Newsletter English

Issue no 591 10th February 2012

node ref id: 24102

Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Issue no 591 10th February 2012

node ref id: 24102

Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Issue no 591 10th February 2012

node ref id: 24102

Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Issue no 591 10th February 2012

node ref id: 24102

Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Issue no 591 10th February 2012

node ref id: 24102

Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Issue no 591 10th February 2012

node ref id: 24102

Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Issue no 591 10th February 2012

node ref id: 24102

Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Issue no. 59110th Fenruary 2012

node ref id: 24102

Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Issue no 591 10th February 2012

node ref id: 24102

Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Issue no 591 10th February 2012

node ref id: 24102

Top story

  • The speed with which Facebook grew in Africa was startling but the story is now well-known. Lithuanian social network Eskimi is designed for low-end handset users and in a little over 18 months it has gone from nothing to 2.5 million users. Anyone who believes that mobile content is important has to understand why this has happened. Russell Southwood picks over the bones with Vytas Paukstys, CEO, Eskimi and Nigerian Ayo Alli who has taken on the promotion of the site.

    There’s a cycle of events before the content moment arrives. International fibre connections have to be in place: content and apps don’t grow on satellite bandwidth. Wholesale bandwidth prices have to come down so that retail prices for the individual user come down: operators have to stop selling shortage. Then international brands like Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter begin to grow. From research we have done elsewhere, this is generally followed by local versions of the international brands, particularly in larger markets.

    The Eskimi story is one of a social network that didn’t come from the usual places and chose to break out in emerging markets rather than the crowded European and North American markets. Also as with the “iTunes for Africa” site, Spinlet (which formally launches at Mobile Web East Africa next week), this is a collaboration between a small European country and Nigeria. The trading centre of gravity in the world is slowly beginning to tip on its axis.

    According to VytasPaukstys, CEO, Eskimi:”We started experimenting in the Baltics and it went great there. So we decided to go international and do test marketing elsewhere in the world. We started in Asia and then went to Africa. We focused on four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.”

    All this has taken it to the point where at the beginning of November 2011, 1.7 m of its 3 m global users were Nigerian. But also use at that point in other African countries was also growing: 250,000 registered users in Ghana, 35,000 users in Kenya and over 30,000 in Namibia. Now it has 5 million global users, of which half are in Nigeria. Overall, Africa now has 1 million users. In other words, it is gaining critical mass in Ghana and other places, making it more than a one-hit, one country wonder.

    Eskimi is a low-end, mobile web product and it is building an Android app but it believes, it’s too early for a smartphone application. The pattern of use must be reassuring for Nokia as in November 2011, 73% were using the Opera Mini browser which is most frequently found on its handsets. At this point, 90% of use is on Opera Mini or the proprietary browser on the handset. Critical mass needs a wide potential user base as not everyone who has the right phone will use the product or service.

    So if there are say 1 million smartphone users, only 10-30% may use a particular service and only a smaller percentage use it regularly(see look and feel in graphic) Also this year, Eskimi will go out to local developers to develops to help create more services around the platform.

    What are they all using it for? What a small number of them used to lurk in cyber-cafes and do: discovering new friends, messaging, public chat, fan boards, picture sharing and dating tools and games. In other words, flirting, dating, romance and much, much more. 86% of them in Nigeria are in the social category that moves technology change across Africa, 18-34 year olds. You can guess that these people are less deferential and probably more in a hurry than their parents. Usually these things are heavily focused on the capital or the main city but not Eskimi. Only 32% of its users are in Lagos, the majority of the rest being spread across seven cities.

    Part of its growth phenomenon is down to how it was marketed. In the early days, it paid special attention to feedback from users, fine-tuning the product at that stage. And although it has spread throughout Africa, largely by word of mouth, it has offered incentives for users to write to their friends and connect with them, giving them some of the virtual currency available to users.

    The business model for the site is two-fold: sale of virtual currency (purchased through operator and which it shares with them) and advertising. For the latter, the 18-34 year old audience is attractive and can be highly targeted. Where African media is researched, the methodology is often open to question and where it is not, who knows how many people actually listen to, watch or read it?

    Eskimi knows enough about its list users to be able to target very precisely and it is getting a 20% response rate on those targeted lists. It can also trade its virtual currency to advertisers to use in competition promotion and for other incentives.

    Elsewhere the breakdown of revenues has been half from virtual currency and half from advertising revenues. In Africa, this has been more like 20% virtual currency and 80% advertising. But Eskimi’sPaukstys is not just chasing the traditional advertisers:”Africa’s at the media creation stage. Classifieds, business listings, news portals, etc are all growing. Revenues will come from these media creation businesses.” Media creation? Uh? Think people like Mocality and Jobberman who have to also get to critical mass for their businesses to succeed. Another source of revenue will be mobile money operators: there are ten licences in Nigeria, making their climb to critical mass a daunting task without a carefully focused marketing platform. It can also provide a platform to do the kind of research about media consumers that is currently sorely lacking.

