Newsletter English

Issue no 591 10th February 2012

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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

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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

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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

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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 590 3rd February 2012

node ref id: 24037

Top story

  • Many African regulators’ have introduced a tax on international inbound calls. It started with Côte d’Ivoire and then spread like a plague to Gabon, Ghana and Senegal, to name but a few. The latest country wanting to join the fold is Liberia and operators are seeking to persuade the regulator LTA not to go ahead. Isabelle Gross talks to Marzen Mroue, the CEO of Lonestar/MTN in Liberia and Richard Chisala, board member of Macra, the regulator in Malawi about this contentious subject.

    Back in August 2011, the LTA, the telecoms regulator in Liberia, issued a draft regulation on international traffic proposing that “all international inbound calls terminating to subscriber number with country code +231 incur a minimum regulatory fee of US$0.15 per minute (on top of the US$0.12 per minute wholesale price) and shall be collected by the terminating service provider on behalf of LTA”.

    If implemented, this would mean that the wholesale cost of calling Liberia from abroad would more than double. Inevitably, this increase would rapidly trickle down to the retail level and the Liberian diaspora would soon notice that the price for calling home had drastically increased.

    According to Marzen Mroue, MTN’s experience from other African countries that have implemented such a tax points to a decrease in volume of traffic which would translate into a decrease in revenue and finally a decrease in tax revenues. Mroue is also worried that any tax on international inbound calls would have a broader socio-economic impact, causing the diaspora to have less money available to send back to their families in Liberia.

    The disproportionate nature of the proposed tax appears all the more stark when one considers that 80% of Liberia’s international voice traffic is with the USA – one of the lowest priced telecoms wholesale markets on earth. While US carriers charge a couple of US cents to terminate a minute in their country, they will need to pay 27 cents to terminate a minute in Liberia: an imbalance that seems unfair and ultimately unsustainable. MTN’s CEO is of the view that US carriers will respond to this disparity by increasing the current termination rate to the USA. As a result, Liberians will need to pay more to call their family and friends in the USA.

    As we have suggested in earlier articles, some African regulators are not looking beyond the short term in terms of taxes on inbound calls, preferring to treat the consumer as a cash cow, rather than looking at the bigger picture including the impact on their people, and the negative effects on their country's international image as a business-friendly environment. Marzen Mroue says that his company remains optimistic about solving this issue with LTA. Based on best practices in other markets, he is sure that alternative solutions are workable that will raise income for the Government of Liberia without stifling the growth and innovation that taxed international voice connectivity will bring.

    In East Africa, Malawi’s regulator MACRA tried to introduce a similar monitoring system on international and national traffic. A lack of communication between the regulator, the telecoms operators and the press ended with Airtel launching a campaign against what it labelled the “spy machine”. According to Richard Chisala, member of MACRA’s board, Malawi is not actually going to monitor calls but will rather create an independent platform for call traffic analysis. The core requirements are QoS, revenue assurance, fraud and spectrum management.

    Initially, Malawi was not far from implementing a similar monitoring system to those in Ghana, Congo-Brazzaville or Guinea. These of course are limited to monitoring international inbound voice traffic and are intended to generate considerable revenue by applying a hefty levy, tax or fee or whatever inventive term regulators could come up with on the price of international inbound calls.

    Visits by MACRA to the monitoring providers in these countries gave the regulator second thoughts and encouraged it to look for alternative providers. Richard Chisala explains that he went to the USA to meet with Agilis International, a company specialised in revenue management and fraud detection. Their services and offerings come with few strings attached: a CAPEX layout to acquire the system and a small maintenance, fee which MACRA will recoup on voice call traffic. For the telecoms operators this represents a levy of between 4-5% on voice traffic, which is considerably cheaper than what the initial monitoring service provider had asked for.

    It is important to understand what is at stake here. The issue is not the enforcement of regulatory requirements in itself, but rather ensuring that this is done in a way that does not excessively reward the monitoring provider or that it imposes inefficient tax burdens. To some extent what one may term "the Malawi solution" might offer an acceptable midway course. It fulfils the regulator’s aim of having more transparency on the volume of international and national voice traffic, while at the same time it is more cost-effective and less likely to penalise African citizens and business.

    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:

    Things that drive traffic…new clips

    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

    Nigerian digital entrepreneur Ayo Alli on social media and the Occupy Nigeria protest

    Jon Davies, Chief Executive, Wikimedia UK on Wikipedia in Africa, its deal with Orange for Africa and its search for other mobile operators to work with. Wikipedia is one of Africa’s most widely used sites.

    Things that drive traffic…past clips

    Reg Swart, Fundamo on M-money services in Africa

    Kofi Dadzie, CEO Rancard Solutions on the state of the mobile Internet in Ghana

    Nadeem, Juma, CEO, Mobipay
    on m-payments and social media in Tanzania

    To subscribe to Balancing Act’s You Tube channel so that you get immediate notification when videos are uploaded, press the link here and then press the yellow subscribe button above video clip.

telecoms

  • The Uganda Communication Commission will hold a meeting with telecom executives to discuss, among other things, the increasingly deteriorating service quality, according to Eng Godfrey Mutabazi the UCC Executive Director. The meeting will mainly focus on the failures registered in the mobile money service, ambiguous charges, service interruptions and network failures.

    Speaking to Daily Monitor on the sidelines of the launch of UCC’s 2nd Annual Communications Innovation Award, Eng Mutabazi, said growing challenges in the telecom sector have impacted heavily on telecommunications, inconveniencing customers and businesses. He said: “Telecoms have grown their subscription but have not cared to grow their capacity so as not to interrupt customer services.”

    Eng Mutabazi said the growth in customer numbers must be matched with growth in technology, service points and human resource. He said: “Unless telecoms work on expanding their capacity to meet the growing subscriber numbers, communication might in the near future become worse.”

    Commenting on the matter, Themba Khumalo said: “Although am not aware of the meeting, it is a welcome measure that will help telecoms devise ways of improving service delivery.

  • Tunisians reacted with anger after a new twitter policy was announced. The social network may now "re-actively withhold content from users in a specific country," so that Twitter can further expand globally and "enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression."

    On the company blog, Twitter explained: We haven't yet used this ability, but if and when we are required to withhold a Tweet in a specific country, we will attempt to let the user know, and we will clearly mark when the content has been withheld. As part of that transparency, we've expanded our partnership with Chilling Effects to share this new page, which makes it easier to find notices related to Twitter.

    Yassine Ayari, a Tunisian blogger with over 9,300 followers on Twitter said that the company's decision is "a big mistake." " Twitter should do the opposite because people living in countries with governments that are censorship regimes need Twitter to fight censorship," Ayari said. Ayari added that these kinds of decisions only "support the system of dictatorship."

    Tunisian blogger Malek Khadraoui (co-founder of the highly regarded collective blog Nawaat), also declared his strong opposition to the company's decision, "I am against any type of censorship," he asserted.

    According to Khadroui, Twitter played a major role during the Tunisian Revolution. "Twitter was link between international media and what was happening in the streets of Tunisia, journalists from around the world were following what was happening in Tunisia through Twitter," he added.

    "I was not actually surprised by this measure, after all Twitter is a private enterprise, however, I wonder what basis will Twitter use to classify the countries that need censorship," he added. Khadraoui has more than 5,600 followers on Twitter.

    Linda Ben Othman, a blogger and a Twitter user who has more than 3,600 followers, said that Twitter was a critical source of information during the Revolution. "People knew what was happening in Tunisia through Twitter."

    " I really think that this announcement was mainly for money and economic reasons, Twitter is the only social network where we can express ourselves freely, this is sad," she stated.

    Wajd Ben Abdallah, is also a blogger, with more than 25, 300 followers on Twitter. He said that during the revolution, traditional media was completely absent from following what was happening in the country, while the social network sites - Facebook and Twitter - were informing the whole world moment by moment about what was happening in Tunisia. "Activists relied on Twitter to publish videos and bring the reality of the situation in Tunisia at the time when the official Tunisian media was totally absent," she added.

    Regarding the censorship of Twitter, she said "it is such a shame that a space that is a sanctuary for delivering news and freedom of expression would make such an announcement."

    "This is a real coup against freedom, I believe, the credibility of Twitter is on the line because millions trusted it as a tool for communication and even more to broadcast the news at the time of our revolutions," she added.

  • South Africa’s MTN Group is reportedly investigating options relating to the future of Vodacom’s Congolese operation, Vodacom Congo. According to local news source IT Web Business, a spokesperson for MTN, Rich Mkhondo, said that MTN, along with other parties with an interest in the cellco, were involved in the process of assessing various options for Vodacom regarding its investments in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Meanwhile, a Kinshasa court recently ordered Vodacom to pay a consultant hired by the company to assist in negotiations with CWN betweenn 2007 and 2008 USD21 million. Moto Mabanga was paid USD2.8 million for the work, but has sued the company for a USD40.8 million ‘success fee’ that he believes he is entitled to. Although the amount awarded was just under half of the amount asked for, Mabanga believed the matter finalised. Vodacom is unlikely to accept the court’s decision, however.

    Spokesman Richard Boorman said: ‘We have not received the judgment on this matter so it is difficult to comment in detail. We would clearly have material objections to any judgment by a Congo court in which a monetary award was granted … while the contractual dispute is currently being heard in court in South Africa, which has jurisdiction on the issue.’

    Vodacom is embroiled in a long-standing dispute with its local partner Congolese Wireless Networks (CWN) regarding the funding and structure of the venture.

