier for organisations to harness the cost and agility benefits of cloud as it provides organisations high speed access to secure, enterprise-class public, private, hybrid and hosted private cloud services in the country.”

    He added that the company’s cloud infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings are designed to address the performance and security concerns of organisations. “We have made it easier and less complex for organisations of every size to benefit from the flexibility and scale of cloud technologies through automation and broad global coverage,” Agbaje said.

    Speaking in the same vein, Solutions Executive at Dimension Data Africa, Tony Munro said, “While the benefits of cloud computing are very compelling, the complexity of planning, building and managing cloud infrastructure, is significant. Cloud providers need to address client concerns about security, compliance, integration, performance, capital expense requirements, as well as deployment and operational risks, to allow clients accelerate their cloud journey.”

    According to Munro, the company’s public cloud services would be available immediately and dedicated private cloud services could be deployed in a matter of weeks, allowing clients to enjoy the benefits of fully automated cloud architecture without the risks or excessive time associated with building the architectures themselves.

    Dimension Data offers public and private cloud Compute-as-a-Service(CaaS) solutions that provide self-service on-demand, cloud-based compute, storage and networking resources which are fully managed using a Web-based or REST-based Application Interface (API). Dimension Data's managed hosting services go beyond infrastructure hosting and also include deployment, management and delivery of applications.

  • Olusegun Aganga, Nigeria’s trade and investments minister, has revealed the government will partner with computer manufacturing company Omatek in a bid to promote indigenous technology. The minister disclosed this after a tour of Omatek’s facilities at its headquarters in Lagos.

    Aganga said: “We will like to partner with you as long as it does not break the law. We will be able to achieve the much-needed linkage between our abundant natural resources and the application of appropriate technology and production processes through the application of ICT in our schools and industries.” Describing Omatek, he said the indigenous company is leading its contemporaries in innovation and product quality.

    This he said has prompted the Nigerian government to map out a strategy that will make a partnership feasible in line with the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan and the ministry’s Local Patronage Initiative.

    Aganga added: “Let me reiterate here that the Federal Government's Transformation Agenda is a project which recognises the need to consciously nurture Nigerian industries in the quest for a sound economy developed on the back of industrial growth.

    “We are therefore assuring Omatek of the necessary support all the way.”

    He stressed the government is not partnering only with Omatek in the provision of local contents to government offices.

    According to him, the government is always on the lookout for indigenous companies producing top quality products to support by ensuring that the business environment will make their businesses flourish.

  • The parliamentary committee on education, technology, culture and youth has assessed the impact the one-laptop-per-child program has had so far, and found that, although the program has made commendable progress in the use of technology (ICT) in education, the ministry of education has to strengthen its role in making sure that OLPC fully serves its role.

    The assessment was made in September last year countrywide. "Mineduc has to make sure that the laptops distributed are being well maintained and fully exploited," said Agnes Mukazibera, the chairperson of the committee while presenting the report.

    Mukazibera said that 2,594 schools were reached by the program, 675 of them government-owned, 738 government-sponsored, and 1818 private ones. The laptops were given to children from P4 to P6. 12,102 laptops were distributed of which 8,141 are being used.

    "The reason why the rest is not being exploited is because of technical and managerial issues which Mineduc seem to have ignored," said Mukazibera.

    Among the issues raised were passwords put in the computers as protection mechanism, and lack of trained personnel to help the children learn to use the laptops.

    Parliamentarians resolved to that Mineduc has to study a way of making OLPC items reach all schools so that all children benefit from the use of ICT tools instead of having a few privileged and others who are ignored.

    However, the MPs commended the fact that the children who have so far been reached by the program have learnt a lot. "We have realized that these kids are being increasingly good at using ICT. They can draw, take pictures and most importantly write and save different types of documents," stressed MP Veneranda Nyirahirwa, the vice chair of the committee.

  • Over 100 schools have been provided with computer labs while 1000 others are expected to benefit in the next five years, thanks to an international organization known as Camara.

    The Organization's Founder, Cormac Lynch, said in Dar es Salaam that the mission (of his organization) was to make sure that in ten years, all Tanzanians at all levels of education are computer literate.

    Lynch, who arrived in the country on Tuesday for a two-day tour, said his organization was finalizing a cooperation agreement with the government in a bid to supplement the State's efforts in the sector.

    The government is currently implementing the Tanzania Beyond Tomorrow (TBT) project aimed at transforming education through technology, improve education quality and impart students with skills to earn a living through technology. "We want to transform education, give students from kindergarten to tertiary an access to computer.

    Computer literacy is vital in the modern world and key in getting better jobs," he said. He said the organization goes beyond making computers available by training teachers on ICT, computer maintenance and recycling. Mr Lynch met the Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda and charted out some critical issues including rural electrification; he was impressed by the comprehensive plans being implemented under the Rural Energy Agency.

    "We use social enterprise, we provide services at subsidized prices to create the sense of ownership among beneficiaries," he said. The Camara Tanzania Chief Executive Officer, Ms Edna Hogan, said all schools are required, for example, to pay one per cent of the actual value a computer unit.

    "We also require schools to have a lab room and electricity and we provide facilities and train trainers," she said. She added that in the past six months, the organization has imported 620 computers out of which 500 have been distributed to schools in Dar es Salaam, Ruvuma and Coast regions.

    Hogan said the organization opened its branch here following a request by Premier Pinda when he toured Ireland in 2009, adding that the objective is to provide services countrywide. She said Camara is an international organisation dedicated to using technology to improve education and livelihood skills in disadvantaged communities around the world, as a way of helping them break the cycle of poverty.

    "Founded seven years ago in Dublin, Ireland, the organisation has built a proven model of 'education delivery' that is both sustainable and highly scalable," she noted. The Deputy Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Mr Philipo Mulugo, was quoted as saying that the government is committed to improving education and life skills in communities through technology, so that people are better equipped to compete in global labour market.

    The minister mentioned TBT programme as one of the strategies already set to transform education through technology countrywide. Basing on the partnership venture facilitated by Camara, Mr Mulugo said the plan aims at building teachers' capacity in the use of technology and supply computers in schools and colleges.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Mahindra Comviva, the global leader in providing mobile financial and VAS solutions, has announced that it has partnered with Gabon Telecom, an affiliate of Maroc Telecom and the largest telecom company in Gabon. With this partnership Mahindra Comviva will help Gabon Telecom to introduce Mobi Cash mobile money services and enhance customer experience with its multi-award winning mobiquity mobile financial and Messaging solution - USSD Flares.

    Maroc Telecom, the major wireless and wireline telecom operator in Morocco launched Mobi Cash mobile money services powered by Comviva in 2010.

    Mahindra Comviva’s mobiquity solution will empower Gabon Telecom subscribers with multi-functional and secure account, which can be used to make domestic remittance, salary disbursements, and last mile financial services including cash in and cash out. It will also allow subscribers to make utility bill payments such as post paid, electricity, water and recharge their mobile phones. Customers can also make Over-The-Counter (OTC) payments at merchants such as grocery stores, restaurants, chemists.

    Mahindra Comviva’s messaging solution - USSD FLARES, a single-window web-based Service Creation Environment (SCE) with an easy to use interface for service creation and management will enable the operator to access, create, execute and manage services faster. Mahindra Comviva is a market leader in the USSD space globally, with over 90 deployments across 57 countries. Its USSD solutions are now delivering services to over 550 million mobile users across the globe, with over 220 million hits daily on USSD solutions.

    Speaking on the collaboration, Sabri Amireh, Head of Middle-East and North Africa at Mahindra Comviva said, “With our mobiquity financial solution already being deployed at Onatel in Burkina Faso, Mauritel Mobile in Mauritania and Sotelma in Mali, we are excited to be working with the fourth affiliate of Maroc Telecom. With this deployment we will help the operator to introduce host of financial services to build deeper consumer engagement.”

    “Our USSD solution will ensure message delivery over a high-speed, secure platform whilst enabling rapid application development, with a service creation platform supporting rapid, cost-effective service launch,” further added Sabri Amireh.

    Mohamed KARIM, Marketing Manager, Gabon Telecom commented, “We are committed to leveraging technology to meet the evolving needs of our customers. Our tie-up with Mahindra Comviva to introduce easy to use mobile financial services to our valued customers in Gabon is a prime example of this. With mobiquity, we are able to provide a cost-effective banking solution and improving people’s lives by creating access to financial services for the masses."

  • A study released by the GSMA mWomen Programme and Visa entitled, Unlocking the Potential: Women and Mobile Financial Services in Emerging Markets, shows that women in developing countries represent a significant underserved market and commercial opportunity for mobile financial service providers. The study, focused on women in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania, was undertaken to gain additional insight into how financial institutions and mobile network operators can better support the complex financial lives of women at the base of the pyramid.

    Around the world more than 2 billion people, the majority of whom are women, lack access to basic financial services. The study, led by Bankable Frontier Associates, found that women often also face an additional burden of having primary responsibility for managing the household finances. These resource-poor women must overcome numerous challenges in managing their finances: incomes are low, irregular and unpredictable, and formal financial tools hard to access.

  • As Kenya continues to push the value of paperless money transfer and mobile money services, MasterCard and Equity Bank have joined forces to launch Mobile Point of Sale (MPOS) technology.

    MasterCard and Equity Bank have united to launch Mobile Point of Sale (MPOS) technology in Kenya. (Image: File)

    “MasterCard and Equity Bank have partnered with Ezetap, a MPOS provider, to introduce the service,” the companies said in a joint press release.

    “This initial MPOS pilot project, which was first announced in January as part of the strategic alliance between Equity Bank and MasterCard to issue 5 million payment cards, will be targeted at selected merchant retail outlets,” it added.

    The move should give Equity Bank the necessary data to implement a more in-depth countrywide roll-out of the Ezetap MPOS system. The overall goal is to continue to deliver new offerings to Kenyans who want to go cashless on a daily basis.

    “The Ezetap system has been operational in India for several months. It consists of a lightweight and robust device that can be plugged into smartphones and tablets for small businesses to accept card payments,” they added, highlighting the effectiveness of the Indian system.

    The roll-out is compliant with global security standards including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCIDSS) and the Payment Application Data Security Standard (PADSS).

  • Making Finance Work for Africa (MFW4A) has announced its participation in the sixth annual AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa conference, to be held over two days from March 13 to 14 in Lagos, Nigeria.

    In line with this year’s conference theme “Consolidating and Monetizing the Gains of Innovation”, MFW4A is organizing a consultative workshop on March 14, aimed at providing a common platform for its Mobile Banking Donor Working Group (MB-DWG) members, to showcase their organizations’ interventions on Mobile Technology in order to increase access to finance in Africa.

    MFW4A and the MB-DWG members have been strongly involved in enhancing the development of mobile financial services in Africa. Guided by one of the recommendations arising from the MFW4A Book “Financing Africa: Through the Crisis and Beyond”, which encouraged the development of mobile technology as an important transformational model, MFW4A launched the MB-DWG initiative in July 2011 in collaboration with CGAP to promote closer collaboration and strengthen joint co-ordination with its members.

    Welcoming the opportunity to participate in the AITEC conference in Lagos, Stefan Nalletamby, MFW4A Partnership Coordinator, said: “In the recent past, the landscape of African financial sectors has changed significantly. Mobile banking innovation is especially important in Africa where it is enabling to leapfrog a number of infrastructure constraints.  In Nigeria alone, there are over 90 million mobile subscribers, and mobile banking solutions have the potential to significantly impact financial inclusion in that country.”

    For further information, please email Habib Attia h.attia@afdb.org or visit the MFW4A website, here:

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Telecel Zimbabwe Telecel announced last week via an SMS to subscribers the reduction of its 3G modems price from US $45 to $30. Subscribers will also get 300mb of data along with a new modem. We’re told it’s a promotion, which means the deal has an expiry date. Usually it’s a month or two. Promo or not, this is a great deal for those of you without 3G modems.

    Just to compare, Econet Wireless, sells similar modems for $38 and gives 25mb of data for 6 months. The data is roughly half of what Telecel is offering with the promo. The Telecel modems are also not network locked so it’s a great deal through and through for those of you not too fond of network loyalty.

    The launch of mobile broadband services available via dongles opened up an opportunity for lower cost broadband setup fees. Before the dongles, getting internet connection at home or home business mean spending upwards of $300 on UHF Radio or WiMax customer premise equipment. Such steep amounts virtually excluded the low income individuals from accessing the internet.
    - See more here:

Digital Content

  • Airtel will establish a Farmer’s Information System which will provide real time information to women farmers through its network in Africa
    Women farmers in the East and Horn of Africa region are poised to benefit from practical information-sharing tools via Airtel’s mobile networks. This follows a memorandum of understanding signed between the UN Women (The United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women) and Airtel Africa.
    As per the MoU, UN Women will identify the farmers to be covered under this initiative, whilst Airtel will package and deliver the appropriate mobile solutions to support their livelihoods and enhance their efficiency.

    Commenting on the partnership, Andre Beyers, the Chief Marketing Officer of Airtel Africa said: “The empowerment of women is essential to economic development, especially in rural and agricultural economies. We are pleased to partner with UN Women and contribute to their agenda of gender equality and empowerment of women by leveraging the possibilities mobile telephony has to offer.”

    Under the agreement, Airtel Africa will establish a Farmer's Information System, which will enable women farmers to access real time information related to weather, changes to the policy environment (such as taxation and regulation), available support services; as well as other areas. In addition, Airtel will also offer Internet protocol messaging services and closed user groups.
    Mobile connectivity gives rural communities access to education, banking facilities and opportunities to increase trade. By connecting rural communities through its mobile networks, Airtel aims to create positive community impact, greater social interaction and opportunities for economic development.

    Christine Musisi, UN Women’s Regional Programme Director for the East & Horn of Africa, said: “This exciting new partnership will use the power of mobile telecommunications to engage and empower women in rural and urban areas.  Working with Airtel, UN Women can reach entrepreneurs faster, through communications platforms as they already own mobile phones. Increasingly, both the public and private sectors recognize that empowering women is smart economics, and that women must be brought to the heart of Africa’s development. We will work closely with Airtel to train women so that they, their families, and the region can reap the benefits of this opportunity.”

    The two-year partnership between Airtel and UN WOMEN aims at building the skills, capabilities and resources of women entrepreneurs. Women provide approximately 70 percent of agricultural labour and produce 90 percent of all food, yet do not always share equally in the economic benefits of the industry. Airtel and UN Women are dedicated to helping women farmers enhance their productive capacity and international competitiveness in the countries where they jointly operate.
    Airtel believes that entrepreneurship and the development of the private sector are essential to achieving economic development and poverty eradication. Under this agreement, Airtel will also co-finance initiatives and projects promoting the empowerment of women and the girl child.

  • Intel has entered into an agreement with business incubator iHub to foster and grow the developer community in Africa through targeted investments in mobile app development, online developer resources, university training programs, device seeding programs and expansion of technology hubs.

    iHub catalyzes the tech community in Kenya and has evolved into a space with over 10,000 members.  The model set by iHub has been used to start more than 30 other tech hubs across Africa, and enjoys a leadership role in the continent due to its size and relationship with the other hubs.  Being a tech space, iHub is able to offer thought leadership in areas of mobile technology and its use.

    In Kenya, the company will provide broadly available developer training through iHub and Intel’s Developer Zone, an online developer resource that enables the creation and porting of Android apps.  Intel will also distribute Intel Android devices to the tech hubs, and will collaborate with select universities across the continent to enhance the ability of developers to create rich user experiences on Intel hardware with Android.

    Danie Steyn, general manager of Intel East Africa, said the company’s goal was to enable applications from Africa for the Android market place in 2013, with the primary areas of focus being education, rich media, and gaming.

    “Our engagement will not only be around educating the developer community, but we’ll also run a series of hackathons across Africa network in partnership with iHub,” said Steyn. “We’re extremely excited about the growing developer engagement in Africa, and we’re deeply committed to helping the African software ecosystem grow and thrive.”

    “The software development scene in Africa is active but still nascent, we’re excited to partner with Intel to grow it”, said Erik Hersman the MD at iHub.

    iHub will work with 10 universities in Kenya, and host 30 events targeted at software associations, independent software vendors and in the first year.

  • Millions of mobile users owning basic mobile phones across Africa and Asia are now able to join the online community using a new low-cost USSD messaging service from Etisalat. This will provide access to email, social networking and messaging services, to basic mobile devices and feature phones at very affordable prices.

     This follows an agreement between the Etisalat Group, the leading operator in the Middle-East, Africa and Asia, and Mahindra Comviva, the global leader in providing mobile financial and value added solutions, which was signed at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

     The partnership provides Etisalat’s 139 million subscribers across Middle East, Africa and Asia with consumer email, instant messaging, social networking, phone book backup services as well as popular news/web feeds and other relevant applications over their mobile phone. They can do this either through downloading an application or via USSD, SMS or MMS messages which eliminates the users' dependence on smartphones. This effectively provides access to contemporary web services to every mobile handset.

     The platform will be deployed in a single location within the UAE, while the services will be made available to all the 15 affiliates of Etisalat. The first Etisalat market to deploy the new messaging solution is Etisalat Nigeria, whose 15 million subscribers will soon be able to enjoy the benefit of advanced communications on any handset.

  • In early 2008, villages and cities across Kenya were ravaged with violence following a disputed election. The election controversy became the pretext for ethnic clashes that displaced hundreds of thousands of people and claimed the lives of more than 1200, some in grisly fashion.

    An ad-hoc group of tech bloggers based in Kenya decided to act. They built a software platform, called "Ushahidi" to shine a light on human rights violations, bringing much-needed attention and support to developing emergencies. Ushahidi means "bearing witness" in Swahili.

    The software enabled Kenyans to document and report on incidents in real-time, giving the media, governments, and relief organizations an immediate picture of what was happening on the ground. By aggregating texts, tweets, photos, and descriptions from phones and computers, Ushahidi created crowd sourced maps that made incidents of violence, election fraud, and abuse plainly visible on a broad scale.

    Since that catalytic moment in 2008, Ushahidi has grown into a mapping platform used in crises across the world, supporting 35,000 maps in 30 different languages. Following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and the tsumani in Japan in 2011, the Ushahidi platform was used to organize emergency responses in real-time. In less than an hour after the 2011 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the Ushahidi platform was used to spotlight areas of refuge. Most recently, Ushahidi has enabled crowd mapping of violence in Syria's civil war.

    Today, Ushahidi's vision comes full circle as it prepares for Kenya's first election since the outbreak of violence, and the first under its new constitution. With Ushahidi's help, election watchers, human rights activists, international media, and foreign governments will have an enhanced view of developments on the ground. And, more importantly, Kenyan citizens will have a place where their collective voices can be heard as they push for a safer, more transparent democracy.

    Ushahidi will use its $750,000(KSh. 64.5 million) MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions to build a reserve and to develop technological security measures to protect platform users.

  • 2go and iROKING are joining forces to bring instant free Nigerian music downloads to the more than 9 million active 2go users across Nigeria. The fully-integrated music site will bring the likes of Timaya, Flavour and Burna Boy to the phones of the millions who use the mobile networking site to chat, make friends and share the things they love.

     The brand new mobi site iroking.2go.im was built by iROKING and brings the biggest and best Afrobeats tunes to 2go users, who will now be able to download iROKING tracks totally free, direct to their mobile phones. In keeping with 2go’s low-cost approach, the site also comes with a round of optimizations to cater to feature phone users, with a light mobi site which means pages load faster, and with smaller music file sizes, costs for data charges can be kept to a minimum. In addition to instant search, easy sharing and free music downloads on the new mobi site, 2go’s users will have exclusive music industry news updates delivered directly to their handsets to them every day, courtesy of iROKING.

  • Registering a business has always been a daunting task, especially for those in upcountry since they not only have to travel to Nairobi but at times engage the services of brokers and end up with fake registration certificates.

    However, this is set to change with the unveiling of an online business registration system that allows users to either do a name search or register a company through their mobile phones or office computers from any part of the country.

    The system dubbed Incorporator has been developed by Genius Executive Ltd, a technology firm, is also set to reduce the amount of time and money incurred by many while trying to register their businesses.

    Currently, it costs between Sh5,000 and Sh10,000 if one engages a broker or travels to Nairobi to process the registration respectively. However, with the new platform one will only have to pay Sh3,500 for business registration.

    “If you choose to shuttle between Nyeri and Nairobi to do the job yourself, it ends up costing you more than Sh10,000 and consumes a lot of your time,” says Joseph Nderitu, a trader in Nyeri.

    “Many are now opting to use the services of these middlemen who can get it done for between Sh4,000 and Sh5000.”

    Mr Nderitu adds that there is also a risk in engaging brokers because some may prey on clients and give them forged certificates, putting unsuspecting traders on a collision course with the law in future.

    Nderitu’s sentiments were echoed by Stephen Muriuki who said that when he registered his auto dealer company, he chose to enlist the services of a local lawyer due to the complexity and time consuming nature of the process.

    He says that at a cost of Sh25,000, one can get a company registered, inclusive of the lawyer’s fees.

    Such problems encountered by traders daily is what motivated Nick Munyao, whose company was working for some Advocates in Nairobi to do the paper work at the State Law Office to come up with an interface to connect those who seek to register their businesses to lawyers.

    “Our platform will link new entrepreneurs to advocates to help in registering new companies in the comfort of their offices or homes,” he said.

    “We don’t charge those who want register limited companies, instead we only charge their advocates a Sh1,000 monthly subscription fee and Sh5,000 for handling the logistics per company registered.”

    To start the process, a person logs on to Incorporator website (www.inc.co.ke). Anyone registering their business with the Registrar of Companies fill in their details, make payments (through M-Pesa or Visa card) and have their company registered regardless of their location.

    Genius Executives handles the logistics such as printing the information posted by the clients and makes a follow-up with the Registrar of Companies at the State Law Office.

    The platform is open to advocates who pay Sh1,000 monthly subscription fee to be included in directory and receive information on entrepreneurs seeking to register limited companies and then bid for the jobs on offer.

    This gives clients access to legal services at reasonable cost and quality work while the advocates get access to a large database of potential and future clients.

    Certificates of registration are then sent to the clients by courier services. The company has also linked the system to an SMS application to enable people without Internet access to register their businesses as well.

    For those seeking to register a company, the charges are seen as fair, given that it costs roughly as much when one is doing it in Nairobi but saves clients time wasted travelling and queuing in government offices.

    The business name search costs are Sh500. The process, which should ideally not last more than a few minutes takes days and registration in some cases end up taking up to a month, adds Mr Munyao.

More

  • Broadband MEA 
    19 - 20 March 2013 
    The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, 

    The region’s premier broadband event attracting 750  decision makers from across The Middle East and Africa. Now in its 5th year, the event is the only place to meet the entire industry under 1 roof.
    The 2 day comprehensive programme including 2 pre conference workshops brings together 70+ speakers including 40+ operator case studies to address the current issues surrounding broadband.
    With our most impressive speaker line-up to date, the conference focuses on both Business and Technology Strategy covering all the topics surrounding broadband. Plus the 2 workshops hosted by MENOG and Etisalat on the 18th March will provide a deep dive into IPv6 and LTE issues and developments.  For more information or book your place at the event visit here: 

    Operators – don’t forget to claim your exclusive 50% discount when purchasing a full conference pass!

    2nd Annual Cloud World Forum Africa
    23rd-24th April 2013
    Sandton Sun Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Combining the Cloud Computing World Forum Africa and Cloud Africa, this two day conference and exhibition covers every aspect of cloud, giving attending delegates all the information they need to begin or to expand on their cloud adoption needs.
    For more information please click here:

    The Social Media Week Lagos Team is excited to announce that our official schedule is now LIVE and registration is open!  
    At present we have 84 events scheduled and will be adding some very exciting evening events that will soon be announced.  We ask that you please join us in letting your readers, network and the world know that Africa did not disappoint and we are delivering a world-class event.  Social Media Week Lagos is truly history in the making and we invite the world to take part.
    You can find the SMW Lagos schedule here: 
    See this link for our 30 second spot that starts airing next week across the continent on Channel O TV: Download Link for SMW Lagos Media Package:

    iWeek 2013
    09 - 12 September 2013
    Thaba Ya Batswana, Impala Road, Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Now in its second decade, iWeek brings together everybody who matters in the Internet industry—and then some. It provides an important platform for established players to interact with start-ups and visionaries, and for the South African industry to connect with international experts. This year’s event will be focusing on bringing some of the globe’s most important thinkers to South Africa to act as a catalyst for lively discussion and new ideas.

  • Crowdsourcing ideas to co-create smarter solutions to development problems

    Thanks to innovations in information and communication technologies (ICT), individuals around the world can now be active participants in the value creation process, and co-creators of smarter solutions to a range of development challenges.  Co-creation means developing a product or service guided by the feedback received from a community, including end-users.

    We recently surveyed our LinkedIn Open Development Technology Alliance Group, a 2,700+ expert community focusing on improvements in public service delivery, and found a high interest in co-creating innovative development solutions and knowledge products..

    Based on this feedback, we decided to pilot a crowdsourcing initiative linked to the ICT Solutions Day on Thursday, February 28, to help co-create innovative ICT-enabled solutions for client countries.  Problem statements were submitted by senior policymakers, in consultation with World Bank staff and consultants, from five countries:

        · [Ghana]: How can Ghana transform the delivery and reach of public services, especially in health and education for under-served communities, while also creating new business opportunities and jobs?
        · [Kazakhstan]: How can Kazakhstan develop an ICT innovation ecosystem and competitive workforce to support economic diversification, job creation, and better public services?
        · [Nicaragua]: Natural disasters in the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua are high impact and carry serious consequences for the region. What technologies are the most accessible and affordable to use in disaster preparedness?
        · [The Philippines]: Urban populations across the Philippines include many low-income communities which suffer from unequal access to power, prestige, income, and information. How can emerging technologies help support a participatory process and create new employment opportunities that increase the empowerment of vulnerable urban residents?
        · [Rwanda]: How can advances in ICT connectivity and mobile access be leveraged to improve the lives of rural inhabitants in key areas such as education, health, agriculture, and business services?

    We have invited a wide range of stakeholders from expert communities to social media users to share ideas on how ICT can tackle these issues.  You can provide feedback in our Open Development Technology Alliance LinkedIn Group or our social media channels:  Twitter and Facebook.   The rules of participation are simple and there are no barriers to entry:  all you need to do is access the LinkedIn Group or social media channels and post your suggestions.

    Specific ideas that emerge from this discussion will be debated in front of a wide audience at ICT Solutions Day and could contribute to shaping client countries’ development strategies.  You can submit questions in advance and watch the opening session, with United States Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, live on the World Bank Live website.  We look forward to your participation in this initiative.

Issue no 644 1st March 2013

node ref id: 27259

Top story

  • This week the mobile operators’ trade association, the GSMA issued a report saying that overall revenues from data would exceed those of voice by 2018. The steady shift of different traffic elements to IP will be with us sooner than expected. The report predicted that data revenues in Kenya would exceed voice by 2016, a mere three years away. As part of this broader trend, operators are beginning to gear up their MPLS services in Africa. Russell Southwood looks at what’s happening.

    MPLS (Multi Protocol Label Switching) started back in the mid 1990s and was aimed at speeding up traffic between network nodes. Now its main advantage is that it is a much more controlled channel than public IP and can handle network protocols for voice, data and video. Typically, it has been particularly popular for corporate VPNs.

    Indeed the main customers for MPLS services are international and regional corporates. According to Yossi Barkan, PCCW:”MPLS is certainly more expensive than the public Internet. But it’s 30-40% less expensive than buying the leased line, which it’s replacing.” So for example, a company might buy a 512 Kbps connection into a particular place and the services it wants to use flow over that connection. The operator supplies a managed router and monitors the performance of the network.

    Improvements in international bandwidth have meant that corporate customers have been able to increase what they can do and how they operate. Before it was difficult or impossible to run certain ERP services over a satellite link. Now many organisations can centralize their ERP functions, whether with a head office in Europe or the USA or within the continent.

    More reliable fibre capacity across the continent has increased the number of companies that are centralizing their data centre functions and providing more than one back-up option. For example, Ecobank has data centres in both Ghana and Togo.

    For as Gilles Blanquart, Africa and Middle East Number one program manager, Orange observed:”Companies are doing business recovery in a wider number of places because of improvements in international bandwidth.” One of its customers, AngloGold Ashanti has a two recovery options, one in Johannesburg and the other in France and there is a “failover” between the two locations.

    The new trading order means that one of PCCW’s customers, Huawei, has MPLS connectivity between its many offices in Africa and China. And obviously in the other direction. Likewise a Nigerian company may look for an MPLS link into India. But wherever the links are going, the biggest MPLS demand has come from African countries that are part of the “fast track” group in terms of growth: South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Angola and Kenya. The high-growth areas amongst corporate customers have been financial services and the oil and gas industry as new finds come on stream in places like Ghana.

    Nevertheless improved business communication across the continent is still being held back regulatory restrictions in a significant number of countries. International MPLS operators often still have to deal with monopoly incumbent operators and are not allowed to run IP telephony and trunking. Connections that could as easily travel cheaply within the continent (if there were no incumbent protecting restrictions), are still being sent via somewhere outside the continent. The liberalization of cross-border connections would significantly lower the cost of business and trade.

    The next wave of services and applications on MPLS is likely to include the use of video. One of Orange’s customers, AngloGold Ashanti, has 40 video presence points (with some run over satellite) with both standard and high-definition cameras. The next version up from that is immersive video (from the likes of Tandberg and Polycom) where those sitting round a table seem to be in the same room as those they are video-meeting with.

    The competition between operators for corporate MPLS business is quite multi-layered. There are large continental players like Orange, PCCW, Etisalat, Airtel, MTN and Vodacom Business. These all project this pan-continental presence through a mixture of their own MPLS infrastructure and partnerships with local companies where there are gaps. PCCW has recently strengthened its hand by buying the carrier side of Gateway: it now has 27 countries covered through a mixture of its own nodes and those of partners. Some companies like BT and Internet Solutions are strong in South Africa but less strong elsewhere. Medium sized operators include companies like CMC Networks.

    A company like Orange prides itself on the spread of its own infrastructure: it increased the number of its MPLS nodes from 16 in 2011 to 22 in 2012. It has also increased its international capacity by 46% over the same period and anticipates a further 50% increase in 2013.

    If Africa’s strong economic growth is not held back by the economic troubles of the developed world, then MPLS will be a key driver of bandwidth growth over the next five years.

    New Balancing Act video clip interviews this week:

    Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO, Movirtu on its two new products aimed at the BYOD market

    Manfred Tumban, CEO, SNS Mobility on his Cameroon MVNO

    Video briefings on:

    The roll-out of LTE in the UK market:


    Ije Nwokorie, Wolff Olins on early lessons from helping launch EE's LTE service in the

    Film and Music video platforms in Africa:

    Yoel Kenan on the African music market, local talent, killing choruses and mobile digital platforms

    Jesse Oguntimehin on the beta phase launch of African mobile music platform Spinlet

    Chike Maduegbuna on Afrinolly, a new film and music mobile platform

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

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

    Gado on Buni TV

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

telecoms

  • A Kenyan court has allowed Chinese firm Huawei to withdraw its lawsuit challenging the award of a KES 20 billion tender to supply the police with a communication and surveillance system, after the government cancelled the tender. Huawei's lawyer Mohammed Nyaoga told Justice J Odunga that given the government's action, his client did not wish to engage in academic exercise by pursuing the matter in court. Head of Civil Service Francis Kimemia had cancelled the tender and urged the ICT ministry to re-advertise it. According to Kimemia, some officials had been influenced by bidders and the cost of the project had become exaggerated.

    Huawei which was among six companies that submitted their expressions of interest in the tender. It argued there were irregularities in the manner in which the Ministry handled the process. Nyaoga said that the whole purpose of the Public Procurement law is to ensure efficient procedures, maximise economy and efficiency, promote competition and fair play and ensure transparency. Nyaoga argued the issue was of great public interest and had raised questions on the integrity and transparency of the tendering process.