    So in the cycle of events described at the beginning of this article, things are still largely at the stage of the arrival of international brands. Brands like Flickr and Tumblr have yet to make a noticeable impact on the continent. But local entrepreneurs – particularly in the larger markets need to think about what will work (probably in a vernacular language) that is not just a “me-too” product and developers who are all hyped up about smartphone apps need to think about whether they might be doing something more responsive to the market (most likely on feature phones) in the short to medium term.

    To follow the exchanges about this news, you need to be on Twitter. Follow us on @BalancingActAfr

    This week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on the rise of social network Eskimi in Nigeria.
    It has 2.5 m subscribers and the secret to its success is that it works on low-end handsets

    Also to understand how social media is used in Africa:
    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Past clips on downloading and streaming content

    Conrad Nkutu, CEO, Fast Track Productions on its download platform:

    Santos Okottah, founder, eziki.tv on its livestreaming and downloads service

    Jason Njoku, CEO, Iroku Partners on distributing Nollywood and Nigerian Music using You Tube

    LippeOosterhof, CEO, Livestation on live streaming for African news broadcasters

telecoms

  • TurkCellIletisimHizmetlera AS (TurkCell) has confirmed that talks with South African mobile operator MTN (MTN) are ongoing, with the former looking to bring a case against MTN and its subsidiary, Irancell, in a US court.

    MTN, which owns 49% of Irancell – the group that was awarded the 2nd Iranian GSM licence – said last Thursday that it had been informed by TurkCell that it believes it has a claim against MTN and its relevant subsidiary,

    This is arising out of the award of the second GSM Licence based on alleged violations of US laws, and TurkCell has indicated an intention to bring such a claim before a US court.TurkCell claimed that MTN had asked South Africa to support Iran’s nuclear development in return for a license.

    A spokesperson for TurkCell told BusinessTech: “As the discussions between our company and MTN have been continuing pertaining to the issues mentioned in the press announcements of MTN, we cannot make further comment on this issue. And we will not make any public announcement until the discussions are finalised.”

    Turkcell would not comment on any of the legal action MTN referred to last week.
    MTN said it would not comment further following its announcement made on Thursday (February 2, 2012). It said that, so far, no such claim had been filed in the courts or served on MTN.

    TurkCell has been listed on the NYSE since July 2000, and is the only NYSE-listed company in Turkey.

    The spokesperson alluded to a statement filed with Capital Markets Board (CMB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in TurkCell’s Q3 2011 IFRS report relating to the dispute with the Iranian GSM tender process.

    “The company has initiated an arbitration case against Islamic Republic of Iran for not abiding by the provisions of the Agreement on Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and demanded its sustained loss, on 11 January 2008 at the arbitration court which is established pursuant to the UNCITRAL arbitration rules. The arbitration process is still pending,” TurkCell said.

    Through a 49% holding in Irancell, MTN boasts 33.314 million subscribers and a 44% market share.

  • Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    Airtel Kenya has won a major concession from the government after the parent company was allowed to continue holding a 95 per cent stake in the second largest mobile telephony firm against regulations that cap foreign ownership at 80 per cent.

    The firm was given a three-year grace period in early 2009 to grow its local shareholding to at least 20 per cent after Information minister Samuel Poghisio granted businessman NaushadMerali exception to sell 15 per cent of the 20 per cent stake he held in then Zain Kenya to Kuwait-based Zain Group.

    The Kuwaiti firm sold its stake to India’s BhartiAirtel in June 2010 and handed the new owners the responsibility to either search for local shareholders or seek an extension in the first quarter of this year.

    Airtel says it has been granted extension on the strength that it is yet to settle in the loss-making Kenyan business — a move that will halt the jockeying for the stake among local businessmen.

    “BhartiAirtel has in accordance with the government policy obtained the requisite exemption from local shareholder requirements,” said ShivanBhargava, the chief operating officer of Airtel Kenya.“Airtel is committed to always comply with the requirements of the government policy.”

    Airtel did not disclose the period of the extension, but sources at the Communications Commission of Kenya said it will run for three years or until 2015.

  • Telecoms with poor service quality will soon start to pay 10 per cent of their gross income in penalties, if the communications regulator goes ahead to implement a new penalties schedule that seeks to curb the continued deterioration in service provision.
    Uganda Communications Commission told Daily Monitor yesterday that in consultation with stakeholders, the regulator had formulated a penalties schedule for telecoms that have failed to meet contractual obligations.

    Fred Ottunu, the UCC Communications and Consumer Affairs Manager, told Daily Monitor that effective next month, there shall be a schedule indicating fines to be paid for poor services."We are in consultations with all telecoms to come up with a detailed report indicating how much to be fined for which offense. The law allows us fines of up to 10 per cent in comparison to gross income," Ottunu said.