  • Libya’s LAP Green has lost the chance to reclaim the assets of its former troubled telco Rwandatel which are up for sale in the ongoing liquidation process, Rwandatel’s Administrator has disclosed. Lap Green had earlier on approached the authorities for a possible bid to reclaim assets of its former subsidiary.

    The liquidation process has attracted big players in the telecom industry including Bharti Airtel, which is set to commence operations in Rwanda before the end of this year. 

    “Lap Green was given an opportunity to submit a bid like any other player, but they didn’t submit any, now I can declare them out of the running,” Rwandatel’s Administrator, Richard Mugisha, said.

    “They approached us with a view of participating in the liquidation process and it is possible they (LAP Green) will participate like any other potential buyer,” RURA Director General, Regis Gatarayiha, said earlier last month.

    Rwandatel’s assets were supposed to be on course before the end of this month but ,according to Mugisha, they have pushed the deadline forward by another one month.

    “Because assets will be sold in parts, we have received some bids from successful bidders and are about to close them but we are still evaluating others, causing the delay to the selling date,” Mugisha noted.

    Mugisha dismissed claims that Airtel has already acquired Rwandatel’s telecom masts, saying that they have submitted a different bid but not for masts.  A court decision, last year, placed Rwandatel under liquidation.

    Rwandatel’s woes started when its GSM licence was revoked, early last year, by sector regulator RURA, following what RURA insisted was the failure by Rwandatel to comply with its operating obligation.

    The company was jointly owned by LAP Green networks a subsidiary of Libyan African Portfolio and the National Social Security Fund of Rwanda (CSR), with 80 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

    LAP Green is an investment arm that was started by the government of former Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi, who was ousted and later killed last year, during an uprising in the African oil rich nation.

  • South Africa’s leading alternative telecommunications company, Vox Telecom Ltd., is planning to launch uncapped asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) service, as well as exploring the idea of offering 3G service to its customers, according to a post on MyBroadband.com site.

    Vox Telecom CEO Douglas Reed told MyBroadband that “they believe uncapped ADSL is sustainable,” but highlighted that a “proper business model” is essential. He added, “Bottom line, uncapped broadband is what the consumer wants and a way has to be found for the Fair Access Policies (FAPs) to not only be transparent but not antagonize the average users.”

    According to the MyBroadband report, Vox Telecom is planning to use its own network to deliver uncapped ADSL. The report quoted Reed, as saying, “It is an evolutionary process and in the interim we do offer Telkom, IS and MWEB wholesale packages.”

    Currently, Telkom is the only provider of public switched communications services in South Africa, providing fixed-line voice, data, directory services and wireless data business services. As of March 31, 2006, Telkom had approximately 4.7 million telephone access lines in service and 99.9 percent of telephone access lines were connected to digital exchange. While Internet Solutions is South Africa’s major Internet service provider, MWEB is South Africa’s leading Internet service provider with services to other countries on the continent.

    MyBroadband editor Rudolph Muller wrote, “Reed is well aware that it is not easy to make uncapped ADSL work financially with fluctuating margins and stiff competition.” According to Vox Telecom’s Reed, “It is a continuous balancing act to reduce input costs and to stay competitive in this highly deflationary sector of our business.”

    Continuing to speak to MyBroadband, Reed told editor Muller that “economies of scale, investment in infrastructure and a focus on Internet services is key to make ADSL profitable.”

    The company has been in business for over 10 years. And has grown organically and through strategic acquisitions, wrote Muller. It is listed on the JSE with a market cap of 2.5 billion.

  • The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said  that the Number Portability (NP) service would begin by September.

    In an interactive session with journalists in Lagos, Dr. Eugene Juwah, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, said that the license for the service would be given to the operator this February.

    NP is a service that allows a subscriber to use another network other than his original network without losing his original number.

    Juwah said that the NP operator would be allowed six months to build the infrastructure and an additional two months to test run the infrastructure.

    ''So we expect that most likely the Number Portability service will start in September this year,'' he said.

    The NCC chief also said that the NCC was on the verge of auctioning the remaining slots on the 2.3GHZ frequency.

    ''We are also looking at the 2.6GHZ frequency, which today is not in the custody of NCC, it is in the custody of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

    “And we are discussing within the National Frequency Management Council on what to do with this frequency.

    “We believe that by the time we conclude all these, there will be enough frequency to be able to add towards the fibre development to create a good broadband deployment in Nigeria,'' Juwah said.

  • Glo Ghana boss, George Andah has disclosed exclusively to Adom Business News that the 023-3 number reservation campaign has been successful, creating the opportunity to open up another block of numbers beginning with 023-5 to enable more people reserve special numbers ahead of commercial launch. However, the company has still to set a launch date for its service.

    “023-3 has been successful – majority of those numbers have already been reserved but we also have our ears on the ground and a lot of people are telling us that the special numbers they wanted have already been reserved and that is why we have opened up the 023-5 block to give those people the opportunity to do so,” he said.

    The “Reserve Your Number Campaign” allowed some one million Ghanaians to text a special number beginning with 023-3 plus one’s own choice of six digits, to 0230010100 and reserve that special number until commercial service begins.

    Prior to the Glo ‘Reserve Your Number Campaign’ launch, some telecom bosses said the market was not ready for the new entrant; but George Andah responded and said “if competition is not ready for us, Ghanaians are.”

    George repeated his strong statement saying “we said the customers were ready for Glo and this active participation is testimony to that.”

    But George Andah stopped short of saying when exactly Glo will be doing its commercial launch since the 023-3 has been successful.

internet

  • The Mozambican Ministry of Science and Technology has signed a 20 year agreement to access international broadband fibre connectivity on the SEACOM network to Europe and onwards to the rest of the world.

    Beneficiaries of the newly acquired capacity include the Mozambique Research and Education Network (MoRENet) and the Government Electronic Network (GovNet), which are government-led projects established to improve online public service access and capability.

    The bandwidth will help MoRENet to deliver reliable and cost-effective, high-speed internet traffic to member institutions whilst creating the platform to share education and research content with other Nationwide Research Education Networks (NRENs) around the world.

    Similarly, GovNet will be able to better support its mandate to improve eGovernment performance. GovNet currently interconnects government institutions at both central and provincial levels, with an aim to connect all state and government institutions through a single private data communications network.

    Seacom CEO, Mark Simpson, said: “Seacom is the ideal partner to provide the international connectivity that will complement Mozambique’s extensive broadband data communications networks initiatives. Over the past three years, we have witnessed how the availability of true broadband at lower prices can accelerate educational initiatives and economic development across the region and we look forward to working with the Mozambican government to help Build a truly African Internet.”

    Both MoRENet and GovNet form an important part of the Mozambican government’s ICT Policy Implementation Strategy. The policy covers all major areas of Mozambique’s economy and society; tasked with creating an enabling environment for societal up-liftment, improved performance of both public and private sectors and most importantly the ultimate eradication of poverty in the country.

    The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr. Evaristo Baquete, said: “The Mozambican government views affordable and high quality data networks as a vital tool to achieve the country’s various developmental goals. Seacom brought cheaper and faster international connectivity to this country and we believe that they are the partner of choice to continue to bring about positive changes to the country and its people.”

  • Masia young people in the rural area of Ha-Masia, Limpopo will soon be connected to the rest of the world through the internet.

    This comes after Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti during his visit to the area announced that they are going to build a structure which will host a computer laboratory, cultural centre, community hall and a library.

    "We've a good working relationship with Apple Computer and we've an agreement with them to supply computers in 13 rural schools across the country.

    "Just like in other areas, we will do the same here and this will help young people in this village connect with the rest of the world," he said.

    When he visited the village last year in October, residents asked him to revamp their ageing showground.

    "We are going to put a capacity building structure that will be comprised of a library, computer laboratory, community hall and a cultural centre where you will showcase your cultural work and skills as well as telling the story of your village or South Africa.

    "Remember, a library is a source of knowledge and I also emphasised to the people driving the new project to include sporting facilities for netball, tennis court, table tennis and soccer fields," he said.

    According to Nkwinti, a lot of technical work has been done and these include the appointment of an engineer and a consultant.

    The Minister said construction of the new structure which has been designed in consultation with the Masia Community will commence in March.

    Giving feedback on the land claim issues raised by residents during his previous visit, Nkwinti said: "As government, we are busy working on a policy document that will help us to solve this land issue," he said.

    In neighbouring Matsila village, which is still under the traditional leadership of Nthumeni Masia, there is a thriving Matsila Community farming project aimed at developing agricultural productivity.

    Nkwinti also visited the project before addressing the Masia community accompanied by chief Livhuwani Matsila and Thovhele Masia.

    Through the Matsila Community Development Trust, the project received a whopping R54 million to fight food insecurity over the next three years.

    The project, unveiled by Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, has 180 goats, a herd of cattle with 50 Nguni cows, two bulls and 4 000 chickens with the capacity to lay up to 3 000 eggs per day.

    Thovhele Masia said: "We are excited about the infrastructure which is going to be built in my village. We are of the view that this will improve the lives of our people and in order for us to develop this settlement completely, we will continue working with our government," he said.

  • Google country manager Olga Arara-Kimani has left the firm days after the Internet giant said it had taken action against employees implicated in a recent data poaching scandal.

    Ms Arara-Kimani, who had been at the helm of the firm’s Kenyan operations when the scandal broke, last week said someone had to take responsibility.