    The tender was for a secure command and control system encompassing telephone facilities, incident handling, radio, voice logging, automated action cards and support for external interfaces to computer systems in the 47 county headquarters. There was to be a national command and control centre in Nairobi and a digital mobile communication network, a computer-aided dispatch, a video surveillance system, a geographic information system and an Automatic Vehicle Location System.

  • The Federal Government may slam fresh rounds of sanctions on telecoms companies over allegations that they flouted an existing regulatory ban imposed on seven major operators from undertaking all promotions and lotteries due to network congestions. big four

    Technology Times has learnt from people conversant with the situation that except there is a last-minute change of mind by the telecoms industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) may impose fresh rounds of varying sums in fines on four big telecoms companies (names withheld) as punishment for allegedly carrying out promotions of their network services, particularly data.

    Officials of the agency as well as operators are keeping sealed lips over the matter that may see some of the companies to be affected in the impending sanction paying fines ranging from N10 million, N6 million and others yet to be ascertained as at press time, following a decision taken by the Abuja-based NCC.

    What has been ascertained is that four big operators may be affected in the fresh regulatory sanctions over allegations that they have continued to carry out promotions on their data services in the wake of last year’s ban imposed on seven companies, according to credible sources.

    Tony Ojobo Director, Public Affairs, NCC, who announced the ban last year said it was imposed because the regulator, “in recent times, has been inundated with several complaints from consumers, industry stakeholders against the various promotions offered by telecommunications operators.”

    According to NCC, the companies affected include MTN Nigeria, the market leader by subscriber numbers owned by South Africa’s MTN Group; Globacom Limited, the Second National Operator (SNO) owned by Nigerian billionaire, Mike Adenuga Jnr; Etisalat Nigeria, owned by a mix of Mubadala and Etisalat of the UAE as well as Nigerian investors led by Hakeem Belo-Osagie and Airtel Nigeria, owned by Bharti Airtel of India.

    Also affected by the regulatory ban are three other CDMA networks including Visafone Communications Limited, owned by Nigerian banker, Jim Ovia; Multi Links Telecoms Ltd (formerly Multi Links Telkom) and Intercellular Nigeria Plc, which has been acquired by SudaTel.    

    The ban on promotions and lotteries imposed late last year caught the affected operators off guard coming amid the yuletide period when they roll out various trade promotion schemes largely to reward and lock in existing subscribers and attract new ones in the competitive market.

    According to official statistics from NCC, Nigeria had over 113, 195,951 active connections at the end of 2012 with mobile phone lines recording more than 95 per cent usage across the country.

    Subscribers continue to face varying degree of network issues including inability to make calls, recharge their phones or other issues often linked to congestions or other challenges from their services providers, says the industry watchdog.

    Ojobo, who announced the sanction said that NCC, “has banned all promotions by Telecommunications Network Operators as well as lotteries being carried out on such networks. This ban covers all proposed and approved promotions and lotteries on which the Commission has given approval further to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered into with the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC).”

    NCC justifies the ban on the problems faced by phone users noting that it, “has carefully evaluated the complaints received especially against the backdrop of sustaining the integrity of the networks, the general interest of the consumers, the socio-economic impact of these promotions on operators and other relevant stakeholders.”

    According to the watchdog, the trade promotions “have increased the number of minutes available to subscribers for use within a limited period of time thereby creating congestion in the networks as subscribers try to use up the available minutes within the stipulated time.”

    It also flayed the practice where, “on-net calls were now being offered by operators at tariffs well below the prevailing inter-connect rates thereby introducing anti-competitive practices and behaviour.”

    Ojobo notes further, “That termination of calls were becoming increasingly difficult from one network to another and overall consumer experience on the networks has become very poor thereby making it extremely difficult for subscribers to make calls successfully.”

  • Telecoms interconnection rates between mobile service providers drop from 115 to 34.92 shillings per minute effective today. Meanwhile, the government plans to build a monitoring telecommunication system by June, this year.

    Speaking to the 'Daily News' on Thursday, the Deputy Minister for Communication, Science and Technology, January Makamba, hailed the move to reduce interconnection charges, noting that the government plans to build a Telecoms Traffic Monitoring System by June to control and improve telecommunication in the country.

    In a bold move, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), last month announced the new rates after reviewing telecommunications charges in the country.Mr Makamba explained that the monitoring system will ensure telecommunication is improved in the country, including monitoring communication time.

    He explained that from 2008 to 2009 the telecommunication charges went down after the National Fibre Optic backbone was constructed. However, interconnection rates remained the same. "To ensure that the lowered interconnection rates are enjoyed fully by the public, the government is constructing a monitoring system that will monitor communication in the country. The target is to remove interconnection charges as it's the case in some countries," he explained.

    He said that the Telecoms traffic monitoring system will also improve telecommunication in the country and ensure government revenue from telephone service providers in the country. Speaking to the 'Daily News' on the move to reduce and harmonize interconnection rates, TTCL Communications Manager, Amin Mbaga expressed his delight in the wake of the move, which he said is for the benefit of the public.

    Mbaga said as much as telecommunication companies are reaping hefty profits, they should ensure the service provided are of low costs to the public, who use telecommunication services to bring about development at individual level and nationally.Airtel Communications Manager, Mr Jackson Mbando affirmed that the telecommunication company will implement the directives, as TCRA has directed.

    Although Tigo has started issuing adverts to its users about new offers following the new interconnection rates, the company's Communications officer Ms Jacquiline Nnunduma declined to comment, explaining that she's not the spokesperson for the issue.When announcing the move to reduce call interconnection rates, the TCRA Director General, Prof John Nkoma, said the cost would come down to 32.40/-.

    The rate for 2014 will be 32/40 dropping to 30/58 by 3015 and further to 28/57 in 2016. The rate will be 26/96 in 2017. Prof Nkoma said the regulatory body conducted an inquiry involving all telecommunications network operators and other stakeholders as per TCRA Procedures for Rules of Inquiry of 2004.

    According to him, the decision was made by a panel of experts from different universities and international organizations after conducting a cost study of each mobile phone firm and coming up with conclusions in accordance with the laws and regulations governing the ICT sector in the country.

    Prof Nkoma said while voice call termination rates for 2013 will be 34.90/- down from 115/-, the rate for 2014 will be 32.40/-, in 2015 the rates will be 30.58/- by 2015 and further to 28.57/- in 2016 and 26.96/- in 2017. He said in reducing the rates, the authority had taken into account that interconnection rates across the world have dropped in the past five years.

    "We established that the current rates are high and customers are forced to carry either more than one mobile phone or SIM (subscriber identification module) card because of the costs of making a call to a different mobile firm," he said. With the application of the new rates, there will be no need for a person to carry more than one phone or SIM cards.

  • Sierra Leone has officially launched its connection to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable system, gaining its first direct link to a global fibre network.

    Sierra Leone President Ernest Koroma, presiding over the launch, described it as a ‘milestone’.

    France Telecom Orange and the other members of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) consortium launched the first phase of the cable in December last year. At a ceremony held in Banjul, The Gambia, the consortium said the cable was now operational for the first phase – nearly 12,000km linking 13 countries from France and Sao Tomé & Principe. It will  extend as far as South Africa for the second phase.

  • Livingstone residents have been angered by mobile phone SMS alerts carrying campaign messages for the ruling Patriotic Front candidate Lawrence Evans ahead of the February 28 parliamentary by-election.

    The two by-elections, taking place in both Livingstone and Mpongwe, are viewed as crucial for the ruling party, who are seeking to achieve a parliamentary majority.  The high stakes contest have unleashed high levels of campaign spending by the government and no shortage of paid youth cadres, advertisements, and frequent text messaging.

    A senior manager at Airtel Livingstone office confirmed the SMS messages promoting the PF candidate are originating from an dummy number sent from the Lusaka office.

    Airtel subscribers in Livingstone have been receiving SMS on their handsets written in English and various local languages asking them to vote for PF.
    One message which was sent to a resident read, “Did you know that your vote for PF candidate Lawrence Evans on 28 February 2013 by-election is the only key to develop Livingstone central? Thank you.”

    The residents complained that they never subscribed to receive the messages which they said sometimes come at awkward hours in the night, causing annoyance and frustration.

    “First of all, why are they sending the messages to people of Livingstone only and how do they know that these numbers belong to Livingstone residents? This goes to show that Airtel is now being controlled by the PF government.  I’m sure this is why they wanted people to register their sim-cards so that they can be sending propaganda messages to citizens,” said Mbololwa Simasiku of Dambwa North.

    And another resident Peter Hamududu said he would not vote for PF because he had been frustrated by the SMSs.

    “I strongly believe that the PF candidate could be a better man for Livingstone Central but I did not need to be forced by these SMSs, I can decide on my own. And I also don’t like the fact that the PF is taking advantage of other parties like UPND and MMD who do not have the privileges of using services provided by mobile phone operators,” he said.

    And asked to explain the origin of the messages, a manager at Livingstone Airtel office said Allied Mobile communications which operates Airtel shops was not responsible.

    “This here is a just like a sales office, there is nothing technical that happens here. We have had so many people coming here to complain about the same SMSs but I can guarantee you that the SMSs are coming from Airtel head office in Lusaka, ask them, they should be able to explain,” said a senior manager who sought anonymity.

internet

  • Q-KON, a provider of satellite and wireless access network solutions to niche markets in Africa, has announced a partnership with Angola’s Startel SA (Startel). A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been reached between the two companies and is based on wholesale access to Q-KON’s StarLight offering.

    Q-KON is a South African services provider that has the resources and expertise to empower regional partners to meet the needs of their respective markets and help maximise their presence.

    Startel is an established and fully licensed Angola telecommunication network operator servicing the Angola market. The company operates various satellite and WiMax access networks and wishes to expand its access network product portfolio.

    Both companies have agreed to collaborate with regards to the provisioning, implementation and operation of a satellite broadband access platform.

    Q-KON will supply Startel with access to StarLight, an end-to-end two-way IP access service for broadband access and data communication. The service includes 1st tier Internet access, satellite uplink teleport and satellite communication bandwidth.

    Startel will brand the service as Starnet, a natural addition to the company’s portfolio, inclusive of Netbué Internet access and Falabué voice services.

  • The latest Zimbabwe All Media and Products Survey results show that urban internet use is growing fast, with 42% of people now having access, up from 34% a year ago.  Zimbabwe-wide, total internet access increased by 4% to 22%.

    According to the survey, the most common vehicle is smart-phones, 16% nationally and 32% in towns. It also said Facebook was the most popular website, visited by 15% of Zimbabweans and 31% of city dwellers, followed by Google (10%) and Yahoo (4%).

    At least 85% of Zimbabweans now have cellphones and rural access has increased to 80%, from 66% in the same quarter in 2012.

    The research was carried out by Research Bureau International on behalf of the Zimbabwe Advertising Research Foundation. The results are part of a wider report newspaper readership, television viewership, radio listenership and Internet accessibility.

  • Google has announced its collaboration with two network-driven companies in an attempt to make internet more accessible and effective in sub-Saharan Africa. The company will give USD 3.1 million to the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) for the development of network engineering expertise in local universities and national and education networks in sub-Saharan Africa "to help bring the next billion online".

    Laboratories and training programmes will be launched by the NSRC for network planning, management and operations to help bring the students and staff of more than 50 institutions new skills. Another USD 1.3 million will be provided to the Internet Society (ISOC) for the improvement and setup of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in emerging markets. An ISOC toolkit, for the creation, build and improvement of IXPs, including an industry portal, is also in the pipeline.

  • Mozambican mobile operator mCel and Opera Software have announced a co-branded version of a Opera Mini web browser, which will soon be available to mCel subscribers. Mozambique has fewer than one million landlines, but close to nine million mobile phones. Opera Mini is already popular in Mozambique, with the number of mobile-browsing Mozambicans growing by 164% in the past year.

    Opera Mini is a highly customizable mobile web browser that is compatible with more than 3,000 different makes of handsets, which is important in Mozambique where mostly older phones are used. The co-branded Opera Mini set to be launched by mCel will give consumers a consistent experience, look and feel relevant to country and operator. Opera Mini reduces the data delivered to any handset by up to 90%. This means web users can access the web more often, for the same price. The deal will give mCel’s subscribers one-click web access via Speed Dial shortcuts and Smart Page notifications from their favorite mCel portals or news and social networking sites.

    “We look forward to working with Opera to give even more people a better, faster, less expensive web experience,” says Benjamim Fernandes, Marketing and Sales Director at mCel. “The compression from Opera Mini means that we can have more people surfing without increasing network congestion.”

    mCel has a 3G network across most of the country and approximately 4.6 million subscribers, which is just under a quarter of the entire population of Mozambique.

    “We are eager to bring the best web experience to Africa, and this deal with mCel allows us to get closer to our goal,” says Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera Software. “We have seen very strong uptake of Opera Mini in Mozambique, and we look forward to building on that success with one of the country's largest mobile networks.”

computing

  • Dimension Data has announced the launch of its global Managed Cloud Platform (MCP) that is now available in Nigeria to serve the needs of public and private enterprise, as well as service providers.

    Dimension Data’s cloud offering will enable clients to accelerate their adoption of cloud computing, increase strategic agility, lower Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure management expenses, and reduce cloud migration complexity and risk.

    Announcing the availability of its cloud services, General Manager, Enterprise Solutions, Dimension Data Nigeria, Jide Agbaje, said: “The availability of cloud computing in Nigeria makes it easier for organisations to harness the cost and agility benefits of cloud as it provides organisations high speed access to secure, enterprise-class public, private, hybrid and hosted private cloud services in the country.”

    He added that the company’s cloud infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings are designed to address the performance and security concerns of organisations. “We have made it easier and less complex for organisations of every size to benefit from the flexibility and scale of cloud technologies through automation and broad global coverage,” Agbaje said.

    Speaking in the same vein, Solutions Executive at Dimension Data Africa, Tony Munro said, “While the benefits of cloud computing are very compelling, the complexity of planning, building and managing cloud infrastructure, is significant. Cloud providers need to address client concerns about security, compliance, integration, performance, capital expense requirements, as well as deployment and operational risks, to allow clients accelerate their cloud journey.”

    According to Munro, the company’s public cloud services would be available immediately and dedicated private cloud services could be deployed in a matter of weeks, allowing clients to enjoy the benefits of fully automated cloud architecture without the risks or excessive time associated with building the architectures themselves.

    Dimension Data offers public and private cloud Compute-as-a-Service(CaaS) solutions that provide self-service on-demand, cloud-based compute, storage and networking resources which are fully managed using a Web-based or REST-based Application Interface (API). Dimension Data's managed hosting services go beyond infrastructure hosting and also include deployment, management and delivery of applications.

  • Olusegun Aganga, Nigeria’s trade and investments minister, has revealed the government will partner with computer manufacturing company Omatek in a bid to promote indigenous technology. The minister disclosed this after a tour of Omatek’s facilities at its headquarters in Lagos.

    Aganga said: “We will like to partner with you as long as it does not break the law. We will be able to achieve the much-needed linkage between our abundant natural resources and the application of appropriate technology and production processes through the application of ICT in our schools and industries.” Describing Omatek, he said the indigenous company is leading its contemporaries in innovation and product quality.

    This he said has prompted the Nigerian government to map out a strategy that will make a partnership feasible in line with the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan and the ministry’s Local Patronage Initiative.

    Aganga added: “Let me reiterate here that the Federal Government's Transformation Agenda is a project which recognises the need to consciously nurture Nigerian industries in the quest for a sound economy developed on the back of industrial growth.

    “We are therefore assuring Omatek of the necessary support all the way.”

    He stressed the government is not partnering only with Omatek in the provision of local contents to government offices.

    According to him, the government is always on the lookout for indigenous companies producing top quality products to support by ensuring that the business environment will make their businesses flourish.

  • The parliamentary committee on education, technology, culture and youth has assessed the impact the one-laptop-per-child program has had so far, and found that, although the program has made commendable progress in the use of technology (ICT) in education, the ministry of education has to strengthen its role in making sure that OLPC fully serves its role.

    The assessment was made in September last year countrywide. "Mineduc has to make sure that the laptops distributed are being well maintained and fully exploited," said Agnes Mukazibera, the chairperson of the committee while presenting the report.

    Mukazibera said that 2,594 schools were reached by the program, 675 of them government-owned, 738 government-sponsored, and 1818 private ones. The laptops were given to children from P4 to P6. 12,102 laptops were distributed of which 8,141 are being used.

    "The reason why the rest is not being exploited is because of technical and managerial issues which Mineduc seem to have ignored," said Mukazibera.

    Among the issues raised were passwords put in the computers as protection mechanism, and lack of trained personnel to help the children learn to use the laptops.

    Parliamentarians resolved to that Mineduc has to study a way of making OLPC items reach all schools so that all children benefit from the use of ICT tools instead of having a few privileged and others who are ignored.

    However, the MPs commended the fact that the children who have so far been reached by the program have learnt a lot. "We have realized that these kids are being increasingly good at using ICT. They can draw, take pictures and most importantly write and save different types of documents," stressed MP Veneranda Nyirahirwa, the vice chair of the committee.

  • Over 100 schools have been provided with computer labs while 1000 others are expected to benefit in the next five years, thanks to an international organization known as Camara.

    The Organization's Founder, Cormac Lynch, said in Dar es Salaam that the mission (of his organization) was to make sure that in ten years, all Tanzanians at all levels of education are computer literate.

    Lynch, who arrived in the country on Tuesday for a two-day tour, said his organization was finalizing a cooperation agreement with the government in a bid to supplement the State's efforts in the sector.

    The government is currently implementing the Tanzania Beyond Tomorrow (TBT) project aimed at transforming education through technology, improve education quality and impart students with skills to earn a living through technology. "We want to transform education, give students from kindergarten to tertiary an access to computer.

    Computer literacy is vital in the modern world and key in getting better jobs," he said. He said the organization goes beyond making computers available by training teachers on ICT, computer maintenance and recycling. Mr Lynch met the Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda and charted out some critical issues including rural electrification; he was impressed by the comprehensive plans being implemented under the Rural Energy Agency.

    "We use social enterprise, we provide services at subsidized prices to create the sense of ownership among beneficiaries," he said. The Camara Tanzania Chief Executive Officer, Ms Edna Hogan, said all schools are required, for example, to pay one per cent of the actual value a computer unit.

    "We also require schools to have a lab room and electricity and we provide facilities and train trainers," she said. She added that in the past six months, the organization has imported 620 computers out of which 500 have been distributed to schools in Dar es Salaam, Ruvuma and Coast regions.

    Hogan said the organization opened its branch here following a request by Premier Pinda when he toured Ireland in 2009, adding that the objective is to provide services countrywide. She said Camara is an international organisation dedicated to using technology to improve education and livelihood skills in disadvantaged communities around the world, as a way of helping them break the cycle of poverty.

    "Founded seven years ago in Dublin, Ireland, the organisation has built a proven model of 'education delivery' that is both sustainable and highly scalable," she noted. The Deputy Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Mr Philipo Mulugo, was quoted as saying that the government is committed to improving education and life skills in communities through technology, so that people are better equipped to compete in global labour market.

    The minister mentioned TBT programme as one of the strategies already set to transform education through technology countrywide. Basing on the partnership venture facilitated by Camara, Mr Mulugo said the plan aims at building teachers' capacity in the use of technology and supply computers in schools and colleges.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Mahindra Comviva, the global leader in providing mobile financial and VAS solutions, has announced that it has partnered with Gabon Telecom, an affiliate of Maroc Telecom and the largest telecom company in Gabon. With this partnership Mahindra Comviva will help Gabon Telecom to introduce Mobi Cash mobile money services and enhance customer experience with its multi-award winning mobiquity mobile financial and Messaging solution - USSD Flares.

    Maroc Telecom, the major wireless and wireline telecom operator in Morocco launched Mobi Cash mobile money services powered by Comviva in 2010.

    Mahindra Comviva’s mobiquity solution will empower Gabon Telecom subscribers with multi-functional and secure account, which can be used to make domestic remittance, salary disbursements, and last mile financial services including cash in and cash out. It will also allow subscribers to make utility bill payments such as post paid, electricity, water and recharge their mobile phones. Customers can also make Over-The-Counter (OTC) payments at merchants such as grocery stores, restaurants, chemists.

    Mahindra Comviva’s messaging solution - USSD FLARES, a single-window web-based Service Creation Environment (SCE) with an easy to use interface for service creation and management will enable the operator to access, create, execute and manage services faster. Mahindra Comviva is a market leader in the USSD space globally, with over 90 deployments across 57 countries. Its USSD solutions are now delivering services to over 550 million mobile users across the globe, with over 220 million hits daily on USSD solutions.

    Speaking on the collaboration, Sabri Amireh, Head of Middle-East and North Africa at Mahindra Comviva said, “With our mobiquity financial solution already being deployed at Onatel in Burkina Faso, Mauritel Mobile in Mauritania and Sotelma in Mali, we are excited to be working with the fourth affiliate of Maroc Telecom. With this deployment we will help the operator to introduce host of financial services to build deeper consumer engagement.”

    “Our USSD solution will ensure message delivery over a high-speed, secure platform whilst enabling rapid application development, with a service creation platform supporting rapid, cost-effective service launch,” further added Sabri Amireh.

    Mohamed KARIM, Marketing Manager, Gabon Telecom commented, “We are committed to leveraging technology to meet the evolving needs of our customers. Our tie-up with Mahindra Comviva to introduce easy to use mobile financial services to our valued customers in Gabon is a prime example of this. With mobiquity, we are able to provide a cost-effective banking solution and improving people’s lives by creating access to financial services for the masses."

  • A study released by the GSMA mWomen Programme and Visa entitled, Unlocking the Potential: Women and Mobile Financial Services in Emerging Markets, shows that women in developing countries represent a significant underserved market and commercial opportunity for mobile financial service providers. The study, focused on women in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania, was undertaken to gain additional insight into how financial institutions and mobile network operators can better support the complex financial lives of women at the base of the pyramid.

    Around the world more than 2 billion people, the majority of whom are women, lack access to basic financial services. The study, led by Bankable Frontier Associates, found that women often also face an additional burden of having primary responsibility for managing the household finances. These resource-poor women must overcome numerous challenges in managing their finances: incomes are low, irregular and unpredictable, and formal financial tools hard to access.

  • As Kenya continues to push the value of paperless money transfer and mobile money services, MasterCard and Equity Bank have joined forces to launch Mobile Point of Sale (MPOS) technology.

    MasterCard and Equity Bank have united to launch Mobile Point of Sale (MPOS) technology in Kenya. (Image: File)

    “MasterCard and Equity Bank have partnered with Ezetap, a MPOS provider, to introduce the service,” the companies said in a joint press release.

    “This initial MPOS pilot project, which was first announced in January as part of the strategic alliance between Equity Bank and MasterCard to issue 5 million payment cards, will be targeted at selected merchant retail outlets,” it added.

    The move should give Equity Bank the necessary data to implement a more in-depth countrywide roll-out of the Ezetap MPOS system. The overall goal is to continue to deliver new offerings to Kenyans who want to go cashless on a daily basis.

    “The Ezetap system has been operational in India for several months. It consists of a lightweight and robust device that can be plugged into smartphones and tablets for small businesses to accept card payments,” they added, highlighting the effectiveness of the Indian system.

    The roll-out is compliant with global security standards including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCIDSS) and the Payment Application Data Security Standard (PADSS).

  • Making Finance Work for Africa (MFW4A) has announced its participation in the sixth annual AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa conference, to be held over two days from March 13 to 14 in Lagos, Nigeria.

    In line with this year’s conference theme “Consolidating and Monetizing the Gains of Innovation”, MFW4A is organizing a consultative workshop on March 14, aimed at providing a common platform for its Mobile Banking Donor Working Group (MB-DWG) members, to showcase their organizations’ interventions on Mobile Technology in order to increase access to finance in Africa.

    MFW4A and the MB-DWG members have been strongly involved in enhancing the development of mobile financial services in Africa. Guided by one of the recommendations arising from the MFW4A Book “Financing Africa: Through the Crisis and Beyond”, which encouraged the development of mobile technology as an important transformational model, MFW4A launched the MB-DWG initiative in July 2011 in collaboration with CGAP to promote closer collaboration and strengthen joint co-ordination with its members.

    Welcoming the opportunity to participate in the AITEC conference in Lagos, Stefan Nalletamby, MFW4A Partnership Coordinator, said: “In the recent past, the landscape of African financial sectors has changed significantly. Mobile banking innovation is especially important in Africa where it is enabling to leapfrog a number of infrastructure constraints.  In Nigeria alone, there are over 90 million mobile subscribers, and mobile banking solutions have the potential to significantly impact financial inclusion in that country.”

    For further information, please email Habib Attia h.attia@afdb.org or visit the MFW4A website, here:

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Telecel Zimbabwe Telecel announced last week via an SMS to subscribers the reduction of its 3G modems price from US $45 to $30. Subscribers will also get 300mb of data along with a new modem. We’re told it’s a promotion, which means the deal has an expiry date. Usually it’s a month or two. Promo or not, this is a great deal for those of you without 3G modems.

    Just to compare, Econet Wireless, sells similar modems for $38 and gives 25mb of data for 6 months. The data is roughly half of what Telecel is offering with the promo. The Telecel modems are also not network locked so it’s a great deal through and through for those of you not too fond of network loyalty.

    The launch of mobile broadband services available via dongles opened up an opportunity for lower cost broadband setup fees. Before the dongles, getting internet connection at home or home business mean spending upwards of $300 on UHF Radio or WiMax customer premise equipment. Such steep amounts virtually excluded the low income individuals from accessing the internet.
    - See more here:

Digital Content

  • Airtel will establish a Farmer’s Information System which will provide real time information to women farmers through its network in Africa
    Women farmers in the East and Horn of Africa region are poised to benefit from practical information-sharing tools via Airtel’s mobile networks. This follows a memorandum of understanding signed between the UN Women (The United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women) and Airtel Africa.
    As per the MoU, UN Women will identify the farmers to be covered under this initiative, whilst Airtel will package and deliver the appropriate mobile solutions to support their livelihoods and enhance their efficiency.

    Commenting on the partnership, Andre Beyers, the Chief Marketing Officer of Airtel Africa said: “The empowerment of women is essential to economic development, especially in rural and agricultural economies. We are pleased to partner with UN Women and contribute to their agenda of gender equality and empowerment of women by leveraging the possibilities mobile telephony has to offer.”

    Under the agreement, Airtel Africa will establish a Farmer's Information System, which will enable women farmers to access real time information related to weather, changes to the policy environment (such as taxation and regulation), available support services; as well as other areas. In addition, Airtel will also offer Internet protocol messaging services and closed user groups.
    Mobile connectivity gives rural communities access to education, banking facilities and opportunities to increase trade. By connecting rural communities through its mobile networks, Airtel aims to create positive community impact, greater social interaction and opportunities for economic development.

    Christine Musisi, UN Women’s Regional Programme Director for the East & Horn of Africa, said: “This exciting new partnership will use the power of mobile telecommunications to engage and empower women in rural and urban areas.  Working with Airtel, UN Women can reach entrepreneurs faster, through communications platforms as they already own mobile phones. Increasingly, both the public and private sectors recognize that empowering women is smart economics, and that women must be brought to the heart of Africa’s development. We will work closely with Airtel to train women so that they, their families, and the region can reap the benefits of this opportunity.”

    The two-year partnership between Airtel and UN WOMEN aims at building the skills, capabilities and resources of women entrepreneurs. Women provide approximately 70 percent of agricultural labour and produce 90 percent of all food, yet do not always share equally in the economic benefits of the industry. Airtel and UN Women are dedicated to helping women farmers enhance their productive capacity and international competitiveness in the countries where they jointly operate.
    Airtel believes that entrepreneurship and the development of the private sector are essential to achieving economic development and poverty eradication. Under this agreement, Airtel will also co-finance initiatives and projects promoting the empowerment of women and the girl child.

  • Intel has entered into an agreement with business incubator iHub to foster and grow the developer community in Africa through targeted investments in mobile app development, online developer resources, university training programs, device seeding programs and expansion of technology hubs.

    iHub catalyzes the tech community in Kenya and has evolved into a space with over 10,000 members.  The model set by iHub has been used to start more than 30 other tech hubs across Africa, and enjoys a leadership role in the continent due to its size and relationship with the other hubs.  Being a tech space, iHub is able to offer thought leadership in areas of mobile technology and its use.

    In Kenya, the company will provide broadly available developer training through iHub and Intel’s Developer Zone, an online developer resource that enables the creation and porting of Android apps.  Intel will also distribute Intel Android devices to the tech hubs, and will collaborate with select universities across the continent to enhance the ability of developers to create rich user experiences on Intel hardware with Android.

    Danie Steyn, general manager of Intel East Africa, said the company’s goal was to enable applications from Africa for the Android market place in 2013, with the primary areas of focus being education, rich media, and gaming.

    “Our engagement will not only be around educating the developer community, but we’ll also run a series of hackathons across Africa network in partnership with iHub,” said Steyn. “We’re extremely excited about the growing developer engagement in Africa, and we’re deeply committed to helping the African software ecosystem grow and thrive.”

    “The software development scene in Africa is active but still nascent, we’re excited to partner with Intel to grow it”, said Erik Hersman the MD at iHub.

    iHub will work with 10 universities in Kenya, and host 30 events targeted at software associations, independent software vendors and in the first year.

  • Millions of mobile users owning basic mobile phones across Africa and Asia are now able to join the online community using a new low-cost USSD messaging service from Etisalat. This will provide access to email, social networking and messaging services, to basic mobile devices and feature phones at very affordable prices.

     This follows an agreement between the Etisalat Group, the leading operator in the Middle-East, Africa and Asia, and Mahindra Comviva, the global leader in providing mobile financial and value added solutions, which was signed at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

     The partnership provides Etisalat’s 139 million subscribers across Middle East, Africa and Asia with consumer email, instant messaging, social networking, phone book backup services as well as popular news/web feeds and other relevant applications over their mobile phone. They can do this either through downloading an application or via USSD, SMS or MMS messages which eliminates the users' dependence on smartphones. This effectively provides access to contemporary web services to every mobile handset.

     The platform will be deployed in a single location within the UAE, while the services will be made available to all the 15 affiliates of Etisalat. The first Etisalat market to deploy the new messaging solution is Etisalat Nigeria, whose 15 million subscribers will soon be able to enjoy the benefit of advanced communications on any handset.

  • In early 2008, villages and cities across Kenya were ravaged with violence following a disputed election. The election controversy became the pretext for ethnic clashes that displaced hundreds of thousands of people and claimed the lives of more than 1200, some in grisly fashion.

    An ad-hoc group of tech bloggers based in Kenya decided to act. They built a software platform, called "Ushahidi" to shine a light on human rights violations, bringing much-needed attention and support to developing emergencies. Ushahidi means "bearing witness" in Swahili.

    The software enabled Kenyans to document and report on incidents in real-time, giving the media, governments, and relief organizations an immediate picture of what was happening on the ground. By aggregating texts, tweets, photos, and descriptions from phones and computers, Ushahidi created crowd sourced maps that made incidents of violence, election fraud, and abuse plainly visible on a broad scale.

    Since that catalytic moment in 2008, Ushahidi has grown into a mapping platform used in crises across the world, supporting 35,000 maps in 30 different languages. Following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and the tsumani in Japan in 2011, the Ushahidi platform was used to organize emergency responses in real-time. In less than an hour after the 2011 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the Ushahidi platform was used to spotlight areas of refuge. Most recently, Ushahidi has enabled crowd mapping of violence in Syria's civil war.

    Today, Ushahidi's vision comes full circle as it prepares for Kenya's first election since the outbreak of violence, and the first under its new constitution. With Ushahidi's help, election watchers, human rights activists, international media, and foreign governments will have an enhanced view of developments on the ground. And, more importantly, Kenyan citizens will have a place where their collective voices can be heard as they push for a safer, more transparent democracy.

    Ushahidi will use its $750,000(KSh. 64.5 million) MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions to build a reserve and to develop technological security measures to protect platform users.

  • 2go and iROKING are joining forces to bring instant free Nigerian music downloads to the more than 9 million active 2go users across Nigeria. The fully-integrated music site will bring the likes of Timaya, Flavour and Burna Boy to the phones of the millions who use the mobile networking site to chat, make friends and share the things they love.