    Network failure applies to all core telecom services including; dropped and blocked calls, failure in sending and receiving SMS and related services like mobile money and internet.

    UCC said public outcry regarding the detoriating quality of service for telecoms had forced the commission to devise means of bettering the services.However, operators argue that they have not reached any conclusion on the matter and do not expect penalties to come in form of fines.

    Shailendra Naidu, the Warid chief commercial officer, said: "There is nothing conclusive yet and I hope the commission will first consult widely before it introduces penalties."

    ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, declined to comment saying, he was yet to receive information regarding the matter.

    Utl's Jamal Sultan said: "Even as UCC's recent Quality of Service report placed Utl in the lead in terms of service, we have not tired of laying strategies for improving our services."

  • GilatSatcom, a provider of domestic and international fiber and satellite-based connectivity services in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, has announced that it has released to market SuricatePRO, a communication solution that provides people in underground and other closed facilities with the ability to communicate over Iridium satellite phones. Providing coverage extension for Iridium devices, SuricatePRO extends telephony throughout the facility without loss of signal quality.

    SuricatePRO is the perfect solution for using Iridium devices without sky view. Satphone users in mines, secure military installations, underground facilities and remote locations without sky view can quickly set up a SuricatePRO communication link that enables seamless communication with the Iridium satellite constellation.

    GilatSatcom’s Mobile Satellite Director, Ami Schneider, declared, “With SuricatePRO, we delivertelephone communication to formerly impossible-to-reach locations and secure facilities. Now, after only a very simple installation of small, lightweight equipment, Iridium subscribers can gain reliable access to the Iridium network.”

    SuricatePRO takes advantage of Foxcom’s leading RF-over-fiber technology. To enjoy the benefits of SuricatePRO, customers need only to install outdoor and indoor units connected via fiber (up to 3 km). Immediately, Iridium satphone users in the room can access the Iridium constellation as if they had clear sky view.JackHotz, Foxcom’s CEO, stated, “SuricatePRO takes advantage of our innovative fiber-based solutions. This new product provides customers with an easily installable, complete solution to satphone telephony from challenging and even otherwise-impossible circumstances.”

  • Airtel Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards building the largest 3G network across Africa by announcing the launch of its 3G mobile platform in the country, which promises to change how subscribers experience the web on internet-enabled cell phones. The improved technology will enhance multimedia functionality, high speed mobile broadband and internet access; allowing  users to make video calls, watch live TV, send and receive emails, and download music from the handheld devices.

    “3G technology will give our customers the opportunity to interact with cellular technology in a different way,” explains R.V.S. Bhullar “This is why Airtel doesn’t see 3G as a product, but rather as a platform that enables our subscribers to experience data better.”

    There are currently about 400 million mobile subscribers in Africa, according to data from McKinsey & Co. Telecommunications is one of the continent’s fastest growing industries with a rapidly expanding cellular phone market that now includes internet access, mobile banking and mobile commerce.

  • Mobile handset manufacturer Nokia will establish a regional research and development centre in Nairobi in an effort to capture the growing number Kenya's software developers to cultivate applications for its African market.Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop said in Nairobi last week that the mobile telephony giant intends to use the local talent to develop mobile applications to rejuvenate its falling handset sales.

    The move is set to boost the earnings of local software developers and catapult the country's IT experts to global prominence."Kenya not only has the pool of talent required but has also demonstrated that it can produce mobile applications that can be used globally," said Mr Elop, adding Nokia will use a yet-to-be established regional research unit to develop applications that are relevant for Africa's users.

    Mobile application are Internet based software such as the Safaricom's mobile money transfer services M-Pesa or Ushahidi that run on smartphones and other mobile devices designed to help users to solve their day to day problems.

    Elop, who is in Nairobi to meet the local software developers, says Nokia is keen on mobile applications tailored to education, health and e-commerce sectors. He met about 50 software developers at iHub - an innovation centre that houses more than 3,000 software developers.

    Nokia is facing stiff competition in the handset market with firms such as Samsung, Apple and ZTE gaining marketshare and is looking at emerging nations to spur sales. The firm has shed more than 30,000 jobs in three years and moved production to Asia from Europe to cut costs. The Finnish giant last year downgraded the Kenya office from a regional hub to a sales and marketing office under South Africa.

    A report released by Gartner in November indicates that Nokia's global marketshare dropped to 22.8 in August from 30.3 per cent same period last year, with its overall pieces sold over the period dropping to 97,869.6 from 111,473 in 2010.

    ZTE, which has introduced cheaper smartphones, increased its global marketshare to three per cent in August 2011 from 1.8 per cent in the same period last year while Apple's increased to 4.6 per cent from 2.4 per cent in the period under review.