    “I confirm I have left Google Kenya. As the leader of the Kenya office, I felt that the buck stopped with me and I decided to leave,” she wrote in a phone message to the Nation on Monday.

    Two weeks ago, Kenyan online business directory firm, Mocality, accused Google of fraudulently using its data to sell competing product to clients. Google later apologised over the matter and promised to launch investigations into it to guide its next course of action.

    Last Friday, Google’s Vice-President for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Nelson Mattos, said that investigations into the affair had been concluded.

    “We’ve taken appropriate action with the people involved and made changes in our operations to ensure this does not occur again,” said Mattos. Ms Arara-Kimani’s exit from Google came just three days after the statement was issued.

    “It’s a private matter between Olga and Google,” said Google’s head for Sub Saharan Africa, Mr Joe Mucheru, who is running the office until her replacement is found.

    Mocality chief executive Stefan Magdalinski had claimed that Google attempted to sell its “Getting Kenyan Businesses Online (GKBO)” products to business owners listed on Mocality’s site by claiming that the two companies were working together.

  • Zambia’s electricity parastatal, Zesco, is installing an advanced fibre optic infrastructure in the Western Province. The new network, being rolled out by China’s ZTE at a cost of around USD80 million, will deliver high speed broadband to government agencies, schools and businesses in the region.

    ZTE said in a statement that the network would not only largely accelerate Zesco’s bandwidth lease service and profit growth, but would also promote the development of optical network in the whole country of Zambia.

    The company said the old Zesco SDH national backbone network was no longer able to cope with rising market demands. The upgraded and network would build on the existing backbone to save on construction investment.

  • Unam’s public relations officer Utaara Hoveka told The Namibian that all students who have laptop computers equipped with wireless modems would have internet connectivity on campus.

    Hoveka said Telecom Namibia was installing the necessary cables last week.
    The university is further installing vending machines where students can buy printing credit on their student cards.

    In the past students queued up to buy credit, which is loaded onto their student cards to enable them to use printers in the copy centre.

    According to Hoveka, after the installation of the wireless internet connectivity, students will be able to print from their laptops in their rooms through a local area network.

computing

  • Congo’s VMK Tech has unveiled its answer to tablet computing – the Way-C device.
    The tablet, which was launched this week, was designed locally but is assembled in China.

    It retails for around USD299 and will be available initially in Brazzaville and Ponte-Noire. VMK expects to take the product to market in several West African countries later this year.

    The Android tablet has a 7 inch screen, 1.2GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal memory and supports WiFi, with a battery life of 6 hours. Plans are underway to integrate 3G.

  • The MTN SA foundation has opened media centres with Internet connectivity in 10 schools in KwaZulu-Natal's Msinga district.

    MTN announced it would invest R4 million in rural KwaZulu-Natal schools to raise the basic education bar and bolster electronic education in rural areas.

    In line with this bid, the MTN SA Foundation announced it has officially opened media centres in 10 schools in the province's Msinga district.

    MTN SA's chief corporate services officer, Robert Madzonga, said the company is intent on meeting national imperatives to make the move into an age of electronic education. “While we support more access for learners to the world of information technology, we are also aware that quality education is the most sustainable way to break the cycle of poverty and provide young people with a brighter future.”

    According to the latest statistics, only 23% of schools have Internet connectivity. While some private schools have started to introduce the use of iPads and other tablet devices in schools, MTN says the challenge for rural communities is the cost of basic utilities, such as electricity.

     “Our investment in KwaZulu-Natal comes at a critical juncture. The province's matric results declined by 2.6% in 2011, compared to 2010. There is a massive drive to improve numeracy and literacy levels. We hope our social investment goes a long way in helping learners and teachers hike pass rates and education standards,” says Madzonga.

    MTN will equip each media centre with 20 computers, a multifunctional printer, a data projector, an interactive white board, worktables to accommodate the 20 workstations, routers, modems and data cards. In addition, the company will provide each of the 10 schools with Internet access for 24 months, subsidised at R1 000 per school per month.

    The MTN SA Foundation's integrated development strategy is aimed at benefiting selected cluster communities in six provinces. Interventions include providing schools with technology-based teaching and learning aids, enhancing the outreach of existing science centres, establishing interactive tele-teaching technology platforms, and developing the capacity and institutional infrastructure of schools.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Cellulant Kenya has sealed a deal to provide mobile banking services for Barclays Africa across its markets in the continent. In a venture dubbed, ‘One Africa’ Barclays Bank has entered into a deal with Cellulant to offer satisfying customer digital experience.

    The services to be revitalised by the communication solutions firm are mobile and Internet banking as well as ATMs across its 12 African countries, by deploying a new unifying platform.

    “This digital drive is part of our One Africa strategy to increase channel access for both retail customers and corporate clients.

    "For corporate clients, this offers an efficient and cost-effective channel to bill and receive payments from their customers,” said Mr John Gachora, Barclays Africa, corporate banking managing director.

    Speaking when he signed the partnership, Mr Gachora, said the move will facilitate the bank’s strategic efforts to provide convenient consumer access solutions.

    Cellulant’s chief business officer, Mr Paul Ndichu, said the model will increase Barclays Africa customers activity on its electronic platforms by allowing them to transact with a wide network of businesses across Barclays Africa and Absa Bank network.

    The new structure will be rolled out in phases with Cellulant providing a bill payment platform and a mobile network operator e-network to facilitate mobile business solutions.

  • Bharti Airtel has said it will appeal against a Nigerian High Court ruling which gave Econet Wireless 5 per cent share in Airtel Nigeria. A Federal High Court, last week, awarded Econet Wireless the 5 per cent stake, after a lengthy legal process.

    Econet said in a statement earlier Monday that the high court had reinstated the shares and also ordered that the name change from Econet Wireless Nigeria Limited was irregular, and must be reversed forthwith.

    Airtel Nigeria said it had filed an appeal against this judgment. 'The company abides by and has full confidence in the law of the land, and believes the Appeal Court will determine the appeal on its merits.'

    Airtel added that the judgement would have no impact on the equity holding of other shareholders in Airtel Nigeria.'We wish to assure our customers, employees and business partners that the ruling will in no way affect operations or the company's ability to fulfill obligations to its stakeholders.'

  • Parliament is set to amend various business registeration laws to provide for electronic transactions in line with government’s e-Governance project.

    The project aims at modernizing key ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to support the provision of citizen-friendly services through ICT.

    Three amendment bills, including the Registeration of Business Names (Amendment) bill 2011 and the Companies (Amendment) bill 2011 are before the House for amendment.

    A report of Parliament’s Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee said the amendment of the Registeration of Business Names (Amendment) bill will permit the electronic filing and registration of business names.

    “The electronic registeration of business names has become necessary because the e-Governance project which is linked with the Ghana Revenue Authority to effect the implementation of e-governance system insists on a unique tax identification number of the sole proprietor engaged in the registeration process..” the report said.

    This, it said, is to “make it possible for the identification of the sole proprietor promoting the business and also avoid the duplication of tax returns.”

    According to the report, the commencement of the electronic registeration process by the Registrar-General’s Department is not provided for in any legislation hence the need to urgently amend the law to address difficulties and anticipated suits.

    The government under the e-Governance project envisaged mainstreaming ICT into all aspects of governance, in this regard the Registrar-General’s Department began the electronic registeration of business names in December last year to facilitate the effective renewal of business names by the end of this year.

    In this regard, the amendment of all business related laws including the Companies (Amendment) bill 2011 and the Private Partnership (Amendment) bill have become necessary in order to regularize the initiative taken by the Department.

  • On 15th October 2012, Télécoms Sans Frontières, in collaboration with Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Germany, launched the RAPID M-PESA pilot project, financed by GIZ, whose objective is to improve food security of vulnerable households in pastoral areas of Kenya, and reduce the effects of famine on their living conditions.

    The aim of VSF-G is to conduct Cash for Work and Cash Transfer activities, and thanks to TSF’s expertise, to remune- rate the beneficiaries using the M-PESA system. Regular payments via the M-PESA system will enable the reduction of the beneficiaries’ vulnerability – villagers from the Marsabit South District (Marsabit County, northern Kenya) – to recurrent food crises in the country.

    The aim of VSF-G is to conduct Cash for Work and Cash Transfer activities, and thanks to TSF’s expertise, to remunerate the beneficiaries using the M-PESA system. Regular payments via the M-PESA system will enable the reduction of the beneficiaries’ vulnerability – villagers from the Marsabit South District (Marsabit County, northern Kenya) – to recurrent food crises in the country.

    TSF and VSF-G decided to conduct the pilot project in the Marsabit South District. It will be implemented in three towns: Laisamis, Merille and Logologo. From 4th to 21st January 2012, TSF went to each of the selected areas to train the beneficiaries who will be paid via M-PESA.

    The beneficiaries are pastoralists. VSF-G chose them according to vulnerability criteria such as: household where the head is a single mother, household with a herd of less than 20 heads of cattle, household where the head takes care of orphans. In each village, a support committee helped VSF-G to select the beneficiaries, with at least one person with literacy and/or knowing how to use a mobile phone per village.

    At the beginning of January, beneficiaries were separated into groups of 5 people and they attended training where each group received a cell phone and a solar charger provided by TSF. Moreover, each beneficiary who did not yet have a line received a personal SIM card and registered on M-PESA.

    Most of the beneficiaries are not used to dealing with a cell phone, and for this reason, TSF trained 14 community assistants among the beneficiaries who are literate and already have some knowledge about cell phones. They will be able to help the other beneficiaries in case of problems with the cell phones or if needed, to read a message.