     The brand new mobi site iroking.2go.im was built by iROKING and brings the biggest and best Afrobeats tunes to 2go users, who will now be able to download iROKING tracks totally free, direct to their mobile phones. In keeping with 2go’s low-cost approach, the site also comes with a round of optimizations to cater to feature phone users, with a light mobi site which means pages load faster, and with smaller music file sizes, costs for data charges can be kept to a minimum. In addition to instant search, easy sharing and free music downloads on the new mobi site, 2go’s users will have exclusive music industry news updates delivered directly to their handsets to them every day, courtesy of iROKING.

  • Registering a business has always been a daunting task, especially for those in upcountry since they not only have to travel to Nairobi but at times engage the services of brokers and end up with fake registration certificates.

    However, this is set to change with the unveiling of an online business registration system that allows users to either do a name search or register a company through their mobile phones or office computers from any part of the country.

    The system dubbed Incorporator has been developed by Genius Executive Ltd, a technology firm, is also set to reduce the amount of time and money incurred by many while trying to register their businesses.

    Currently, it costs between Sh5,000 and Sh10,000 if one engages a broker or travels to Nairobi to process the registration respectively. However, with the new platform one will only have to pay Sh3,500 for business registration.

    “If you choose to shuttle between Nyeri and Nairobi to do the job yourself, it ends up costing you more than Sh10,000 and consumes a lot of your time,” says Joseph Nderitu, a trader in Nyeri.

    “Many are now opting to use the services of these middlemen who can get it done for between Sh4,000 and Sh5000.”

    Mr Nderitu adds that there is also a risk in engaging brokers because some may prey on clients and give them forged certificates, putting unsuspecting traders on a collision course with the law in future.

    Nderitu’s sentiments were echoed by Stephen Muriuki who said that when he registered his auto dealer company, he chose to enlist the services of a local lawyer due to the complexity and time consuming nature of the process.

    He says that at a cost of Sh25,000, one can get a company registered, inclusive of the lawyer’s fees.

    Such problems encountered by traders daily is what motivated Nick Munyao, whose company was working for some Advocates in Nairobi to do the paper work at the State Law Office to come up with an interface to connect those who seek to register their businesses to lawyers.

    “Our platform will link new entrepreneurs to advocates to help in registering new companies in the comfort of their offices or homes,” he said.

    “We don’t charge those who want register limited companies, instead we only charge their advocates a Sh1,000 monthly subscription fee and Sh5,000 for handling the logistics per company registered.”

    To start the process, a person logs on to Incorporator website (www.inc.co.ke). Anyone registering their business with the Registrar of Companies fill in their details, make payments (through M-Pesa or Visa card) and have their company registered regardless of their location.

    Genius Executives handles the logistics such as printing the information posted by the clients and makes a follow-up with the Registrar of Companies at the State Law Office.

    The platform is open to advocates who pay Sh1,000 monthly subscription fee to be included in directory and receive information on entrepreneurs seeking to register limited companies and then bid for the jobs on offer.

    This gives clients access to legal services at reasonable cost and quality work while the advocates get access to a large database of potential and future clients.

    Certificates of registration are then sent to the clients by courier services. The company has also linked the system to an SMS application to enable people without Internet access to register their businesses as well.

    For those seeking to register a company, the charges are seen as fair, given that it costs roughly as much when one is doing it in Nairobi but saves clients time wasted travelling and queuing in government offices.

    The business name search costs are Sh500. The process, which should ideally not last more than a few minutes takes days and registration in some cases end up taking up to a month, adds Mr Munyao.

More

  • Broadband MEA 
    19 - 20 March 2013 
    The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, 

    The region’s premier broadband event attracting 750  decision makers from across The Middle East and Africa. Now in its 5th year, the event is the only place to meet the entire industry under 1 roof.
    The 2 day comprehensive programme including 2 pre conference workshops brings together 70+ speakers including 40+ operator case studies to address the current issues surrounding broadband.
    With our most impressive speaker line-up to date, the conference focuses on both Business and Technology Strategy covering all the topics surrounding broadband. Plus the 2 workshops hosted by MENOG and Etisalat on the 18th March will provide a deep dive into IPv6 and LTE issues and developments.  For more information or book your place at the event visit here: 

    Operators – don’t forget to claim your exclusive 50% discount when purchasing a full conference pass!

    2nd Annual Cloud World Forum Africa
    23rd-24th April 2013
    Sandton Sun Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Combining the Cloud Computing World Forum Africa and Cloud Africa, this two day conference and exhibition covers every aspect of cloud, giving attending delegates all the information they need to begin or to expand on their cloud adoption needs.
    For more information please click here:

    The Social Media Week Lagos Team is excited to announce that our official schedule is now LIVE and registration is open!  
    At present we have 84 events scheduled and will be adding some very exciting evening events that will soon be announced.  We ask that you please join us in letting your readers, network and the world know that Africa did not disappoint and we are delivering a world-class event.  Social Media Week Lagos is truly history in the making and we invite the world to take part.
    You can find the SMW Lagos schedule here: 
    See this link for our 30 second spot that starts airing next week across the continent on Channel O TV: Download Link for SMW Lagos Media Package:

    iWeek 2013
    09 - 12 September 2013
    Thaba Ya Batswana, Impala Road, Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Now in its second decade, iWeek brings together everybody who matters in the Internet industry—and then some. It provides an important platform for established players to interact with start-ups and visionaries, and for the South African industry to connect with international experts. This year’s event will be focusing on bringing some of the globe’s most important thinkers to South Africa to act as a catalyst for lively discussion and new ideas.

  • Crowdsourcing ideas to co-create smarter solutions to development problems

    Thanks to innovations in information and communication technologies (ICT), individuals around the world can now be active participants in the value creation process, and co-creators of smarter solutions to a range of development challenges.  Co-creation means developing a product or service guided by the feedback received from a community, including end-users.

    We recently surveyed our LinkedIn Open Development Technology Alliance Group, a 2,700+ expert community focusing on improvements in public service delivery, and found a high interest in co-creating innovative development solutions and knowledge products..

    Based on this feedback, we decided to pilot a crowdsourcing initiative linked to the ICT Solutions Day on Thursday, February 28, to help co-create innovative ICT-enabled solutions for client countries.  Problem statements were submitted by senior policymakers, in consultation with World Bank staff and consultants, from five countries:

        · [Ghana]: How can Ghana transform the delivery and reach of public services, especially in health and education for under-served communities, while also creating new business opportunities and jobs?
        · [Kazakhstan]: How can Kazakhstan develop an ICT innovation ecosystem and competitive workforce to support economic diversification, job creation, and better public services?
        · [Nicaragua]: Natural disasters in the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua are high impact and carry serious consequences for the region. What technologies are the most accessible and affordable to use in disaster preparedness?
        · [The Philippines]: Urban populations across the Philippines include many low-income communities which suffer from unequal access to power, prestige, income, and information. How can emerging technologies help support a participatory process and create new employment opportunities that increase the empowerment of vulnerable urban residents?
        · [Rwanda]: How can advances in ICT connectivity and mobile access be leveraged to improve the lives of rural inhabitants in key areas such as education, health, agriculture, and business services?

    We have invited a wide range of stakeholders from expert communities to social media users to share ideas on how ICT can tackle these issues.  You can provide feedback in our Open Development Technology Alliance LinkedIn Group or our social media channels:  Twitter and Facebook.   The rules of participation are simple and there are no barriers to entry:  all you need to do is access the LinkedIn Group or social media channels and post your suggestions.

    Specific ideas that emerge from this discussion will be debated in front of a wide audience at ICT Solutions Day and could contribute to shaping client countries’ development strategies.  You can submit questions in advance and watch the opening session, with United States Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, live on the World Bank Live website.  We look forward to your participation in this initiative.

Issue no 644 1st March 2013

node ref id: 27259

Top story

  • This week the mobile operators’ trade association, the GSMA issued a report saying that overall revenues from data would exceed those of voice by 2018. The steady shift of different traffic elements to IP will be with us sooner than expected. The report predicted that data revenues in Kenya would exceed voice by 2016, a mere three years away. As part of this broader trend, operators are beginning to gear up their MPLS services in Africa. Russell Southwood looks at what’s happening.

    MPLS (Multi Protocol Label Switching) started back in the mid 1990s and was aimed at speeding up traffic between network nodes. Now its main advantage is that it is a much more controlled channel than public IP and can handle network protocols for voice, data and video. Typically, it has been particularly popular for corporate VPNs.

    Indeed the main customers for MPLS services are international and regional corporates. According to Yossi Barkan, PCCW:”MPLS is certainly more expensive than the public Internet. But it’s 30-40% less expensive than buying the leased line, which it’s replacing.” So for example, a company might buy a 512 Kbps connection into a particular place and the services it wants to use flow over that connection. The operator supplies a managed router and monitors the performance of the network.

    Improvements in international bandwidth have meant that corporate customers have been able to increase what they can do and how they operate. Before it was difficult or impossible to run certain ERP services over a satellite link. Now many organisations can centralize their ERP functions, whether with a head office in Europe or the USA or within the continent.

    More reliable fibre capacity across the continent has increased the number of companies that are centralizing their data centre functions and providing more than one back-up option. For example, Ecobank has data centres in both Ghana and Togo.

    For as Gilles Blanquart, Africa and Middle East Number one program manager, Orange observed:”Companies are doing business recovery in a wider number of places because of improvements in international bandwidth.” One of its customers, AngloGold Ashanti has a two recovery options, one in Johannesburg and the other in France and there is a “failover” between the two locations.

    The new trading order means that one of PCCW’s customers, Huawei, has MPLS connectivity between its many offices in Africa and China. And obviously in the other direction. Likewise a Nigerian company may look for an MPLS link into India. But wherever the links are going, the biggest MPLS demand has come from African countries that are part of the “fast track” group in terms of growth: South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Angola and Kenya. The high-growth areas amongst corporate customers have been financial services and the oil and gas industry as new finds come on stream in places like Ghana.

    Nevertheless improved business communication across the continent is still being held back regulatory restrictions in a significant number of countries. International MPLS operators often still have to deal with monopoly incumbent operators and are not allowed to run IP telephony and trunking. Connections that could as easily travel cheaply within the continent (if there were no incumbent protecting restrictions), are still being sent via somewhere outside the continent. The liberalization of cross-border connections would significantly lower the cost of business and trade.

    The next wave of services and applications on MPLS is likely to include the use of video. One of Orange’s customers, AngloGold Ashanti, has 40 video presence points (with some run over satellite) with both standard and high-definition cameras. The next version up from that is immersive video (from the likes of Tandberg and Polycom) where those sitting round a table seem to be in the same room as those they are video-meeting with.

    The competition between operators for corporate MPLS business is quite multi-layered. There are large continental players like Orange, PCCW, Etisalat, Airtel, MTN and Vodacom Business. These all project this pan-continental presence through a mixture of their own MPLS infrastructure and partnerships with local companies where there are gaps. PCCW has recently strengthened its hand by buying the carrier side of Gateway: it now has 27 countries covered through a mixture of its own nodes and those of partners. Some companies like BT and Internet Solutions are strong in South Africa but less strong elsewhere. Medium sized operators include companies like CMC Networks.

    A company like Orange prides itself on the spread of its own infrastructure: it increased the number of its MPLS nodes from 16 in 2011 to 22 in 2012. It has also increased its international capacity by 46% over the same period and anticipates a further 50% increase in 2013.

    If Africa’s strong economic growth is not held back by the economic troubles of the developed world, then MPLS will be a key driver of bandwidth growth over the next five years.

    New Balancing Act video clip interviews this week:

    Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO, Movirtu on its two new products aimed at the BYOD market

    Manfred Tumban, CEO, SNS Mobility on his Cameroon MVNO

    Video briefings on:

    The roll-out of LTE in the UK market:


    Ije Nwokorie, Wolff Olins on early lessons from helping launch EE's LTE service in the

    Film and Music video platforms in Africa:

    Yoel Kenan on the African music market, local talent, killing choruses and mobile digital platforms

    Jesse Oguntimehin on the beta phase launch of African mobile music platform Spinlet

    Chike Maduegbuna on Afrinolly, a new film and music mobile platform

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

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

    Gado on Buni TV

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

telecoms

  • A Kenyan court has allowed Chinese firm Huawei to withdraw its lawsuit challenging the award of a KES 20 billion tender to supply the police with a communication and surveillance system, after the government cancelled the tender. Huawei's lawyer Mohammed Nyaoga told Justice J Odunga that given the government's action, his client did not wish to engage in academic exercise by pursuing the matter in court. Head of Civil Service Francis Kimemia had cancelled the tender and urged the ICT ministry to re-advertise it. According to Kimemia, some officials had been influenced by bidders and the cost of the project had become exaggerated.

    Huawei which was among six companies that submitted their expressions of interest in the tender. It argued there were irregularities in the manner in which the Ministry handled the process. Nyaoga said that the whole purpose of the Public Procurement law is to ensure efficient procedures, maximise economy and efficiency, promote competition and fair play and ensure transparency. Nyaoga argued the issue was of great public interest and had raised questions on the integrity and transparency of the tendering process.

    The tender was for a secure command and control system encompassing telephone facilities, incident handling, radio, voice logging, automated action cards and support for external interfaces to computer systems in the 47 county headquarters. There was to be a national command and control centre in Nairobi and a digital mobile communication network, a computer-aided dispatch, a video surveillance system, a geographic information system and an Automatic Vehicle Location System.

  • The Federal Government may slam fresh rounds of sanctions on telecoms companies over allegations that they flouted an existing regulatory ban imposed on seven major operators from undertaking all promotions and lotteries due to network congestions. big four

    Technology Times has learnt from people conversant with the situation that except there is a last-minute change of mind by the telecoms industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) may impose fresh rounds of varying sums in fines on four big telecoms companies (names withheld) as punishment for allegedly carrying out promotions of their network services, particularly data.

    Officials of the agency as well as operators are keeping sealed lips over the matter that may see some of the companies to be affected in the impending sanction paying fines ranging from N10 million, N6 million and others yet to be ascertained as at press time, following a decision taken by the Abuja-based NCC.

    What has been ascertained is that four big operators may be affected in the fresh regulatory sanctions over allegations that they have continued to carry out promotions on their data services in the wake of last year’s ban imposed on seven companies, according to credible sources.

    Tony Ojobo Director, Public Affairs, NCC, who announced the ban last year said it was imposed because the regulator, “in recent times, has been inundated with several complaints from consumers, industry stakeholders against the various promotions offered by telecommunications operators.”

    According to NCC, the companies affected include MTN Nigeria, the market leader by subscriber numbers owned by South Africa’s MTN Group; Globacom Limited, the Second National Operator (SNO) owned by Nigerian billionaire, Mike Adenuga Jnr; Etisalat Nigeria, owned by a mix of Mubadala and Etisalat of the UAE as well as Nigerian investors led by Hakeem Belo-Osagie and Airtel Nigeria, owned by Bharti Airtel of India.

    Also affected by the regulatory ban are three other CDMA networks including Visafone Communications Limited, owned by Nigerian banker, Jim Ovia; Multi Links Telecoms Ltd (formerly Multi Links Telkom) and Intercellular Nigeria Plc, which has been acquired by SudaTel.    

    The ban on promotions and lotteries imposed late last year caught the affected operators off guard coming amid the yuletide period when they roll out various trade promotion schemes largely to reward and lock in existing subscribers and attract new ones in the competitive market.

    According to official statistics from NCC, Nigeria had over 113, 195,951 active connections at the end of 2012 with mobile phone lines recording more than 95 per cent usage across the country.

    Subscribers continue to face varying degree of network issues including inability to make calls, recharge their phones or other issues often linked to congestions or other challenges from their services providers, says the industry watchdog.

    Ojobo, who announced the sanction said that NCC, “has banned all promotions by Telecommunications Network Operators as well as lotteries being carried out on such networks. This ban covers all proposed and approved promotions and lotteries on which the Commission has given approval further to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered into with the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC).”

    NCC justifies the ban on the problems faced by phone users noting that it, “has carefully evaluated the complaints received especially against the backdrop of sustaining the integrity of the networks, the general interest of the consumers, the socio-economic impact of these promotions on operators and other relevant stakeholders.”

    According to the watchdog, the trade promotions “have increased the number of minutes available to subscribers for use within a limited period of time thereby creating congestion in the networks as subscribers try to use up the available minutes within the stipulated time.”

    It also flayed the practice where, “on-net calls were now being offered by operators at tariffs well below the prevailing inter-connect rates thereby introducing anti-competitive practices and behaviour.”

    Ojobo notes further, “That termination of calls were becoming increasingly difficult from one network to another and overall consumer experience on the networks has become very poor thereby making it extremely difficult for subscribers to make calls successfully.”

  • Telecoms interconnection rates between mobile service providers drop from 115 to 34.92 shillings per minute effective today. Meanwhile, the government plans to build a monitoring telecommunication system by June, this year.

    Speaking to the 'Daily News' on Thursday, the Deputy Minister for Communication, Science and Technology, January Makamba, hailed the move to reduce interconnection charges, noting that the government plans to build a Telecoms Traffic Monitoring System by June to control and improve telecommunication in the country.

    In a bold move, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), last month announced the new rates after reviewing telecommunications charges in the country.Mr Makamba explained that the monitoring system will ensure telecommunication is improved in the country, including monitoring communication time.

    He explained that from 2008 to 2009 the telecommunication charges went down after the National Fibre Optic backbone was constructed. However, interconnection rates remained the same. "To ensure that the lowered interconnection rates are enjoyed fully by the public, the government is constructing a monitoring system that will monitor communication in the country. The target is to remove interconnection charges as it's the case in some countries," he explained.

    He said that the Telecoms traffic monitoring system will also improve telecommunication in the country and ensure government revenue from telephone service providers in the country. Speaking to the 'Daily News' on the move to reduce and harmonize interconnection rates, TTCL Communications Manager, Amin Mbaga expressed his delight in the wake of the move, which he said is for the benefit of the public.

    Mbaga said as much as telecommunication companies are reaping hefty profits, they should ensure the service provided are of low costs to the public, who use telecommunication services to bring about development at individual level and nationally.Airtel Communications Manager, Mr Jackson Mbando affirmed that the telecommunication company will implement the directives, as TCRA has directed.

    Although Tigo has started issuing adverts to its users about new offers following the new interconnection rates, the company's Communications officer Ms Jacquiline Nnunduma declined to comment, explaining that she's not the spokesperson for the issue.When announcing the move to reduce call interconnection rates, the TCRA Director General, Prof John Nkoma, said the cost would come down to 32.40/-.

    The rate for 2014 will be 32/40 dropping to 30/58 by 3015 and further to 28/57 in 2016. The rate will be 26/96 in 2017. Prof Nkoma said the regulatory body conducted an inquiry involving all telecommunications network operators and other stakeholders as per TCRA Procedures for Rules of Inquiry of 2004.

    According to him, the decision was made by a panel of experts from different universities and international organizations after conducting a cost study of each mobile phone firm and coming up with conclusions in accordance with the laws and regulations governing the ICT sector in the country.

    Prof Nkoma said while voice call termination rates for 2013 will be 34.90/- down from 115/-, the rate for 2014 will be 32.40/-, in 2015 the rates will be 30.58/- by 2015 and further to 28.57/- in 2016 and 26.96/- in 2017. He said in reducing the rates, the authority had taken into account that interconnection rates across the world have dropped in the past five years.

    "We established that the current rates are high and customers are forced to carry either more than one mobile phone or SIM (subscriber identification module) card because of the costs of making a call to a different mobile firm," he said. With the application of the new rates, there will be no need for a person to carry more than one phone or SIM cards.

  • Sierra Leone has officially launched its connection to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable system, gaining its first direct link to a global fibre network.

    Sierra Leone President Ernest Koroma, presiding over the launch, described it as a ‘milestone’.

    France Telecom Orange and the other members of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) consortium launched the first phase of the cable in December last year. At a ceremony held in Banjul, The Gambia, the consortium said the cable was now operational for the first phase – nearly 12,000km linking 13 countries from France and Sao Tomé & Principe. It will  extend as far as South Africa for the second phase.

  • Livingstone residents have been angered by mobile phone SMS alerts carrying campaign messages for the ruling Patriotic Front candidate Lawrence Evans ahead of the February 28 parliamentary by-election.

    The two by-elections, taking place in both Livingstone and Mpongwe, are viewed as crucial for the ruling party, who are seeking to achieve a parliamentary majority.  The high stakes contest have unleashed high levels of campaign spending by the government and no shortage of paid youth cadres, advertisements, and frequent text messaging.

    A senior manager at Airtel Livingstone office confirmed the SMS messages promoting the PF candidate are originating from an dummy number sent from the Lusaka office.

    Airtel subscribers in Livingstone have been receiving SMS on their handsets written in English and various local languages asking them to vote for PF.
    One message which was sent to a resident read, “Did you know that your vote for PF candidate Lawrence Evans on 28 February 2013 by-election is the only key to develop Livingstone central? Thank you.”

    The residents complained that they never subscribed to receive the messages which they said sometimes come at awkward hours in the night, causing annoyance and frustration.

    “First of all, why are they sending the messages to people of Livingstone only and how do they know that these numbers belong to Livingstone residents? This goes to show that Airtel is now being controlled by the PF government.  I’m sure this is why they wanted people to register their sim-cards so that they can be sending propaganda messages to citizens,” said Mbololwa Simasiku of Dambwa North.

    And another resident Peter Hamududu said he would not vote for PF because he had been frustrated by the SMSs.

    “I strongly believe that the PF candidate could be a better man for Livingstone Central but I did not need to be forced by these SMSs, I can decide on my own. And I also don’t like the fact that the PF is taking advantage of other parties like UPND and MMD who do not have the privileges of using services provided by mobile phone operators,” he said.

    And asked to explain the origin of the messages, a manager at Livingstone Airtel office said Allied Mobile communications which operates Airtel shops was not responsible.

    “This here is a just like a sales office, there is nothing technical that happens here. We have had so many people coming here to complain about the same SMSs but I can guarantee you that the SMSs are coming from Airtel head office in Lusaka, ask them, they should be able to explain,” said a senior manager who sought anonymity.

internet

  • Q-KON, a provider of satellite and wireless access network solutions to niche markets in Africa, has announced a partnership with Angola’s Startel SA (Startel). A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been reached between the two companies and is based on wholesale access to Q-KON’s StarLight offering.

    Q-KON is a South African services provider that has the resources and expertise to empower regional partners to meet the needs of their respective markets and help maximise their presence.

    Startel is an established and fully licensed Angola telecommunication network operator servicing the Angola market. The company operates various satellite and WiMax access networks and wishes to expand its access network product portfolio.

    Both companies have agreed to collaborate with regards to the provisioning, implementation and operation of a satellite broadband access platform.

    Q-KON will supply Startel with access to StarLight, an end-to-end two-way IP access service for broadband access and data communication. The service includes 1st tier Internet access, satellite uplink teleport and satellite communication bandwidth.

    Startel will brand the service as Starnet, a natural addition to the company’s portfolio, inclusive of Netbué Internet access and Falabué voice services.

  • The latest Zimbabwe All Media and Products Survey results show that urban internet use is growing fast, with 42% of people now having access, up from 34% a year ago.  Zimbabwe-wide, total internet access increased by 4% to 22%.

    According to the survey, the most common vehicle is smart-phones, 16% nationally and 32% in towns. It also said Facebook was the most popular website, visited by 15% of Zimbabweans and 31% of city dwellers, followed by Google (10%) and Yahoo (4%).

    At least 85% of Zimbabweans now have cellphones and rural access has increased to 80%, from 66% in the same quarter in 2012.

    The research was carried out by Research Bureau International on behalf of the Zimbabwe Advertising Research Foundation. The results are part of a wider report newspaper readership, television viewership, radio listenership and Internet accessibility.

  • Google has announced its collaboration with two network-driven companies in an attempt to make internet more accessible and effective in sub-Saharan Africa. The company will give USD 3.1 million to the Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) for the development of network engineering expertise in local universities and national and education networks in sub-Saharan Africa "to help bring the next billion online".

    Laboratories and training programmes will be launched by the NSRC for network planning, management and operations to help bring the students and staff of more than 50 institutions new skills. Another USD 1.3 million will be provided to the Internet Society (ISOC) for the improvement and setup of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in emerging markets. An ISOC toolkit, for the creation, build and improvement of IXPs, including an industry portal, is also in the pipeline.

  • Mozambican mobile operator mCel and Opera Software have announced a co-branded version of a Opera Mini web browser, which will soon be available to mCel subscribers. Mozambique has fewer than one million landlines, but close to nine million mobile phones. Opera Mini is already popular in Mozambique, with the number of mobile-browsing Mozambicans growing by 164% in the past year.

    Opera Mini is a highly customizable mobile web browser that is compatible with more than 3,000 different makes of handsets, which is important in Mozambique where mostly older phones are used. The co-branded Opera Mini set to be launched by mCel will give consumers a consistent experience, look and feel relevant to country and operator. Opera Mini reduces the data delivered to any handset by up to 90%. This means web users can access the web more often, for the same price. The deal will give mCel’s subscribers one-click web access via Speed Dial shortcuts and Smart Page notifications from their favorite mCel portals or news and social networking sites.

    “We look forward to working with Opera to give even more people a better, faster, less expensive web experience,” says Benjamim Fernandes, Marketing and Sales Director at mCel. “The compression from Opera Mini means that we can have more people surfing without increasing network congestion.”

    mCel has a 3G network across most of the country and approximately 4.6 million subscribers, which is just under a quarter of the entire population of Mozambique.

    “We are eager to bring the best web experience to Africa, and this deal with mCel allows us to get closer to our goal,” says Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera Software. “We have seen very strong uptake of Opera Mini in Mozambique, and we look forward to building on that success with one of the country's largest mobile networks.”

computing

  • Dimension Data has announced the launch of its global Managed Cloud Platform (MCP) that is now available in Nigeria to serve the needs of public and private enterprise, as well as service providers.

    Dimension Data’s cloud offering will enable clients to accelerate their adoption of cloud computing, increase strategic agility, lower Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure management expenses, and reduce cloud migration complexity and risk.

    Announcing the availability of its cloud services, General Manager, Enterprise Solutions, Dimension Data Nigeria, Jide Agbaje, said: “The availability of cloud computing in Nigeria makes it easier for organisations to harness the cost and agility benefits of cloud as it provides organisations high speed access to secure, enterprise-class public, private, hybrid and hosted private cloud services in the country.”

    He added that the company’s cloud infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings are designed to address the performance and security concerns of organisations. “We have made it easier and less complex for organisations of every size to benefit from the flexibility and scale of cloud technologies through automation and broad global coverage,” Agbaje said.

    Speaking in the same vein, Solutions Executive at Dimension Data Africa, Tony Munro said, “While the benefits of cloud computing are very compelling, the complexity of planning, building and managing cloud infrastructure, is significant. Cloud providers need to address client concerns about security, compliance, integration, performance, capital expense requirements, as well as deployment and operational risks, to allow clients accelerate their cloud journey.”

    According to Munro, the company’s public cloud services would be available immediately and dedicated private cloud services could be deployed in a matter of weeks, allowing clients to enjoy the benefits of fully automated cloud architecture without the risks or excessive time associated with building the architectures themselves.

    Dimension Data offers public and private cloud Compute-as-a-Service(CaaS) solutions that provide self-service on-demand, cloud-based compute, storage and networking resources which are fully managed using a Web-based or REST-based Application Interface (API). Dimension Data's managed hosting services go beyond infrastructure hosting and also include deployment, management and delivery of applications.

  • Olusegun Aganga, Nigeria’s trade and investments minister, has revealed the government will partner with computer manufacturing company Omatek in a bid to promote indigenous technology. The minister disclosed this after a tour of Omatek’s facilities at its headquarters in Lagos.

    Aganga said: “We will like to partner with you as long as it does not break the law. We will be able to achieve the much-needed linkage between our abundant natural resources and the application of appropriate technology and production processes through the application of ICT in our schools and industries.” Describing Omatek, he said the indigenous company is leading its contemporaries in innovation and product quality.

    This he said has prompted the Nigerian government to map out a strategy that will make a partnership feasible in line with the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan and the ministry’s Local Patronage Initiative.

    Aganga added: “Let me reiterate here that the Federal Government's Transformation Agenda is a project which recognises the need to consciously nurture Nigerian industries in the quest for a sound economy developed on the back of industrial growth.

    “We are therefore assuring Omatek of the necessary support all the way.”

    He stressed the government is not partnering only with Omatek in the provision of local contents to government offices.

    According to him, the government is always on the lookout for indigenous companies producing top quality products to support by ensuring that the business environment will make their businesses flourish.

  • The parliamentary committee on education, technology, culture and youth has assessed the impact the one-laptop-per-child program has had so far, and found that, although the program has made commendable progress in the use of technology (ICT) in education, the ministry of education has to strengthen its role in making sure that OLPC fully serves its role.

    The assessment was made in September last year countrywide. "Mineduc has to make sure that the laptops distributed are being well maintained and fully exploited," said Agnes Mukazibera, the chairperson of the committee while presenting the report.

    Mukazibera said that 2,594 schools were reached by the program, 675 of them government-owned, 738 government-sponsored, and 1818 private ones. The laptops were given to children from P4 to P6. 12,102 laptops were distributed of which 8,141 are being used.

    "The reason why the rest is not being exploited is because of technical and managerial issues which Mineduc seem to have ignored," said Mukazibera.

    Among the issues raised were passwords put in the computers as protection mechanism, and lack of trained personnel to help the children learn to use the laptops.

    Parliamentarians resolved to that Mineduc has to study a way of making OLPC items reach all schools so that all children benefit from the use of ICT tools instead of having a few privileged and others who are ignored.

    However, the MPs commended the fact that the children who have so far been reached by the program have learnt a lot. "We have realized that these kids are being increasingly good at using ICT. They can draw, take pictures and most importantly write and save different types of documents," stressed MP Veneranda Nyirahirwa, the vice chair of the committee.

  • Over 100 schools have been provided with computer labs while 1000 others are expected to benefit in the next five years, thanks to an international organization known as Camara.

    The Organization's Founder, Cormac Lynch, said in Dar es Salaam that the mission (of his organization) was to make sure that in ten years, all Tanzanians at all levels of education are computer literate.

    Lynch, who arrived in the country on Tuesday for a two-day tour, said his organization was finalizing a cooperation agreement with the government in a bid to supplement the State's efforts in the sector.

    The government is currently implementing the Tanzania Beyond Tomorrow (TBT) project aimed at transforming education through technology, improve education quality and impart students with skills to earn a living through technology. "We want to transform education, give students from kindergarten to tertiary an access to computer.

    Computer literacy is vital in the modern world and key in getting better jobs," he said. He said the organization goes beyond making computers available by training teachers on ICT, computer maintenance and recycling. Mr Lynch met the Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda and charted out some critical issues including rural electrification; he was impressed by the comprehensive plans being implemented under the Rural Energy Agency.

    "We use social enterprise, we provide services at subsidized prices to create the sense of ownership among beneficiaries," he said. The Camara Tanzania Chief Executive Officer, Ms Edna Hogan, said all schools are required, for example, to pay one per cent of the actual value a computer unit.

    "We also require schools to have a lab room and electricity and we provide facilities and train trainers," she said. She added that in the past six months, the organization has imported 620 computers out of which 500 have been distributed to schools in Dar es Salaam, Ruvuma and Coast regions.

    Hogan said the organization opened its branch here following a request by Premier Pinda when he toured Ireland in 2009, adding that the objective is to provide services countrywide. She said Camara is an international organisation dedicated to using technology to improve education and livelihood skills in disadvantaged communities around the world, as a way of helping them break the cycle of poverty.

    "Founded seven years ago in Dublin, Ireland, the organisation has built a proven model of 'education delivery' that is both sustainable and highly scalable," she noted. The Deputy Minister for Education and Vocational Training, Mr Philipo Mulugo, was quoted as saying that the government is committed to improving education and life skills in communities through technology, so that people are better equipped to compete in global labour market.

