Newsletter English

Issue no 613 13th July 2012

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Top story

  • Video streaming will be the next big wave of online content use in Africa. There are still considerable network challenges but… The level of existing use shows that once these issues are resolved, the volume of users will be in the millions. Russell Southwood spoke to the biggest player in the market Google’s YouTube. Elijah Kitaka explained how it sees the potential of video streaming being realized.

    YouTube is available in all African countries but has been localized in a number of African countries including: South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. In one West Africa country with a local Google cache server, the amount of traffic through the local IXP is now 800 mbs and the majority of it is YouTube use.

    So how does a country get to have a localized YouTube site? According to Kitaka:”We need to sign an agreement with a (rights) collection society for authors, publishers and composers. Typically one body plays that role and it deals not just with local rights collection but also works on behalf of global rights holders.”

    Once that important formality is dealt with, YouTube looks at levels of existing use and the number of potential content publishers to see whether any interest.”There’s still a lot of pain on the infrastructure side but this pain should reduce. Access and the cost of access is still really a barrier. But YouTube can play a key role in Africanising the web”. Google has installed local cache servers in 4 countries and neighboring countries can take advantage of their presence.

    In addition, the YouTube Feather feature allows users with much lower bandwidth access to watch a lower resolution version:”Feather will make these settings static and deactivate the fancy features. With optimization, a stream should run properly even with low bandwidth.”

    In terms of content providers, there are three categories that YouTube wants to work with:

    1.    Existing African broadcasters: YouTube can take broadcasters existing content and extend its audience, whether in the country itself or for the diaspora. Kenya’s NTV has a live stream of its prime time news programme and also uses YouTube as a platform for catch-up viewers. It has had 10 million views to date. South Africa’s SABC also makes use of it in much the same way.

    2.    African film and music producers: Much has now been written about the success of Nollywood Love but there are still film and music producers in other countries who are not yet properly exploiting the potential of online streaming. A typical example of this kind of content producer would be Homeboyz Entertainment Group in Kenya.

    3.    New wave user generated content: This is new African businesses that are beginning to explore business models that will generate real income for them. One example is Kenya’s Kulahappy which produces candid camera-style comedy clips. It has been going for just over six months and has generated 2 million views.

    What works in content terms is the same as for TV: where it’s available, users prefer local content:”80% of what’s popular is African content.”

    So how do views turn into money? “The secret is quite simple. You have to have an audience for the content. Once you’ve signed up as a Google Ads partner, there are two models: either you earn on a cost per click on adverts served or you get paid a cost per million views.

    But how many views do you need before you start seeing real money? This is where Google becomes a little more circumspect. To be fair, the answer is more complicated than a one-liner. You need an audience that is part of a market that is in “high-contention for advertising and has audiences that those advertisers want to reach.”

    It seems from the very few cases where income figures have been released that that you start to earn real money at between 0.5 million to 1 million views and that it’s important to have significant diaspora audiences in the mix. Also in terms of African audiences, there will have to be higher numbers online to see advertising revenue growth.

    As almost everything to do with data, Google is maddeningly coy. It will only say that between 2010 and 2011 YouTube use in South Africa grew by 110% and the number of uploads grew by 120%. Nevertheless partner revenues grew by 570%. For the other larger markets, it has to wait 12 months after the launch to get figures out.

    Nevertheless, it broke out the socio-demographic results on YouTube users from its Insights Africa survey. Although the sub-sample size is not completely robust, it does give some pointers. The majority of current users are in the 16-34 age group, reflecting the broader trend of technology take-up in Africa. Current male users outnumber female users 2 to 1. But as elsewhere in the developing world, this gender skew is likely to level up once the numbers increase.

    Two things need to happen before online streaming becomes more popular.
    One, mobile operators need to get their networks up to 3.75G and 4G so that the numbers who can access it goes up. There is an iron rule that no piece of content will ever attract all potential users. Two, African content and owners and producers need to take the plunge and get used to reaching potential audiences.

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

    A bumper crop of video clips this week on Balancing Act’s YouTube channel:

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

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

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

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

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Sean Krepp, Uganda Country Director, Apps Lab on raising farmers income using community knowledge workers with smartphones

    Kobus Roux, CSIR Meraka Institute on getting rural schools connected using local micro-entrepreneurs and Wi-Fi mesh technology

    Two experts discuss the challenges of mobile operators as brands:

    Laine Barnard, Founder, 8Brand - Mobile outlets as "giant waiting rooms" for selling airtime

    Sammy Thuo, Director, Saracen Media on differentiating African mobile brands

     

telecoms

  • Two mobile phone operators are involved in a Sh1.9 billion network dispute. Airtel has threatened to switch off Essar Telcom's, popularly known as Yu, connectivity over the disputed amount. According to the court documents, Yu and Airtel entered into a Site Leasing Agreement on April 3 2009, in which Airtel leased certain sites to Yu.