    TSF also created a User guide detailing how to use a cell phone, and the creation and use of an M-PESA account, to assist them during and after the training.
    Finally, if the inhabitants of big towns are familiar with M-PESA agents and systems, for villagers living in more isolated areas it is very often a discovery. The opening of an M-PESA account is compulsory for the beneficiaries of the project to receive the payments for Cash for Work activities. To assist them in the process of M-PESA registration, TSF recruited a local assistant with good knowledge of the M-PESA system.

    To confirm the secure registration of each of the newly created M-PESA accounts, TSF will use the FrontlineSMS application before carrying out the first payment.

  • Talks between JSE-listed telecommunications group Telkom and Korea’s KT Corp appear to be progressing well. In an update to shareholders on Friday, Telkom says a “diagnostic review” is “well progressed” and the two companies expect to finalise their finding within the next few weeks.

    KT Corp has expressed an interest in acquiring 20% of Telkom’s equity, a move widely praised by analysts and opposed by trade unions. In terms of the potential deal, Telkom will issue new ordinary shares at an issue price of R36,06/share, diluting government’s shareholding in Telkom from nearly 40% to about 32%.

    In December, Telkom entered into a memorandum of understanding with KT Corp in terms of which they agreed to a period of exclusive engagement and information exchange to share areas of mutual strategic and business cooperation.

    Following completion of these talks, the companies will present the findings to their respective boards and “engage with key stakeholders before finalising the transaction agreements and presenting the transaction to Telkom shareholders for approval”.

    “Shareholders are advised that discussions regarding the potential strategic venture are ongoing and there is still no certainty that a formal transaction will be proposed or concluded.”

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Senegal operator Sonatel announced the launch of a mobile TV service. The Orange subsidiary offers 12 channels, including channels from Canal+ Afrique, 2STV and TFM. Available over the ¬3G network, the service includes live content and videos on demand and requires a prepaid credit of at least XOF 400 for 30 minutes access. Postpaid customers can also access the service. Orange is offering a promotional pack of a compatible handset and prepaid card for XOF 49,000.

Digital Content

  • A portable voice-based computer for the blind, developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has been shortlisted in the South African Breweries (SAB) Foundation inaugural Innovation Awards.

    The notetaker device is the first invention of its kind in South Africa and was developed by Willem van der Walt, a blind researcher at the CSIR.

    Fellow researcher Gerhard van den Berg was also involved in the development of the product.

    Van der Walt is respected in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT) for disabilities.

    The SAB Foundation Innovation Awards recognise individuals who have unique and practical ideas that can improve the lives of people living in low-income areas.

    The notetaker is one of five recipients of a seed grant for further development. The grant includes funding for the commercialisation of the product, which will be supported by the SAB Foundation over a period of two years.

    The notetaker was shortlisted as one of 18 inventions, selected from more than 100 entries, for improving the lives of blind South Africans.

    According to 2009 statistics of the World Health Organisation, 314-million people worldwide live with some form of visual impairment. Of these, 45-million are blind, and 90% live in low-income countries. Cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness in middle- and low-income countries.

    About 2.6-million South Africans are disabled, of which 24% have visual disabilities.

    "As a blind programmer, I realised that a much more flexible, localised and cheaper machine could be built than other similar expensive accessibility devices for the blind, available from overseas," Van der Walt says.

    The notetaker is different from a standard notebook computer in that it does not have a screen and only uses speech as feedback to its user.

    The computer has a keyboard for input and a voice synthesiser for output.

    All its features are customised so that they can be used with a speech interface.

    The device provides support for multiple local languages, including English, Sepedi, Afrikaans, Setswana and an experimental isiZulu voice.

    Van der Walt says that finding a balance between cost and functionality was one of the biggest challenges of developing the notetaker.

    "Finding the suitable hardware for the software was challenging," he explains. "For example, finding hardware with which one can make a good audio recording is not easy when cost, battery life and size is crucial."

    The notetaker has been tested in the market at disability conferences and workshops, with successful results.

    It is also supported by the South African National Council for the Blind.

    The next phase of the project is to develop a production-ready prototype.

    "I would like the notetaker to come into production and be available in the market through specialised companies such as those currently supplying accessibility technology to the blind," he says.

    The customised computer device is easy to operate and can be used by young school children, university students and older people.

    There is a gap in the market for an affordable computer for the blind. He believes that the product has the potential to have an immediate impact in the educational and employment sectors.

    Blind people can use computers that are connected to Braille keyboards and screens, but the skill and technology is not widely available and is usually only imported.

    However, if the product is manufactured locally and is cost effective, it could change the lives of thousands of blind people.

  • Using 140 characters or less, Chief Francis Kariuki in Kenya, has tweeted his way to reducing crime in his and surrounding villages.

    "I have brought crime and illicit brewing under control in my location," Kariuki told IPS, "until May 2011, this place was very dangerous. Incidents of carjacking, mugging and burglaries occurred daily, but they are no more."

    Kariuki, who is from Lanet Umoja Location, a semi-urban area in Nakuru County, Rift Valley Province, first began tweeting in May 2011 when local IT expert, Njoha Gathua, created a Twitter account for him. It was an innovative idea because to date, Lanet Umoja is the only semi-urban area in this East African country that uses this social media site to fight crime.

    Gathua told IPS that he wanted to help the community reduce crime, so he gave the chief and his assistants training on how to use the free instant messaging tool that limits users to post or tweet messages that are a maximum of 140 characters.

    "Twitter is good to broadcast messages to the mass. It is good for the chief and his assistants to pass messages to their people," Gathua explains. But while worldwide people and companies mostly use it to keep in touch with friends, market products, and to broadcast breaking news, Kariuki uses it to alert his villagers to crimes.

    Using the Twitter name "@chiefkariuki", Kariuki sends messages to over 15,000 of the 28,000 people who live in Lanet Umoja. They include village elders, community and church leaders, the police, youth and women's groups, and school principals.

    When an incident occurs, the victims or eyewitnesses send text messages to the chief, describing the nature of the incident, the place and the nearest known landmark. The chief then broadcasts his instructions to the community through Twitter.

    While not everyone has 3G-enabled cellphones here, many just subscribe to follow Kariuki's account through their local service providers and receive his tweets by text message.

  • The role of the internet and social media in the January 25 Revolution is undeniable; despite this, some observers believe that Twitter is isolated from the mainstream of Egyptian society and that tweets (Twitter posts) represent only a small segment of the population.

    Only 27 million Egyptians have access to the internet, according to the latest official numbers, out of a population of nearly 83 million. According to a September report by the Dubai School of Government about social media in the Arab world, there are around 130,000 Egyptian Twitter users (“tweeps”).

    At the time of the January 25 Revolution, the social network in Egypt was dominated by pro-revolution users. This year, however, has seen an increase in pro-Mubarak supporters and pro-SCAF supporters using Twitter.

    This year, tweets became one of the most important sources of news in Egypt, as well a tool for coordinating activism and protest.

Issue no 589 27th January 2012

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  • At the end of 2011, there were the first signs of smartphone use on SMS: for the first time in some countries, rather than the volume of SMS growing inexorably, it declined for the first time. Russell Southwood looks at how wider use of mobile Internet may affect SMS volumes in Africa and at two of the new generation of interfaces designed to make it easier for Africans to use the mobile Internet.

    You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that the number of smart phones and feature phones in African countries will increase. With this increase, many users will go from an unvaried diet of voice and SMS messages (with a soupcon of paid services) to a much more varied diet of use. It is not hard to envisage the day when the number of smart phone and feature phone users may make up as much as 40-60% of all subscribers

    SMS is simply e-mail in “short trousers”: it’s easy to use but it’s significantly more restricted and more expensive than sending an e-mail. You can’t use it to share things like photos with friends unless you can use even more expensive MMS’s. But although price is one of the single biggest factors affecting consumer’s decisions on the continent, the other big factor is habit. The change of use requires not just a person to send an e-mail but someone to understand how to receive it.

    This is where the new generation of browsers come into play. If both of those sending and receiving are on Facebook, then it solves that problem: they both understand how to do it. The widespread use of MXit on Blackberry in South Africa as an Instant Messaging tool to avoid SMS costs is another illustration of how this works. What starts with 15-24 year olds, slowly cascades across the age groups.

    So whilst this may not have a short-term impact, there will come a point over the next 5 years where one or more African countries will reach “peak SMS”: the point at which growth will slowly flat-line and then decline gently for many years.

    There are two things that affect this scenario. Firstly, increased numbers of subscribers will mean more SMS users enter the pool. But even now some African countries are approaching their “peak subscriber” moment, where the number of people who are still to subscribe is not enormous. The second thing that might affects SMS use is literacy, both of the simple “can this person read?” kind but also of functional literacy; can this person understand the tasks required to perform sending an SMS? Now the latter is more a brake than might first be understood: in Ghana only around 40% of all mobile subscribers use SMS.

    If you take a clutch of the bottom end literacy rates from the UNDP Development Report 2011, the limit on certain countries growing SMS or mobile Internet beyond a certain point become obvious. Going from low to only slightly lower, the problem becomes obvious: South Sudan (27%), Mali (26.2%), Chad (33.6%) and Sierra Leone (40.9%). Now these figures have been improving but generally not dramatically: for example, Chad was at 26% a few years ago. There may be a sudden improvement in education levels in some African countries but it would be hard to predict this will happen in most African countries based on past performance.