    Kenya's software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms - Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd - won global awards. Virtual City won the $1million Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge award for innovators who would create mobile products that can improve lives of people in developing nations.

    Taka Taka Solutions, a social enterprise that collects and recycles waste, won Sh4.2 million Dell Social Innovation Award for 2011 for a software to help authorities locate garbage.

  • Nigerians who were hoping to see the rollout of newly licensed Fixed Line operators may have to wait a little further, following a recent revelation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.

    NCC said in Lagos that the Commission was aware of the shortage of Fixed Line operations in the country, but that it was not in a hurry to licence additional operators, as a result of the low broadband penetration in the country.

    Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Eugene Juwah who gave the defence during an interactive session with telecoms reporters in Lagos, said "modern Fixed Line telephony is deployed over broadband, and we cannot issue licence for Fixed Line operators, when broadband deployment is not well spread in the country."

    According to him, the Commission would facilitate the wide deployment of broadband, especially in hinterlands and rural communities, hence its drive in empowering private sector participation in broadband deployment.NCC had in 2001 and 2003, issued Fixed Line licenses, alongside GSM(mobile) licences to MTN and Globacom respectively, but the operators decided to roll out their GSM services, leaving out the Fixed Line service.

    Both Globacom and MTN had promised that they were going to roll out fixed lLine services and they have connected fibre optic cables round most cities of the country, yet none of the operators have rolled out fixed lines service.

internet

  • For a first-time mother, it is usually her own mother who becomes the primary source of motherhood advice. Other female relatives and friends who already have children are often second on the speed-dial. And while online communities and forums are a popular source for information, they can be unreliable.
    Inspired by all this, SuperMama was born.

    Launched last October, SuperMama is the first of its kind, a website and online parenting community targeting mothers and mothers-to-be around the Middle East. The bilingual Arabic and English site provides essential information on almost every aspect of mothers’ lives and childcare.

    Two dynamic young ladies, Yasmine al-Mehairy and Zeinab Samir, are the masterminds behind SuperMama. In June, prior to the launch, they teamed up with Sherine al-Sammaa, the marketing director, aiming to complement each others' experience.

    SuperMama acts as an information hub, offering content for all aspects of a mom’s busy life, including pregnancy, parenting, cooking, home maintenance, and the mother’s own personal lifestyle and interests. All content is created by specialists, such as physicians, nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, professional cooks and home management experts.
    The unique aspect of the site is its localized content, which distinguishes it from foreign websites that often offer advice irrelevant to Arabs' normal lifestyles.

    Hitting more than 2,000 registered users and over 20,000 unique visits in the first month of the launch,SuperMama has already proven a success.
    “Our aim is to become, in the near future, the first website for women in the Middle East and North Africa,” Mehairy says.

  • When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving.

    "It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance," said Adrian Louw, program integrator at Bush Radio.

    The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply.

    Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of color. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. "The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that
    knows our internet protocols," said Louw.

    The station has a rich history of defiance during the apartheid era. Back then it broadcasted illegally after repeated applications for a license were turned down. Since the granting of a broadcasting license in 1994, the station has evolved with the times. "If blogging works, why do we have to pay thousands of (South African) Rands to get a designer to design a fancy website for news when a free CMS (content management system) works?" asked Louw.

    Bush Radio is also renowned for training young people in broadcasting. Social media has enabled them to spread the message quicker. "For instance we had a recruitment for news volunteers. We had a response from over sixty applicants within three days." For Bush Radio, social media complements the weaknesses of radio – its immediacy and transient nature. With social media, the station can now relay important messages that have a presence on the internet.
    "We seriously believe that technology must be used in bettering people’s lives," said Louw.

    Across town in South Africa’s biggest single township of Khayelitsha, Radio Zibonele has a lot in common with Bush Radio. Radio Zibonele’s listenership has steadily increased with the station’s meteoric rise from its days of broadcasting under the bed of a shipping container truck in 1995. With over 220 000 listeners, feedback grew and inundated the single studio phone line. The advent of social media has been a welcome development for Radio Zibonele.

    Like most community media, Radio Zibonele traditionally interacts with its audiences through outreach programs such as road shows and other sponsored community activities. However, of late, dwindling sponsorship has been a hindrance. Social media, said NtebalengShete, the station’s program manager, fills the gap by reconnecting with the community.
    Radio Zibonele broadcasts mostly in the local language, isiXhosa. Its flagship program discusses various social problems, and feedback peaks during this two-hour program.

    The high penetration of mobile phones with internet connectivity has also boosted the number of listeners who log onto social networks. According to latest figures provided by Cellular Online, a mobile portal, South Africa has a growing subscriber base of close to 20 million users.
    "I think people are growing with technology…many of the people want to be on Facebook and Twitter," said Shete.