    Yu however claims that Airtel failed to meet the agreement which caused the former to start experiencing frequent site failures that disrupted its network and hampered the customer's ability to make calls, send sms and use data services. It also claims that it lost 34 batteries from the sites as a result of Airtels breach of the agreement to provide daily security at the sites.

    Yu claims Sh1.9 billion against Airtel and Airtel is claiming Sh252 million from Yu. Yu intends to refer the matter to arbitration and has succeeded in getting an injunction restraining Airtel from switching off its connectivity or interfering with the company's equipment at Airtel's sites. The case will proceed on July 20 before High Court judge Daniel Musinga.

  • Four mobile operators in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have acquired 3G licences, paying USD15 million apiece for the long-awaited concessions. The companies in question are Airtel DRC, Oasis Telecom (Tigo), Vodacom Congo and Africell, which only announced the launch of its GSM network late last month, almost two years after receiving rights and spectrum to offer wireless services in the DRC. Conspicuous by its absence is Congo Chine Telecom (CCT), which was taken over by France Telecom-Orange (FT-Orange) in October 2011, and which is currently in the process of being rebranded in line with Orange’s other operations in the regions.

    At the time of the transaction it was reported that, on top of the monies paid for the cellco itself, FT-Orange paid USD71million to the Congolese government for improved licence terms, including a ten year extension to its existing 2G concession, access to an additional 2MHz of spectrum in the 1800MHz band and 10MHz in the 2100MHz spectrum band for 3G services. It remains unclear whether the latest batch of 3G licensees have also been issued with frequencies in the 2100MHz band.

  • A South African farmer has equipped his sheep with cell phones to keep a tab on the flock and prevent livestock thefts from his vast farm.

    Whenever Erard Louw, a Cape Town farmer gets a call from his sheep, it’s always a bad news as the phones are programmed to switch on only when the sheep start running, a sign that the thieves might have cut through the fence.

    “As they run it gives me a phone call and says ‘sheep one’ or ‘sheep two’ and so on, so at least I know where to start looking because the farm is 750 hectares,” The Cape Times quoted Louw as saying.

    Louw reportedly had 27 sheep and 13 lambs stolen 10 days ago, which led him to innovate to protect his animals. He came up with the idea of tying cell phones on to the collars of four sheep in separate flocks.

    Louw said that since the police stations are located far away, there is not much point calling the police because either they did not have a vehicle available, or they had no petrol, or the tyres had been stolen, or there was no one who could drive.

    According to Louw, cell phones have proved to be useful as as one of the sheep snatchers was caught with the help of the devices.

    Stock theft of sheep is a major problem in the Western Cape and has led to sheep farmers leaving the industry. A few sheep-robbers have, however, managed to get away despite the devices.

    “The phone did start ringing that night and I went out. I checked all the fences — because they normally cut the fences — and they were all okay and the gates were closed. But the phone kept ringing, so I knew they were running. Then I found a new place where they had cut the fence.”

  • South Africa's foreign ministry has started an investigation into claims that the country's former Ambassador to Iran took a US$200,000 bribe to help MTN's attempt to secure a mobile license in the country.

    MTN is already facing a lawsuit from Turkey's Turkcell over its claims that MTN bribed officials to have Turkcell removed from a winning consortium for the license.

    South Africa's Foreign Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has confirmed that her department is investigating the allegations against Yusuf Saloojee, who was serving as Ambassador to Oman, but has since been suspended.

    The South African government has previously denied that any of its officials were involved in the MTN transaction, which enabled the company to secure a 49% stake in the Iranian mobile network.

    MTN has also repeatedly denied the charged, but has hired a UK Judge to investigate them.

internet

  • Businesses, institutions and consumers in Lesotho are set to experience faster, reliable and significantly more affordable internet connectivity as Africa’s carriers’ carrier WIOCC brings additional broadband capacity into Lesotho.