    The minister mentioned TBT programme as one of the strategies already set to transform education through technology countrywide. Basing on the partnership venture facilitated by Camara, Mr Mulugo said the plan aims at building teachers' capacity in the use of technology and supply computers in schools and colleges.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Mahindra Comviva, the global leader in providing mobile financial and VAS solutions, has announced that it has partnered with Gabon Telecom, an affiliate of Maroc Telecom and the largest telecom company in Gabon. With this partnership Mahindra Comviva will help Gabon Telecom to introduce Mobi Cash mobile money services and enhance customer experience with its multi-award winning mobiquity mobile financial and Messaging solution - USSD Flares.

    Maroc Telecom, the major wireless and wireline telecom operator in Morocco launched Mobi Cash mobile money services powered by Comviva in 2010.

    Mahindra Comviva’s mobiquity solution will empower Gabon Telecom subscribers with multi-functional and secure account, which can be used to make domestic remittance, salary disbursements, and last mile financial services including cash in and cash out. It will also allow subscribers to make utility bill payments such as post paid, electricity, water and recharge their mobile phones. Customers can also make Over-The-Counter (OTC) payments at merchants such as grocery stores, restaurants, chemists.

    Mahindra Comviva’s messaging solution - USSD FLARES, a single-window web-based Service Creation Environment (SCE) with an easy to use interface for service creation and management will enable the operator to access, create, execute and manage services faster. Mahindra Comviva is a market leader in the USSD space globally, with over 90 deployments across 57 countries. Its USSD solutions are now delivering services to over 550 million mobile users across the globe, with over 220 million hits daily on USSD solutions.

    Speaking on the collaboration, Sabri Amireh, Head of Middle-East and North Africa at Mahindra Comviva said, “With our mobiquity financial solution already being deployed at Onatel in Burkina Faso, Mauritel Mobile in Mauritania and Sotelma in Mali, we are excited to be working with the fourth affiliate of Maroc Telecom. With this deployment we will help the operator to introduce host of financial services to build deeper consumer engagement.”

    “Our USSD solution will ensure message delivery over a high-speed, secure platform whilst enabling rapid application development, with a service creation platform supporting rapid, cost-effective service launch,” further added Sabri Amireh.

    Mohamed KARIM, Marketing Manager, Gabon Telecom commented, “We are committed to leveraging technology to meet the evolving needs of our customers. Our tie-up with Mahindra Comviva to introduce easy to use mobile financial services to our valued customers in Gabon is a prime example of this. With mobiquity, we are able to provide a cost-effective banking solution and improving people’s lives by creating access to financial services for the masses."

  • A study released by the GSMA mWomen Programme and Visa entitled, Unlocking the Potential: Women and Mobile Financial Services in Emerging Markets, shows that women in developing countries represent a significant underserved market and commercial opportunity for mobile financial service providers. The study, focused on women in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania, was undertaken to gain additional insight into how financial institutions and mobile network operators can better support the complex financial lives of women at the base of the pyramid.

    Around the world more than 2 billion people, the majority of whom are women, lack access to basic financial services. The study, led by Bankable Frontier Associates, found that women often also face an additional burden of having primary responsibility for managing the household finances. These resource-poor women must overcome numerous challenges in managing their finances: incomes are low, irregular and unpredictable, and formal financial tools hard to access.

  • As Kenya continues to push the value of paperless money transfer and mobile money services, MasterCard and Equity Bank have joined forces to launch Mobile Point of Sale (MPOS) technology.

    MasterCard and Equity Bank have united to launch Mobile Point of Sale (MPOS) technology in Kenya. (Image: File)

    “MasterCard and Equity Bank have partnered with Ezetap, a MPOS provider, to introduce the service,” the companies said in a joint press release.

    “This initial MPOS pilot project, which was first announced in January as part of the strategic alliance between Equity Bank and MasterCard to issue 5 million payment cards, will be targeted at selected merchant retail outlets,” it added.

    The move should give Equity Bank the necessary data to implement a more in-depth countrywide roll-out of the Ezetap MPOS system. The overall goal is to continue to deliver new offerings to Kenyans who want to go cashless on a daily basis.

    “The Ezetap system has been operational in India for several months. It consists of a lightweight and robust device that can be plugged into smartphones and tablets for small businesses to accept card payments,” they added, highlighting the effectiveness of the Indian system.

    The roll-out is compliant with global security standards including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCIDSS) and the Payment Application Data Security Standard (PADSS).

  • Making Finance Work for Africa (MFW4A) has announced its participation in the sixth annual AITEC Banking & Mobile Money West Africa conference, to be held over two days from March 13 to 14 in Lagos, Nigeria.

    In line with this year’s conference theme “Consolidating and Monetizing the Gains of Innovation”, MFW4A is organizing a consultative workshop on March 14, aimed at providing a common platform for its Mobile Banking Donor Working Group (MB-DWG) members, to showcase their organizations’ interventions on Mobile Technology in order to increase access to finance in Africa.

    MFW4A and the MB-DWG members have been strongly involved in enhancing the development of mobile financial services in Africa. Guided by one of the recommendations arising from the MFW4A Book “Financing Africa: Through the Crisis and Beyond”, which encouraged the development of mobile technology as an important transformational model, MFW4A launched the MB-DWG initiative in July 2011 in collaboration with CGAP to promote closer collaboration and strengthen joint co-ordination with its members.

    Welcoming the opportunity to participate in the AITEC conference in Lagos, Stefan Nalletamby, MFW4A Partnership Coordinator, said: “In the recent past, the landscape of African financial sectors has changed significantly. Mobile banking innovation is especially important in Africa where it is enabling to leapfrog a number of infrastructure constraints.  In Nigeria alone, there are over 90 million mobile subscribers, and mobile banking solutions have the potential to significantly impact financial inclusion in that country.”

    For further information, please email Habib Attia h.attia@afdb.org or visit the MFW4A website, here:

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Telecel Zimbabwe Telecel announced last week via an SMS to subscribers the reduction of its 3G modems price from US $45 to $30. Subscribers will also get 300mb of data along with a new modem. We’re told it’s a promotion, which means the deal has an expiry date. Usually it’s a month or two. Promo or not, this is a great deal for those of you without 3G modems.

    Just to compare, Econet Wireless, sells similar modems for $38 and gives 25mb of data for 6 months. The data is roughly half of what Telecel is offering with the promo. The Telecel modems are also not network locked so it’s a great deal through and through for those of you not too fond of network loyalty.

    The launch of mobile broadband services available via dongles opened up an opportunity for lower cost broadband setup fees. Before the dongles, getting internet connection at home or home business mean spending upwards of $300 on UHF Radio or WiMax customer premise equipment. Such steep amounts virtually excluded the low income individuals from accessing the internet.
    - See more here:

Digital Content

  • Airtel will establish a Farmer’s Information System which will provide real time information to women farmers through its network in Africa
    Women farmers in the East and Horn of Africa region are poised to benefit from practical information-sharing tools via Airtel’s mobile networks. This follows a memorandum of understanding signed between the UN Women (The United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women) and Airtel Africa.
    As per the MoU, UN Women will identify the farmers to be covered under this initiative, whilst Airtel will package and deliver the appropriate mobile solutions to support their livelihoods and enhance their efficiency.

    Commenting on the partnership, Andre Beyers, the Chief Marketing Officer of Airtel Africa said: “The empowerment of women is essential to economic development, especially in rural and agricultural economies. We are pleased to partner with UN Women and contribute to their agenda of gender equality and empowerment of women by leveraging the possibilities mobile telephony has to offer.”

    Under the agreement, Airtel Africa will establish a Farmer's Information System, which will enable women farmers to access real time information related to weather, changes to the policy environment (such as taxation and regulation), available support services; as well as other areas. In addition, Airtel will also offer Internet protocol messaging services and closed user groups.
    Mobile connectivity gives rural communities access to education, banking facilities and opportunities to increase trade. By connecting rural communities through its mobile networks, Airtel aims to create positive community impact, greater social interaction and opportunities for economic development.

    Christine Musisi, UN Women’s Regional Programme Director for the East & Horn of Africa, said: “This exciting new partnership will use the power of mobile telecommunications to engage and empower women in rural and urban areas.  Working with Airtel, UN Women can reach entrepreneurs faster, through communications platforms as they already own mobile phones. Increasingly, both the public and private sectors recognize that empowering women is smart economics, and that women must be brought to the heart of Africa’s development. We will work closely with Airtel to train women so that they, their families, and the region can reap the benefits of this opportunity.”

    The two-year partnership between Airtel and UN WOMEN aims at building the skills, capabilities and resources of women entrepreneurs. Women provide approximately 70 percent of agricultural labour and produce 90 percent of all food, yet do not always share equally in the economic benefits of the industry. Airtel and UN Women are dedicated to helping women farmers enhance their productive capacity and international competitiveness in the countries where they jointly operate.
    Airtel believes that entrepreneurship and the development of the private sector are essential to achieving economic development and poverty eradication. Under this agreement, Airtel will also co-finance initiatives and projects promoting the empowerment of women and the girl child.

  • Intel has entered into an agreement with business incubator iHub to foster and grow the developer community in Africa through targeted investments in mobile app development, online developer resources, university training programs, device seeding programs and expansion of technology hubs.

    iHub catalyzes the tech community in Kenya and has evolved into a space with over 10,000 members.  The model set by iHub has been used to start more than 30 other tech hubs across Africa, and enjoys a leadership role in the continent due to its size and relationship with the other hubs.  Being a tech space, iHub is able to offer thought leadership in areas of mobile technology and its use.

    In Kenya, the company will provide broadly available developer training through iHub and Intel’s Developer Zone, an online developer resource that enables the creation and porting of Android apps.  Intel will also distribute Intel Android devices to the tech hubs, and will collaborate with select universities across the continent to enhance the ability of developers to create rich user experiences on Intel hardware with Android.

    Danie Steyn, general manager of Intel East Africa, said the company’s goal was to enable applications from Africa for the Android market place in 2013, with the primary areas of focus being education, rich media, and gaming.

    “Our engagement will not only be around educating the developer community, but we’ll also run a series of hackathons across Africa network in partnership with iHub,” said Steyn. “We’re extremely excited about the growing developer engagement in Africa, and we’re deeply committed to helping the African software ecosystem grow and thrive.”

    “The software development scene in Africa is active but still nascent, we’re excited to partner with Intel to grow it”, said Erik Hersman the MD at iHub.

    iHub will work with 10 universities in Kenya, and host 30 events targeted at software associations, independent software vendors and in the first year.

  • Millions of mobile users owning basic mobile phones across Africa and Asia are now able to join the online community using a new low-cost USSD messaging service from Etisalat. This will provide access to email, social networking and messaging services, to basic mobile devices and feature phones at very affordable prices.

     This follows an agreement between the Etisalat Group, the leading operator in the Middle-East, Africa and Asia, and Mahindra Comviva, the global leader in providing mobile financial and value added solutions, which was signed at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

     The partnership provides Etisalat’s 139 million subscribers across Middle East, Africa and Asia with consumer email, instant messaging, social networking, phone book backup services as well as popular news/web feeds and other relevant applications over their mobile phone. They can do this either through downloading an application or via USSD, SMS or MMS messages which eliminates the users' dependence on smartphones. This effectively provides access to contemporary web services to every mobile handset.

     The platform will be deployed in a single location within the UAE, while the services will be made available to all the 15 affiliates of Etisalat. The first Etisalat market to deploy the new messaging solution is Etisalat Nigeria, whose 15 million subscribers will soon be able to enjoy the benefit of advanced communications on any handset.

  • In early 2008, villages and cities across Kenya were ravaged with violence following a disputed election. The election controversy became the pretext for ethnic clashes that displaced hundreds of thousands of people and claimed the lives of more than 1200, some in grisly fashion.

    An ad-hoc group of tech bloggers based in Kenya decided to act. They built a software platform, called "Ushahidi" to shine a light on human rights violations, bringing much-needed attention and support to developing emergencies. Ushahidi means "bearing witness" in Swahili.

    The software enabled Kenyans to document and report on incidents in real-time, giving the media, governments, and relief organizations an immediate picture of what was happening on the ground. By aggregating texts, tweets, photos, and descriptions from phones and computers, Ushahidi created crowd sourced maps that made incidents of violence, election fraud, and abuse plainly visible on a broad scale.

    Since that catalytic moment in 2008, Ushahidi has grown into a mapping platform used in crises across the world, supporting 35,000 maps in 30 different languages. Following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and the tsumani in Japan in 2011, the Ushahidi platform was used to organize emergency responses in real-time. In less than an hour after the 2011 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the Ushahidi platform was used to spotlight areas of refuge. Most recently, Ushahidi has enabled crowd mapping of violence in Syria's civil war.

    Today, Ushahidi's vision comes full circle as it prepares for Kenya's first election since the outbreak of violence, and the first under its new constitution. With Ushahidi's help, election watchers, human rights activists, international media, and foreign governments will have an enhanced view of developments on the ground. And, more importantly, Kenyan citizens will have a place where their collective voices can be heard as they push for a safer, more transparent democracy.

    Ushahidi will use its $750,000(KSh. 64.5 million) MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions to build a reserve and to develop technological security measures to protect platform users.

  • 2go and iROKING are joining forces to bring instant free Nigerian music downloads to the more than 9 million active 2go users across Nigeria. The fully-integrated music site will bring the likes of Timaya, Flavour and Burna Boy to the phones of the millions who use the mobile networking site to chat, make friends and share the things they love.

     The brand new mobi site iroking.2go.im was built by iROKING and brings the biggest and best Afrobeats tunes to 2go users, who will now be able to download iROKING tracks totally free, direct to their mobile phones. In keeping with 2go’s low-cost approach, the site also comes with a round of optimizations to cater to feature phone users, with a light mobi site which means pages load faster, and with smaller music file sizes, costs for data charges can be kept to a minimum. In addition to instant search, easy sharing and free music downloads on the new mobi site, 2go’s users will have exclusive music industry news updates delivered directly to their handsets to them every day, courtesy of iROKING.

  • Registering a business has always been a daunting task, especially for those in upcountry since they not only have to travel to Nairobi but at times engage the services of brokers and end up with fake registration certificates.

    However, this is set to change with the unveiling of an online business registration system that allows users to either do a name search or register a company through their mobile phones or office computers from any part of the country.

    The system dubbed Incorporator has been developed by Genius Executive Ltd, a technology firm, is also set to reduce the amount of time and money incurred by many while trying to register their businesses.

    Currently, it costs between Sh5,000 and Sh10,000 if one engages a broker or travels to Nairobi to process the registration respectively. However, with the new platform one will only have to pay Sh3,500 for business registration.

    “If you choose to shuttle between Nyeri and Nairobi to do the job yourself, it ends up costing you more than Sh10,000 and consumes a lot of your time,” says Joseph Nderitu, a trader in Nyeri.

    “Many are now opting to use the services of these middlemen who can get it done for between Sh4,000 and Sh5000.”

    Mr Nderitu adds that there is also a risk in engaging brokers because some may prey on clients and give them forged certificates, putting unsuspecting traders on a collision course with the law in future.

    Nderitu’s sentiments were echoed by Stephen Muriuki who said that when he registered his auto dealer company, he chose to enlist the services of a local lawyer due to the complexity and time consuming nature of the process.

    He says that at a cost of Sh25,000, one can get a company registered, inclusive of the lawyer’s fees.

    Such problems encountered by traders daily is what motivated Nick Munyao, whose company was working for some Advocates in Nairobi to do the paper work at the State Law Office to come up with an interface to connect those who seek to register their businesses to lawyers.

    “Our platform will link new entrepreneurs to advocates to help in registering new companies in the comfort of their offices or homes,” he said.

    “We don’t charge those who want register limited companies, instead we only charge their advocates a Sh1,000 monthly subscription fee and Sh5,000 for handling the logistics per company registered.”

    To start the process, a person logs on to Incorporator website (www.inc.co.ke). Anyone registering their business with the Registrar of Companies fill in their details, make payments (through M-Pesa or Visa card) and have their company registered regardless of their location.

    Genius Executives handles the logistics such as printing the information posted by the clients and makes a follow-up with the Registrar of Companies at the State Law Office.

    The platform is open to advocates who pay Sh1,000 monthly subscription fee to be included in directory and receive information on entrepreneurs seeking to register limited companies and then bid for the jobs on offer.

    This gives clients access to legal services at reasonable cost and quality work while the advocates get access to a large database of potential and future clients.

    Certificates of registration are then sent to the clients by courier services. The company has also linked the system to an SMS application to enable people without Internet access to register their businesses as well.

    For those seeking to register a company, the charges are seen as fair, given that it costs roughly as much when one is doing it in Nairobi but saves clients time wasted travelling and queuing in government offices.

    The business name search costs are Sh500. The process, which should ideally not last more than a few minutes takes days and registration in some cases end up taking up to a month, adds Mr Munyao.

More

  • Broadband MEA 
    19 - 20 March 2013 
    The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, 

    The region’s premier broadband event attracting 750  decision makers from across The Middle East and Africa. Now in its 5th year, the event is the only place to meet the entire industry under 1 roof.
    The 2 day comprehensive programme including 2 pre conference workshops brings together 70+ speakers including 40+ operator case studies to address the current issues surrounding broadband.
    With our most impressive speaker line-up to date, the conference focuses on both Business and Technology Strategy covering all the topics surrounding broadband. Plus the 2 workshops hosted by MENOG and Etisalat on the 18th March will provide a deep dive into IPv6 and LTE issues and developments.  For more information or book your place at the event visit here: 

    Operators – don’t forget to claim your exclusive 50% discount when purchasing a full conference pass!

    2nd Annual Cloud World Forum Africa
    23rd-24th April 2013
    Sandton Sun Hotel, Johannesburg, South Africa

    Combining the Cloud Computing World Forum Africa and Cloud Africa, this two day conference and exhibition covers every aspect of cloud, giving attending delegates all the information they need to begin or to expand on their cloud adoption needs.
    For more information please click here:

    The Social Media Week Lagos Team is excited to announce that our official schedule is now LIVE and registration is open!  
    At present we have 84 events scheduled and will be adding some very exciting evening events that will soon be announced.  We ask that you please join us in letting your readers, network and the world know that Africa did not disappoint and we are delivering a world-class event.  Social Media Week Lagos is truly history in the making and we invite the world to take part.
    You can find the SMW Lagos schedule here: 
    See this link for our 30 second spot that starts airing next week across the continent on Channel O TV: Download Link for SMW Lagos Media Package:

    iWeek 2013
    09 - 12 September 2013
    Thaba Ya Batswana, Impala Road, Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Now in its second decade, iWeek brings together everybody who matters in the Internet industry—and then some. It provides an important platform for established players to interact with start-ups and visionaries, and for the South African industry to connect with international experts. This year’s event will be focusing on bringing some of the globe’s most important thinkers to South Africa to act as a catalyst for lively discussion and new ideas.

  • Crowdsourcing ideas to co-create smarter solutions to development problems

    Thanks to innovations in information and communication technologies (ICT), individuals around the world can now be active participants in the value creation process, and co-creators of smarter solutions to a range of development challenges.  Co-creation means developing a product or service guided by the feedback received from a community, including end-users.

    We recently surveyed our LinkedIn Open Development Technology Alliance Group, a 2,700+ expert community focusing on improvements in public service delivery, and found a high interest in co-creating innovative development solutions and knowledge products..

    Based on this feedback, we decided to pilot a crowdsourcing initiative linked to the ICT Solutions Day on Thursday, February 28, to help co-create innovative ICT-enabled solutions for client countries.  Problem statements were submitted by senior policymakers, in consultation with World Bank staff and consultants, from five countries:

        · [Ghana]: How can Ghana transform the delivery and reach of public services, especially in health and education for under-served communities, while also creating new business opportunities and jobs?
        · [Kazakhstan]: How can Kazakhstan develop an ICT innovation ecosystem and competitive workforce to support economic diversification, job creation, and better public services?
        · [Nicaragua]: Natural disasters in the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua are high impact and carry serious consequences for the region. What technologies are the most accessible and affordable to use in disaster preparedness?
        · [The Philippines]: Urban populations across the Philippines include many low-income communities which suffer from unequal access to power, prestige, income, and information. How can emerging technologies help support a participatory process and create new employment opportunities that increase the empowerment of vulnerable urban residents?
        · [Rwanda]: How can advances in ICT connectivity and mobile access be leveraged to improve the lives of rural inhabitants in key areas such as education, health, agriculture, and business services?

    We have invited a wide range of stakeholders from expert communities to social media users to share ideas on how ICT can tackle these issues.  You can provide feedback in our Open Development Technology Alliance LinkedIn Group or our social media channels:  Twitter and Facebook.   The rules of participation are simple and there are no barriers to entry:  all you need to do is access the LinkedIn Group or social media channels and post your suggestions.

    Specific ideas that emerge from this discussion will be debated in front of a wide audience at ICT Solutions Day and could contribute to shaping client countries’ development strategies.  You can submit questions in advance and watch the opening session, with United States Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, live on the World Bank Live website.  We look forward to your participation in this initiative.

Issue no 643 22nd February 2013

node ref id: 27207

Top story

  • Like a lot of technologies, augmented reality has long roots, going all the way back to the 1970s and 1980s. But the arrival of the smart phone has really started to put it on the map and generate a significant user base. Russell Southwood talked to Brett Levy, Managing Director, Rapid Blue Digital about how it’s been using the technology.

    Augmented reality allows a user to look at a view in front of them on a device (whether something as large as a screen with a projection on it or as small as smartphone screen) and see something in the image that isn’t there in real life. 

    For example, there is a company called iButterfly that puts flying digital butterflies into the air near retail outlets: you catch enough of them with your virtual digital net and you get prizes. Or it can be something as everyday as a translation of street and shop signs or additional information about the view you’re looking at. It can be anything from retail incentives to educational information about buildings.

    Those who are enthusiastic about the technology see it as the eighth mass media (see the video briefing clip link of mobile analyst Tomi Ahonen at the end of this story) but even if you don’t buy this entire bill of goods, it is – along with gesture recognition and motion control – going to play a serious role both in interfaces and in content delivery. 

    Why might this be relevant for Africa? The challenge for Africa is to produce low-cost smartphones that have interfaces that go beyond the usual tree-and-branch menu structure with type it in instructions. Gesture is natural and as children will show you, it’s also exploratory. Once you’ve figured out how the gestures work, it’s easy to make things happen. You don’t need to type www.whatever…..

    Brett Levy, Managing Director, Rapid Blue Digital is not the first to use augmented reality in advertising campaigns but is among a small group that has also included a campaign for Cadburys. But he does think that they’re probably the first people to use augmented reality on a large screen (3 x 6 metres) and it was a campaign for a telecoms client, South Africa’s incumbent Telkom.

    The user steps on an x marks the spot point on floor and at which point the continuously playing commercial stops and elements from the commercial hover at the person’s chest level. They are then given instructions to lift their arms and in so doing, the different elements separate and they then can touch all the different elements. 

    It then turns into a game in which they have to push away different things that are coming at them until it gets too fast to do so. The point being made by the client is that you can’t escape convergence which is Telkom’s pitch for an offer that includes fixed line, Internet, mobile and cloud services. (It might be quad play if they had a video service to sell but that’s another story).

    The screen has toured a number of major shopping malls like Sandton City (where the footfall is 200,000 a week) and this week will be in Johannesburg’s international airport.

    According to Levy:”We’ve positioned ourselves as leaders in this field and have probably done more augmented reality than anyone else on the continent.” The company has used the Aurasma engine and there are apps available for both iOS and Android phones (see here ) Already 2,000 people have downloaded these apps. The standard apps don’t work on Blackberry phones so they have used Wikitude to provide the location base for those handsets.

    These apps can be “white-labeled” for other companies and Rapid Blue Digital has done work with 8ta, Nedbank, two national newspapers and gaming company Alienwave. In terms of bandwidth, it can work on EDGE but it works best on 3G, Wi-Fi or LTE.

    So if you see butterflies floating across your screen….it’s just the future beating its wings.

    Video briefings on this topic and related issues like gesture recognition and motion control:

    Mobile analyst Tomi Ahonen on augmented reality as the 8th mass media

    Niall Austin, OmniMotion Technology on using gesture recognition and motion control 

    Leonard Ah Kun, Cobi Interactive on augmented reality, Leap Motion and Google glasses

    Also videos on winning apps that have a relevance to Africa:

    Dr Kosala Liyange on Prognosis – Your Diagnosis on his doctors' learning app that uses case studies

    J P Ellis & Agatha Simanjuntak-Ellis, Harpoen - digital grafitti app that leaves trail of images and memories

    Oliver Koch, QTom on its music playlist software that can suit the mood you're in – looking to expand to territories outside Germany

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

     

telecoms

  • The managements of Cellcom GSM and Total Liberia have announced a business partnership for the provision of all Cellcom products and services to be sold at Total service stations across the country.

    The announcement was made at a news conference held in Monrovia last week. Speaking at the conference, Total Liberia Retail Supervisor Remma Bull said the partnership is a strategic venture that has brought together two strong service providers from two distinctively and important business sectors by means of the petroleum and telecommunication.

    Bull explained that Total Liberia was proud to join such partnership with Cellcom, noting that the partnership is based on mutual goals that focuses on the decentralization of professional and quality product and services to Liberians as well as a business norm where services to customers must be convenient and satisfactory at all times.

  • Ghana’s National Communications Authority (NCA) has awarded Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) licences in the 2500 – 2690 MHz band to Surfline Limited and GoldKey Properties Limited, as well as an unpaired configuration licence to G-Kwiknet Limited.Each licence, costing USD6 million, is valid for 10 years.

    “BWA licences are intended to provide wireless broadband connectivity to subscribers and licensees are authorised to develop and operate broadband networks to provide nationwide BWA services,” NCA said.

    The NCA said in a statement that the Licensee(s) and end-users shall be allowed to employ any suitable technology of their choice to provide fixed, nomadic or mobile broadband services throughout Ghana.

    The NCA said nine applications had gone through the process: five for paired frequency configuration of 2 x 15MHz, and four for unpaired frequency configuration of 1 x 30MHz.

  • Cameroon regulator Agence de Regulation des Telecommunications (ART) has refused to accept proposed mobile tariffs pitched by operators MTN and Orange for authorisation based on dissatisfaction over suggested off-peak discounts.

     This follows ART appeals to operators to decrease mobile service fees for off-peak times, with specific reference to voice calls, to make communication in the West African country more affordable.

    “Orange did not take up the regulator’s recommendation for the off-peak interconnection rates to be applied on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays,” Jean-Louis Beh Mengue, Chairman at ART, said.

    Orange Cameroon submitted proposals for 2013 in June last year, but received no approval for the peak hour rates of XAF32 per minute and off-peak hour rates of XAF30 per minute.

    “Operators [must] reduce their rate to XAF25 per minute and a significant cut in the SMS tariff until the process of adopting an interconnection tariff calculation model is completed,” the ART responded to MTN’s identical tariff suggestions.

    The ART stands firm that all Cameroon operators should enter negotiations before officially announcing fees to the public.

    The fees insisted upon by the regulator is to remain a fixed ultimatum until the complete interconnection tariff calculation model is available.

internet

  • Telecom Namibia has entered into an agreement with NewTelco South Africa, represented by Jasco Co-location Solutions, to establish a total of four international Points of Presence (PoPs) connected into the WACS undersea cable that became active in May 2012. These PoPs, to be located in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Frankfurt and London, will be procured and built by NewTelco SA for exclusive use by Telecom Namibia. As part of the agreement, Telecom Namibia is currently making use of NewTelco’s existing infrastructure until the dedicated infrastructure is built. A number of global carriers are already connected into the service.

    Namibia was the second country to extend the reach of their network into Europe on the WACS cable. The agreement between Telecom Namibia and NewTelco SA is a pioneering step in connecting Africa to the world, removing the reliance of a number of African telecoms operators on third parties to connect internationally and driving down the cost of communications for the continent.

    “In order to connect to global telecommunications providers, Telecom Namibia needed space in multiple data centres as well as a company  to manage and maintain services. NewTelco SA, through our ties to NewTelco GmbH, is perfectly positioned to deliver on Telecom Namibia’s requirements and fulfil this role. Not only will this assist with bringing down the cost of telecommunications, it will also provide cheaper Internet connectivity as Namibia will no longer have to route data traffic through South Africa,” says Eckart Zollner, Business Development Manager for Jasco Co-location Solutions.

    Jasco says in a statement that direct routing not only provides more cost effective interconnections, it also enables the operator to offer higher speeds of connectivity at lower prices, as well as better customer service. Telecom Namibia are now able to manage their own networks and make broadband connectivity more accessible to the Namibian public, helping them to bridge the digital divide and allowing the country to compete on a global stage.

    The strategic location of the four PoPs mean that Telecom Namibia can now offer its customers in South Africa or abroad direct connections to a number of existing and future undersea cable systems such as WACS, SAT3, EASSY, SEACOM, ACE and BRICS.  This not only provides for a fault tolerant international service platform, but also provides an opportunity to benefit from an optimised pricing model as traffic can be routed over any of these cable systems.

computing

  • A Batch A corps member, Tom Samuel serving in Gadabuke Development Area of Nasarawa State has built an ICT resource centre for the residents of Kullo Village in the area as part of his determination to positively affect the lives of people in his place of primary assignment.

    The computer resource centre with modern facilities offers all computer services such as; digital computer laboratory, digital computer almanacs, design cottons, window nets, generator, flash drives, computer parts and many others.

    While speaking during the commissioning of the centre, the NYSC state co-ordinator, Mr Stephen Alabi represented by the NYSC Local Inspector, Gadabuke Development Area, Engr. Moses Adamolekuncommended the initiator of the project.

    He said; "When he first discussed the project with me, I thought it was impossible, but through the determination and zeal of Tom Samuel, the dream has come to fulfillment."

    He, however, challenged other corps members who are yet to take up any community development projects to do so to affect their place of primary assignment positively.

  • The Sierra Leone Prisons Service last Thursday 14 February officially launched its website, which is expected to closely bringthe activities of the Prisons to the public - both nationally and internationally.

    Dennis K. Harman of the Prison Service said the website is a system of document that can be accessed through the internet and that they wanted to give wider access to the public about the operations of the Prisons. He explained that the initiative of launching the website was in line with the 'Agenda for Prosperity' as the Prisons Service is about to join the global network in giving the public vast knowledge about their society. Harman added that the website would also fast-track the work of Prisons and provide education for the children of inmates as well as those of prisons officers, noting: "Children of inmates are the future prisoners". 

    Director of Prisons, Sanpha Bilo Kamara, said the launch of the website was a move in the right direction as they are poised to transform the Prisons Service into a correctional centre. He thanked the German and Nigerian embassies for their support in constructing a primary school for his department.

    Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Sheka Tarawalie, said he was a former prisoner not as a lawbreaker but as a result of his profession and that he knew what the needs of prisoners and prisons officers were.

    He maintained that launching a website was an appropriate thing to do in the 21st century; a development he said would help the Prisons Service to interact with other institutions both national and international.

    "We will see to it that the condition of the prisons improve and we'll also focus on the officers and their dependants because their work is challenging. We will build schools for children of prisoners and those of prison officers," Tarawalie pledged.

    He promised to be monitoring the website on a daily basis and called on the officers responsible for updating it to do so with current events and adequate information.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Essar Kenya has joined market leader Safaricom in raising charges for its mobile money transfer as operators pass on a new excise tax effected recently.

    Orange and Airtel are yet to respond to the charges for all money transfer which bankers are headed for court to oppose.

    Essar, which owns the yu brand, has from Thursday increased withdrawal charges for its yuCash service by 10 per cent but has retained the current zero charge on sending money.

    On February 8, Safaricom raised M-Pesa charges by a similar margin for transactions above Sh101, as it rushed to protect its revenues.

  • Safaricom has partnered with Kenya Commercial Bank to offer M-Pesa agents loans at 20 per cent interest, payable in 12 months.The bank has allocated Sh1.5 billion for the unsecured loan facility dubbed 'M-Pesa Agent mkopo na KCB'.

    The agents can borrow six times their average commissions earned over a six month period, or a minimum of Sh50,000 and a maximum of Sh5 million.