  • Google has added five Western Cape wineries to its popular Street View service in Google Maps and will begin collecting images in Botswana in the next few weeks, the Internet giant says in a new blog post.

    The five new wineries – Boekenhoutskloof, Groot Constantia, Hartenberg, Môreson, Rustenburg Wines and Warwick – bring to 30 the number of wineries now available in Street View. Google uses specially equipped trikes and cars to take the images.

    The company says it will use Chevrolet Capitva vehicles to add a range of places in Botswana, including Gaborone, Francistown and the country’s tourist and wildlife destinations. These include Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pans, Central Kalahari Game Reserve and KgalagadiTransfrontier Park.

    Images collected by the cars will be processed and carefully stitched together, a technological process that can take several months. They will be made available at a later date, Google says

  • SkyVision Global Networks, a provider of IP connectivity over satellite and fiber optic networks, has announced that it has partnered with CMC Networks, a leading ISP based in South Africa, to establish SkyVision South Africa (Pty)., a local subsidiary and addition to its rapidly growing local African presence.

    In this latest strategic move, SkyVision, winner of the coveted AfricaCom Satellite Service Provider of the year Award, opens a local South African office, expanding its local footprint into Africa's most vibrant business hub. This move places the company in a prime tactical position to answer Africa's growing need for high quality communication services over fiber, wireless and satellite, like never before.

    "We are thrilled to combine SkyVision's pan-African satellite coverage with CMC Networks impressive global infrastructure and extensive fiber connectivity services to bring SkyVision South Africa customers high quality connectivity from and to anywhere in Africa, Europe, the USA  and the Middle East", stated Doron Ben Sira, CEO of SkyVision.

    Providing customized, Virtual Private Network and Internet Access services over its IP/MPLS and satellite networks, SkyVision South Africa will operate an iDirect HUB in Johannesburg, providing coverage over all of South Africa as well as the Sub Saharan African countries.
    "SkyVision and CMC Networks will now jointly offer a network of 36 MPLS POPs across Africa and 20 additional global POPs to enable global corporates to share business-critical information via voice and data applications where traditional terrestrial networks have been thus far unsuccessful.

    “CMC Networks embraces the opportunity to extend its African VSAT footprint with SkyVision. The two networks combined will extend the service offerings, increasing reach and deliverables reinforcing our aggressive expansion within the continent to provide a one stop shop for holistic hybrid connectivity throughout Africa. We foresee this new network to be the most expansive in Africa once complete” stated Grant Walker CEO of CMC.

    Additional services will include: Unified Threat Management value-added services, business continuity and disaster recovery services, collocation and hosting.

  • Canadian start-up Exponential Labs claims to have monitored Google+ since it launched and have made statistics about the social network available onlineNew statistics from PlusDemophraphics.com finds as many as 466,828 Google+ users in South Africa, and counting.

    Globally, PlusDemophraphics.com notes approximately 90 million Google+ users worldwide, against more than 800 million active users on Facebook – and approaching five million active users in South Africa.

    PlusDemophraphics.com is owned and operated by Exponential Labs, a small start-up out of Toronto, Canada. “We’ve been monitoring Google+ since it launched, and our extensive knowledge and experience has made us somewhat of an unofficial authority,” it says.

    The majority of Google+ users in South Africa, 36.32%, are Married; 31.92% are Single; 42.42% are looking for networking; and 39.40% are looking for Friends.

    Approximately 71% of users are male, while the majority of users in SA – at 37.3% – are aged 25-34, followed by 18-24 year olds comprising 35.8%.

    Just less than 28% of users originate from Johannesburg, with about 14% coming from Pretoria, according to PlusDemophraphics.com.

    The majority of users are students, which follows the global pattern.

    Up to 70.38% of global users of Google+ are male, with the majority of users, at 50.4%, in the 18-24 years category.

    Of the South Africans on Google+, Exponential Labs says 45.82% are also active on Facebook, while 44.83% use Twitter.

  • The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has said it will soon provide wide Internet access to students in universities across the country. ProfessorCleopasAngaye, the Director-General of the agency, said this in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

    'We are looking at situation whereby we can provide wide internet service to universities, at least, get a pilot scheme to look at maybe two or four; how we can provide internet access to 20,000 students simultaneously.

    'That will actually be breakout of the traditional system in which Internet is only provided between maybe 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., during day light hours.

    'But if we can do that wide area Internet network for universities, students can use this Internet access 24 hours. We are looking for ways of doing that.

    'Like I said, it depends on whether it will be approved in the budget. If it is, we will provide more research, more computing and more interaction among students in universities.'

    He said the project would fast-track economic development through the use of Information and Communication Technology (CIT).

    Angaye stated that the project, if approved, would commence with a pilot scheme with few universities and would be extended to other universities.