    Utilising its extensive terrestrial and submarine fibre-optic cable network, WIOCC is delivering lower-cost internet connectivity to Lesotho, bringing benefits to consumers and businesses in this mountainous African kingdom. Its arrival has already enabled a reduction in pricing of internet services by up to 67 per cent. This is supporting the Lesotho Government’s 8th Millennium Goal to make the benefits of new technologies available to its citizens and organisations, and to help businesses compete in the international arena.

    Educational institutions, such as the National University of Lesotho, are already benefitting – with Basotho students now able to access essential web-based resources that were previously unavailable.  For consumers, mobile internet services are being made more affordable to a wider section of the population through significantly reduced charges.

    “Until recently, internet access in Lesotho terminated in South Africa and was shaped and thus limited in international capacity. The connection provided by WIOCC terminates in Europe and provides Lesotho with faster and more affordable connectivity. This change will have a significant impact on the daily lives of the Basotho and Lesotho businesses,” explained WIOCC CEO, Chris Wood.

    “Our extensive network reach also enables international enterprises, ISPs and carriers to terminate their services in Lesotho. This, together with the introduction of reduced wholesale pricing, will open up further opportunities in the region.”

    Mpine Tente, General Manager of Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL) – the first operator in Lesotho to benefit from the  WIOCC capacity - commented:  “The extra bandwidth made available by WIOCC has enabled us to make a huge reduction in our internet access costs. We are taking advantage of our improved international connectivity to deliver more reliable and affordable broadband services to our customers. Public and private businesses will benefit from reduced prices. All Basotho will benefit from cheaper access to the internet.”

  • Kenya’s mobile service provider Safaricom has introduced a new service that will allow its customers to purchase data bundles using Scratch cards

    Safaricom says it has introduced a wide range of  scratch cards that will now retail in various shops with data bundles and expiry duration.

    The new 4MB, 8MB and 16MB will be active for one week. The 4MB scratchcard will cost KSh5 (US$0.06) while the 8MB and 16MB scratchcards will cost KSh10 (0.12) and KSh20 (US$0.24) respectively. The 50,100,250 and 500MB data bundles will last for 30 days retailing at KSh 50 (US$0.60), KSh100 (US$1.19), KSh250 (US$2.98) and KSH500 (US$5.96).

    I.5GB data bundle will costs KSh 1000 (US$11.92) with an expiry duration of 30 days.

    Users can purchase the bundles by dialing *544*, entering the 16 digits PIN, the hash sign (#) and pressing the "Ok" button in that order.

    Also, users can buy data bundles for a third party by dialling *544*, entering the other user’s cellphone number, the hash sign and then pressing the "Ok" button.

    Safaricom as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) faces stiff competition from other providers including Airtel, Yu and Orange.

    The Communication Commission of Kenya’s (CCK) April 2012 report indicates an increase in mobile service subscription. In the last financial year, 89.10 percent of the population in the country had access to the services compared to 84.5 percent in the previous year.

    An estimated 16 million people use Internet services, an increase of 13.20 percent from 86.62 percent which CCK attributes to high Internet subscriptions on General Packet Radio Services (GPRS), Enhanced Data for Global Evolution (EDGE) and 3rd Generation of Cellphone technology(3G).

  • Africa’s youngest nation has added its voice to the chorus of support for the bid to ensure the African online community is properly represented in cyberspace.

    The Republic of South Sudan (RSS) this week became the 39th African country to formally endorse the African Union-endorsed UniForum ZA Central Registry (ZACR) bid to administer the proposed .africa generic Top Level Domain (gTLD).

    The African Union Commission (AUC) endorsed the UniForum ZACR bid earlier this year and last week reaffirmed its support at the 44th meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in Prague, Czech Republic.

  • The South African government announced on July 8, that they would begin offering electronic visas in an effort to increase tourism and relations with other African nations such as Nigeria.

    allAfrica.com reports that Tourism Minister, Marthinus Van Schalkwyk spoke at the opening of the 2012 Routes Africa Conference in Seychelles. Van Schalkwyk said the creation of E-Visas would allow international visitors and intra-African travellers to move more efficiently.

    “The bureaucracy and costs involved in applying for and issuing visas are a major impediment to foreigners wishing to visit our shores, and to our own people who travel on our continent,” Van Schalkwyk said.

    E-Visas are becoming an attractive option for countries because it does not require travellers to visit a country’s consulate in person. Currently the only three countries that offer E-Visas are Australia, Sri Lanka and the United States.

    Van Schalkwyk said that that continent still has a significant amount of work ahead of itself in order to capitalize on its unique attractions and culture.

    According to multiple sources, Van Schalkywk believes that the continent of Africa is expected to experience a massive tourism boom over the coming decades.