    Safaricom's chief executive Bob Collymore said the product is aimed at boosting the agents' trading capital popularly known as float.

    KCB hopes the product will help to net a large section of the small scale entrepreneurs in the thriving mobile money business which has become the new competition frontier for banks.

  • Standard Chartered’s Maxweber Asiimwe has dismissed as untrue reports that banks are feeling the heat from telecom companies offering mobile money services in Uganda.

    In an email to The Independent, Asiimwe said mobile money is simply an extension of mobile telephony. He said judging by how well the mobile phone was embraced on the African continent long before the facility of mobile money came into being; mobile money was always destined for the phenomenal take off that the country has witnessed.

    Now other than concentrate on the threat posed by mobile money to the banking industry or the reverse for that matter, Asiimwe said, the opportunities for building a completely symbiotic relationship between banks and telecoms are immense and will increase exponentially with further technological advancements.

    “We are already witnessing the use of bank infrastructure by telecoms whereby mobile money customers could use bank branches or ATMS to safely access their cash sent through electronic channels,” he said.

    He added payment of electricity, water and other domestic bills can be done courtesy of the mobile phone by the customer miles away from the bank branch.

    He said the telecom service is in this case being used by banks to offer more convenience to their customers. He said Stanchart are looking at the mobile money impact as an opportunity of adding the formerly unbanked sections of the population that have been attracted by mobile money to their client base.

    “This will no doubt be made possible through relentless innovation on our part in our association with telecoms,” he said.

    It is estimated that Uganda has about 3.5 million bank accounts compared to about 17 million mobile phone subscribers as of June 2012.

    Mazen Mroue, the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Uganda, whose company pioneered the service in the East Africa’s third largest economy, says Shs 600 billion is transferred through its mobile money platform on a monthly basis.

    He says over 25 million transactions were carried out on MTN Mobile Money during December 2012. In total, MTN Uganda recorded over 200 million transactions on its platform during 2012.

    The other players in the industry include Airtel Uganda, Warid telecom, Uganda telecom and Orange Uganda.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Telecel, a major mobile operator in Zimbabwe, is offering a new fixed payment contract which aims to give consumers more control and flexibility over their expenditure.

     As well as offering unlimited calls to one Telecel number or unlimited local calls, those who sign up will receive “priority customer service” at the Red Desks at Telecel outlets.

    The new product, Telecel Red, provides three different packages costing US$30, US$60 and US$150.

    Donald Mupfunya, Sales and Distribution Director, said: “We are fully aware of the need to increase our retail footprint and plans are at an advanced stage to acquire and open additional shops countrywide.

    “We have deployed a full sales force to ensure we reach anyone and everyone wanting to come onto Telecel Red. Just give us a call and we will come to you and advise you on the best plan for you.”

    The flexi subscribers can recharge their accounts using the regular vouchers, while postpaid customers will be billed for usage outside of the credit package. They will be advised by SMS when they exceed their usage.

Digital Content

  • Beliaa, a mobile road assistance app, has won the Cairo Transport App challenge.

    The challenge sought solutions to traffic problems in Cairo, offering prizes of cash and a trip to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

    The first prize went to Beliaa, an innovative "mobile car mechanic" designed to assist car owners. It is described as the first app for road assistance and car maintenance in Egypt, using GPS to help drivers locate road assistance centres and send car maintenance requests with the required service, date and time to authorised car workshops.

    Africa: Competition Seeks Best Ways to Use Technology to Stop Atrocities

    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its partner Humanity United have announced the first-round winners of the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention, a technology competition enlisting problem solvers from around the world in support of the Obama administration's effort to design new tools to prevent mass atrocities.

    Physicians for Human Rights, a nonprofit organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, won a first-place prize of $5,000 for a mobile phone app that allows physicians in developing countries to better document evidence of mass atrocities. Le-Marie Thompson, the founder of a product development company based in Bowie, Maryland, also won a first-place prize for Web-based software that allows product designers to ensure that a product's electronic components are "conflict-free."

    Second-place winning ideas include a platform to promote socially conscious tourism, submitted by Fiona Mati, a project manager at a solar energy company in Kenya.

    Applicants from 22 countries submitted 88 innovative technologies addressing two challenges: identify, spotlight and deter third-party enablers of atrocities; or support documentation of atrocities to hold perpetrators accountable. Seven innovations won first-, second- and third-place prizes ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

    The Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention is part of a broader effort by USAID to promote open source development, including the use of prizes to access untapped solutions and problem solvers for specific development issues.

    "At the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last April, President Obama spoke about one of these challenges: preventing mass atrocities and genocide. Recognizing the power of NGOs, faith groups, and young people to help prevent mass atrocities, the President emphasized that achieving this goal didn't start from the top: 'It starts from the bottom up,'" USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said in a February 14 press release.

    "What's exciting about the Tech Challenge is the opportunity for individuals and groups around the world to provide innovative solutions to some of the world's most intractable problems. The chance to leverage the skills and experience of such a global audience is truly extraordinary," said Randy Newcomb, CEO of Humanity United.

    A jury comprising human rights and technology experts and U.S. government leaders reviewed the proposals and chose the winners. Following the awarding of prizes, Humanity United and USAID will work to pilot and scale the most promising innovations.

    The Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention will host in the coming weeks an interactive Google+ Hangout to launch its next three subchallenges.

  • Afta-robot, a South African taxi app providing a two-way solution to South African taxi drivers and commuters, will be launched by developer Sowertech next month.

    Whereas most similar services only offer those needing transport options to locate drivers, the app enables both parties to supply information to each other.

    The Beta phase of the app will be released on March 15 to 240,000 commuters in the selected pilot area of the Gauteng province.

    The service aims to reduce commuter waiting times and provide an opportunity for drivers to generate an increased daily income for approximately 65 percent of the country’s population with an income below R600 (US$68).

    Within six months other areas in Gauteng, such as Randburg, will also be included in the monitored areas to benefit from the service.

    The service is accessible with any Internet-enabled mobile device at R0.20 per dial.

    Nathi Tshabalala, Director of Projects & Technology, referred to the South African taxi market as a “R25 billion industry” with a current count of 122,000 12 and higher-seater vehicles in action, in his presentation at the BT Global Services International Trade Bootcamp last week,

    The first Gold-Members of mLab Southern Africa, Johannesburg-based Sowertech is a technology developing company.

    The company is on the lookout for early stage investment, technology partners and system inventors to expand into previously disadvantaged areas.

    Sowertech is one of 15 businesses that have been selected to participate in the BT Global Services International Trade Bootcamp programme as hosted by Micro Enterprise Development Organisation (MEDO).

    The programme assists entrepreneurs in mastering business presentation skills, among other training courses, and offers a selected group the opportunity to present to investors in the United Kingdom in April 2013.

  • Despite the successful pilot of m-health programmes in developing countries, especially in Africa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says m-health implementation is still being hampered by competing health system priorities, which it has identified as a top barrier globally across high, upper-middle and lower-middle income countries.

    WHO says that most health systems are severely overburdened, which means they are constantly challenged by the need to make difficult decisions about competing priorities.

    Dakar-based industry watcher Leopold Camara agrees, saying that most African governments already have ‘very little food’ on their plates to share among ‘so many people’, which he said making a decision about who will take what and who will get little or who won’t get nothing, becomes very difficult.

    “Concepts such as e-health and m-health can seriously change the face of a country’s health system, but implementing such initiatives becomes problematic if there is no adequate funding, especially in the face of unknown cost-effectiveness of available m-health solutions,” Camara says, adding that that is the reason why many m-health initiatives in developing countries are privately-funded.

    “Sometimes, I have the feeling that technology is putting too much pressure on Africa, and forcing already-burdened African governments to bite more than they can chew.”

    The Geneva-based UN agency also says competing priorities generally indicates that funding is allocated to other programmes ahead of m-health, or can reflect a lack of general interest or understanding of the field.

    Camara explains: “It becomes difficult when you have so little to spend to solve your problems. Africa has too many health needs, from lack of drugs to medical staff asking for a pay increase, no electricity at state hospitals, not enough beds, no ambulances, replacing obsolete equipment, building more clinics, and so on.

    “African decision-makers firmly believe these needs must be taken care of, first, before they think of investing in m-health, which they may think is ‘less important’. This lack of interest or knowledge continues to constitute a dangerous obstacle to the development of e-health and m-health in Africa.” 

    The Royal Tropical Institute, which says the majority of m-health initiatives in resources-poor settings are pilots and few have been identified for scaling up, lists about 50 Africa m-health programmes, most of which have been implemented in countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Botswana, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Gambia and Senegal.

    Senegal’s well-known m-health initiative is called Djobi, which was financed by the Fond Francophone des Inforoutes and set up by RAES (Réseau Africain d’Educationpour la Santé), an NGO, in partnership with Orange, PAMAS and Gaston Berger University.

    Djobi, which is also implemented in Mali, aims to reduce child mortality by 30% among children of under five in both countries. Djobi was among the eight m-health initiatives which received grants from the Norway-owned Innovation Working Group (IWG) and mHealth Alliance in September 2012.

  • Mobile-phone masts in Africa could be used for other development initiatives, such as filling gaps in rainfall data and providing electricity to refrigerate vaccines, experts say.

    For example, masts could be used to measure rainfall in areas without rain gauges, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this month (4 February).

    A general lack of rain gauges across Africa hinders countries' ability to monitor water resources and improve early warning systems that could save lives and cut the cost of flooding.

    In the PNAS study, the researchers estimated average rainfall intensity from telecommunication network data for the Netherlands, taking advantage of the fact that rain causes signal losses between mobile-phone masts. They then compared these estimated rainfall maps with those generated from radar and rain gauges.

    "There was a good match between the rainfall maps based on the mobile network and those based on the radar and rain gauge data," says lead author Aart Overeem, a hydrologist with Wageningen University in the Netherlands and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

    The researchers say their findings could be applicable in Africa and other places that lack a reliable network of rain gauges.

    They hope their study will persuade mobile-phone companies to release relevant data freely for use in research and to measure rainfall.

    But Overeem adds that the rain-measuring technique must be studied further both over a longer period and in places, such as the tropics, where mobile-phone masts often operate at lower radio frequencies. At such frequencies, there is a more complex relationship between rain and signal weakening that could affect the accuracy of rainfall maps.

    A further application for mobile-phone towers could be to divert some of their electricity supply to cool vaccines, says Harvey Rubin, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States and a director of Energize the Chain (EtC), an organisation that aims to set up this refrigeration.

    The power for masts comes from generators, electricity companies or renewable energy sources such as the wind, which is paid for by mast operators.

    As part of an EtC project in Zimbabwe, telecommunications firm Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has provided mast-cooled vaccine refrigerators at more than 100 sites, Rubin says, adding that the organisation will be focusing on India and Kenya next.

    "Through the EtC initiative, it costs just 60 US cents a day to run one of the World Health Organization-approved vaccine refrigerators in remote villages," he says.

    Judah Levine, an EtC director who is also chief executive officer of HIP Consult, a US-based firm with expertise in African telecommunications markets, says that masts in countries such as Ghana and Zambia are owned and operated by companies on behalf of mobile telecommunication firms, so it is important to get both tower and telecommunication operators on board.

    But Amekugee Eugene Gameli, project manager at mobile mast firm Helios Towers Ghana, says that, although using towers to cool vaccines is innovative, guidelines on masts' positioning could hinder the idea's implementation. In Ghana, he says, mobile masts must be at least 400 metres from hospitals, making them less suitable for storing vaccines.

    On masts' rainfall-mapping abilities, Gameli warned that their use in urban areas could lead to errors because pollution also contributes to signal loss between towers, which could be mistaken for rainfall.

     

  • A Ghanaian start-up planning to popularise crowdfunding in Africa has been selected as one of the winners of this year's Apps4Africa competition.

    SliceBiz plans to develop a service that will deliver 30-second pitches recorded by entrepreneurs to potential backers over the phone.

    It says investors will then be able to transfer cash into the projects they like via their mobiles.

    The Apps4Africa scheme is funded by the US State Department and the World Bank,

    It gives awards of $10,000 (£6,500) to three selected projects with the possibility of top-up funds if the winners meet set targets.

    Crowdfunded cash

    SliceBiz was founded by William Edem Senyo, a Ghana-based businessman who previously worked in banking and on a non-profit project, and Heather Cochran, a former social worker from California.

    They aim to shake up Africa's start-up scene by adapting the crowdfunding model that has already proven popular in the West through online services such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe and others.

    "Hundreds of start-up founders can't access credit from banks and other financial institutions," their competition entry explained.

    "People all over the world with some disposable income are about to see how they can deploy their funds to better use."

    After learning of the win Mr Senyo told the BBC: "Less than three months ago no one would have been able to convince me that I would quit my job, find a great partner, start a possibly disruptive company, and to top that win Apps4Africa.

    "This is a major validation for our business."

    Investors are asked to provide between $250 and $100,000 depending on how much they earn. Smaller sums can be sent via mobile, while larger ones will still rely on more traditional means.

    The competition is supported by the US government and the World Bank

    Unlike some other crowdfunding services, SliceBiz's model involves recipients giving up a stake in their business in return for the money received.

    In addition the Accra-based company will ask for equity in any business that manages to raise capital with its help, and also plans to charge an additional matchmaking fee.

    Following the Apps4Africa award Mr Senyo said he now planned a New York launch to further publicise the idea.

    However, he acknowledged one potential problem - Ghana's financial regulator has yet to approve his crowdfunding business model.

    Entrepreneur apps

    This is the third year the Apps4Africa competition has been run. It is open to any innovator living and working on the continent.

    Last year's event was themed around the idea of software to help farmers and other users tackle issues raised by climate change.

    In the latest competition organisers asked applicants for software-based solutions to support entrepreneurs wanting to make the most of business opportunities and create jobs.

    "We now want to scale the ideas past the competition to provide additional mentorship and training as well as financial resources to let the winners become successful," said Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson, speaking on behalf of the Appfrica consultancy which runs the competition.

    Ffene aims to make it simpler for firms to create invoices and professional looking receipts

    The other victors this year are Ffene, a Ugandan firm planning to develop a software package to let companies turn data into professional looking reports via tablets, phones and PCs; and Prowork, a Nigerian company creating software to let workers collaborate on projects via an app, text messages and email.

    Telecoms consultancy Ovum predicts smartphone shipments to Africa are set to rise from 11.1 million handsets in 2011 to 32.7 million devices in 2014.

    These are relatively modest numbers. But the firm says schemes such as Apps4Africa are important to lay the groundwork for wider adoption further down the line.

    "Smartphone penetration in Africa is low - even compared to other developing markets," said the firm's principal analyst Adam Leach.

    "But because there's not the fixed line infrastructure, it's seen that smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices will be the first online experience many people on the continent will use.

    "For now it's not about consumer media consumption such as YouTube and downloading music. It's about helping people run a better business - the equipment must take a pivotal role in their daily life if early adopters are to justify the investment."

More

  • Professor Stanislaus Bernard Lwakabamba assumes the Chair of UbuntuNet Alliance from 15 April 2013

    Lilongwe, Malawi. UbuntuNet Alliance, the regional research and education network for Southern and Eastern Africa announces the appointment of Professor Stanislaus Bernard Lwakabamba as the new Chairperson of the Alliance with effect from 15 April 2013. Professor Lwakabamba will succeed Professor Zimani Kadzamira who stepped down from the position on 12th February 2013, after serving the Alliance with distinction for two 3-year terms.

    Professor Lwakabamba is a distinguished academic who has a long association with the critical role of ICT in the development of education at tertiary and other levels. A mechanical engineer by training, he attained the rank of Professor as long ago as 1981. He has served in a variety of leadership positions including founding Rector of Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST); participant in setting up of the African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions (ANSTI);outgoing chairperson of the Inter-University Council for East Africa, and is currently Rector of the National University of Rwanda.

  • Broadband MEA 
    19 - 20 March 2013 
    The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai, 

    The region’s premier broadband event attracting 750  decision makers from across The Middle East and Africa. Now in its 5th year, the event is the only place to meet the entire industry under 1 roof.
    The 2 day comprehensive programme including 2 pre conference workshops brings together 70+ speakers including 40+ operator case studies to address the current issues surrounding broadband.
    With our most impressive speaker line-up to date, the conference focuses on both Business and Technology Strategy covering all the topics surrounding broadband. Plus the 2 workshops hosted by MENOG and Etisalat on the 18th March will provide a deep dive into IPv6 and LTE issues and developments.  For more information or book your place at the event visit here: 

    Operators – don’t forget to claim your exclusive 50% discount when purchasing a full conference pass!

    The Social Media Week Lagos Team is excited to announce that our official schedule is now LIVE and registration is open!  
    At present we have 84 events scheduled and will be adding some very exciting evening events that will soon be announced.  We ask that you please join us in letting your readers, network and the world know that Africa did not disappoint and we are delivering a world-class event.  Social Media Week Lagos is truly history in the making and we invite the world to take part.
    You can find the SMW Lagos schedule here: 
    See this link for our 30 second spot that starts airing next week across the continent on Channel O TV: Download Link for SMW Lagos Media Package:

    iWeek 2013
    09 - 12 September 2013
    Thaba Ya Batswana, Impala Road, Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, Johannesburg, South Africa.

    Now in its second decade, iWeek brings together everybody who matters in the Internet industry—and then some. It provides an important platform for established players to interact with start-ups and visionaries, and for the South African industry to connect with international experts. This year’s event will be focusing on bringing some of the globe’s most important thinkers to South Africa to act as a catalyst for lively discussion and new ideas.

  • Global Voices Seeks Part-Time Developer

    Global Voices seeks a part-time web designer and developer to help maintain and redesign our many WordPress and other LAMP-based sites, working closely with our primary developer.

    Ideal candidates should have experience with configuring and coding for WordPress, including the theme and plugin APIs.

    There is no geographic requirement associated with this position. Global Voices is a virtual organization with no offices. Candidates should be self-driven and able to complete tasks with minimal guidance, as well as able to collaborate remotely with the Global Voices team.

    MANDATORY SKILLS

    HTML (XHTML/HTML 5)

    CSS

    PHP

    WordPress configuration and management

    IMPORTANT SKILLS

     

    Design (Photoshop/Illustrator)

    WordPress plugin development

    WordPress theme development

    Linux/Apache/MySQL adminstration

    Fluid/responsive CSS

    Version Control (Git/SVN)

    Mobile and tablet development integration

    We strongly welcome candidates from outside North America and Western Europe, and encourage people currently working on the Global Voices project to apply.

    If you're interested, please send a CV and letter of interest explaining why you'd be a good candidate for the job to: adminjob AT globalvoicesonline DOT org by no later than March 4, 2013.

Issue no 642 15th February 2013

node ref id: 27136

Top story

  • At the end of 2012, it seemed like every week Balancing Act was being approached by film and video VoD platforms, either in business or promising to start soon. Some like iROKO and AfricaFilms.tv have built their initial success on diaspora audiences, whilst others have begun to attract attract more local audiences. Last week Buni TV announced it had hit 1 million views, most of which have come from Africa. Balancing Act’s broadcast analyst Sylvain Beletre interviewed Marie Lora-Mungai, Founder and CEO, Buni TV and Enrico Chiesa, President of AfricaFilms.tv (AFTV).

    The arrival of LTE will give VoD a new shot in the arm and the number of people streaming content from the large African cities will significantly increase over the next 5 years. The African VoD market is already quite competitive. There are at least 6 major home-grown VoD platforms: AfricaFilms.tv, MeTVAfrica; Wabona; Buni TV; iROKO and DStv Box Office (although largely Hollywood movies). More are promising to enter the market. International brands like iTunes, Deezer and Spotify have begun to arrive and although these are largely music driven, they represent a new level of interest in the continent. Clearly not everyone is going survive even if the market grows quickly.

    So it is a smart strategic move that two of these platforms - Buni TV and AfricaFilms.tv (also called AFTV) -have announced that they had entered into a content acquisition partnership. This partnership represents the first consolidation in this dynamic market.

    “Our objective is to generate extra revenues for African producers. We have observed that there is now a very promising new generation of African film makers, producing fast, pushing up new talents with high standards. 2012 was for example an excellent year for Senegalese filmakers; Africa is big, the diaspora is complex and it is hard to compete in the VoD space both on the sourcing and distribution sides,” says Enrico Chiesa of AfricaFilms.tv

    The deal gives birth to the first African VOD solution to bridge East and West, English and French-speaking Africa. The two platforms will share their catalogues to target both the continental and diaspora audiences, but will continue to operate under their own brands.

    "Our partnership opens an unprecedented monetization avenue for African and Caribbean filmmakers,” according to Chiesa. “By working together, AfricaFilms.tv and Buni TV will be able to distribute their content throughout Africa - from Dakar to Nairobi - and the entire diaspora. It's a "sign once, be seen everywhere" plan, with no middlemen taking their cut.”
    Kenya-based Buni TV, which recorded an impressive debut with 300,000 unique visitors and more than a million views in just a few months, brings to the table its expertise of reaching African viewers through mobile.

    AfricaFilms.tv, out of Dakar, Senegal, focused its efforts so far mainly on diaspora audiences. Historically the first African VOD web-platform (seed-funded by ACP-Cultures+ the ACP Group of states' cultural support program funded by the EU), it boasts a catalogue of about 1,000 premium titles and hours with a robust tracking and anti-fraud encryption system that won high marks from rights owners for its transparency.

    The two African platforms also have a strong presence in Western markets, with Buni TV keeping offices in Los Angeles and AfricaFilms.tv in Paris. The newly formed alliance has extended its reach to New York, London and Barcelona.

    “AfricaFilms.tv and Buni TV share a deep commitment to bringing the best African content to African audiences, wherever they may be and however they may want to consume it,” said Buni TV CEO Marie Lora-Mungai. “Our strengths are very complementary, and may well lead to future synergies in technology and marketing.”Based on traffic, the AFTV billing system pays rights owners their share on a quarterly basis.

    Balancing Act has been tracking changes in the African VoD space
     since 2004. But it has only started to experience significant growth since 2009.

    Above: Balancing Act’s broadcast analyst Sylvain Beletre.

    YouTube is huge in Africa, right up there with Google, Facebook and Yahoo. The table below tells a lot about the excitment for online video service across the continent in spite of the poor bandwidth availability in many countries: YouTube is in the top 4 of the most dynamic countries.

    Countries - Positions of YouTube

    Algeria            2
    Cameroon       4
    Cote d’Ivoire   5
    Egypt             3
    Ghana            4
    Kenya            3
    Nigeria           4
    Senegal          3
    South Africa    3
    Sudan             3
    Uganda           4

    Source: Alexa web site rankings in February 2013.

    According to these figures, Egypt, Algeria and South Africa represent the 3 largest countries for YouTube in Africa, together representing 2.5% of the website’s visitors globally (equivalent to Spain’s share).

    Marie Lora-Mungai and Enrico Chiesa both believe that "Further improvements in access bandwidth (3G/4G/LTE), access prices and affordable mobile devices – smartphones and tablets - will lead to greater numbers of VoD users in Africa."

    "We are seeing a healthy, aggressive competition between Samsung and its competitors across Africa. This should bring mobile device’s prices down pretty soon and increase mobile TV usage. Tablets are in Mauritius for less than USD100; In Senegal Huawei just landed with affordable smartphones and tablets. We are seeing more Africans watching TV and video on their hand-held devices using 3G, Wi-fi and soon 4G/LTE. The other positive factor is the availability of mobile payment across most African countries.” Enrico Chiesa added.

    The majority of cable and telco-based television providers in the West and Asia offer both VOD streaming, including pay-per-view and free content but Africa is an exception: except for Zuku Wananchi, DStv MultiChoice and a few others, the large majority of telecoms operators in Africa have not yet invested in VoD services due to the lack of bandwidth or innovation.

    The impact on local African telecoms operators is clear: in the years to come they will need to re-engineer their data models and invest in infrastructure to get a share of the paid VoD segment. The business model for VoD is hybrid: free video access paid by advertising, paid videos on a one off transaction or on a subscription-basis, or a mix of both.

    The obvious path for telecoms players is to partner with people who know the audiovisual market: the existing VoD platforms and audio-visual content distributors.


     

    Related market report: 

    VoD and Africa - A review of existing VoD services, drivers, challenges and opportunities (Dec. 2013) - new market report from Balancing Act.

    __________________________________________


    Video briefings on this topic:

    In English:
    African audiovisual market: trends in 2012 and strategy in 2013 - by Enrico Chiesa - Africafilms.dv

    In French:
    Marché audio-visuel en Afrique: tendances 2012 et projets d' Africafilms.tv en 2013

    Chike Maduegbuna on Afrinolly, a curated film and music mobile platform that helps mobile users find the films and music videos they want

    Also videos with Africa’s music platforms:

    Jesse Oguntimehin on the beta phase launch of African mobile music platform Spinlet

    Yoel Kenan, Africori (B2B platform) on the African music market, local talent, killing choruses and mobile digital platform

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

telecoms

  • French president Francois Hollande is said to have asked Vivendi to delay the process of selling its 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom until the war in Mali is over, writes French weekly Charlie Hebdo.

    Maroc Telecom is described a source of information for the French intelligence service in the Sahel, as it controls subsidiaries in Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, and can monitor calls between suspected Jihadists.

    The magazine adds that there are suspicions that one of the bidders, Qatar's Qtel, may have relations with the Jihadists.

     

     

  • It has been confirmed that Mali has finally put pen to paper on the country’s third mobile operator licence, with Agence Ecofin reporting that Alpha Telecom Mali, a joint venture between Monaco Telecom and local holding company Planor Afrique, signed the licence agreement on 12 February 2013.

    With Apollinaire Compaore, the businessman behind Planor Afrique, having represented Alpha Telecom at the signing, he revealed that the new entrant aims to have its network operational ‘as soon as possible’, though he stopped short of giving a definitive launch timeframe.

    It was also confirmed that Alpha Telecom will make a XOF33 billion (USD67.8 million) initial payment for the concession immediately, with the remaining XOF22 billion to be paid within the next three months.

  • MTN Uganda has commissioned its fibre network at the Katuna border, in the Kabale district.
    The fibre system would complement two existing cables between Kabala and Mombasa, which provide Uganda with unique redundancy and a backup structure for secure and reliable connectivity.

    “The extension of the MTN Uganda fibre will act as a catalyst for economic development and will support the Ugandan government to further leverage on the existing regional partnerships in the areas of trade and industry,” said Information Communication Technologies Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.

    MTN CEO Mazen Mroué added that the commissioning of the new fibre system would substantially improve the connectivity between Uganda and its neighbouring countries by connecting the country to an additional submarine cable.

    In 2012, MTN Uganda’s capital expenditure in the country exceeded $80-million, mainly towards the expansion of network infrastructure, the establishment of modern switching and data centres, as well as the rol lout of fibre infrastructure to boost the quality of voice and data services.
    The company also rolled out 600 km of fibre backbone last year, closing the year with over 2 800 km of fibre, providing the capacity for high-speed data connectivity and a wider national coverage of third-generation mobile data services.

    In addition, MTN Uganda had completed the installation of an additional 81 network coverage sites and had also added another batch of capacity sites to enhance the quality of network services across Uganda.

    The company recently announced a plan to deploy a long-term evolution network in Uganda during the coming months, which would enable MTN customers to access the Internet with bandwidth speeds of up to 100 Mb/s.

  • Slovenia-based NIL, together with local partner Neurones Technologies, has conducted a network core migration for Cote d’Ivoire Telecom (CIT) to prepare the telco’s infrastructure for new technologies and an enlarged user base – as well as helping to improve network reliability.

    The project, which ran from September 2012 to January 2013, was implemented in two phases; in the first phase, NIL migrated part of CIT’s core from Cisco 7600 Series routers to new Cisco ASR 9000 Series routers in Abidjan, while the second phase saw NIL migrate the remainder of CI Telecom’s network core, which is located outside of the capital.

  • From 11 December 2012 to 7 January 2013, the Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Posts (ARCEP) conducted an audit of the four mobile operators in the country. It appears from this survey AZUR Gabon has the best network in the country. The company is 75% owned by the group ahead of Bahrain Bintel Airtel Gabon Telecom / Moov Libertis and in terms of voice service in Libreville, Port-Gentil, in the capitals of provinces and in rural areas.

    The audit co-produced by the consulting firm and the PMI Board ARCEP also shows that the degradation of the quality of service is continuous. The first five audits since 2010 to ensure that operators comply with the terms of their well specifications had already pointed out the problem of poor quality of service.

    In March 2012, the four mobile operators in Gabon were sentenced to fines totaling 3.7 billion CFA francs. Despite numerous reminders and penalties imposed on telecom operators by the regulator, things have not really changed.

  • Airtel Zambia’s lack of registration forms has halted the country’s SIM card registration process.
    “The shortage of registration forms at registration points was unacceptable and unfortunate,” said Thomas Malama, Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs at Zambia Information and Communication Technology (ZICTA).

    National regulator ZICTA has expressed dissatisfaction with the delays in the government’s plans of sector regulation, saying they are “turning away scores of customers who wanted to register their SIM cards because it had run out of registration forms”.

    The operator ended 2012 with 4.6 million subscribers, but the regulator is requiring all network providers to ensure all SIM cards in use are registered to an individual.
    “Mobile service providers should assess the number of subscribers they have and provide enough registration forms at every center,” Malama added.

    Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Best Customer Service Provider, the network provider was the first to introduce email, SMS and fax into the country.

  • Etisalat Misr, a subsidiary of UAE’s Etisalat and a major mobile operator in the Egyptian market, signed a strategic partnership agreement with leading global ICT solutions provider Huawei.
    The agreement will introduce new key technologies and business solutions to Etisalat Misr regarding MBB, VAS, B2B, Green Energy, CRM, LTE, FMC etc.. aiming at overcoming the challenges in the Egyptian telecom industry and enhancing customer satisfaction in terms of quality, speed and reliability.

    In pursuit of excellence, Etisalat Misr partnered with Huawei as a key solution provider to cooperatively set the building units and roadmaps of the telecom industry to demonstrate unprecedented customer experience and quality of service to Etisalat Misr customers.

    “We have enjoyed a strong strategic partnership with Etisalat Misr for more than six years. We are very proud to be associated with a company who has not only maintained their leadership in a highly competitive market, but also, through their innovation and corporate social responsibility has become one of the most admired companies in the region. We are looking forward to a long and reciprocally beneficial relationship to provide an enhanced customer experience,” Jason Li, Chief of Joint Regions Committee of Huawei said.

    For his part, Saeed Al Hamli, Etisalat Misr CEO said: “Going to the market with a strategic partner like Huawei is of prime importance for our operations. We are convinced that Etisalat Misr customers will obtain immediate advantages from Huawei innovative and reliable technologies.”

internet

  • Tanzania faced a breakdown in Internet connections for the better part of Thursday afternoon after two submarine cables linking the country to the outside world experienced technical problems.
    In an interview with the 'Daily News' on Thursday, the Acting CEO of the TTCL, Dr Kamugisha Kazaura, said the hitches occurred at Alexandria in Egypt where the cables are connected to others linking the continent to Europe.

    "Our two submarine cables EASSy and Seacom are connected to other cables to Europe, the problem occurred in a stretch of eight kilometres off shore the city of Alexandria. "EASSy was the first to experience the problem at about 1:30pm and it was followed by Seacom an hour later," Dr Kamugisha said in a telephone interview.

    He was, however, optimistic that the problem would have been solved by yesterday evening. And in indeed, internet connection resumed after 6pm. Dr Kamugisha had hinted that if the hitches were not solved by yesterday evening other alternatives would be considered.

    These would include re-routing the cables to South Africa or Asia. In order to safeguard from such occurrences in the future, he said the country is considering renewing a contract with other operators of another submarine cable TEAMS which is linked through the United Arab Emirates.
    While most East African countries were affected by the Internet breakdown, Kenya was least affected as it uses the Teams, according to Dr Kamugisha. With a capacity of 1.2 gigabits per second, the submarine cables are almost 20 times superior to satellite connections which have a capacity of just 50 megabits per second (mbps).