    He reiterated the determination of the agency towards the transformation of the economy through the deployment of series of Information Technologies that would benefit Nigerians.

computing

  • MyMilpark, Milpark Business School's new online learning environment, provides a platform for students with their own e-mail address.

    Milpark recognises that the student is the principal player in the teaching-learning transaction and should be encouraged to take charge of his/her own learning experience.

    One of MyMilpark's primary aims is to provide an improved learning experience for distance learners through increased interaction and access to learning resources.

    The website will be used to deliver all learning related information (assignment due dates, exam information) content (assignments, cover sheets, subject specific information) and functionality (assignment uploads, forums etc) to Milpark students.

    All current students have access to MyMilpark and will be notified of their usernames and passwords. The platform is also available on mobile devices through a mobisit, to which tablets and smart phones will automatically be redirected.

  • National Police's anti-gender based violence (GBV) offices received computers and cameras worth Rwf 8.5 million from Actionaid Rwanda to support their efficiency in curbing the vice.

    The equipment will be dispersed to Police GBV offices in Nyaruguru District, Southern Province and Musanze District, Northern Province, in a bid to circulate capacity of all their offices.

    Upon her tour of police facilities, Joanna Kerr, the Chief Executive of Actionaid International, pledged more support in terms of training and equipment to aid police.

    She singled out the police hospital in Kacyiru, Kigali, as a facility that Actionaid would assist in order to foster partnership.

    "At Actionaid, we are motivated to provide relief to women and children who suffer domestic violence just because of their gender; the National Police is utilising the few resources at its disposal to perform an extraordinary task that is beneficial to the vulnerable groups in Rwanda," she said.

    Police Spokesman, TheosBadege, commended Actionaid for lending a hand in the fight against domestic violence.

    "We run anti-GBV desks in all its offices countrywide, with councillors, legal advisors and activists. We work with various stakeholders, both from government and the private sector, to ensure that peace prevails because its part and parcel of the country's development," he said.

    Police statistics indicate that there were 4,680 GBV related cases reported and acted upo

  • Ministry of Health launched a Human Resource for health Information System a digitalised information system for managing human resource in the Ministry. The purpose of the system is to improve for better planning purposes and to easily identify vacancies and fill them.

    "Managers who will access this information will be able to report any vacancies to the Ministry so that they are filled on time," Vincent Oketcho Chief of Party, Uganda Capacity at IntraHealth said.

    He said previously there were difficulties in obtaining reliable data and this made it difficult to plan accordingly for health services because details were stored manually and sometime s the papers would be misplaced but this is bound to change with the electronic system.

    Oketcho says the information will only be restricted to managers and administrators of the hospitals for security purposes because information can easily be altered.

    During the launch at Hotel African in Kampala on Feb 7, John Mark Winfield the USAID Deputy Director says maternal health activists have pointed to the absence of trained personnel as the reason for the majority deaths in the labour wards but Winfield hopes if this gap is filled then we shall see the number if those dying going down.

    Richard Nduhura the State Minister for Health says the system which was introduced in 2006 will see to the equitable distributions of health workers through out the country. He says well as 80 percent of the population is concentrated in the rural areas, only 20 percent of the health workers are distributed in the rural areas and the remaining 80 percent of the health work force in concentrated in towns with a population of 20 percent.

    He says says the shortages have been translated to work loads where the only available health workers have to cater to the over load of patients which in the end results to poor health service care in the end.

    Nduhura says the system will see to effect that absenteeism, ghost workers some of the challenges widespread in the health work force are reduced. "There will be consistent monitoring which will help us to quickly identify the gaps and quickly fill them immediately," he said.

    He says the government with the support of the World Health organisation and the World Bank will extend the system to 40 other districts. So far 69 districts have been installed on the system and by 2014; the Ministry hopes the system will be installed in all the districts in the country.

    The system will also be adopted by the Public service and all government agencies to recruit and transfer staff.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • A tax row between Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and telecoms company MTN has been scheduled for arbitration starting February 15 after failed attempts to resolve the matter in the boardroom and court.

    The two entities are locked in a contest over Shs136 billion that according to URA, was incurred as a tax liability by the telecom company between 2003 and 2007. However, MTN Uganda insists the tax liability is unfounded and had earlier sought court intervention to block the claim.

    According to court documents, the dispute started when URA in 2009 suspected MTN of defaulting on its obligations related to management fees, a tax normally charged on income of expatriates, which the telecom employed between 2003 and 2007.

    URA also contends that over the same period, the telecom, despite massively building its brand in Uganda, did not pay what is due in terms of taxes in that regard, yet it earned income off the brand.

    Coupled with the failure to remit PAYE on bonuses advanced between the periods, URA wrote a letter in December 22, 2011, to MTN to assess the tax liability of the telecom estimated in excess of Shs136 billion.

    “On December 22, 2011, URA issued a letter that found MTN to have tax liability in respect of management fees, brand, PAYE on bonus and penal tax of Shs136 billion,” a court document, seen by this newspaper reads in part.