    “In a mere three years from now, there will be just over 50 African cities with populations exceeding three million,” Van Schalkwyk said.

    Van Schalkywk added that old airline connectivity models are a current problem in Africa and need to be improved.

    “They inhibit growth and only serve to keep our destinations dependent on air arrivals from economically hard-pressed traditional source markets,” he said. “We need a long-term plan to create an intra-continental air transport architecture that facilitates intra-African travel and trade, including tourism.”

    According to Leader.ng Deputy South African President, Mr. Kgalema Motlanthe said Nigeria is an important strategic partner for South Africa and that both nations have been short changing themselves.

    Van Schalkywk said that the E-Visa would also improve and create new job opportunities.

    The importance of South Africa offering E-Visa’s should not be underestimated. When only three other countries currently offer this service, South Africa will now join this small group. Not only will this improve cross border efficiency but it should also significantly improve trade within South Africa and the continent of Africa.

  • Goal.com, the world’s biggest football website, believes that Africa loves football, a sport it is also passionate about. It is hence expanding to populations in love with soccer and this time round, it is launching in Ghana.

    In a post, Goal.com said: ”The continent loves football, and in Africa the beautiful game is more than just a pastime, it is a passion. In Ghana, the story is no different – the passion is on and soaring higher.

    “In few countries is that passion more inspiring than Ghana, and it was simply a matter of time before the world’s leading football and new media website – Goal.com – rewarded that inspiration with a local edition of the site.

    The site strives to maintain and outdo the high standards it has set in other places around the world.

    Kent Mensah, Chief Editor of the Goal.com Ghana edition, says he is very excited about the prospects of bringing Goal.com closer to the people of Ghana.

    Goal.com says it will also provide news, personal features, interviews, match reports and editorials to Ghanaians around the world.

    It is therefore our great pleasure to announce the launch of the Ghanaian edition of Goal.com, the site said.

    With a huge fan base in Ghana, Goal.com will serve loyal Ghanaian fans with a site of their own, which will however be managed by tested Ghanaian football journalists and columnists.

    It is Goal.com’s mission to unite the world through football, and with the launch of yet another African edition following the highly successful Goal.com Nigeria, it is one-step closer to bringing the game to the doorsteps of all football-loving nations.

    The service will be available via the Web, mobile or apps, with latest news, insightful commentary and worldwide match coverage.

    Goal.com launched in March in Nigeria and has been offering football news on the Nigerian football league, tournaments, friendly matches and on Nigerian international players.

    Now available on mobile, courtesy of Airtel and Etisalat Nigeria, its is a leading football website in Nigeria.

computing

  • If you really think that you are a hacker worth his salt, you need to be ready because Kenya’s election authority will be looking to involve you in a systems penetration test in the not so distant future.

    According to the CEO of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), James Oswago, the commission will be looking to involve hackers in testing its result transmitting system in November. The involvement of hackers is a move meant to assure all candidates of the systems capabilities and security.

    It comes after some of the top presidential contenders complained that they have not had access to the system to test its security and the failure of IEBC to assure the contenders that they will be allowed to assign specialised agents to monitor the system during the the general election.

    The commission is also looking to replicate the experience of India which offered even upto Ksh 1.5 Million to hackers who would have penetrated the Voter Verifiable Paper Trial (VVPT) machine. The VVPT is an electronic voting machine (EVM) that prints out paper as proof of data transmitted through it.

    There will no electronic voting but the provisional results of the election will be transmitted electronically. The commission has also promised to allow voters to authenticate their registration electronically. Voters will be verified through a biometric system before the elections.

  • A new technology that keeps records of academic, discipline and other information for students in secondary schools and colleges has been launched.

    The new system dubbed 'centralized students' information' will enable teachers, students as well as parents and guardians keep track of academic performance among other information of respective students.

    A brainchild of Hill Brokers Technology Limited, the technology is also envisaged to allow respective schools and colleges to easily manage students' information.

    "The system shows remarks by teachers, attendance, examination schedules, fees payments and discipline of the students which can be accessed anytime by the user of the system for a particular school," according to Hill Brokers Technology Chief Executive Officer, Mr Maleva Selestine.

    Speaking during the launch of the technology over the weekend, the Tanzania Association of Managers and Owners of Non-governmental Schools and Colleges (TAMONGSCO) was impressed by the system and called for modern ways of keeping school records of students.