  • A temporary ban on YouTube imposed in Egypt over a video deemed offensive to Islam is a setback for freedom of expression , Amnesty International has said.
    A court in Cairo this weekend ordered a 30-day block on the video-sharing website in the wake of the controversial 'Innocence of Muslims' video, which sparked protests across Muslim countries in September.

    Saturday's court ruling said that "freedom of opinion [should] not attack the beliefs of others".
    "This ruling is a clear assault of freedom of expression and has far-reaching consequences in the country where activists have relied heavily on YouTube to expose human rights abuses in the country," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    "Criticism of religions and beliefs are a vital part of freedom of expression - regardless of how offensive or intolerant the opinion might be."

    Cairo's Administrative Court said there must be a balance between freedom of expression and "the interests and goals of society, and the protection of its values and traditions".
    It added that freedom of opinion should not "provoke the feelings and resentment of believers of other religions, particularly heavenly religions" and that the media should refrain from "defamation" of religious figures.

    The court's reasons for banning YouTube are in direct contradiction with international human rights law, which protects freedom of expression, including the expression of ideas that are offensive.
    "Criticism of religions and other beliefs and ideas is a vital component of the right to freedom of expression," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

    "Such criticism, insult or mockery does not interfere with the individual believer's freedom of religion, however offensive they may find it."

    The court also ordered a ban of other websites showing the film.

    A human rights NGO that opposed the ruling, the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression, is planning to appeal.

    "The technical and financial difficulties of enforcing this decision most likely means that it will be essentially impossible to implement in practice," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

    "Nevertheless, it increases concerns over the imposition of restrictions on freedom of expression on the grounds of defamation of religions."

    The ruling comes against the backdrop of a rise in people being prosecuted on blasphemy charges in Egypt.

    Last month a Cairo court upheld a three-year prison sentence against Alber Saber on charges of "defamation of religion" for publishing videos deemed offensive, including the 'Innocence of Muslims'.

    The Egyptian constitution protects freedom of expression but with limits, including for insulting and defaming religion or individuals.

    The International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a state party, protects expression of ideas even when they are considered offensive or insulting.

  • Algerie Telecom has announced the launch of an SMS service through Gmail, a move that is likely to spur interest in Algeria’s telecommunications sector and fuel excitement amongst users eager to send messages from the email platform.

    The company has confirmed that the service is already in place and will be delivered through the operator’s subsidiary Mobilis.

    Gmail customers can send free SMS’ to other Mobilis subscribers and chat with overseas Gmail contacts at the price of a national SMS for every message.

    The telecommunications service provider said that every time Mobilis customers answer messages on Gmail, they gain five free national SMS’ for on-net numbers, up to a maximum of 50 SMS’.

computing

  • Two schools in the Western Cape have received portable computers and MP3 players designed for blind users, in a R1 million (US$113 million) investment push by the Western Cape Education Department to improve education for blind students.

    The Athlone School for the Blind in Bellville South and the Pioneer School in Worcester received e-braille computers which scan texts and allow blind users to read by mechanically raising braille bumps against a flat service, while the keyboard allows users to type in braille.

    They also convert texts to audio, allowing users to listen to texts through computer-generated speech, while the MP3 players feature a number of keys which enable blind users to navigate the device and listen to texts and music files.

    The Western Cape Education Department has invested the money in order to be able to provide the Athlone School with 10 BrailleNote Apex computers and the Pioneer School with five, as well as providing a number of the Victor Reader Stratus 12M MP3 players for both schools.

    In order to enable the efficient use of the devices, the Education Department has pledged to make electronic versions of the relevant educational and teaching materials available. It will also ensure teachers have the necessary training to enable them to monitor students’ use of the devices and educational progress.

  • Six Mpumalanga schools facing ICT infrastructure challenges have been given a connectivity boost by the Telkom Foundation’s Connecting Schools project.

    Yesterday saw the handover of 303 tablet computers to teachers from the Edward Matyeka Primary School, Nelson Ngubeni Primary School, Nancy Shiba Primary School, Besilindile Primary School, Leornard Ntshutshe Secondary School and DM Motsaosele Secondary School.

    Alongside the hardware handover, Telkom says the project provides Internet connectivity and tablet maintenance for two years. “As part of the sponsorship, Telkom is also providing teacher training to enable the educators to navigate the device and access content with ease.”

  • Global telecommunication services operator Ericsson has launched a new school broadband project in Ethiopia aimed at boosting Internet services for local schools in an effort to increase infrastructure and services for the younger generation.

    It said that it will bring “voice and data communications to the Millennium Village Project (MVP) in Koraro in a remote part of northern Ethiopia as a way of increasing understanding and access to Internet for schools. With access to 3G connectivity more than 4,000 students and their teachers at two schools involved in the Connect To Learn initiative will now have access to modern learning and teaching resources through Ericsson’s cloud-computing platform,” Ericsson said in a statement released on Thursday.

    “In addition, community health workers in the Millennium Villages will be using mobile phones provided by Sony Mobile and broadband access provided by Ericsson to deliver healthcare services to households and collect health information for improved monitoring,” it added.
    Ethiopia’s government has been pushing forward on Internet services and broadband efforts across the country and sees schools as the future of this process.

    The company added that the project includes netbooks and wireless terminals to facilitate access to online educational resources, as well as ICT skills training.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • In a move aimed at boosting the Eritrean telecommunications operator’s economic standing and liquidity, Eritel on Wednesday announced that it had begun to sell off a large number of shares.
    The operator told local Eritrean media that they were making some 4.5 million shares available for sale and that its marketing team had already “drawn an impressive number of shareholders so far.”
    It did not give details as to the cost of the sale or how much income would be earned through the sell off. Nor did Eritel give specifics as to what the money would be used for in the future.

    The company called on “interested nationals residing in the country to make sure that they have attached copies of their national identity cards after making payments through the banks.”
    Eritreans residing abroad “should double-check the equivalence of the foreign currency amounts they debit to the banks with the price of shares they buy, which has been indicated in US dollars.”

    Only Eritrean citizens would be allowed to make a purchase of the telecom operators stocks. The goal, company officials were cited saying, is to give the East African company a little more mobility in the market and boost services for customers.

  • The Treasury is working on new regulations on taxing mobile money transfer services aimed at leveling the playing field for all operators.

    Finance minister Njeru Githae said a 'minimum charge per transaction' will be introduced soon so that those companies offering money services free also get to pay tax like Safaricom.

    Airtel and yuMobile have been offering money services within their platform at no charge and argue they are not liable to pay the 10 per cent tax introduced recently.

    On the other hand, Githae said, Safaricom has decided to absorb the tax for small transactions of less than Sh100 putting it at an 'uncompetitive' position with the rest.

    "The concern is about those offering free services [as] there is always a cost associated with transferring money. So with the minimum charge it is up to the company if it will still want to meet the cost," Githae said yesterday.

    "This will ensure one company will nor be at a disadvantage compared to the others," the minister said on the sidelines of a public-private partnerships workshop in Nairobi.

    The Finance Act 2012 introduced amendments to the Customs and Excise Duty Act which

    introduced a 10 per cent tax on transaction fees for all money transfer services provided by cellular phone providers, banks, money transfer agencies and other financial service providers. Treasury is targeting to collect an estimated Sh4.5 billion from the new tax.

    Safaricom, which has 16 million subscribers on its M-Pesa platform, was the first to transfer the 10 per cent tax on to its customers. This saw all charges for transactions above Sh100 go up.

    The other players have not changed the pricing but insist their free services should not attract any tax. Githae backtracked on earlier directive that the companies should not pass on the cost to consumers.

    "We had expected the companies would absorb the cost, but you know, it is a free market and we do not want to interfere," he said.

  • Amid growing interest in mobile technology and infrastructure in Guinea, mobile services operator MTN Guinea has announced plans to roll out data and payment services in March.

    The company’s CEO Phumzile Joshua Phike has confirmed that the telecom operator will launch mobile data, mobile money transfer capability and payment services next month.

    The announcement was made during an event sponsored by MTN in the country.

    MTN, which introduced Wimax in 2011, will aim to deliver innovative, high quality services and provide customer satisfaction, the company said in a statement.

    The mobile operator started operating in Guinea in 2006 and, according to information on its website, now has 2.5 million subscribers.

    Industry observers in Guinea hope that rolling out new services will increase interest and overall penetration in the country.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Amid ongoing political tension in Egypt and frustration over the recent hikes in Vodafone’s recharge tariffs, Vodafone Egypt has announced a new mobile Internet data bundle for USB modems, tablets and Mifi devices.

    “Vodafone Super 25 offers 1.2GB for EGP 25, Vodafone Super Browser 50 comes with 3GB for EGP 50, Vodafone Super Streamer 100 offers 7GB for EGP 100, Vodafone Super Downloader 150 costs EGP 150 for 10GB, and Vodafone Super 250 Unlimited provides 18GB for EGP 250,” the company said.

    After January’s increase of 15 percent on taxes applicable to users when recharging, Vodafone hopes this will help reduce some of the costs customers will incur when attempting to use mobile Internet on their personal devices.

    “After consuming the bundle limit, the speed is reduced to 64Kbps. Customers can return to the top speed by buying another 1GB for EGP 20. Customers can subscribe over SMS to the new Super bundles and track their usage from a dedicated website,” the company said.

    Analysts tell Bikyanews.com that while this is a welcome addition, it is unlikely to do much in terms of reducing frustration and costs for the average Egyptian using only a modest hand device.

Digital Content

  • Face Technologies, the company contracted to print and issue computerised driving permits, has provided a new solution to eliminate forged driving permits.

    The company has acquired and equipped the traffic police with the latest Samsung Tablets capable of linking to the computerised driving permits database. Using the mobile phone network system, the traffic enforcement personnel can instantly check the validity and authenticity of any driving permit.
    By entering the permit number on the tablet, a connection is made with the database, and then a high resolution coloured picture of the permit is displayed. Nathan Tumushabe, the computerised driving permits project coordinator from the Ministry of Works and Transport said more tablets are being procured and will be given to traffic police to increase enforcement.

    "We expect to drastically reduce the number of forged driving permits in circulation. It is drivers with forged permits that contribute to the rampant road accidents," Tumushabe said.

  • A group of women marched to a house in Mau-Mau, Nyanga, to confront a man they accuse of posting nude pictures of a woman, his girlfriend, on Facebook.

    The woman’s face can be seen clearly in the two pictures. Since last week when the pictures surfaced, many people have been searching her on Facebook to catch a glimpse of the indecent exposure. The photographs have since been removed.

    Asanda Yiyo, a Nyanga resident who participated in the march, said they started marching at 11am on Saturday. There were about 50 of them, with men also participating. Yiyo said the woman was notified about the pictures by her friends after they had seen them on Facebook. “When they phoned the woman’s cellphone, her boyfriend answered.”

    “We marched to her boyfriend’s house, we stood there outside and told him to come out, but he never did. We then marched to the Nyanga police station where we demanded that a van accompany us to the man’s house and arrest him, but we were told that a case had already been opened. We did the march for support and to show the guy that what he did was unacceptable. Had the guy come out when we went to his place, we wouldn’t have done anything because we all agreed that there would be no violence. We probably would have taken him to the police station”, explained Yiyo.

    When GroundUp contacted the woman, the calls went unanswered. But a resident who does not stay far from the her in Nyanga said she still sees her walking the streets and is not letting this situation bring her down.Source: Groundup

  • A popular music video featuring a group of artists taking aim at the president of the Gambia's tightening grip on the West African country is making the rounds among Gambians home and abroad.

    Musicians Xuman, Djily Bagdad, Tiat, and Ombre Zion accuse Gambian President Yahya Jammeh of despotism in the song titled “Against Impunity” published on YouTube, rapping in English and Wolof about the oppressive state of Gambian society under the hardliner's thumb and encouraging Gambians to rise up. The video, which was released in December, has more than 26,000 views.

    Since coming to power in 1996, President Jammeh's poor human rights record has drawn steady criticism. Last year, he oversaw the execution of a number of prisoners in a short period of time, earning condemnation from the international community and human rights groups. He has also been accused of restricting political expression and press freedom, as well as persecuting homosexuals.

    The video opens with one of the musicians, who wears a blue t-shirt that reads “No to violence against journalist”, singing the song's chorus: “We have to handle our own destiny / So it’s the right time to fight against impunity”.

    See the video here:

    JollofNews reported that after its release, the video went viral among Gambians sharing it on social media websites such as Facebook.

  • A wine advisory app aimed at the average wine drinker has recorded more than 20,000 visits to its mobile platform in eight months.

    One of its popular selling points is “sweaty saddles” and other flowery language is allowed on the mobile app, making it easy to understand and quick to use.

    Andy Hadfield, founder of Real Time Wine, began work on the application at the start of 2012 and it was officially launched in July of the same year.

    Speaking to HumanIPO, Hadfield said the initial idea for the application began as a hobby. “Back in 2011 I started tweeting wine reviews as a way to remember the good ones,” said Hadfield.

    “You drink an awesome wine at a restaurant or at a friend’s house or at a dinner party and you wake up the next day asking ‘that was an awesome wine, what the hell was it called?’”

    The wine review tweet stream then turned into a blog and within around a month it had seven writers and “hundreds of consumer reviews” on the blog.

    The name was inspired by the real time experience of the app since Hadfield found that it is difficult for South Africans to choose a wine.

    “The majority of South African wine drinkers don’t research their wine,” said Hadfield and added that South Africans will simply visit a supermarket  to buy a red wine to go with a steak meal, but have no idea of which wine to choose.

    Then, upon discovering that it is an “awesome” wine from the supermarket the consumer is able to share the experience through a rating of the one on the app, thus it is a real time experience.

    Other problems facing South African wine consumers is the “daunting” retail experience, including “the wall of wine”, Hadfield’s term for the large range of wine brands stocked on shelves.
    “The problem is we want that kind of range from supermarkets... but the range makes it harder to make a decision,” he explained.

    Another problem involves traditional media, which often makes use of “snobby” words or terms.
    “Traditional wine media in this country is very much aimed at the top 20 percent of the market, what I call the wine snobs - the people that really know their stuff and you can see the culture, the style of the language, the highfalutin snobby words they use... which means no one is talking to the bottom 80 percent. We’re talking to that bottom 80 percent,” said Hadfield.

    Furthermore, these “highfalutin” words are banned from the application. Examples include the above mentioned “sweaty saddle”, which could sound foul to 80 percent of the market. Others include gush and lanolin, which is a yellow substance “akin to wax that is secreted from wooly animals”. The app is programmed to automatically reject these words.

    Hadfield said the wine producing community has received the application very well, especially with the launch of the application’s counterpart “Super Fan Club”, because it presents an opportunity for winemakers and marketers to connect directly with their end users.

    Since its launch, Real Time Wine has recorded 23,685 visits, approximately 3,000 unique visitors per month 6,500 application downloads, 2,100 registered reviewers, approximately 9,000 ratings, an average of 28 user generated reviews per day, 1,637 likes on Facebook and 2,182 Twitter followers.

  • Moroccan operator Meditel has released a locally-developed app called Meditel et Moi, available for Android and iOS smartphones, to allow customers to manage their Meditel account and optimise the use of their service. Users can follow the state of their consumption, pay mobile and internet bills, find the closest top-up vendor, and add call credit to their account or family members'. More functions will be added, such as the possibility to pick different services.

More

  • Mobile Web East Africa 2013
    19th - 21st February 2013
    Venue: Southern Sun Mayfair Nairobi, Kenya

    Taking the monetisation and content creation dialogue to the next level
    Mobile Web East Africa, the East African edition of the most progressive and interactive mobile focused events in Sub-Saharan Africa, is primed to once again be the leading mobile focused conference in the region this year.
    Website: http://www.mobileeastafrica.com
    Email: comms@allamber.co.uk
    Tel: +44 1376 521 170

    Broadband MEA
    19 - 20 March 2013
    The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai,

    The region’s premier broadband event attracting 750  decision makers from across The Middle East and Africa. Now in its 5th year, the event is the only place to meet the entire industry under 1 roof.
    The 2 day comprehensive programme including 2 pre conference workshops brings together 70+ speakers including 40+ operator case studies to address the current issues surrounding broadband.
    With our most impressive speaker line-up to date, the conference focuses on both Business and Technology Strategy covering all the topics surrounding broadband. Plus the 2 workshops hosted by MENOG and Etisalat on the 18th March will provide a deep dive into IPv6 and LTE issues and developments.  For more information or book your place at the event visit here:

    Operators – don’t forget to claim your exclusive 50% discount when purchasing a full conference pass!

    The Social Media Week Lagos Team is excited to announce that our official schedule is now LIVE and registration is open! 
    At present we have 84 events scheduled and will be adding some very exciting evening events that will soon be announced.  We ask that you please join us in letting your readers, network and the world know that Africa did not disappoint and we are delivering a world-class event.  Social Media Week Lagos is truly history in the making and we invite the world to take part.
    You can find the SMW Lagos schedule here:
    See this link for our 30 second spot that starts airing next week across the continent on Channel O TV: Download Link for SMW Lagos Media Package:

Issue no 642 15th February 2013

node ref id: 27136

Top story

  • At the end of 2012, it seemed like every week Balancing Act was being approached by film and video VoD platforms, either in business or promising to start soon. Some like iROKO and AfricaFilms.tv have built their initial success on diaspora audiences, whilst others have begun to attract attract more local audiences. Last week Buni TV announced it had hit 1 million views, most of which have come from Africa. Balancing Act’s broadcast analyst Sylvain Beletre interviewed Marie Lora-Mungai, Founder and CEO, Buni TV and Enrico Chiesa, President of AfricaFilms.tv (AFTV).

    The arrival of LTE will give VoD a new shot in the arm and the number of people streaming content from the large African cities will significantly increase over the next 5 years. The African VoD market is already quite competitive. There are at least 6 major home-grown VoD platforms: AfricaFilms.tv, MeTVAfrica; Wabona; Buni TV; iROKO and DStv Box Office (although largely Hollywood movies). More are promising to enter the market. International brands like iTunes, Deezer and Spotify have begun to arrive and although these are largely music driven, they represent a new level of interest in the continent. Clearly not everyone is going survive even if the market grows quickly.

    So it is a smart strategic move that two of these platforms - Buni TV and AfricaFilms.tv (also called AFTV) -have announced that they had entered into a content acquisition partnership. This partnership represents the first consolidation in this dynamic market.

    “Our objective is to generate extra revenues for African producers. We have observed that there is now a very promising new generation of African film makers, producing fast, pushing up new talents with high standards. 2012 was for example an excellent year for Senegalese filmakers; Africa is big, the diaspora is complex and it is hard to compete in the VoD space both on the sourcing and distribution sides,” says Enrico Chiesa of AfricaFilms.tv

    The deal gives birth to the first African VOD solution to bridge East and West, English and French-speaking Africa. The two platforms will share their catalogues to target both the continental and diaspora audiences, but will continue to operate under their own brands.

    "Our partnership opens an unprecedented monetization avenue for African and Caribbean filmmakers,” according to Chiesa. “By working together, AfricaFilms.tv and Buni TV will be able to distribute their content throughout Africa - from Dakar to Nairobi - and the entire diaspora. It's a "sign once, be seen everywhere" plan, with no middlemen taking their cut.”
    Kenya-based Buni TV, which recorded an impressive debut with 300,000 unique visitors and more than a million views in just a few months, brings to the table its expertise of reaching African viewers through mobile.

    AfricaFilms.tv, out of Dakar, Senegal, focused its efforts so far mainly on diaspora audiences. Historically the first African VOD web-platform (seed-funded by ACP-Cultures+ the ACP Group of states' cultural support program funded by the EU), it boasts a catalogue of about 1,000 premium titles and hours with a robust tracking and anti-fraud encryption system that won high marks from rights owners for its transparency.

    The two African platforms also have a strong presence in Western markets, with Buni TV keeping offices in Los Angeles and AfricaFilms.tv in Paris. The newly formed alliance has extended its reach to New York, London and Barcelona.

    “AfricaFilms.tv and Buni TV share a deep commitment to bringing the best African content to African audiences, wherever they may be and however they may want to consume it,” said Buni TV CEO Marie Lora-Mungai. “Our strengths are very complementary, and may well lead to future synergies in technology and marketing.”Based on traffic, the AFTV billing system pays rights owners their share on a quarterly basis.

    Balancing Act has been tracking changes in the African VoD space
     since 2004. But it has only started to experience significant growth since 2009.

    Above: Balancing Act’s broadcast analyst Sylvain Beletre.

    YouTube is huge in Africa, right up there with Google, Facebook and Yahoo. The table below tells a lot about the excitment for online video service across the continent in spite of the poor bandwidth availability in many countries: YouTube is in the top 4 of the most dynamic countries.

    Countries - Positions of YouTube

    Algeria            2
    Cameroon       4
    Cote d’Ivoire   5
    Egypt             3
    Ghana            4
    Kenya            3
    Nigeria           4
    Senegal          3
    South Africa    3
    Sudan             3
    Uganda           4

    Source: Alexa web site rankings in February 2013.

    According to these figures, Egypt, Algeria and South Africa represent the 3 largest countries for YouTube in Africa, together representing 2.5% of the website’s visitors globally (equivalent to Spain’s share).

    Marie Lora-Mungai and Enrico Chiesa both believe that "Further improvements in access bandwidth (3G/4G/LTE), access prices and affordable mobile devices – smartphones and tablets - will lead to greater numbers of VoD users in Africa."

    "We are seeing a healthy, aggressive competition between Samsung and its competitors across Africa. This should bring mobile device’s prices down pretty soon and increase mobile TV usage. Tablets are in Mauritius for less than USD100; In Senegal Huawei just landed with affordable smartphones and tablets. We are seeing more Africans watching TV and video on their hand-held devices using 3G, Wi-fi and soon 4G/LTE. The other positive factor is the availability of mobile payment across most African countries.” Enrico Chiesa added.

    The majority of cable and telco-based television providers in the West and Asia offer both VOD streaming, including pay-per-view and free content but Africa is an exception: except for Zuku Wananchi, DStv MultiChoice and a few others, the large majority of telecoms operators in Africa have not yet invested in VoD services due to the lack of bandwidth or innovation.

    The impact on local African telecoms operators is clear: in the years to come they will need to re-engineer their data models and invest in infrastructure to get a share of the paid VoD segment. The business model for VoD is hybrid: free video access paid by advertising, paid videos on a one off transaction or on a subscription-basis, or a mix of both.

    The obvious path for telecoms players is to partner with people who know the audiovisual market: the existing VoD platforms and audio-visual content distributors.


     

    Related market report: 

    VoD and Africa - A review of existing VoD services, drivers, challenges and opportunities (Dec. 2013) - new market report from Balancing Act.

    __________________________________________


    Video briefings on this topic:

    In English:
    African audiovisual market: trends in 2012 and strategy in 2013 - by Enrico Chiesa - Africafilms.dv

    In French:
    Marché audio-visuel en Afrique: tendances 2012 et projets d' Africafilms.tv en 2013

    Chike Maduegbuna on Afrinolly, a curated film and music mobile platform that helps mobile users find the films and music videos they want

    Also videos with Africa’s music platforms:

    Jesse Oguntimehin on the beta phase launch of African mobile music platform Spinlet

    Yoel Kenan, Africori (B2B platform) on the African music market, local talent, killing choruses and mobile digital platform

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

telecoms

  • French president Francois Hollande is said to have asked Vivendi to delay the process of selling its 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom until the war in Mali is over, writes French weekly Charlie Hebdo.

    Maroc Telecom is described a source of information for the French intelligence service in the Sahel, as it controls subsidiaries in Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, and can monitor calls between suspected Jihadists.

    The magazine adds that there are suspicions that one of the bidders, Qatar's Qtel, may have relations with the Jihadists.

     

     

  • It has been confirmed that Mali has finally put pen to paper on the country’s third mobile operator licence, with Agence Ecofin reporting that Alpha Telecom Mali, a joint venture between Monaco Telecom and local holding company Planor Afrique, signed the licence agreement on 12 February 2013.

    With Apollinaire Compaore, the businessman behind Planor Afrique, having represented Alpha Telecom at the signing, he revealed that the new entrant aims to have its network operational ‘as soon as possible’, though he stopped short of giving a definitive launch timeframe.

    It was also confirmed that Alpha Telecom will make a XOF33 billion (USD67.8 million) initial payment for the concession immediately, with the remaining XOF22 billion to be paid within the next three months.

  • MTN Uganda has commissioned its fibre network at the Katuna border, in the Kabale district.
    The fibre system would complement two existing cables between Kabala and Mombasa, which provide Uganda with unique redundancy and a backup structure for secure and reliable connectivity.

    “The extension of the MTN Uganda fibre will act as a catalyst for economic development and will support the Ugandan government to further leverage on the existing regional partnerships in the areas of trade and industry,” said Information Communication Technologies Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.

    MTN CEO Mazen Mroué added that the commissioning of the new fibre system would substantially improve the connectivity between Uganda and its neighbouring countries by connecting the country to an additional submarine cable.

    In 2012, MTN Uganda’s capital expenditure in the country exceeded $80-million, mainly towards the expansion of network infrastructure, the establishment of modern switching and data centres, as well as the rol lout of fibre infrastructure to boost the quality of voice and data services.
    The company also rolled out 600 km of fibre backbone last year, closing the year with over 2 800 km of fibre, providing the capacity for high-speed data connectivity and a wider national coverage of third-generation mobile data services.

    In addition, MTN Uganda had completed the installation of an additional 81 network coverage sites and had also added another batch of capacity sites to enhance the quality of network services across Uganda.

    The company recently announced a plan to deploy a long-term evolution network in Uganda during the coming months, which would enable MTN customers to access the Internet with bandwidth speeds of up to 100 Mb/s.

  • Slovenia-based NIL, together with local partner Neurones Technologies, has conducted a network core migration for Cote d’Ivoire Telecom (CIT) to prepare the telco’s infrastructure for new technologies and an enlarged user base – as well as helping to improve network reliability.

    The project, which ran from September 2012 to January 2013, was implemented in two phases; in the first phase, NIL migrated part of CIT’s core from Cisco 7600 Series routers to new Cisco ASR 9000 Series routers in Abidjan, while the second phase saw NIL migrate the remainder of CI Telecom’s network core, which is located outside of the capital.

  • From 11 December 2012 to 7 January 2013, the Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Posts (ARCEP) conducted an audit of the four mobile operators in the country. It appears from this survey AZUR Gabon has the best network in the country. The company is 75% owned by the group ahead of Bahrain Bintel Airtel Gabon Telecom / Moov Libertis and in terms of voice service in Libreville, Port-Gentil, in the capitals of provinces and in rural areas.

    The audit co-produced by the consulting firm and the PMI Board ARCEP also shows that the degradation of the quality of service is continuous. The first five audits since 2010 to ensure that operators comply with the terms of their well specifications had already pointed out the problem of poor quality of service.

    In March 2012, the four mobile operators in Gabon were sentenced to fines totaling 3.7 billion CFA francs. Despite numerous reminders and penalties imposed on telecom operators by the regulator, things have not really changed.

  • Airtel Zambia’s lack of registration forms has halted the country’s SIM card registration process.
    “The shortage of registration forms at registration points was unacceptable and unfortunate,” said Thomas Malama, Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs at Zambia Information and Communication Technology (ZICTA).

    National regulator ZICTA has expressed dissatisfaction with the delays in the government’s plans of sector regulation, saying they are “turning away scores of customers who wanted to register their SIM cards because it had run out of registration forms”.

    The operator ended 2012 with 4.6 million subscribers, but the regulator is requiring all network providers to ensure all SIM cards in use are registered to an individual.
    “Mobile service providers should assess the number of subscribers they have and provide enough registration forms at every center,” Malama added.

    Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Best Customer Service Provider, the network provider was the first to introduce email, SMS and fax into the country.

  • Etisalat Misr, a subsidiary of UAE’s Etisalat and a major mobile operator in the Egyptian market, signed a strategic partnership agreement with leading global ICT solutions provider Huawei.
    The agreement will introduce new key technologies and business solutions to Etisalat Misr regarding MBB, VAS, B2B, Green Energy, CRM, LTE, FMC etc.. aiming at overcoming the challenges in the Egyptian telecom industry and enhancing customer satisfaction in terms of quality, speed and reliability.

    In pursuit of excellence, Etisalat Misr partnered with Huawei as a key solution provider to cooperatively set the building units and roadmaps of the telecom industry to demonstrate unprecedented customer experience and quality of service to Etisalat Misr customers.

    “We have enjoyed a strong strategic partnership with Etisalat Misr for more than six years. We are very proud to be associated with a company who has not only maintained their leadership in a highly competitive market, but also, through their innovation and corporate social responsibility has become one of the most admired companies in the region. We are looking forward to a long and reciprocally beneficial relationship to provide an enhanced customer experience,” Jason Li, Chief of Joint Regions Committee of Huawei said.

    For his part, Saeed Al Hamli, Etisalat Misr CEO said: “Going to the market with a strategic partner like Huawei is of prime importance for our operations. We are convinced that Etisalat Misr customers will obtain immediate advantages from Huawei innovative and reliable technologies.”

internet

  • Tanzania faced a breakdown in Internet connections for the better part of Thursday afternoon after two submarine cables linking the country to the outside world experienced technical problems.
    In an interview with the 'Daily News' on Thursday, the Acting CEO of the TTCL, Dr Kamugisha Kazaura, said the hitches occurred at Alexandria in Egypt where the cables are connected to others linking the continent to Europe.

    "Our two submarine cables EASSy and Seacom are connected to other cables to Europe, the problem occurred in a stretch of eight kilometres off shore the city of Alexandria. "EASSy was the first to experience the problem at about 1:30pm and it was followed by Seacom an hour later," Dr Kamugisha said in a telephone interview.

    He was, however, optimistic that the problem would have been solved by yesterday evening. And in indeed, internet connection resumed after 6pm. Dr Kamugisha had hinted that if the hitches were not solved by yesterday evening other alternatives would be considered.

    These would include re-routing the cables to South Africa or Asia. In order to safeguard from such occurrences in the future, he said the country is considering renewing a contract with other operators of another submarine cable TEAMS which is linked through the United Arab Emirates.
    While most East African countries were affected by the Internet breakdown, Kenya was least affected as it uses the Teams, according to Dr Kamugisha. With a capacity of 1.2 gigabits per second, the submarine cables are almost 20 times superior to satellite connections which have a capacity of just 50 megabits per second (mbps).

  • A temporary ban on YouTube imposed in Egypt over a video deemed offensive to Islam is a setback for freedom of expression , Amnesty International has said.
    A court in Cairo this weekend ordered a 30-day block on the video-sharing website in the wake of the controversial 'Innocence of Muslims' video, which sparked protests across Muslim countries in September.

    Saturday's court ruling said that "freedom of opinion [should] not attack the beliefs of others".
    "This ruling is a clear assault of freedom of expression and has far-reaching consequences in the country where activists have relied heavily on YouTube to expose human rights abuses in the country," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    "Criticism of religions and beliefs are a vital part of freedom of expression - regardless of how offensive or intolerant the opinion might be."

    Cairo's Administrative Court said there must be a balance between freedom of expression and "the interests and goals of society, and the protection of its values and traditions".
    It added that freedom of opinion should not "provoke the feelings and resentment of believers of other religions, particularly heavenly religions" and that the media should refrain from "defamation" of religious figures.

    The court's reasons for banning YouTube are in direct contradiction with international human rights law, which protects freedom of expression, including the expression of ideas that are offensive.
    "Criticism of religions and other beliefs and ideas is a vital component of the right to freedom of expression," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

    "Such criticism, insult or mockery does not interfere with the individual believer's freedom of religion, however offensive they may find it."

    The court also ordered a ban of other websites showing the film.

    A human rights NGO that opposed the ruling, the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression, is planning to appeal.

    "The technical and financial difficulties of enforcing this decision most likely means that it will be essentially impossible to implement in practice," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

    "Nevertheless, it increases concerns over the imposition of restrictions on freedom of expression on the grounds of defamation of religions."

    The ruling comes against the backdrop of a rise in people being prosecuted on blasphemy charges in Egypt.