    The same document says the telecom is adamant to pay the Shs136 billion because URA’s demand is outside the law. MTN further claims that URA’s intention is driven by the desire to collect more revenue and not by rational decision of equity.

    URA claims
    On the other hand URA argues the Shs136 billion tax liability, it claims MTN incurred between 2003 and 2007, was accrued on incomes sourced and earned in Uganda, therefore subject to taxation. Tax analysts Daily Monitor spoke to on the matter, said incomes sourced and earned within the country are normally subjected to taxation, unless there is a prior arrangement, or provision within the law that bars it application.

    When contacted early this week, Mr ThembaKhumalo, the MTN Uganda chief executive officer, said: “This is not something new. We are aware about it.” Also, a statement it issued later on did not elaborate much except stating: “This matter is currently in court and owing to the sub-judice rules we are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

    URA spokesperson Sarah BirungiBanage could not also comment on the matter, saying it is not the agency’s practice to discuss tax matters in public.

  • The entry of Airtel Uganda into the Mobile Money platform is set to generate renewed innovativeness that could yet again send ripples across Uganda's telecom sector.

    Early last week, Airtel launched it's mobile money platform dubbed 'Airtel Money' that will enable Ugandans to access liquid cash and convert it to e-money in order to pay bills and accounts, top up mobile credit and receive money across the country's telecom networks.

    Mobile Money glitches that occurred on the MTN network towards the close of last year gave rival telecoms a real chance to capitalize on these errors so as to get a share of the service that has been embraced by many Ugandans.

    Warid Telecom joined the platform by introducing cash transactions across all networks late last year.

    Airtel joins Warid, MTN and Uganda Telecom in providing mobile commerce to the vast mobile phone users.

    Airtel though has gone a step further and partnered with banks including Standard Chartered, Post Bank, KCB, Diamond Trust Bank, Centenary Bank and enabled their customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones using ATMs that are connected to the InterSwitch platform.

    Speaking during the launch of the service, V.G SomasekharAirtel Managing Director said that mobile phones are not only limited to making calls but have also become an avenue for cash transactions.

    "Mobile Commerce has the potential to completely transform the population and the core target of this service is the rural businessman.

    "Rural Uganda has often felt they were left out and that is why we have invested over Ushs100m ($42,864) into developing our network infrastructure because a tele density increase has the potential to drive GDP by up to 1%.

    "Our rural reach will enable even the person at the furthest end of the country to participate in commerce which will hence promote economic development," Somasekhar said.

    Experts have predicted that as a result of these innovations, Ugandans, mainly Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been presented with a chance to choose from the various operators the easiest and most convenient way to clear their bills, receive payment for their goods as well as access.

    According to Financial Technology Africa, recent surveys showed that a combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600b globally by 2013.

    LaminMajang, the Managing Director Standard Chartered Bank said that Mobile Money is not a threat to Banking but the two will complement each other because telecom and Banking are the fastest growing sectors.

    "We have integrated our systems with the telecoms and this will enable customers to transact directly from their accounts to mobile phones. A customer can therefore top up his/her mobile wallet through our ATMs", he said.

    According to mobilemoneyafrica.com, Michael Okwiri, the vice president for corporate communication at Airtel Africa, the firm was in the process ofcreating a seamless money transfer service in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania which will allow for cash transfer across EA.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Zimbabwe- Econet Wireless has started offering video conferencing facilities to companies and parastatals that can afford the service.In an interview after handing over 350 cellphone handsets and lines to junior parliamentarians in Harare on Wednesday, EconetChief Executive Officer Douglas Mboweni said the only hindrance was the bandwidth, but now with the coming in of the fibre optic system the future looks very bright.

Digital Content

  • Keeping things local is what the 2012 Eat In DStv Food Network Produce Awards is all about. Against this background, Eat In - the ultimate foodie shopping guide that takes the form of an annual magazine and www.eat-in.co.za, has announced a new award for best local food blog this year.

    This accolade acknowledges the role that local bloggers play in South Africa's food industry. For most of them blogging is a labour of love undertaken in their spare time, yet thousands of consumers trust their favourite bloggers' opinions and follow their cooking and shopping advice.

    "In order to recognise local bloggers that are doing their bit to uplift local produce and small producers, we decided to introduce a new category in this year's awards. We also hope to encourage more bloggers to support the little guys this way," explained Eat In editor AneldeGreeff.

    After nominations were accepted from the public, the judges settled on 10 finalists for the blog award, as well as the winners of the other categories such as best new product, best small producer (in sub-categories like grocery, dairy and bakery) and best organic producer, among others. Appropriately, the blogger award is the only one determined by Eat In readers' votes. Members of the public can vote once each for their favourite blogger on Eat In.