    But the transition that is occurring is that users are beginning to find browsers or interfaces that will allow them to not only send e-mails (with attachments) but also to use a far more varied diet of content beyond the 160 character boundary of SMS: a diet of content that will include audio, pictures and video. An analysis we did for a client last year of SMS content in one major African market showed that there was almost no difference between the different services offered by operators. Indeed many were simply sourced from the same content providers.

    The dilemma for mobile operators is do you let your subscribers simply wander away from the rather limited content, black and white offers in your existing walled garden or do you go with them on the journey into the technicolor world of the Internet? As you will have judged from the way the question is put, there is only one answer to it otherwise as an operator, you risk losing the connection and loyalty of your customers.

    At the high-end of the handset pyramid, the choices are easy for the customer: there are several smart phone browsers and you take your choice: iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows and other lesser variants. But for feature phones and low end phones, there are not many alternatives. So imagine a group of young African sitting in a bar with their phones on the table: 1 of the 5 five can afford a smart phones but the others can’t yet. You need browsers and interfaces that will allow them to keep up with the people who’ve got the smart phones and get that more varied content diet. Of the two examples below, one operates using the Internet and the other using SMS outputs.

    Australia’s biNu is a Java-based browser targeted at feature phones set up by Gour Lentell   who grew up in Zimbabwe. It operates out of the cloud on a highly compressed, thin client. According to Lentell, it offers:”a ten times faster browsing experience than other browser, using a tenth of the bandwidth.” The latter has to be something that operators must be interested in as data volumes continue to grow.

    Only made available in January 2011, it has grown in 12 months to 466,510 biNu users in Africa, out of a total global user base of 1.97 million. The table below shows the relationship between users and usage levels.

    These numbers may seem modest but they have been achieved without any marketing and no relationship with operators:”It’s been viral growth.” The app has been available through places like GetJar and the Ovi Store.

    The content currently available includes books (from the Guttenberg Project), dictionaries, news, sport, entertainment, financial news and foreign exchange data and last but not least, the all-important Facebook and Twitter. It has also signed a recent MoU with World Reader.

    biNu is keen to talk to mobile operators and can offer a “white label” version that allows the operator to brand it as their own.

    Mobile XL has been created by a company of the same name run by Guy Kamgaing and creates an interesting route for more low-end phone users to “get a taste of the Internet.” Once the consumer has downloaded the XL Browser, he or she will get immediate access to social media, local and national news, music updates and even access email:”It will allow something of the same experience for the user as the high-end phone and enable them to access relevant content. The billing is clear and it’s available on all devices.”

    So for a user with a basic Nokia, Alcatel or Chinese phone, it will allow them to check their Facebook page and read e-mail with the only requirement being a GPRS connection. With or without a connection, you can go into the available applications which are all on a single platform.

    This is a client side app that connects to the cloud:”We have a connection into Facebook’s APIs to get the content. When delivered to the user, it looks like a regular SMS.” Because it puts togther 3-4 SMSs, it enables you to read up to 600 characters of an e-mail.

    Two years ago it did small pilots with Orange Cameroon, Safaricom and MTN Ghana for a year. Then it was approached by Vodafone in India (145 m subscribers and IDEA Cellular (95 m subscribers) and it will launch with both early in 2012:”We have gone from Africa to India, which is the reverse of what usually happens.” It will be launching with all the three African operators above in Q1, 2012. The pilot attracted 100,000 users across all three operators.

    The early adopters used Facebook a lot but there were also interested in sport and local news: “In Cameroon it was possible to offer a local job search. Local content will drive usage.”

    In terms of pricing, in India, they were allowed to introduce an unlimited bundle (to mirror the way the Internet is used) for 30 rupees a month (US59 cents a month). Safaricom is going to offer it for KS5 a day (US5.7 cents) or KS30 a month (34.7 cents) a month. In Cameroon, it will be 1,000 CFA a month (US$1.95):”It becomes like the Internet but it’s way cheaper.” The revenue share is 40-50% to Mobike XL depending on the size of the market.

    It’s done deal with Alcatel and Nokia and MiFone looks likely to offer a MyXL handset in 2012.

    These two offer different routes to giving users access to the Internet. In the long run, users will want the technicolor internet rather than the black and white world of SMS. So it’s time for operators to get on the bus before it leaves.

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

    In terms of content, Wikipedia is one of the most widely used sites in Africa. This week we talk to Chief Executive, Wikimedia UK Jon Davies about what it’s doing in Africa, its partnership with Orange and its desire to partner with other mobile operators:

    An Agenda for 2012 – Part 3

    Don’t think you’re ready for Facebook? Think again.
    Uchechi Chuta on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's use of social media

    M-Money services embedded into other things people do
    Kamal Budhabbatti, Craft Silicon on its m-money payment product ELMA

    User created content in Africa
    Emma Kaye, CEO, Bozza on townships creating their own online content

    Publicly funded fibre networks for rural users

    Tad Deriso, CEO MBC on being a publicly-funded open access fibre network in rural America

    Creating a developer community to create apps and services

    iHub founder Erik Hersman
    on creating an ICT entrepreneur community in Kenya

    In our consultancy work, we have produced a report for the World Bank entitled: Ghana Country Study: A roadmap for the strategic application of information and communication technology. It looks at issues of online content, the need for a critical mass of users and the use of local online content. To download a free copy, click on this link:  and go to the bottom of the right column and click on the World Bank logo.

telecoms

  • Spacecom operator of the AMOS satellite fleet, announced last week that its AMOS-5 satellite is commercially operational. The company announced this, after the satellite successfully completed In Orbit Testing.


    AMOS-5’s C-band and Ku-band payload includes high-power 14x72 MHz and
    4x36 MHz C-band transponders that combined with 18x72 MHz Ku-band
    transponders enable it to be a prime carrier of African satellite
    communications traffic in both broadcast and data services in the
    years to come. AMOS-5’s pan African C-band covers the entire continent
    while its three Ku-band beams bring connectivity to the continent’s
    fastest growing regions: Francophone, Central and Southern Africa.

    “AMOS-5’s commercial operations propel Spacecom into a new era,
    further turning us into a multi-regional satellite operator,” stated
    Spacecom president and CEO David Pollack. “Africa is an exciting
    market with growth in broadcast, telecom, mobile and data markets.
    AMOS-5’s comprehensive and quality solution will not only be an
    important element enabling Africa’s communications growth but also an
    important factor in Spacecom’s future.”

    Prior to launch, Spacecom pre-sold over 50 percent of AMOS-5 capacity
    to a variety of customers, including broadcasters, telecom providers,
    communications companies and government agencies.

  • Egypt could soon see a fourth mobile phone operator, with Telecom Egypt keen to obtain a licence that would let it lease infrastructure from other providers and offer its own call services. Another operator in Egypt's crowded mobile services market raises the prospect of greater competition and hence better deals for consumers.
     
    Landline monopoly Telecom Egypt (TE) sent a release to the stock exchange on Thursday saying it will apply for the 'virtual' licence if the possibility is offered by Egypt's telecoms regulator. A Mobile Virtual Network Operator provides mobile services to customers by hiring network assets and capacity from another operator, meaning it does not have to build its own infrastructure.
     
    Egypt currently has three mobile providers: Etisalat Egypt, Vodafone Egypt and Mobinil.
     
    The head of the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NRTA), Amr Badawi, told Ahram Online that his organisation is considering offering an MVNO licence to Telecom Egypt and the decision "might be taken within a month."
     
    A virtual network works independently of the host mobile network and sets its own retail pricing. However, the virtual network has to pay a fee to the host in proportion to usage by its customers.
     
    Telecom Egypt (TE) holds a monopoly on Egypt's fixed line market and is also a main shareholder in Vodafone Egypt. Acquiring another mobile phone interest could give TE a preferential position in the market, something Badawi says the NRTA is studying before offering a virtual licence.
     
    The idea of ending TE's landline monopoly has been proposed many times. NRTA chief, Amr Badawi, told Ahram Online the idea is "a possibility" but not right now.

  • A Nigerian Horticultural project which puts mobile technology in the hands of horticulturists, farmers and cooperatives for remote crop irrigation, allowing them to improve productivity while preserving water resources emerged winner in the Orange-sponsored African social ventures prize.

    The winners were declared in Cape Town, South Africa on Wednesday.
    Following the Nigerian project was AgaSha Business Network, which won the second prize.

    The Ugandan start-up project uses the Internet to help small and medium African companies grow. Through its online business community, it facilitates interaction among economic players to boost market opportunities for small and medium businesses in Africa and abroad.

    Third place went to Kachile, a start-up in Côte d’Ivoire which offers an e-commerce platform to “professionalise” cottage industries, which are well developed in Africa but lack visibility and market access.

    In addition to funding of up to 25,000 euros, Orange will provide support to the three projects for six months from its local subsidiaries and the strategic expertise of its venture capital subsidiary, Innovacom.

    The three winners will receive financial assistance along with management and technical support from Orange specialists

    The awards ceremony was held during the AfricaCom Awards, an annual event that recognizes the most memorable innovations and performance of the telecommunications industry on the African continent.

    Last June, Orange launched the African Social Venture Prize to support entrepreneurs and start-ups who use information and communication technologies (ICT) to meet the needs of African people.

    More than 600 candidates responded to the call for projects, which ran from June to September 2011, a sign of true entrepreneurial vitality on the African continent. Proposed projects spanned a variety of fields, including health, agriculture, education, financial services and e-commerce illustrating the potential of telecommunications in African development.