    Last month a Cairo court upheld a three-year prison sentence against Alber Saber on charges of "defamation of religion" for publishing videos deemed offensive, including the 'Innocence of Muslims'.

    The Egyptian constitution protects freedom of expression but with limits, including for insulting and defaming religion or individuals.

    The International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a state party, protects expression of ideas even when they are considered offensive or insulting.

  • Algerie Telecom has announced the launch of an SMS service through Gmail, a move that is likely to spur interest in Algeria’s telecommunications sector and fuel excitement amongst users eager to send messages from the email platform.

    The company has confirmed that the service is already in place and will be delivered through the operator’s subsidiary Mobilis.

    Gmail customers can send free SMS’ to other Mobilis subscribers and chat with overseas Gmail contacts at the price of a national SMS for every message.

    The telecommunications service provider said that every time Mobilis customers answer messages on Gmail, they gain five free national SMS’ for on-net numbers, up to a maximum of 50 SMS’.

computing

  • Two schools in the Western Cape have received portable computers and MP3 players designed for blind users, in a R1 million (US$113 million) investment push by the Western Cape Education Department to improve education for blind students.

    The Athlone School for the Blind in Bellville South and the Pioneer School in Worcester received e-braille computers which scan texts and allow blind users to read by mechanically raising braille bumps against a flat service, while the keyboard allows users to type in braille.

    They also convert texts to audio, allowing users to listen to texts through computer-generated speech, while the MP3 players feature a number of keys which enable blind users to navigate the device and listen to texts and music files.

    The Western Cape Education Department has invested the money in order to be able to provide the Athlone School with 10 BrailleNote Apex computers and the Pioneer School with five, as well as providing a number of the Victor Reader Stratus 12M MP3 players for both schools.

    In order to enable the efficient use of the devices, the Education Department has pledged to make electronic versions of the relevant educational and teaching materials available. It will also ensure teachers have the necessary training to enable them to monitor students’ use of the devices and educational progress.

  • Six Mpumalanga schools facing ICT infrastructure challenges have been given a connectivity boost by the Telkom Foundation’s Connecting Schools project.

    Yesterday saw the handover of 303 tablet computers to teachers from the Edward Matyeka Primary School, Nelson Ngubeni Primary School, Nancy Shiba Primary School, Besilindile Primary School, Leornard Ntshutshe Secondary School and DM Motsaosele Secondary School.

    Alongside the hardware handover, Telkom says the project provides Internet connectivity and tablet maintenance for two years. “As part of the sponsorship, Telkom is also providing teacher training to enable the educators to navigate the device and access content with ease.”

  • Global telecommunication services operator Ericsson has launched a new school broadband project in Ethiopia aimed at boosting Internet services for local schools in an effort to increase infrastructure and services for the younger generation.

    It said that it will bring “voice and data communications to the Millennium Village Project (MVP) in Koraro in a remote part of northern Ethiopia as a way of increasing understanding and access to Internet for schools. With access to 3G connectivity more than 4,000 students and their teachers at two schools involved in the Connect To Learn initiative will now have access to modern learning and teaching resources through Ericsson’s cloud-computing platform,” Ericsson said in a statement released on Thursday.

    “In addition, community health workers in the Millennium Villages will be using mobile phones provided by Sony Mobile and broadband access provided by Ericsson to deliver healthcare services to households and collect health information for improved monitoring,” it added.
    Ethiopia’s government has been pushing forward on Internet services and broadband efforts across the country and sees schools as the future of this process.

    The company added that the project includes netbooks and wireless terminals to facilitate access to online educational resources, as well as ICT skills training.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • In a move aimed at boosting the Eritrean telecommunications operator’s economic standing and liquidity, Eritel on Wednesday announced that it had begun to sell off a large number of shares.
    The operator told local Eritrean media that they were making some 4.5 million shares available for sale and that its marketing team had already “drawn an impressive number of shareholders so far.”
    It did not give details as to the cost of the sale or how much income would be earned through the sell off. Nor did Eritel give specifics as to what the money would be used for in the future.

    The company called on “interested nationals residing in the country to make sure that they have attached copies of their national identity cards after making payments through the banks.”
    Eritreans residing abroad “should double-check the equivalence of the foreign currency amounts they debit to the banks with the price of shares they buy, which has been indicated in US dollars.”

    Only Eritrean citizens would be allowed to make a purchase of the telecom operators stocks. The goal, company officials were cited saying, is to give the East African company a little more mobility in the market and boost services for customers.

  • The Treasury is working on new regulations on taxing mobile money transfer services aimed at leveling the playing field for all operators.

    Finance minister Njeru Githae said a 'minimum charge per transaction' will be introduced soon so that those companies offering money services free also get to pay tax like Safaricom.

    Airtel and yuMobile have been offering money services within their platform at no charge and argue they are not liable to pay the 10 per cent tax introduced recently.

    On the other hand, Githae said, Safaricom has decided to absorb the tax for small transactions of less than Sh100 putting it at an 'uncompetitive' position with the rest.

    "The concern is about those offering free services [as] there is always a cost associated with transferring money. So with the minimum charge it is up to the company if it will still want to meet the cost," Githae said yesterday.

    "This will ensure one company will nor be at a disadvantage compared to the others," the minister said on the sidelines of a public-private partnerships workshop in Nairobi.

    The Finance Act 2012 introduced amendments to the Customs and Excise Duty Act which

    introduced a 10 per cent tax on transaction fees for all money transfer services provided by cellular phone providers, banks, money transfer agencies and other financial service providers. Treasury is targeting to collect an estimated Sh4.5 billion from the new tax.

    Safaricom, which has 16 million subscribers on its M-Pesa platform, was the first to transfer the 10 per cent tax on to its customers. This saw all charges for transactions above Sh100 go up.

    The other players have not changed the pricing but insist their free services should not attract any tax. Githae backtracked on earlier directive that the companies should not pass on the cost to consumers.

    "We had expected the companies would absorb the cost, but you know, it is a free market and we do not want to interfere," he said.

  • Amid growing interest in mobile technology and infrastructure in Guinea, mobile services operator MTN Guinea has announced plans to roll out data and payment services in March.

    The company’s CEO Phumzile Joshua Phike has confirmed that the telecom operator will launch mobile data, mobile money transfer capability and payment services next month.

    The announcement was made during an event sponsored by MTN in the country.

    MTN, which introduced Wimax in 2011, will aim to deliver innovative, high quality services and provide customer satisfaction, the company said in a statement.

    The mobile operator started operating in Guinea in 2006 and, according to information on its website, now has 2.5 million subscribers.

    Industry observers in Guinea hope that rolling out new services will increase interest and overall penetration in the country.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Amid ongoing political tension in Egypt and frustration over the recent hikes in Vodafone’s recharge tariffs, Vodafone Egypt has announced a new mobile Internet data bundle for USB modems, tablets and Mifi devices.

    “Vodafone Super 25 offers 1.2GB for EGP 25, Vodafone Super Browser 50 comes with 3GB for EGP 50, Vodafone Super Streamer 100 offers 7GB for EGP 100, Vodafone Super Downloader 150 costs EGP 150 for 10GB, and Vodafone Super 250 Unlimited provides 18GB for EGP 250,” the company said.

    After January’s increase of 15 percent on taxes applicable to users when recharging, Vodafone hopes this will help reduce some of the costs customers will incur when attempting to use mobile Internet on their personal devices.

    “After consuming the bundle limit, the speed is reduced to 64Kbps. Customers can return to the top speed by buying another 1GB for EGP 20. Customers can subscribe over SMS to the new Super bundles and track their usage from a dedicated website,” the company said.

    Analysts tell Bikyanews.com that while this is a welcome addition, it is unlikely to do much in terms of reducing frustration and costs for the average Egyptian using only a modest hand device.

Digital Content

  • Face Technologies, the company contracted to print and issue computerised driving permits, has provided a new solution to eliminate forged driving permits.

    The company has acquired and equipped the traffic police with the latest Samsung Tablets capable of linking to the computerised driving permits database. Using the mobile phone network system, the traffic enforcement personnel can instantly check the validity and authenticity of any driving permit.
    By entering the permit number on the tablet, a connection is made with the database, and then a high resolution coloured picture of the permit is displayed. Nathan Tumushabe, the computerised driving permits project coordinator from the Ministry of Works and Transport said more tablets are being procured and will be given to traffic police to increase enforcement.

    "We expect to drastically reduce the number of forged driving permits in circulation. It is drivers with forged permits that contribute to the rampant road accidents," Tumushabe said.

  • A group of women marched to a house in Mau-Mau, Nyanga, to confront a man they accuse of posting nude pictures of a woman, his girlfriend, on Facebook.

    The woman’s face can be seen clearly in the two pictures. Since last week when the pictures surfaced, many people have been searching her on Facebook to catch a glimpse of the indecent exposure. The photographs have since been removed.

    Asanda Yiyo, a Nyanga resident who participated in the march, said they started marching at 11am on Saturday. There were about 50 of them, with men also participating. Yiyo said the woman was notified about the pictures by her friends after they had seen them on Facebook. “When they phoned the woman’s cellphone, her boyfriend answered.”

    “We marched to her boyfriend’s house, we stood there outside and told him to come out, but he never did. We then marched to the Nyanga police station where we demanded that a van accompany us to the man’s house and arrest him, but we were told that a case had already been opened. We did the march for support and to show the guy that what he did was unacceptable. Had the guy come out when we went to his place, we wouldn’t have done anything because we all agreed that there would be no violence. We probably would have taken him to the police station”, explained Yiyo.

    When GroundUp contacted the woman, the calls went unanswered. But a resident who does not stay far from the her in Nyanga said she still sees her walking the streets and is not letting this situation bring her down.Source: Groundup

  • A popular music video featuring a group of artists taking aim at the president of the Gambia's tightening grip on the West African country is making the rounds among Gambians home and abroad.

    Musicians Xuman, Djily Bagdad, Tiat, and Ombre Zion accuse Gambian President Yahya Jammeh of despotism in the song titled “Against Impunity” published on YouTube, rapping in English and Wolof about the oppressive state of Gambian society under the hardliner's thumb and encouraging Gambians to rise up. The video, which was released in December, has more than 26,000 views.

    Since coming to power in 1996, President Jammeh's poor human rights record has drawn steady criticism. Last year, he oversaw the execution of a number of prisoners in a short period of time, earning condemnation from the international community and human rights groups. He has also been accused of restricting political expression and press freedom, as well as persecuting homosexuals.

    The video opens with one of the musicians, who wears a blue t-shirt that reads “No to violence against journalist”, singing the song's chorus: “We have to handle our own destiny / So it’s the right time to fight against impunity”.

    See the video here:

    JollofNews reported that after its release, the video went viral among Gambians sharing it on social media websites such as Facebook.

  • A wine advisory app aimed at the average wine drinker has recorded more than 20,000 visits to its mobile platform in eight months.

    One of its popular selling points is “sweaty saddles” and other flowery language is allowed on the mobile app, making it easy to understand and quick to use.

    Andy Hadfield, founder of Real Time Wine, began work on the application at the start of 2012 and it was officially launched in July of the same year.

    Speaking to HumanIPO, Hadfield said the initial idea for the application began as a hobby. “Back in 2011 I started tweeting wine reviews as a way to remember the good ones,” said Hadfield.

    “You drink an awesome wine at a restaurant or at a friend’s house or at a dinner party and you wake up the next day asking ‘that was an awesome wine, what the hell was it called?’”

    The wine review tweet stream then turned into a blog and within around a month it had seven writers and “hundreds of consumer reviews” on the blog.

    The name was inspired by the real time experience of the app since Hadfield found that it is difficult for South Africans to choose a wine.

    “The majority of South African wine drinkers don’t research their wine,” said Hadfield and added that South Africans will simply visit a supermarket  to buy a red wine to go with a steak meal, but have no idea of which wine to choose.

    Then, upon discovering that it is an “awesome” wine from the supermarket the consumer is able to share the experience through a rating of the one on the app, thus it is a real time experience.

    Other problems facing South African wine consumers is the “daunting” retail experience, including “the wall of wine”, Hadfield’s term for the large range of wine brands stocked on shelves.
    “The problem is we want that kind of range from supermarkets... but the range makes it harder to make a decision,” he explained.

    Another problem involves traditional media, which often makes use of “snobby” words or terms.
    “Traditional wine media in this country is very much aimed at the top 20 percent of the market, what I call the wine snobs - the people that really know their stuff and you can see the culture, the style of the language, the highfalutin snobby words they use... which means no one is talking to the bottom 80 percent. We’re talking to that bottom 80 percent,” said Hadfield.

    Furthermore, these “highfalutin” words are banned from the application. Examples include the above mentioned “sweaty saddle”, which could sound foul to 80 percent of the market. Others include gush and lanolin, which is a yellow substance “akin to wax that is secreted from wooly animals”. The app is programmed to automatically reject these words.

    Hadfield said the wine producing community has received the application very well, especially with the launch of the application’s counterpart “Super Fan Club”, because it presents an opportunity for winemakers and marketers to connect directly with their end users.

    Since its launch, Real Time Wine has recorded 23,685 visits, approximately 3,000 unique visitors per month 6,500 application downloads, 2,100 registered reviewers, approximately 9,000 ratings, an average of 28 user generated reviews per day, 1,637 likes on Facebook and 2,182 Twitter followers.

  • Moroccan operator Meditel has released a locally-developed app called Meditel et Moi, available for Android and iOS smartphones, to allow customers to manage their Meditel account and optimise the use of their service. Users can follow the state of their consumption, pay mobile and internet bills, find the closest top-up vendor, and add call credit to their account or family members'. More functions will be added, such as the possibility to pick different services.

More

  • Mobile Web East Africa 2013
    19th - 21st February 2013
    Venue: Southern Sun Mayfair Nairobi, Kenya

    Taking the monetisation and content creation dialogue to the next level
    Mobile Web East Africa, the East African edition of the most progressive and interactive mobile focused events in Sub-Saharan Africa, is primed to once again be the leading mobile focused conference in the region this year.
    Website: http://www.mobileeastafrica.com
    Email: comms@allamber.co.uk
    Tel: +44 1376 521 170

    Broadband MEA
    19 - 20 March 2013
    The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai,

    The region’s premier broadband event attracting 750  decision makers from across The Middle East and Africa. Now in its 5th year, the event is the only place to meet the entire industry under 1 roof.
    The 2 day comprehensive programme including 2 pre conference workshops brings together 70+ speakers including 40+ operator case studies to address the current issues surrounding broadband.
    With our most impressive speaker line-up to date, the conference focuses on both Business and Technology Strategy covering all the topics surrounding broadband. Plus the 2 workshops hosted by MENOG and Etisalat on the 18th March will provide a deep dive into IPv6 and LTE issues and developments.  For more information or book your place at the event visit here:

    Operators – don’t forget to claim your exclusive 50% discount when purchasing a full conference pass!

    The Social Media Week Lagos Team is excited to announce that our official schedule is now LIVE and registration is open! 
    At present we have 84 events scheduled and will be adding some very exciting evening events that will soon be announced.  We ask that you please join us in letting your readers, network and the world know that Africa did not disappoint and we are delivering a world-class event.  Social Media Week Lagos is truly history in the making and we invite the world to take part.
    You can find the SMW Lagos schedule here:
    See this link for our 30 second spot that starts airing next week across the continent on Channel O TV: Download Link for SMW Lagos Media Package:

Issue no 641 8th February 2013

node ref id: 27100

Top story

  • Time was when the best content you could get in Africa was SMS services bought in from Europe or the USA. Now with the spread of smartphones and feature phones, there’s a much wider diet available including an increasing amount of local content. Russell Southwood attended the WSA Mobile Content 2.0 Awards in Abu Dhabi and reflects on what the winners say about the delivery of content in Africa and the challenges ahead.

    The WSA Mobile Awards are a global initiative that awards local apps that have global relevance. It looks both for commercially interesting apps as well as those that are socially relevant. The event combines a series of pitch sessions for shortlisted entrants and a thoughtful conference. The whole thing is capped with an awards ceremony for the winners.

    Many of these eco-system encouraging events in Africa are full of apps that have been developed that are nice ideas but nearly always lack users: I’ll look at why after you’ve seen the winners. However, these are all apps that have significant user bases either on iOS or Android, or both. Often they are highly successful in one country and eminently “exportable” or they are already making an international impact.

    The entrants combined a number of apps that are a “bit like” other things and some that were genuine originals. The mobile apps winners by category were as follows:
     
    m-Tourism and Culture: Harpoen
     
    An Indonesian app that allows you to put digital graffiti on photos and places that leaves a trail of images, messages and memories.
    See video clip interview with the co-founders:
     
    m-Entertainment and Lifestyle: Dermandar’s DMD Panorama
    A Lebanese company with a 360 degree panorama app that is used largely in the USA and Europe but not in the Middle East. The founders value success on an international stage and the app is well used.
    See video clip interview with one of the co-founders:
     
    m-Media and News: News 360
    A Russian and US-based company that has created a successful news aggregation app that gets you information you need. It sounds like lots of other news aggregation sites but its look and selections have made me fall out of love with Digg.
     
    See video clip interview with another of the nominees, Hans Eriksson, CEO, Bambuser, whose live broadcast app from your mobile is widely used in Egypt and Syria by citizen journalist. It has over 600 users in Syria:

    m-Environment and Health: Prognosis – Your Diagnosis
     
    A Sri Lankan app put together by two doctors who were frustrated by all the rote learning they had to do as medical students and wanted to experience the excitement of diagnosis in order to learn through doing. Luckily the smartphone app allows medical students to try their hand without needing to kill real life patients if they get things wrong.
    See video clip interview with one of the founders, Dr Kosala Liyange:
     
    Another nominee in the same category was Professor Giuseppe Riva, Positive Technology whose app is designed to tackle office-related stress. It’s the first app I’ve heard of undergoing a clinical trial:
     
    m-Learning and Education: Project Noah
     
    The founder Yasser Ansari wants to create a whole new generation of nature nerds using its digital butterfly net. You photograph a species and if you don’t recognize it, the community will help you identify it. Its users have already identified a new species.
    See video clip with the founder:
     
    m-Government: Roadroid
     
    This mobile app uses the motion sensor in your phone to measure the bumpiness of the road. The Asian Development Bank has used it in south east Asian countries to assess the state of the road networks and individual users can use it to find the smoothest route.
    See a video clip with the founder Norwegian Lars Forslof:
     
    m-Business and Commerce: i-Butterfly
     
    An augmented reality app that encourages you to find digital butterflies that are in different locations and capture them with your phone. The more butterflies you capture, the more rewards you get.
     
    For an explanation of augmented reality, see a video clip interview with mobile analyst Tomi Ahonen, who claims it will be the 8th mass media:
     
    m-Inclusion and Empowerement: Hand Talk
     
    Hand Talk is an app for mobile devices that receives data and translates it to Libras, the sign language of the deaf communities of urban Brazil.
     
    There is an interview with another of the nominees, Jonas Deister, Wheelmap.org which proves a mapping of physical access in Germany for wheelchair and stroller users :
     
    All of these apps are essentially designed for smart devices; whether pads, phones or TVs. So this is where Africa bumps its head against the first major challenge. If you imagine phone handset use as a pyramid, then the sharp end of that pyramid at the top will be the 3-5% who use smartphones. There will then be approximately 20-30% who use feature phones that have internet access.

    The majority who make up the rest will have basic phones: Voice and SMS…….errrr, sometimes a torch. So the majority of people will only be able to receive either voice services (through things like IVR or Freedom Fone) or something in 160 characters as a text SMS.

    (And this doesn’t include factoring in illiteracy and functional illiteracy, the inability to understand and do certain tasks. The survey data that is available shows that those who are unwilling to use SMS is a larger percentage than those who are completely illiterate.)

    I stood with Professor Rich Ling, University of Copenhagen during a conference break who showed me research data from a range of countries – both developing and developed – and the pattern was clear. For most developed countries, the smart phone is dominant but for many developing countries it is only a small but growing part of the market.

    Now obviously over the next 5 years the pattern will change but unless someone produces a smartphone at US$50 or a feature phone at the same price with smartphone like capabilities, the market will remain significantly fragmented. Let’s say we project 20-30% smartphones and 30-40% feature phones (as the new smartphone owners hand them on to relatives, drivers and maids), with the balance remaining as basic phones. For Africa, the biggest growth will be in feature phones.

    In some markets this kind of split would produce sufficient numbers for an apps ecosystem if we leave aside issues of equity of access for the moment. But there is another factor that lead to greater fragmentation. In likely order of success, there will be potentially four smartphone operating systems in Africa: Android, Nokia, Blackberry and iOS. At present, there are around 3,000 different feature phones, all of which have potentially different requirements in terms of OS operation and content.

    But the challenge is still greater if you consider the law of circles. Draw a circle that represents all phone subscribers in a country and then draw another smaller circle to approximate scale all those who use either smart phones or feature phones. Now if you produce content and services, only a percentage (let’s say optimistically 10%) will use that service so the last circle is the proportion of users in the right category who will actually end up using the service.

    You might say the app will be used across countries thus increasing its potential market but this ups the capital and operating cost entry barrier. And this says nothing of how the app market operates where developers have to have a credit card account in order to sign up to an OS developer programme and to be paid for sales. You might say but the app will succeed in the international market but that’s a tough one and robs the developer of his or her best advantage, knowledge of the local market.

    So there’s the problem….All those lovely apps above and all those lovely ones that haven’t yet been thought of may not have a market after the processes we have described above. The resolution of this market blockage has significant consequences for mobile operators: you can’t really increase your data sales if the market does not work to its maximum capacity. Those app stores that you have tentatively opened may turn into nothing more than distressed online real estate.

    A possible solution to cracking the market barriers described has perhaps three different elements:

    1. Everyone a smartphone: Phones have always been about aspiration. In Africa, they have almost replaced the car as the material symbol that says most about you.  So why not use this aspiration and sell the smartphone as the device that can change a person’s life and explain why (information, news, jobs, opportunities, dates, etc)? But to really change the market, there has either to be a smartphone or featurephone with smartphone capabilities at around the US$50 mark. It will have slightly less functionality but be able to do approximately 75% of what the high-end smartphone does. Its services may operate from the cloud rather than directly on the device.

    2. Get an interface layer that copes with multiple operating systems: Social network platform biNu has 4 million users globally, of which 1 million are in Africa. Once you’ve downloaded the app, it presents a smart phone like screen that allows you to use different apps including all the usual international stuff (Facebook, Twitter, etc). The services and content is optimized for low bandwidth and is served from the cloud. For the content or service app developer, this means it can deliver direct to a range of feature phones without having to worry how the app will work on them. So for example, it has (in partnership with World Reader) half a million people who read books on their mobile using biNu, 42% of whom are in Nigeria:

    3. Getting the touch interface right: Badr Ward, CEO, Ertiqa (an Arab software company – see video clip below) presented figures from a survey that showed that 10% of those up to 1 year had used a touch device; 39% between the ages of 2-4 and 52% aged 5-8. Even before there is formal education, these children work out how the device works and find something pleasurable on it. I can attest to this phenomenon as at my daughter’s wedding late last year the children in the formal wedding photographs were kept distracted by playing a video clip over and over again. This means that even those with low functional literacy can start to access video (delivered over LTE) for pleasure and to learn.

    Nothing ever solves everything but until African operators and the content ecosystem developers start to think more strategically, the global opportunity these kinds of apps offer may be stillborn,
     
    Things you need to hear from the WSA Mobile Awards 2013:

    There were many other interesting participants in the conference and the selection of video interviews below captures some of them:
     
    Touch pad edutainment software for children: Badr Ward, CEO of educational software company Ertiqa started out by doing local versioning of international education products but wanted to do something more culturally aware of Arab culture. Falling in love with a princess? Celebrating Christmas? Showing pigs? No, these things don’t fit. So he launched a series of edutainment products for young children under the name of Lamsa (which means Touch) for all touch devices:
     
    Gesture recognition and motion control: Niall Austin, OmniMotion Technology from Ireland works with gesture recognition and motion control. He’s produced software that allows you to control what happens on any device with a camera through gesture. His work so far has included games to encourage an interest in exercise and sport and work to help stroke victims recover. But it can also be used for display advertising and second screen TV:
     
    Online social activism: The Egyptian Arab Spring has resulted in one of the most interesting flowerings of online and mobile activism. The ambition of Ebba Eltamami’s organization HarassMap.org is to make sexual harassment socially unacceptable. 86% of Egyptian women say they have been sexually harassed and 50% say it has happened on a daily basis. The organization combines online mapping of incidents with face-to-face volunteer work:
     
    Holding politicians to account: Abbas Adel Ibrahim works during the day as a software engineer but by night is a social entrepreneur. He decided to launch a website called Morsi Meter to check the achievements of the Egyptian President in his first 100 days against his election promises. It is clearly influential as the President Office is now sending through information:

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

telecoms

  • On Monday 4th Febrary, the government officially launched nationwide registration of SIM cards, an exercise expected to last six months.

    The event that saw telecom staff members, clad in their respective company uniforms emblazoned with messages calling for subscribers to register their SIM cards, started with an awareness campaign march from City centre roundabout to Kigali Serena Hotel for formal launch.

    The deadline for the mobile phone subscribers to register their SIM cards is set July 31, according to the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (Rura), the implementing organ of the campaign.

    Speaking at the event, François Regis Gatarayiha, the director-general of Rura, said SIM cards that will not have been registered by deadline will be deactivated and will only be restored once they have been registered.

    He stated that people can register as many SIM cards as they want under their names as long as they use them and the registration is free of charge.

    During the exercise, all new and existing mobile phone numbers will have to be registered to be activated on a network.

    Presently, telecom operators' registering agents are deployed across the country to assist in the SIM card registration.

    Rwanda was the only remaining member of the East African Community that had not implemented the process of SIM card registration. The registration is part of the regional exercise under the East Africa Communications Organisation (EACO).

  • Zamtel has sued Sable Transport for damaging its optic fibre cable along Katima Mulilo Road, causing loss of revenue amounting to over USD62, 000.

    Zamtel said Sable Transport was conducting road works in the capital Lusaka’s Garden Compound and in the process damaged its underground optic fibre cables.

    “On June 2012, Sable Transport was performing construction works and through its employees or agents caused damage to Zamtel underground cables,” reads part of the claim.

    Zamtel said the damage resulted in service outage on Zamtel networks for two months and that the company had to restore service at a cost of over USD60,000.

    “The damage resulted in service outage for two months on the Zamtel network and the company experienced revenue loss,” the claim reads.

    The company is now claiming substantial damages and loss of revenue from Sable Transport.

  • The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe says it will spend at least USD24 million to construct 43 new base stations in rural areas around the country.

    It said it had completed a financial and technical assessment construction of base stations in poorly serviced areas throughout the country under the second phase of the Universal Services Fund was waiting for the tender to be awarded. The tenders for the design and installation of the base stations opened in August last year.

    “The tender has not yet been approved. The tender was supposed to be closed in October but it was closed in November because bidders requested for more time,” said Potraz deputy director-general Alfred Marisa.

    “On our part, we did the financial and technical assessment and at the moment we are just waiting for the tender to be awarded then we can proceed.”

    Telecommunications companies contribute two percent of their annual revenue into the USF to improve communication systems in rural areas.

  • Telecoms Tower2Kenya plans to roll out a US$500mn 4G network, despite key players continuing to question the timing and viability of the project

    In late November 2012, the government launched a search for a financial consultant to help formulate a public-private partnership to roll out high-speed connectivity on the 4G platform.

    The consultant will undertake a detailed financial evaluation of the partnership between the government, institutional investors, mobile operators and equipment vendors. Mobile operators, however, have questioned the viability of the 4G network, arguing that even the performance of the 3G has been poor.

    Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom, observed, “We launched the 3G a while back and the uptake has been poor. What makes us think subscribers are going for 4G? We should concentrate on driving the uptake of the 3G.”

    Other service providers such as Airtel Kenya and Telkom Orange have also raised similar concerns, highlighting the low uptake of the already rolled out 3G.

    Information and Communications Permanent Secretary, Dr Bitange Ndemo, has affirmed that the government is determined to have the network working by March 2013 during the national elections.

  • Vivendi-backed Maroc Telecom is considering buying a mobile licence in Cote d'Ivoire owned but never used by Warid Telecom, Jeune Afrique reports. The Cote d'Ivoire mobile market is dominated by MTN and Orange. Warid's Cote d'Ivoire concession, in which a prince of Abu Dhabi holds a majority share, reportedly never got off the ground because of disagreements between the venture's Ivoirian and Pakistani members. Warid Telecom sacked all staff and shut its doors in July 2011, after having invested around XOF 40 billion. Jeune Afrique speculates that this may be a way for Maroc Telecom to add value prior to a possible stake sale by Vivendi.

    Meanwhile, the landscape of the Ivorian mobile sector has changed noticeably since Warid first secured a mobile concession in the country, with a further three cellcos commencing commercial operations, namely: Comium (May 2007), Oricel (now GreenN, December 2008) and Aircom (January 2012). The last-named firm became the sixth main player in an already-crowded wireless market last year, improbably resurfacing twelve years after first obtaining a mobile licence. The company belatedly claimed that it had achieved ‘all administrative requirements’. As at end-September 2012 the Ivorian mobile market was dominated by the well-established likes of MTN (34.9%), Orange (33.3%) and Moov (20.7%).

  • Ethiopian telecommunications services operator, Ethio Telecom, has announced that plans for a two-year expansion project on its network are well underway.

    Ethio Telecom, has announced that plans for a two-year expansion project on its network are well underway. (Image: Google/behance.net)According to a company statement, ZTE and Huawei are currently in discussion with Ethio Telecom regarding the project and forms part of a broader objective to bolster services in the country.

    “Under the project, the operator plans to restructure the country into 11 telecommunication infrastructure zones, from the 16 previously, limiting the number of vendors in each zone to just one,” the companies reported.

    “The zones will be based on demography, customer base and geographic location. Addis Ababa will occupy just one circle, meaning that either ZTE or Huawei will act as the sole vendor there,” said Ethio Telecom.

    If agreed, it should help continue to see boosting in the country’s telecom services. And with more and more Ethiopians entering the market, infrastructure is becoming a much needed push.

internet

  • A deal that will go a long way in helping Uganda generate, manage, project and control its own online local content and image to the world has been signed.

    The Airtel Uganda and Uganda Goes Online (UGO) partnership signed on Tuesday at the Kampala Serena Hotel is unique in that it allows Airtel Uganda customers free access to the UGO portal, while UGO provides a one stop centre for anything Ugandan.  Customers log onto the UGO portal free using their Internet enabled devices and access free 100% local Ugandan content.

    In the deal, Airtel will provide free access for one year through the UGO portal. Announcing the launch, Airtel managing director V.G Somasekhar said there are many positives about Uganda, including its very warm people, tourism and an entrepreneurial spirit that needs to be projected from within and not allowed to be controlled from outside. “Ugandans are good people who will keep a smile after a hard day and they work hard,” said V.G. Somasekhar.

    Somasekhar emphasised that the time is ripe to clean up the bad image of the country that has consistently been controlled by Western media stereotypes. Taking the positives of the country online is a powerful opportunity, especially because of the growing online community.

    The significance of data, especially mobile Internet has grown to the extent that making calls today is the fifth most used function. There are 3.2 million Ugandans with access to Internet, a figure ICT minister Ruhakana Rugunda said should shoot up because of initiatives such as Airtel’s that provide free access.

    Rugunda commended the telecom for empowering Ugandans to embrace and enjoy the different aspects of Ugandan content. He said the initiative should not only sell tourism wealth, but also expound on local markets, talents and culture. “It is indeed a timely venture because Uganda has a rich heritage and knowledge base that should be recognised, recorded and shared for the benefit of people both in Uganda and throughout the world,” said Rugunda.

    Somasekhar said Airtel has invested $135m in two years and one of the inroads has been building 356 sites with 3G coverage. UGO managing director Boaz Shani said his firm has been promoting local content for the last one year and has been pushing local corporates to get their content shared with the world.

  • Students from the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in Dubai visited Kenya to connect a wireless internet network at an academic institute in a village.