  • The state-owned Angola Airline Company (TAAG) will launch this year an electronic service that enables customers to locate their luggage by inserting a number on the system, ANGOP has learnt.

    This was announced on Tuesday by TAAG's director for operations, RuiCarreira, who added that the customer will enter into the system through a computer connected to the Internet, an operation that enables the person to make complaints in the same manner.

    "The implementation of this system will facilitate the luggage recovery process, said the source, when speaking to the press on the fringe of a seminar on Consumers and the Airport Services, held by the National Institute for Consumers Defence (Inadec).

    The gathering had the participation of representatives of the National Firm for Airports Exploration and Air Navigation (Enana), National Civil Aviation Institute (Inavic), Ghassist firm, Lardef association and operators linked to airport services.

  • The increasing use of software applications (widely known as apps) in solving Africans' problems has been highlighted by the three winning entries of the Apps4Africa: Climate Challenge contest.

    The regional competition encourages participants to address local climate change challenges through the development of web-based and mobile applications in the East African region.

    The first prize, worth US$15,00, was awarded to Grainy Bunch, a national supply chain management system which monitors the purchase, storage, distribution and consumption of grain across Tanzania.

    It was followed by the Mkulima Calculator team from Kenya, who won US$7,000 for an application designed to help farmers know when to plant crops and how to select suitable crops for a particular location using climate and weather data.

    Agro Universe, a mobile and web-based application from Uganda, took the third prize of US$3,000.

    The design of apps is flourishing as more Africans enter the middle classes, said Jonathan Gosier, co-founder of metaLayerInc, a US-based company that develops apps and application programme interface products.

    "There's a great deal of significance in the market being created.

    "Local apps developers are building solutions for the local mass market, who in turn are purchasing these apps and services. This is creating an ecosystem. This would be significant for Africa, as it creates jobs and local content, which allows them to represent themselves online," he said.

    Gosier added that many young people were now solving problems using apps: "This generation of Africans will build an app that demands their governments come to their villages and fill holes".

    Elisha Bwatuti, Mkulima Calculator project manager, said that his team made their app as user-friendly as possible and hoped that uptake would be successful.

    He added that the team plans to use the prize money to develop further apps, for example to alert farmers about when to apply various chemicals and to recommend good farming practices.

    But team member William Nguru said they are facing some challenges, especially funding. "We are still at university, hence we cannot work on applications full time, collect the data to feed into the system and get it to the farmers," he added.

    Linda Kwamboka, data collection and integrity officer with the Nairobi based M-Farm, a software and agribusiness company set up by women entrepreneurs, said information on weather patterns and what to plant in a particular region is useful, because farmers experience huge losses when they plant in regions that are not conducive for their crops.

  • A young Cameroonian engineer has built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save many African lives. He first has to find the necessary funding to mass-produce the device.

    In a country that has only 30 heart surgeons for more than 20 million people, the dream of Arthur Zang, a 24-year-old Cameroonian engineer, is to facilitate the treatment of patients with a heart disease across Cameroon.

    In 2010, he created a digital tablet known as Cardiopad: "It's the first fully touch screen medical tablet made in Cameroon and in Africa. It's an invention that could save numerous human lives", explains Arthur Zang.

    In fact, Cameroon's thirty heart specialists are all based in either Douala or Yaoundé, the country's economic and political capitals. Heart patients often have to travel across the country for a consultation.

    The Cardiopad solves this problem by enabling medical examinations to be performed remotely and the results transmitted electronically, saving patients the hassle of having to travel to the city.

    In practice, the Cardiopad is a device that can perform tests such as the electrocardiogram (ECG). The medical tablet also makes it possible to wirelessly send the results of the tests from remote locations to the specialist who will then interpret them.

    "The tablet is used as a classical electrocardiograph device: electrodes are placed on the patient and connected to a module that, in turn, connects to the tablet. When a medical examination is performed on a patient in a remote village, for example, the results are transmitted from the nurse's tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them.

    Software built into the device allow the doctor to give computer assisted diagnosis", explains the young engineer.

    It wasn't possible to send or save the results electronically. With the Cardiopad, the results are digitalised and transmitted. There is no need to print them, the heart surgeon can interpret them, even remotely, from his tablet and then send the diagnosis and prescribed treatment"

    "The Cardiopad will cut down the cost of examination. We intend to sell the device for 1500 euros, while the current price for an electrocardiograph device is 3800 euros. If hospitals purchase the device at a low price, they will be able to lower the prices of medical examinations", Arthur Zang hopes.

    However, there is still the issue of energy, as many of the country's remote regions do not have access to electricity. "The Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours", the engineer assures.

More

  • - Telecommunications group Telkom SA (TKG) on Wednesday advised that Polelo Lazarus Zim has been re-appointed as the chairman of the Telkom Board of Directors with immediate effect.