    The panel of judges, consisting of Orange specialists, the media and institutions that promote development, chose three prizewinners from among ten projects nominated, presented on the Orange African portal.

    The African Social Venture Prize demonstrates the Group’s willingness to contribute to the social and economic development of the countries in which it operates. In addition to supplying infrastructure and basic services, Orange is investing in deploying added-value services in key fields such as health, education, agriculture or financial services, and acts to promote entrepreneurship and innovation on the African continent.

  • Ghana’s National Communications Authority (NCA) has set a new interconnect termination rate regime among the country’s telecoms operators to replace the old one which was set in 2008 and expired December 31, 2011.

    According to the regulator, the new rate regime which took effect January 1, 2012 was due to consideration of the market conditions and submissions made by the operators.

    In a statement, the Authority made the following determination for implementation by all Operators with effect from January 1, 2012:

    a) That a single 24-hour interconnection rate shall be applicable;

    b) That the interconnect termination rates for voice calls originating from fixed and mobile networks in Ghana shall be charged at 5.00 Gp for the year 2012, and glide to 4.50 Gp and 4 Gp for years 2013 and 2014 respectively;

    c) That the interconnect termination rate for SMS on all mobile networks in Ghana shall be at the cost of 0.7 Gp for the year 2012, and glide to 0.60 Gp and 0.50 Gp for the years 2013 and 2014 respectively;

    d) That the incoming international transit interconnect termination rate for all calls shall be maintained at its current rate in accordance  with the Electronic Communications (Amendment) Act, 2009 (Act 786).

    “Furthermore, after further consideration of industry dynamics, the NCA hereby implements asymmetric interconnect termination rate for voice calls as a catalyst to further deepen competition in the market. This asymmetric interconnect termination rate regime applies to new entrants as well as Operators with less than 5% of subscriber market share,” it said.

    Consequently, asymmetric interconnect termination rate regime has been considered for Glo Mobile and Kasapa Telecom at 4.00Gp for a period of 24 months, the NCA indicated but “notwithstanding the condition, should either of the two Operators attain a subscriber market share of 5% before the expiry of the 24-month stipulated period that Operator shall cease to enjoy this consideration.”

  • Kuwaiti group Hits Telecom is in talks with mobile operators in Liberia and Tanzania to share towers and plans to launch nationwide services in both countries this year and also to buy another African operator.

    Hits will invest about $100 million in Tanzania and $40 million in Liberia where its network is already operational in major cities, chief executive Par Eriksson told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

    Eriksson said of the tower-sharing talks: "Liberia is a small number, something like 25 sites, but in Tanzania it will be hundreds of sites".

    Hits has four African mobile licences -- Democratic Republic of Congo where a launch is some way off, Equatorial Guinea where it has major coverage, and Liberia and Tanzania.

    "In Equatorial Guinea we are more or less done. By February, we will have 96 or 97 percent coverage of the population," Eriksson said.

    "(So,) during the last half year, we have ensured we have enough funding to roll out two new operations in Liberia and then Tanzania."

    "We have one licence left, DRC, which is a big country. So, this is a little bit late and we will not complete that network until 2013," Eriksson said.

    Its launch in Tanzania has been delayed by a court case with Chinese telecom equipment manufacturer Huawei , which has a contract to help build a network for Hits in Tanzania.

  • VT iDirect, Inc. (iDirect), a company of VT Systems, Inc. last week announced that Q-Kon, a tier one satellite network operator in the African market, has upgraded to iDirect’s iDX 3.0 software. Through iDX 3.0, Q-KON is able to integrate TDMA and SCPC connectivity on a single network, offering enterprise service providers an efficient and scalable VSAT solution ideal for the African market.

    With iDX 3.0, Q-KON has improved the affordability and performance of its service platform to help service providers expand into remote areas more cost-effectively. For many service providers, entering rural markets is expensive due to limited bandwidth resources and hardware costs. Q-KON solves this problem by extending the reach of its terrestrial MPLS network to connect VPN, VoIP, and other core enterprise applications from headquarters locations to remote offices across Africa with more efficiency and less risk.
     
    Q-KON upgraded to iDX 3.0 because it maximizes the scalability that service providers need to stay competitive in the dynamic African economy. With iDX 3.0’s SCPC Return capability, Q-KON customers can keep operating costs low while preserving the flexibility to switch between TDMA and SCPC based on dynamic bandwidth requirements. Additionally, iDX 3.0’s Group Quality of Service (GQoS) bandwidth allocation algorithm gives Q-KON and its service provider customers a sophisticated level of control over bandwidth management, as well as the flexibility to prioritize traffic based on application, customer type, and location.
     
    “To expand to rural markets efficiently, satellite connectivity is a must, which is why we are proud to be one of the first operators to implement an iDX 3.0 hub in South Africa. With iDX 3.0, service providers can lower their bandwidth and hardware costs while significantly improving performance. For enterprise customers, that means expanding in the African market affordably and with less risk,” said Dawie DE WET, CEO, Q-KON

  • Nigeria’s Visafone Communications is spending “billions of naira” upgrading networks to cope with a surge in digital data transmissions in the West African country, Chief Executive Officer Sailesh Iyer said.

    The work will be done by Huawei Technologies Co. of China, starting with a $20 million expansion of Visafone’s broadband network in Lagos, the commercial capital, Iyer said in an interview yesterday. “We plan to upgrade the remaining five networks in other areas of the country this year,” he said.

    The upgrade follows the start in November last year of a central bank project, called Cashless Nigeria, to encourage more non-cash transactions and reduce banking costs in sub-Saharan Africa’s second-biggest economy. From June, individuals will be limited to cash withdrawals of 150,000 naira ($900) a day and companies to 1 million naira.

    A pilot project has been operating in Lagos since January 1 and Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi wants 150,000 point-of- sale terminals to be available this year to process card-based transactions, rising to 375,000 by the end of 2015. The nation’s banking industry will also increase the number of automated teller machines to 75,000 by December 2015, the Central Bank of Nigeria said last year.

    “The future of the telecommunications industry is data as against voice,” Iyer said. Visafone also plans to expand its services to 36 of the country’s states from 26 states now and to increase subscribers “to 10 million from 3.5 million within three years, with the cost of expansion running into billions of naira,” he said. Iyer would not say exactly how much the full upgrade would cost.
    RIM Discussions

    Lagos-based Visafone, which pulled out of talks last year to buy Multilinks Communications Ltd., “is engaging Huawei for its broadband expansion to fast-track growth organically,” Iyer said.

    The company is also in advanced discussions with Research In Motion Ltd. (RIMM), to offer data and Internet services to subscribers using the Canadian-based company’s BlackBerry device, he said.

  • South Africa's National Consumer Commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala has revealed that the commission has set its sights on tackling the high cost of international roaming for cellphone users.

    Briefing the National Assembly's Trade and Industry Portfolio Committee, Mohlala said the commission would seek the advice of experts around international roaming fees.

    The commission is currently looking into cellphone and internet service providers that provide pre-paid data but do not allow consumers to carry over unused data to the next month.

    The commission had sent a number of service providers a letter warning them that this current practice was in breach of Section 63 of the Consumer Protection Act. Mohlala said operator iBurst had already amended its agreements after it received the letter. She said the commission had already held meetings with MTN, FNB connect and G Connect and would meet with Vodacom and Cell C soon over the matter.

  • The Za­mbian government has confirmed expectations and will renationalise the local mobile network, Zamtel, which is 75% owned by Libya's Lap Green Networks. The government has also dissolved the board of directors and appointed its own interim CEO. Zamtel's bank accounts were also frozen last week in an allegedly unrelated investigation into money laundering claims, which the company denies.

    The previous government sold the 75% stake in Zamtel to Lap Green Networks in 2010 for US$257 million - a figure which the then-opposition claimed was substantially below the book value for the company.

    An inquiry last November commissioned by the new government ruled the transaction illegal.

    In a statement, Lap Green Networks said "Over the last few weeks, we have made numerous attempts to find an amicable solution that satisfies all the parties involved and secures the best possible outcome for our employees and subscribers."

    "We regret that the Zambian Government has not given us an opportunity to meet and discuss this matter."

  • Kenyan MP John Mututho better known for his tough stance on alcohol— is proposing a monumental change to the country’s Information and Communications Act to eradicate the mystery behind those who hide their call identity.

    The proposed amendment says: “A licensed telecommunications operator shall, upon request by a subscriber or lawful agent, disclose the identity, address, location and other prescribed particulars of any subscriber to its telecommunications service from whose line, a telephone call or other mode of telecommunication has been made to the requesting subscriber.”

    This means that if you should want to know exactly who has made an anonymous call to your line, if this amendment is passed, you will simply march to the nearest outlet of your mobile provider and get the caller’s details. Should the mobile operator not give the aggrieved caller this information, they stand to lose up to Sh500,000 in fines or face imprisonment.

internet

  • In the first partnership of its kind, Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation will provide more than 70 million Orange customers in Africa and the Middle East (AMEA) with mobile access to Wikipedia - without incurring data usage charges

    Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation last week announced a major partnership designed to make knowledge more easily available to Orange mobile customers throughout Africa and the Middle East. In the first partnership of its kind for Wikipedia, Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation will provide customers in both remote and urban areas of AMEA with access to Wikipedia.