    Six final-year students studying Network Engineering at the women’s campus of HCT-Dubai were provided an opportunity to put their skills into practice and to test out concepts that they had learned in college in a real environment. The initiative was meant to help the students grasp professional development skills in a team environment as well as enable them to interact with people from different nationalities.

    The college donated 20 laptops and 10 wireless devices to the academic institute and the students updated six computers with new software programmes. The main project centered on connecting a wireless internet network within an institute in one of the poorer villages in Kenya. The institute did not have the ability to execute this network on its own.

    “I gained a great deal from travelling outside the country, it has many positives mostly due to the quality of education that we received in college, as we can now rely on ourselves and face difficult challenges in a multicultural environment and try to solve and overcome it in a real environment; we got a chance to be honorable ambassadors for our beloved country” said Rawda Al Balochi, one of the students who took part in the initiative.

  • A South African entrepreneur is providing residents from some of the country’s most impoverished areas with an opportunity to access the internet and learn about computers.

    Luvuyo Rani's Silulo Ulutho Internet Café, which started out as a small business in Khayelitsha on the Cape Flats, is changing the lives of students and adults who would otherwise have no opportunity to become computer literate.

    Since 2004, when Rani first opened the business with his brother and a friend, the demand for Silulo Ulutho's services has grown so much that he's opened 18 stores in Khayelitsha and five in the Eastern Cape - in Queenstown, Butterworth, Mthatha and East London.

    Through these centres at least 10,000 students have been educated, right up to advanced computer literacy programmes.

    It all started eight years ago when Rani, who worked as a teacher in Khayelitsha for five years, started selling refurbished computers out of the boot of his car in the Western Cape township.

    "At the time when I was teaching, the Department of Education was just starting to introduce Outcomes Based Education, and teachers needed computers," he says. But soon after selling the computers, Rani found out that the teachers weren't using them at all. "They were gathering dust and this bothered me," he says. "The teachers had no skills to use them, and they didn't have access to the internet."

    This is what sparked his idea to start a business that would give people in Khayelitsha access to the internet and teach them how to use computers as well as how to access the information stored on the web. Within a year of starting up, he won best entrepreneur in the Western Cape. "And then it all grew very, very fast," he recalls.

    Initially, his main goal was to use the facility as a computer skills training venue for teachers, but soon the business started to meet a major need for computer services in Khayelitsha.

    "People needed help. They could operate Facebook, but didn't have the skills to type out their own CVs. People couldn't differentiate between a fax and e-mail," he says.

    The absence of computer skills, or the technology and facilities to learn, is a dilemma for many people living in townships and remote areas in South Africa.

    "If you don't have computer skills, you are at a disadvantage in the job market," says Rani.

    To add to this predicament, people often have to travel long distances to an internet café to distribute their CVs when searching for jobs.

    "People have to do this at great expense and it takes a lot of time."

    The Silulo Internet Café caters for both needs, and Rani has ensured that the pricing of his services are within reach of the majority of South Africans.

    "What is central to my business model is affordability," he says. "Our prices are low." He believes that companies operating in emerging market economies should adjust their business models and profit expectations. "It is essential for entrepreneurs in these markets to be socially minded and not only profit-driven."

    For just R6 (70 US cents), Rani's customers can access the internet for one hour, whereas some internet cafes in the Eastern Cape charge as much as R30 ($3.38) an hour, R10 ($1.12) to send a fax and R3 (34 cents) for a photocopy. "This is simply unaffordable for most people," he says. "Even if you just have R2 (23 cents), you can go onto the internet for 15 minutes," he says.

    Silulo Ulutho operates in the Western and Eastern Cape, but in the future Rani would like to grow the business in other provinces, possibly through a franchise business model. "But the core must always remain that the business must benefit the community," he says. "I am passionate about this."

    In addition to internet café services, computer sales are still a core part of the business. Silulo offers IT support to assist customers with network connections, computer repairs, and maintenance, and software installation.

    As part of its computer sales division, Rani has entered into a partnership with mobile provider Vodacom. Customers who buy computers from Silulo can access prepaid internet services using a 3G connection from Vodacom, the dongle for which is part of the deal.

  • "This is the greatest achievement I can say for this school. [The students] are finding it a great favour that they should be the first school in Africa to have this kind of a project. It is very exciting. They wonder how they got there."

    Beatrice Nderango is the headmistress of Gakawa Secondary School, which lies about 10km from Nanyuki, a market town in Kenya's rift valley, not far from the Mount Kenya national park.

    The school is situated in a village that has no phone line and no electricity. The people that live here are mostly subsistence farmers. "We don't really have a cash crop, but the farmers do a bit of farming," says Mrs Nderango. "They grow potatoes, a little bit of maize, but we don't do well in maize because of the wild animals. They invade the farms."

    Although Kenya has fibre optic broadband thanks to the Seacom cable, most of rural Kenya is not connected and until now getting online would mean travelling to town.

    But all of this is changing, thanks to technology that uses the unused parts of the wireless spectrum that is set aside for television broadcasters - the white spaces.
    The colour of television

    The project is part of the 4Afrika Initiative, an investment programme being announced by technology giant Microsoft, that also includes a new Windows Phone 8 smartphone for the region and investment in help for small businesses on the continent, and in education and internships.
    Putting up the base stations The base stations work in the same way as mobile phone masts, and will create massive wifi hotspots

    For the white spaces project, the company is working with a Kenyan ISP, Indigo Telecom, and the Kenyan government.

    The ISP is installing wireless 'base stations' - or masts - that are solar-powered, to get round the lack of mains electricity.

    The base stations act as a link to the nearest main cable connection to the internet, without the expense of extending the fibre-optic network.
    solar panels The solar panels will power the bases stations - and also charge computer equipment The signal supplied is much more powerful than normal wifi.

    "What we are calling TV white space, that is just a different set of frequencies. It is between 400 megahertz and about 800 megahertz, and those radio frequencies will just go further," says white spaces expert Professor Robert Stewart of Strathclyde University.

    "They can go through walls, they will kind of bend around hills, they will give you much better connectivity. And of course, that's why the TV guys chose that in the first place."

    Local schools, a healthcare clinic, a government agriculture office and a library have been connected in the first part of the pilot. Ms Nderango says internet will benefit teachers and students alike. "Students will now be introduced to e-learning, they will be able to carry out the assignments, they'll be able to do a lot of research," she says. "To add to that, there is the exposure to the rest of the world." And she believes the wider community will benefit as well.
    "It will change lives, because on the internet you can access information about skills.

    "The farmers for example will improve their skills, and learn entrepreneurship."
    Business networking

    Microsoft's Fernando de Sousa says getting rural areas online is a crucial part of making them economically viable.

    "There is... a commercial responsibility that both private and public sector have across Africa to bring technology and bring access that can then drive economic growth, economic development and sustain employability, especially outside of the metropolitan areas," he says.

    "It is going to significantly increase the ability for innovation and the great ideas that Africans have to actually reach markets and become available for use by consumers... I think that there is a fantastic opportunity for Africa to showcase its own capabilities in the world because of the increased access."
    Clinic The local healthcare clinic will be part of the network, opening up access to telemedicine resources

    The next step is to open the network more generally to the business community in the area.

    "The commercial viability of actually deploying white spaces on a broad spectrum across the communities, is something that is very important... because a. it can't be a subsidised service; and b. it is not a private government or community network," says Mr de Sousa.

    "It really needs to be a commercially viable network. Bringing small businesses online and enabling them to use the technology is very, very important."

    This is not the first time that TV white spaces have been used in this way - in the UK pilots are underway on the Isle of Bute in Scotland and in Cambridge.

    In the United States, Wilmington, North Carolina, has a white spaces project in place, and the Air.U partnership hopes to connect rural college campuses. There are several test beds around the world.

    More is planned. In Africa, Google is sponsoring a project in South Africa that will connect 10 schools in the Western Cape for six months, that will launch soon.

    There are obstacles: in many countries this part of the spectrum is licensed, and the way it is used is changing as television services move to digital. National and international regulators are looking at how to allocate space, to avoid having competing services trying to use the same space.

    For now, and probably in the long term, TV white space networks will be complementary to fibre-optic broadband rather than a replacement. But Strathclyde University's Prof Stewart, one of the men behind the pilot on the Isle of Bute, thinks that for remote rural areas it may be the most cost-effective option.

    "If we find that rural communities in developing or developed countries can access this without significant expense, then it will make a difference," he says.

    "It is not going to solve all the problems. It is not for everyone. But it will solve problems for some folks."

  • South Sudan, one of the world's least developed countries, aims to lay a fibre-optic network this year to link the capital Juba with submarine cables in east Africa to cut the high cost of using the Internet.

    South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011, six years after a peace accord that ended decades of civil war that left the country's infrastructure in ruins. It has no landline phone lines and only 300 km (186 miles) of roads.

    South Sudan is one of the most expensive countries in Africa for Internet use. The average retail price of Internet bandwidth via satellite is currently around $4,000 per megabit (MB), according to a source familiar with the industry.

    The government wants to cut that cost by reducing reliance on satellite bandwidth, said Juma Stephen, undersecretary at the telecommunication and postal services ministry.

    "We are targeting this year, within this year, that we will be connected to the submarine cable," Stephen told Reuters. "Construction of fibre-optic cables will more than halve Internet prices and make it twice as fast."

    Stephen gave no details about the average cost of bandwidth but said all South Sudan's Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use satellite-based V-Sat, WiFi and WiMAX technology.

    South Sudan, which has 15 ISPs, is now doing a feasibility study on whether to connect with marine cables in Djibouti in the Red Sea or Kenya's Indian Ocean port of Mombasa, he said.

    Three undersea fibre-optic networks serve east Africa's Internet traffic: The East African Marine Systems (TEAMS), the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and SEACOM.

    The country has four main mobile operators offering Internet: South Africa's MTN, Kuwait's Zain, Vivacell and Gemtel.

    The country also hopes to launch its Internet domain ".SS" this year to help the government set up its own email system, Stephen said.

    The government has also started to set up postal services with post offices open in South Sudan's five main cities. "At the moment parcels are coming in but we still can't send parcels," Stephen said.

    South Sudan, which depends on Sudanese airlines to deliver mail via Khartoum, is also in talks with neighbours Kenya and Ethiopia to send mail abroad by air.

    South Sudan lost most state revenue when it shut down its oil production in a row with Sudan over pipeline fees a year ago. Both agreed in September to resume exports via Sudan but have yet to agree on how to secure their disputed border first.

  • Gilat Satcom has announced that it has entered into a joint venture with Microlink to enhance affordable high-speed fiber and satellite connectivity services throughout Zambia.

    Microlink provides affordable broadband communication solutions to individuals and enterprises throughout Zambia. The ISP offers reliable connectivity to large corporates, small-medium enterprises (SMEs), Internet cafes, WiFi hotspots and other locations. The new joint venture extends high-capacity, fiber-based Internet access throughout the country.

    “We are very excited about this opportunity,” said John Taylor, CEO of Microlink. “It provides Microlink not only with the renowned international expertise and technical support of Gilat Satcom, but also gives the JV the ability to provide global data solutions on an MPLS platform that can extend a Zambian MPLS network to any location in the world.”

    As a shareholder in WIOCC, the carrier’s carrier bringing fiber cable to land-locked countries in Africa, Gilat Satcom is able to offer a full suite of fiber connectivity solutions in addition to its highly regarded C-band and Ku-band, pan-African satellite links. The company can offer attractive pricing on the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), the highest capacity system serving sub-Saharan Africa with 5 terabit-per-second capacity and nine landing points. The joint venture has already acquired STM1 capacity on EASSy to serve Microlink’s current subscribers as well as the new subscribers of the JV.

  • K-NET broadband packagesK-NET has announced the launch of a new range of superfast broadband internet service packages available to business customers across 16 West and Central African countries

    The company, which already offers a range of service packages to meet the requirements of businesses and consumers, has now added brand new services.

    A range of new packages are available which aim to deliver reliable and high-performance business-grade internet services, with prices leading in at US$30 per month and download speeds starting from 1Mbps.

    K-NET also offers premium packages, which are designed to meet the connectivity needs of the most demanding users, with download speeds of 8Mbps and peak-time download volumes of up to 100GB per month.

    The new broadband internet services have been rolled out in Nigeria, DRC, Ghana, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Benin, Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Togo, Central African Republic, Congo, Liberia, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

  • According to a report by Emploitic.com, an Algerian job website, job posts rose from 20 percent in 2009 to 40 percent in 2010. In 2011, it rose to 60 percent and to 66 percent in 2012.

    Louai Djaffer, co-founder and CEO of Emploitic.com, said: “These past two years, Internet tends increasingly to emerge as the main recruiting tool. The evolution of the penetration of the Internet, its adoption by businesses and individuals and use changes, suggest a significant acceleration of the adoption of e-recruitment for all types of businesses and candidates at all levels.”

    By October last year, the percentage of Internet users compared to the total population increased to 14 percent from 0.49 percent in 2000, according to the World Bank. The number is expected to rise to five million people this year.

    Emploitic recorded nearly 15,000 job ads on media outlets including print and Web. The site has been visited by more than eight million visitors and currently has a total page views of 50 million.

    “The number of applications sent through the site exceeds 800,000 in response to the 7831 broadcast employment opportunities. The assessment also noted that more and more Algerians living abroad to connect Emploitic seeking employment opportunities in Algeria,” Emploitic said.

computing

  • The Botswana Government is in the process of computerising all allocated plots.

    Boteti South MP  Lebonaamang Mokalake told kgotla meetings in his constituency that this would enable the ministry to better manage land use through an administrative programme called Land Administrative Procedures Capacity and System.

    Mokalake, also Minister of Lands and Housing, said the programme was being piloted in 12 villages across the country and would soon be rolled out to other areas.

    The minister regretted problems relating to land use, among them double allocations, illegal land use and failure to pay rates and lease agreement fees. These, he said, were rampant at villages in the vicinity of cities.

  • One of Kenya's leading universities, the University of Nairobi, has adopted an open access policy to research articles and other academic materials produced by its staff.

    By placing all scholarly articles in an online 'digital repository', the university aims to increase the visibility of its research output and enhance collaboration with researchers in other parts of the world. The university adopted its open access policy in December.

    Rosemary Otando, a senior librarian at the university, says there is a vast amount of the data and knowledge waiting to be discovered, but this is only possible when research literature is not constrained by access barriers.

    "The university attracts funds worth tens of millions of US dollars for research, but the findings have, in the past, only been accessed by a privileged few since most of them are published in costly peer-reviewed journals and the high internet subscription fees mean that users in developing countries cannot access the information they need to rise to the challenges of development," Otando tells SciDev.Net.

    The open access policy, she adds, is intended to ensure that research and other relevant work reaches many and has a direct impact on policies and practices in Kenya, Africa and worldwide.

    It is also designed to increase citations, reduce the knowledge divide, maximise the visibility of the university's academic output and ensure its preservation.

    As part of the initiative, the university encourages its academic staff to publish their work in peer-reviewed open access journals.

    "Since the cost barrier has been eliminated, everybody is free to access the resources. Therefore open access will ensure that relevant research findings can be used to help those in need says Otando.

    Materials that can be added to the online depository include journal articles, research data, books, audio and video files, theses, presentations, images and conference proceedings.

    Nerisa Kamar, assistant librarian at the Nairobi-based UN-HABITAT, the UN agency for human settlements, thinks the initiative will "promote the relevancy and enhance the dissemination of in-house publications and resources, enable the sharing of data and help to reduce research duplication and the resulting waste of resources".

    According to Kamar, the open access policy will also market the institution's research programmes, assist in reducing plagiarism and act as a quality assurance tool to help the university meet the international standards on what should be available on the OA database and the goal of becoming a world-class university.

  • ICT AfricaSoarsoft Africa has announced that MSExchange.org has chosen ENow’s Mailscape as the winner in the Exchange Service Administration software category of the MSExchange.org Readers’ Choice Awards

    The Mailscape solution aims to provide IT support employees a way to monitor servers in real time.

    “Soarsoft Africa proudly distributes ENow Software into Southern Africa and this award further reinforces our commitment to introducing and supporting proven, innovative and internationally recognised solutions into the local market,” said George Amoils, director at Soarsoft Africa.

    ENow’s Mailscape Exchange Server product has a dashboard with red, yellow and green lights indicating the health of each monitored server. It also provides mobile device reporting for iPads, iPhones, Androids, Blackberries and other mobile products.

    Soarsoft Africa CTO Deniel Lambrakis said, “Mailscape is a must have tool for any organisation and many of our customers purchased this for their migrations from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2010.”

    “The monitoring and reporting capabilities available out of the box are extensive and simple to deploy and use.”

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Banks have lobbied the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to act against Econet Wireless' reluctance to open up its mobile banking gateway to allow them to transfer money from clients' bank accounts straight to the beneficiary mobile number.

    The Herald Business understands that the call from banks comes as the financial institutions fear losing a significant chunk of their market to the rapidly growing mobile money transfer platform, especially Econet Wireless' EcoCash service.

    The banks' reservations arise from the fact that Econet Wireless has not opened up its platform to allow banks to initiate bank transfers from the bank accounts of the mobile phone operator's subscribers straight to the number of a beneficiary.

    It is against this background that BAZ called for a level playing field in the banking sector, before they agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding on interest rates, bank charges and other contentious issues regarding the banking sector. The MoU to guide bank charges, interest and lending rates could be signed by the first quarter of 2013.

    Only CBZ Bank, TN Bank and FBC Bank currently have access to the giant mobile phone operator's mobile banking gateway, as Econet seems to take a cautious approach to partnering all the banks.

    BAZ immediate past president John Mushayavanhu said banks did not have a similar problem with other mobile phone operators (NetOne and Telecel), regarding the transfer of money straight from the operators' customers' bank accounts.

    "Banks want Econet to open its gateway so that banks can initiate transactions straight from the bank accounts of the customers to a given mobile number. Other operators have opened their gateways, but Econet has not," said Mr Mushayavanhu.

    He said since Econet was the biggest mobile phone operator with more than eight million subscribers, it would become easier to move money between people while Econet also capitalised on the text messages as its clients transact.

    Efforts to get a comment from Econet were fruitless by the time of going to print. But it appears the firm is protecting its own mobile money transfer business, EcoCash, which has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception.

    Yet aside from losing a significant chunk of their money transfer business, the banks have also lost out to the function of acting as safe storage service provider for small amounts of money, which can be kept in an EcoCash e-wallet.

    While acknowledging the immense benefits mobile money transfer has had on the economy, in terms of access to financial products, Dr Gono said the facility was merely for payment or delivery channels, and not a deposit holding facility.

    "We advise that mobile money transfer services are merely a payment system or delivery channel which does not amount to deposit-taking. Accordingly, mobile money transfers should operate on a credit push principle where all e-money value is backed by pre-funded balances which are held in banking institutions," he said.

    In light of current developments, the need to align with international best practice and to comply with the National Payment Systems Act, the RBZ will issue out payment systems oversight guideline by 30 June 2013, e-money and electronic payments guideline by end of September 2013 and, agency banking guideline to be finalised by 31 December 2013.

  • Stephane Richard, the chief executive officer of France Telecom-Orange, has called on the government of Senegal to improve economic rules in the country where they concern taxation of the telecommunications market, warning that placing an additional financial burden on the industry will only hamper investment.

    Richard and Alione Ndiaye, managing director of national PTO Sonatel, met with the Senegalese prime minister Abdoul Mbaye to discuss their concerns. According to Agence Ecofin, Mbaye explained that the recent decision to eliminate a telecoms surtax and the setting of corporate taxation at ‘a reasonable rate’, were designed as incentives to major investment. Further, Senegal’s president Macky Sall is on record as saying that that his administration is actively looking at ways to remove barriers to the deployment of internet services across the entire country.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Telecommunications companies in Nigeria have complied with the directive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) concerning the cost of SMS across the various networks.

    On Tuesday, various companies officially switched to the new tariff plan of 4 naira per SMS for all off-net text messages from 10 naira per SMS.

    The new plan represents a 60 percent reduction in cost and was introduced in January by the regulatory body of the nation’s communications sector.

    It only covers SMSs sent to networks operating in Nigeria, with messages sent to foreign networks still costing.

    The NCC’s Director of Legal and Regulatory Services Josephine Amuwa said the commission is not yet setting a price cap for text messages sent to international lines.

    She added the commission reached the current price after extensive consultations with representatives of the various telecoms companies.

    “Having evaluated and analysed SMS traffic information provided by the operators, the commission noted that there was a general recognition that the cost of SMS is too high, especially in view of the interconnection rate of N1.02 for SMS as determined by the commission in 2009,” she said.

    She insisted that the NCC would monitor compliance by the operators, and noted that failure to comply with the determination would be penalised.

    Some subscribers who spoke with ThisDay on the cost reduction hailed the NCC for its directive, as well as the operators for complying.

    “This is a good development in the telecoms sector and we need more of it,” Azuka Philip, a Globacom subscriber, said.

  • Mobile Phone AfricaComviva Technologies has announced that it has joined forces with mobile security and services provider AdaptiveMobile to provide a network-based web and message content filtering solution

    The new partnership is set to help network operators control monitoring and advanced security techniques to protect their system, subscribers and business customers against the increasing threat of mobile spamming in Africa.

Digital Content

  • Security officials at Kenya Wildlife Service hope system will help national parks reduce poaching by up to 90%

    Kenya's wildlife agency is installing an alarm system that alerts rangers to possible poachings by text message, following the shooting of an entire family of 11 elephants.

    Security officials at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) hope that the system, connected to fences around parks and wildlife sanctuaries, will help reduce poaching by up to 90%.

    When an animal interferes with the fence or a person tries to tear down the fence, the alarm produces a very loud sound which is relayed to the security switchboard as an SMS message and shows the location. Reinforcement is then sent to the affected area.

    But Patrick Omondi, head of the species department at KWS, said that putting the alarm system in all parks is impossible since the costs would be huge and some are not wholly fenced in.

    "Some parks are very big and the idea would only work in conservancies which have a much smaller land area," he said.

    Tsavo national park, where the recent killings took place, is about the size of Belgium. Paul Udoto, communications officer at KWS, said that conflict between local people and wildlife has previously been the main issue at the park rather than poaching, and has historically been dealt with by solar-powered electric fences.

    Omondi added that technology will be a key tool in future efforts to curb poaching.

    "For example, Kenya adopted a DNA-profiling technology from South Africa called the rhinoceros DNA index. In case a rhino horn is intercepted in any part of the world, KWS can profile the root of the horn," Omondi said. In December, Google gave conservation group WWF $5m to use drones to track poaching of rhinos and elephants.

    Last year, more than 1,000 rhinos and more than 1,000 elephants were lost to poaching in Africa, driven in large part by demand from south-east Asia.

    Kenya alone lost more than 360 elephants, according to government figures, and on Thursday figures from the South African government showed the country had suffered a record 668 rhino deaths from poaching, up by almost 50% on 2011's figures.

  • Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group has opened a new Twitter account in English, less than two weeks after its previous account was suspended. A senior al-Shabab official told the BBC that the new account was genuine.

    Al-Shabab's previous English-language account was suspended after it used it to announce it would kill a French hostage and then said it had done so. Twitter's rules say that threats of violence are banned but it refused to comment on the suspension.

    One of the message on the new account reads: "For what it's worth, shooting the messenger and suppressing the truth by silencing your opponents isn't quite the way to win the war of ideas."

    While the main Twitter account, which used to publish in several languages, had been blocked, a separate feed in Arabic continued to operate.

    The new al-Shabab account has 280 followers, compared to the previous account which had more than 20,000 followers.

    It was closed on 25 January, about a week after it announced the killing of a French spy, Denis Allex, it was holding hostage.

    Mr Allex, who was kidnapped in Somalia in July 2009, was killed in retaliation for a failed French operation to free him.

    Analysts say the US has wanted al-Shabab banned from Twitter for some time, but lacked the legal means to enforce its will.

    Al-Shabab has been forced out of Somali's main towns over the past 18 months but it still controls many rural parts of southern and central Somalia.

    For more than 20 years Somalia has seen clan-based warlords, rival politicians and Islamist militants battling for control of the country.

  • Hamada Saber is the name of an Egyptian man, who was seen in a video which went viral and was even featured on CNN, while he was being beaten and stripped of his clothes by police forces. The incident brought about a wave of shock and disbelief and shook the nation in disgust. Interestingly, many people on social media started contrasting what happened to this man and the nation’s reaction to it with the extreme sexual harassment and rape Egyptian women are subjected to.

    The video can be viewed here:

    On Twitter, Ghada Elsayeh wrote [ar]:

        بس الفرق بين حمادة إل اتسحل والبنات ال اتحرشو بهم واغتصابهم كبير لأن الناس تعاطفت مع حمادة الجبان ولم تهتم بالبنات الشجعان! محتاج علاج نفسي!

        @Ghadaelsayeh: The difference between Hamada who was beaten and the girls who were sexually harassed and raped is great because people sympathized with Hamada the coward while they didn’t pay attention
        to the brave girls! [They] need psychological treatment.

    The reason Saber was called a coward by some is his initial statement to the media that he had been stripped of his clothes by the protesters, not the security forces. Reactions were divided when it came to this testimony: although some called him a coward, others felt the man might have been under threat to deny the truth, like journalist Rasha Azb, who tweeted:

        اوعوا تلوموا علي حمادة صابر .اوعوا تلوموا علي واحد قضي ليلة من الذل والخوف واحنا نايمين في بيوتنا.اوسخ حاجة انك تيجي ع الضحية..ارحموا الضعيف

        @RashaPress: Don’t blame Hamada Saber, don’t blame someone who spent a night of humiliation and fear while we were sleeping in our homes. The worst thing you can do is to blame the victim… have mercy on the weak!

    Another interesting contrast made is that between Sabry’s generation (he is a middle-aged man) and the generation of his daughter. The latter had spoken out against what her father initially said, calling his statements ‘lies’. The blog The Arabist mentioned her saying:

        In the most surreal part of this sad episode, Hamada Saber and his daughter Randa ended up arguing about what happened to him on a major satellite TV talk show, with Hamada accusing Randa of having taken money from satellite channels to lie about him.

    Ahmed Talaat added:

        لسه الناس مش قادرة تصدق أن فيه فرق بين جيل حمادة و جيل بنته ! جيل حمادة لسه بيخاف من أمين الشرطة ! جيل بنته مابيخافش من رئيس الجمهورية ..

        @AhmadTal3t: People are still not able to believe that there is a difference between Hamada’s generation and that of his daughter! Hamada's generation is still afraid of a police officer! The generation of his daughter is not afraid of the president of the republic..

    Later on, Saber, after hearing the reactions of his own family and the Egyptian people to his initial statements, decided to change his testimony. He apologized for blaming the protesters, claiming security forces were the ones who beat him and stripped him of his clothes. He also stressed that he hadn’t received any money to make the statements he initially made.

  • Leading online retailer, Konga has emerged as Nigeria’s most liked e-commerce site on Facebook with over 100,000 fans since launching in June 2012.

    It is not surprising that the company which has been known for its fast delivery and good customer service achieved this milestone in such a short period of time while other e-commerce sites trail behind.

    From the positive feedback on the Internet and particularly, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, about the company’s e-commerce services, one could tell that Konga is giving consumers what they want, how they want it, and when they want it.

    Meanwhile, Konga’s major competitor, Jumia Nigeria which reached 50,000 likes on Facebook in December 2012, after six months of launching, currently has over 78,000 likes on the most popular social network.

  • Twitter has launched advertising services in North Africa while launching similar services in the Middle East.

    This follows user subscriptions tripling in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The increased uptake of Twitter in the region is thought to have been motivated by widespread usage of the network during the Arab Spring protests in 2011.

    Shailesh Rao, Twitter Vice-President for International Operations, said: “The two are interconnected – the rapid growth of our user base with the timing of why we want to help brands connect with that audience.”

    Already Twitter has managed to secure some big advertising accounts, with Pepsi and Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) amongst the confirmed clients.

    Only four percent of the total advertising spend in MENA region is accounted for by digital advertising, but Twitter bosses still believe a tech-savvy population and rising Internet penetration in the region points to significant potential for growth.

    The micro-blogging platform will launch advertising in Egypt, along with some Middle Eastern countries, through Egypt’s Connect Ads, a subsidiary of Cairo-listed Orascom Telecom Media and Technology.

    Mohamed El Mehairy, Connect Ads’ Managing Director, said: “Social media advertising is totally different because it relies on what people say. It’s about two-way, not one-way, communication.”

More

  • Number Portability Forum 2013
    11-12 February 2013-01-11 Dubai, UAE

    At Tavess' Number Portability Forum 2013, As the only event in the region dedicated to Number Portability, find out what it takes to successfully implement Number Portability, sustain the momentum after launch through continued management, and further leverage the opportunities created by Number Portability to reap significant benefits.
    The programme will provide best practice case studies for all the different Number Portability stages from planning and implementation to launch and post-launch optimization and management. This event is a 'must attend' for regulators, new entrants as well as incumbent operators.
    For more information please click here:

    Mobile Web East Africa 2013
    19th - 21st February 2013
    Venue: Southern Sun Mayfair Nairobi, Kenya

    Taking the monetisation and content creation dialogue to the next level
    Mobile Web East Africa, the East African edition of the most progressive and interactive mobile focused events in Sub-Saharan Africa, is primed to once again be the leading mobile focused conference in the region this year.
    Website: http://www.mobileeastafrica.com
    Email: comms@allamber.co.uk
    Tel: +44 1376 521 170

    Broadband MEA
    19 - 20 March 2013
    The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai,

    The region’s premier broadband event attracting 750  decision makers from across The Middle East and Africa. Now in its 5th year, the event is the only place to meet the entire industry under 1 roof.
    The 2 day comprehensive programme including 2 pre conference workshops brings together 70+ speakers including 40+ operator case studies to address the current issues surrounding broadband.
    With our most impressive speaker line-up to date, the conference focuses on both Business and Technology Strategy covering all the topics surrounding broadband. Plus the 2 workshops hosted by MENOG and Etisalat on the 18th March will provide a deep dive into IPv6 and LTE issues and developments.  For more information or book your place at the event visit here:

    Operators – don’t forget to claim your exclusive 50% discount when purchasing a full conference pass!

    The Social Media Week Lagos Team is excited to announce that our official schedule is now LIVE and registration is open! 
    At present we have 84 events scheduled and will be adding some very exciting evening events that will soon be announced.  We ask that you please join us in letting your readers, network and the world know that Africa did not disappoint and we are delivering a world-class event.  Social Media Week Lagos is truly history in the making and we invite the world to take part.
    You can find the SMW Lagos schedule here:
    See this link for our 30 second spot that starts airing next week across the continent on Channel O TV: Download Link for SMW Lagos Media Package:

     

  • Google Africa opens Science Fair entries

    Google Africa has announced the launch of the third Google Science Fair for teenagers, with Google+ Hangout events newly added for 2013’s competition.

     “Visit the website here to get started now—your idea might not only change Africa, it might just change the world,” Google Africa said.

    As the annual competition opens its online gates for entries until April 30, 2013 (11:59 PM Pacific Daylight Time (PDT)), the opportunity offers extra prizes and weekly Google+ Hangout sessions for maximised engagement with participants and the public.


    Tech Demo Africa 2013 open for registration

    Registrations for demonstrations at Tech Demo Africa scheduled for May this year are now open, encouraging business leaders, service providers, key government bodies, venture capitals (VCs) and developers to showcase their tech solutions.

    The event, organised by technology news site IT News Africa, is in its second year.

    “Tech Demo Africa is the place to conduct technology business,” IT News Africa said.

    Networking opportunities with more than 200 attendees, 30 exhibitors and reporters and demonstrations, exhibitions and discussion groups with three course meal functions will be available from May 14 to 15 at the Hyatt Regency in Johannesburg. 

    Showcase areas and guided industry meetings are promising occasions of enhanced engagement to discuss the latest technology solutions and build relationships within the information technology (IT) business sphere.

    Among others, the South African-based world leading computer company Lenovo will offer showcasing highlights at this year’s event.

    More exhibitors will be announced via press releases, according to Vardis Banga at IT News Africa.
    For more information please visit the website here:

Syndicate content