    In 2009, Orange and the Wikimedia Foundation formed the world’s first mobile and Internet partnership to expand the reach of Wikimedia’s projects through channels on Orange mobile and web portals in Europe. This new partnership will be gradually launched throughout 2012 across 20 African and Middle Eastern countries where Orange operates, with the first markets launching early in the year. The initiative is part of the Wikimedia Foundation's mobile strategy that aims to reach the billions of people around the world who access the Internet solely through mobile devices.

    Any customer with an Orange SIM and mobile internet enabled phone will be able to access the Wikipedia site either through their browser or an Orange widget. They can access the Wikipedia encyclopedia services for as many times as they like at no extra charge as long as they stay within Wikipedia’s pages.

    "Wikipedia is an important service, a public good -- and so we want people to be able to access it for free, regardless of what device they're using," said Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. "This partnership with Orange will enable millions of people to read Wikipedia, who previously couldn't. We're thrilled to be Orange's partner in this important endeavour."

  • For nearly two weeks, Benin has been totally cut off from the global village. The Internet circuits does not work. It is therefore impossible to navigate and access any information on the web.

    According to officials of the technical team of Benin Telecom, approached last week, the cause of this failure experienced in Benin for weeks, was the burning of the gearbox.  Much of the equipment that allow the spread of Internet communication placed in the international transmission site were destroyed in a fire that occurred two weeks ago.

    Around 17:00 PM on the 7th January, the room that houses the SAT3 landing station caught fire. According Benin Telecom, this outage also affects Togo, Niger, and Burkina Faso also linked to the international circuits of Benin.

    According to Benin Telecom, the country does not have at the moment, spare parts to restore the connection.

    “We therefore need time to get these parts”. Finding a temporary solution is therefore essential. And that's one reason why Benin has started days ago negotiations with Nigeria and Ivory Coast in order to connect the to their landing stations.”

    However, it seems that things have improved, because since the 14th of January, the connection, albeit slowly, took over and it is reasonable to think that the steps put forward to the satisfaction of end users.

    In almost all the banks in the city of Cotonou, access to the Internet is impossible. The customer cannot be satisfied in any way. It is very difficult for him to send or receive money in his bank account.

    At the agency of Western Union in Godomey district, no more customers because there is simply no access to the Internet. A situation that favors neither the customer nor the staff.

    An officer of this financial institution that has been approached tells us "Since one week, we have no Internet. And that causes us a lot of trouble because without the connection, there is no validation of any transaction”. That same situation prevails at the agency of Ecobank on the campus of the university of Abomey Calavi. Many customers, with desolation on their faces, say "We do not understand how it would be so difficult to recover its own money”. “In what country are we living ?" launches a client. It is obvious that in front of this failure of the Internet, people are helpless. So Benin Telecom is urged to find in the coming days a way to quickly resolve this sad situation.

    "It's very difficult for us to work under these conditions. Since the Internet is allowing us to achieve a good turnover, " said a manager of cybercafé located in Abomey Calavi. So it must be recognized that this taints also the business world. A lot of cyber know busiest. Internet users have deserted the place, only the typists work. Most people interviewed in some cyber disapprove this malfunction. "Since the Internet is broken, I see my interests fallen. It's as if I was cut off from the world and that nothing goes in my life ", according to a regular Internet user. For Penelope, head of one advertising agency in Cotonou, thanks to the Internet she can communicate with partners and find markets for her company. But since this connection problem arises, she met many difficulties in her business. It is clear that for each other, the disconnection of the Internet cause many annoyances.

  • Equatorial Guinea recently launched a new telecommunications company, GECOMSA (Guinea Ecuatorial Comunicaciones Sociedad Anónima), to better serve the rapidly developing country’s communications needs. This is an effort by the government to overcome the sector’s limitations, which are currently operated by two companies, GETESA and Hits.

    During the launch of GECOMSA, María del Mar Bindang Eneme, GECOMSA Director, stated that the telecommunications company’s main goal is to improve and guarantee mobile telecommunications as well as Internet services for its subscribers.

    “GECOMSA is a great addition to Equatorial Guinea’s telecommunications sector as we have experienced some shortcomings,” said President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. “It will expand and improve our communications’ reach and take us to a new level of telecommunications.”

    GECOMSA, the third-largest mobile phone and Internet company in Equatorial Guinea, is a joint venture between the government of Equatorial Guinea, which has a 51% stake, and China, with 49%.

  • Liquid, ZOL Zimbabwe Online (ZOL) has been acquired by the Liquid Telecommunications Group. ZOL is now officially part of the Liquid Telecom Group. From the information so far, ZOL will remain an independent company in terms of branding and operations.

    ZOL is one of Zimbabwe’s biggest ISPs offering fibre, VSAT and wireless internet services around Zimbabwe.

    Liquid Telecom, a subsidiary of the Econet Wireless Group, is a major fibre player in Southern Africa and currently working on one of the longest fibre networks in the region spanning Lesotho, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and the DRC. Liquid Telecom also operates satellite internet facilities in the United Kingdom, Botswana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Somalia, Burundi, Niger and Kenya.

    With the new acquisition, Liquid’s Zimbabwe operations will become Zimbabwe’s biggest largest Internet company in terms of infrastructure, volume of traffic and customer base.

    So far it looks like ZOL will become the new Ecoweb for the Zimbabwe operations of the Econet family. Ecoweb, an Econet ISP subsidiary, has mostly been invisible over the past year or so as most of its services are now offered through the Econet Broadband division that was launched in October 2010.

  • A new report places Kenyans as the second top users of Twitter in Africa, surpassing countries in the Maghreb that had used the facility to stage political revolt. Kenyans, ranked behind South Africans, tweet more than giants Nigerians, Egyptians and Moroccans despite having a smaller population.

    The report titled How Africa Tweets says 60 per cent of those who tweet are aged between 20 and 29 years. The study that was conducted by Portland’s Communications adds that 57 per cent of these tweets are from mobile devices and are driving the growth of social media in Africa.

    However, it emerged that African leaders are still lagging behind in the use of social media. “One of the more surprising findings of this research is that more public figures have not joined Africa’s burgeoning Twittersphere.

    “With some notable exceptions, we found that business and political leaders were largely absent from the debates playing out on Twitter across the continent,'' said Mark Flanagan, Portland’s Partner for Digital Communications

    “As Twitter lifts off in Africa, governments, businesses and development agencies can really no longer afford to stay out of a new space where dialogue will increasingly be taking place, ” he added.

    How Africa Tweets found that Twitter is helping to form new links within Africa.
    Majority of those interviewed said that at least half of the Twitter accounts they follow are based within the continent.

    Several Kenyan political leaders have set up social media accounts to woo voters in preparation for the 2012 General Election. Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka have several Twitter and Facebook accounts.

    Deputy PM and Minister for Finance Uhuru Kenyatta's aides often release statements on social media while Gichugu MP Martha Karua is also very active.

  • Alvarion has announced that its Wavion subsidiary is supplying base stations for a Wi-Fi service in Burkina Faso on behalf of the local mobile network operator, Telecel.

    The network covers Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, using Wavion base stations for coverage in major metro areas. Additional services are planned in the near future and include location based applications, and cellular data offloading with automatic SIM authentication.

    Network expansions for early 2012 are currently in the planning stages for additional cities in Burkina Faso, including Bobo-Dioulasso and Koudougou, allowing the service to reach a population of over 2 million people in approximately 400 square kilometers of the three main cities in Burkina Faso.

    "We are very pleased with our choice. Though the network covers challenging outdoor areas with heavy interference, it provides high quality and very stable service." said Dimitri Ouédraogo, the CEO of Telecel.

  • Vodacom has announced the successful implementation of Phase 1 of a libraries project for internet connectivity across three provinces - North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. 50 sites are up and running. When completed, almost 300 community libraries will be connected using VSAT and Vodacom ADSL services.

    The National Department of Arts and Culture’s multi-million Rand project is managed and driven by the National Library of South Africa (NLSA) and is being successfully implemented due to tight co-operation and communication between the service provider and Provincial Libraries.

    "This project started when we were implementing the SITA/ NLSA open source Library Information Management System (LIMS), says Lesiba Ledwaba, CIO of the National Library of South Africa and head of the project. "There's a need for all our libraries countrywide to communicate with each other and have access to one another's collections. Before the roll-out of LIMS, it was noted that there were many libraries without connectivity, so connectivity for LIMS became a priority.

    "The next logical step was to extend internet connectivity services to local communities.  With so many schools, especially those in rural areas, without libraries or connectivity of their own, it became clear we could really start to make a difference in the education and life-style of these rural communities. We started with the rural areas first, and have also ensured all libraries have ‘reasonable' internet capacity, says Ledwaba.

    "We partnered with Meso ICT Solutions to implement the project across the first three provinces," says Chris Lazarus, Managing Executive Vodacom Business Services.

    With an average of 14 workstations per library and with free access for citizens, the resources provided by this project are invaluable.  The project meets the stated national objective to enable all levels of South African society to gain access to knowledge and information that will improve their socio-economic condition. Libraries are already seeing use extending to users searching for jobs, learners researching school projects, and SMEs utilising the many tools available to them on the internet.

    Thibedi Mogoba, CEO of Meso Group, says: "A 1 Mb pipe was implemented for each library, and we have measured optimal use at almost all sites since switch on.”

    Lazarus concludes: "Connectivity is so much more than access to the internet - it provides every citizen with information, knowledge and resources that can literally change their lives. The fact that they can now access the wealth of information available globally, for free, brings the outside world that much closer to their everyday lives. This project is a milestone in our education and social services sectors and brings information to the remotest rural communities."

computing

  • The Ghana government in collaboration with World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF), an NGO, is to commence the implementation of the Ghana Open Data Initiative to make government data available to citizens for re-use.

    The initiative if implemented will make government more transparent, improve efficiency and spark off innovation from the demand side for applications to be developed to better serve the citizenry.

    William Tevie, Director General of the National Information Technology Agency (NITA), announced this at a stakeholders meeting to sign a memorandum of Understanding between Government of Ghana and WWWF in Accra on Thursday.

    He said in September 2010, Ghana made a commitment to join the open Government partnership, an initiative of the United State Government.
    “This was a commitment by the Government of Ghana to work towards an open Government data initiative, which will make Government data available to the citizens for re-use,” he added.

    Tevie explained that providing Government data without developing an open data community that works towards making it meaningful and re-usable by the citizenry would not serve the interest of the state. He noted that over the years the agency has been rolling out the e-government infrastructure and facilitating the roll-out of e-government application.

    The aim of the project in rolling out the network is to ensure efficiency within government and improved services for citizens and business. Jose Alonso, Data Programme Manager, WWWF, said they were in the country to share their experience and expertise and to support government in the implementation process.

    He noted that the initiative would increase transparency of governments; boost number of services to people, new business opportunities and jobs for application and service developers, new synergies between government, public administration, and civil society organizations.

    “It will also increase citizen participation and inclusion through extended offers of services closer to them and new, innovative uses of data in a ways that owners of data would never have thought of,” he added. He observed that for data to be useful, it should be complete, primary, timeliness, ease of physical and electronic access and machine readability.

  • Microsoft is to partner the British Council in a programme aimed at rolling out a comprehensive Africa Digital Schools Project covering six countries in Africa.

    Dubbed “Badiliko,” a Swahili word for change, the project will transform learning in African schools and ensure both teachers and students reap from a windfall associated with digital literacy.

    Both Microsoft and the British Council have each contributed $ 1million alongside technical expertise to accelerate the implementation of this innovative project that seeks to embed ICT in learning.

    Officials stressed that the Africa Digital Schools Project will enrich e-learning while improving ICT skills among teachers and students to boost their competitiveness in a global village.

    The $ 2 million seed money availed by both Microsoft and British Council will be spent on establishment of eighty digital hubs across the six sub-Saharan countries.

    Over 20,000 school leaders and teachers will be trained on basic ICT skills and how to apply them in the curriculum.

    It is hoped that 100,000 learners will be availed with digital tools which they will utilize to boost academic work and social skills that benefit the wider community.

    The Africa Digital Schools project borrows heavily from previous pilot programs funded by both Microsoft and British Council to promote e-learning in African schools.

  • Rwanda and Uruguay will be among the first countries to get the latest One Laptop Per Child device. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is a project taking rugged, affordable laptops to children in developing nations. Its latest device, the OLPC XO 3.0, is more advanced and delivers a range of charging options for regions with erratic power supplies.

    The device can be solar powered or charged by a hand crank, or even a bicycle.
    The XO tablet can run Android or its own Sugar OS on a 1024x768 PixelQi display for both indoor and outdoor reading, or a 1024x768 LCD.

    It has 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage, as well as a USB port, microUSB port and audio in and out ports.

    Marvell, a leader in integrated silicon solutions, has partnered with OLPC in bringing the newest device to market.

    Unveiling the device at CES in Las Vegas this month, Marvell and OLPC announced that the XO 1.75 laptop would begin shipping in February, with initial orders benefiting education programs in Rwanda and Uruguay.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Zain's Sudan unit expects new taxes to slice into its earnings this year despite the anticipated addition of between 2 to 3 million mobile phone subscribers in the oil-producing African country, a senior executive said on Wednesday.

    The nation of about 32 million people is facing a foreign currency shortage and soaring inflation, worsened by the loss of about three-quarters of the country's oil output when South Sudan seceded over the summer.

    As a result, mobile users have been tightening their budgets, giving firms little room to pass on higher costs to customers, Zain Sudan's Chief Operation Officer Ibrahim Ahmed Elhassan told Reuters in an interview.

    "The resources are limited for the users, so what he (the customer) was paying in the past, he's going to pay this year. He doesn't care whether it's paid to the tax or paid to the company," Elhassan said, speaking after an event celebrating Zain Sudan's 15th year.

    Sudan has raised sales and services taxes for telecoms firms to 30 percent from 20 percent and a profit tax to 30 percent from 15 percent in a push to make up for diminished oil revenues.

    Zain would have a hard time hiking prices enough to make up for that, Elhassan said.

    "We can't raise the prices for the consumer because ... we have to give competitive prices, and then because the pricing sensitivity is not that flexible. People are very sensitive to any increase of prices."

    A holiday on the 30 percent corporate profit tax also expired for Zain Sudan last year, Elhassan said. "The profit will drop by 30 percent, definitely," he said.

    The company was looking at ways to "optimise costs" like more specifically targeting its advertising, he added.

    Zain competes with South Africa's MTN and the local Sudani brand in Sudan's mobile phone market, which has enjoyed a boom in recent years despite years of conflict and U.S. trade sanctions that have dampened investment in other sectors.

    The unit pulls in about $1 billion a year in revenues, Elhassan said. Zain Sudan will continue to add subscribers in 2012, despite the fact that the mobile market is starting to become saturated in the bigger cities, Elhassan said.

    "Now we have achieved 13 million subscribers," he said. "We expect 15 million, between 15 and 16 (by the end of 2012)."

    The unit has also faced other challenges operating in Sudan, like difficulty repatriating its profits, Elhassan said.

    "We are working on these difficulties, but still, for example, we did not transfer our profit to Kuwait going back four years," he said. "That's why we reinvest the profit here in Sudan."

    Zain Sudan's chief executive said in November the company would spend $280 million improving its infrastructure in 2012.

    The company has also finished splitting off its operations in South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in July under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - Matrix Cellular, an international telecommunication provider in India, has announced the launch of a new SIM card for customers in the Middle East and North Africa. The new SIM card will allow Matrix customers to receive free incoming calls and a post-paid connection regionally. The service is available in Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Chad, Niger and Saudi Arabia. The company has also offered the service without any activation, deactivation or delivery charges.

    - Fixed line incumbent Telecom Egypt (TE) as launched its first IPTV services via its ISP subsidiary TE Data, reports C21Media. The TE-VU services provides streaming and video-on-demand content to TE Data’s ADSL subscribers.

Digital Content

  • Electronic readers are transforming the way people enjoy their books. However, there is very little African published content on the online stores. For a reader looking for a Kenyan book or literature published in Africa, one has to get the ink-and-paper version as few publishers have moved online.

    A search for Kenyan published books on Amazon bares very few results. David Karanja, a Kenyan author published by Readwide Media, said he decided to try Amazon to reach a wider audience with his book. In October 2011, he made his book Barrack Obama: The Burden of his Kenyan Roots available on Amazon and Kindle so that it can be bought from the website.

    He says so far, about 2,000 books are being sold through the website. “I need to advertise to sell more and I have plans to, soon,” he said. This is the second book he is distributing through Amazon with the first having been made available in February 2011. He is already looking at distributing children’s books through the website adding that “so far the online sales have been good in comparison to shelves.”

    A recent partnership between Longhorn Publishers and World Reader is expected to increase local content available on Kindle.

    The Kenyan publishing firm, which provides pupils with e-readers in a bid to promote a reading culture, will distribute 60 Kindles to five schools in the Rift Valley. The partnership, for seven years, will see students enjoy reading material from the e-readers. Longhorn provides content to World Reader which then provides the platform and the Kindle readers and also secures space for it through Amazon, the online book retailer, under the partnership.

    The content is converted into a suitable format for Amazon and is downloadable into a Kindle reader. World Reader has teamed up with Amazon, which provides it with discounted pricing for the Kindle 3G and delivery support for the e-books.

    Digital Divide Data, an American-based company with an office in Kenya, has been working with local publishers to convert their material to e-format.
    Last month, the company launched a distribution arm that will see it supply converted books to online bookstores such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

    Peter Mugo, Digital Divide Data’s sales executive in Kenya, says they help publishers convert their books to the desired format and with the new arm of the business can help distribution with companies such as Amazon and Kobo.

    The cost of converting a book depends on the kind of book it is, if it has graphics among other things, says Mugo. For a moderate narrative price it costs about $0.35 (Sh30) per page, one with graphics can cost $0.65 (Sh56). However, the demand for e-books in Kenya is still seen as minimal.

    Karanja says few Kenyans are currently shopping online for their books mainly due to a culture of not using credit cards. He is, however, confident that with Internet penetration, more Kenyans will start purchasing books online.

  • Malawi has started new water-monitoring technology using mobile phones, which has been pioneered by an international NGO based in Blantyre called Water for People. The new form of monitoring technology is called Field Level Operation Watch (FLOW).

    FLOW utilises cutting edge technology including Android cell phone technology and Google Earth software, to collect and share information about water supply points.

    Water for People’s Malawi’s Country Director Kate Harawa said the new technology provides anyone on the internet with access to crucial data for projects supported by her institution or other organisations.

More

  • Telkom Mobile has embarked on a recruitment process to appoint a Managing Director that will be an Executive Committee member of the Telkom Group. Until such an appointment has been made, the Telkom Mobile executive team will report to the Chief Financial Officer, Jacques Schindehütte.

    Amith Maharaj will continue to head up Telkom Mobile Operations. His position has been upgraded to that of Senior Managing Executive (SME).

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