    "Modern ways of keeping records help parents, guardians, school authorities and students to keep track of academic performance which also save time," TAMONGSCO Chairman, Mr Mark Mringo, said.

    He urged both private and government owned schools to use the facility as it is hassle-free, saves time, energy, money and other resources.

  • Open Society Foundation and Disability Right Initiative have formed an organization to cater specifically to the disabled African youth - African Youth With Disability Network.

    Through the network, African youths around the continent with disability received training on social media skills and how to work and portray themselves as journalists:

    Earlier this month, a workshop was held in Dakar, Senegal and several countries including Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, Zambia, and Tunisia. Persons with disability are not just covered in positive light but no light at all. The workshop empowered persons with disability with techniques on how to handle and take over media especially the social media and included communication and writing techniques.

    Rebecca, an active Kenyan blogger, discusses the workshop on her blog:

        This week I had a fabulous week with a group of young people; training on media, whether new or old is never easy. The media in every country is almost guilty of similar things; they don’t cover our issues, they entrench prejudice and stereotypes in most cases never have time to write and air positive stories.

    The workshop educated and trained the disabled so that they can in turn educate the public using tools such as Twitter and Facebook.

    Deputy Secretary General for Administration at Federation of Liberian Youth, Daintowon Pay-bayee ,says, “disability is not inability.” She then asks, “you have heard that before but what is your perception if you first meet a disabled person?” Ms Pay-bayee refuses to be judged because of what she is that's why she will keep working on her dream:

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • At least Shs 7 trillion worth of revenue resulting from 1.4 million payments have so far been receipted through electronic tax payments. This revenue is a result of over 360,000 tax returns that have been received online via the electronic tax system codenamed ‘e-Tax’ which commenced in June 2009.

    e-Tax is a web-based application developed to automate URA’s services. It enables taxpayers to access domestic revenue services such as registration, returns, payments and objections, and appeals through the internet daily from any part of the world. In 2011, e-Tax was linked to the customs’ Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) to further ease transactions.

    “Countrywide, taxpayers have embraced the e-Tax system and to date over 130,000 electronic Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs) have been issued,” said URA’s Manager Business Analysis, Myra Ochwo.

    A TIN is a unique identifier that anyone dealing or intending to deal with URA must possess and is issued in accordance with sections 50 and 135 of the VAT Act and the Income Tax Act respectively.

    “The system has boosted our ability in filing returns since we are not bound by distance, enables us to make self-assessments and pay in the bank without going to URA,” said Ephraim Sentamu Kaddu, the Secretary General of KACITA-Uganda. “It saves us costs of hiring services of middlemen, some of whom are unscrupulous.”

    Owing to the system, tax declarations among the large and medium taxpayers have improved dramatically with a slower though steady improvement by smaller taxpayers. The e-Tax system enables taxpayers to access exchange rates, search other taxpayers’ TINs to ensure that they are dealing with registered taxpayers and print submitted forms. Other advantages include accessing the Withholding Tax exempted list, extend due dates for filing tax returns and access return history.

    Additionally, taxpayers can make Owners Transport Vehicle (OTV) applications, dealer licence applications, access Tax Clearance Certificate formats, register motor vehicles, amend registration history and amend returns for individuals as well as access penalty reversal requests.

    These services can only be enjoyed by a taxpayer, who has an account with URA. An account is created after applying for registration and getting a TIN. The pass code that is allocated to the taxpayer together with the TIN is actually used to create an account and a password.

    Citing unstable internet, lack of skills among some of the users and the electronic bill that has not yet been passed into law - to allow electronic signatures hence necessitating submission of physical documents to URA offices, KACITA-Uganda’s Sentamu Kaddu called for more sensitization.

    “We still need more computer education and a URA permanent office in KACITA office to teach our taxpayers how to do transactions online,” said Mr Kaddu, adding that KACITA was ready to mobilize the business community.”

    Meanwhile, URA is in final stages of setting up tax hubs in various parts of business infested areas such as Kikuubo and Kiyembe, both trading communities in downtown Kampala.

    “The URA office at Diamond Trust building shall turn into a fully fledged service centre point to support business persons,” said URA Central Service Office acting Manager, Dorah Okuja.

    These tax hubs, to start in September, will be held weekly in selected parts of the central business district. At these hubs, URA officials will facilitate taxpayers in tax registration and online transactions, gather their views and sensitize them about tax matters.

  • Nigeria’s Globacom has acquired two per cent market share of the total Ghana telecom subscriber base just after a month of launching its operations in the West African country, according to latest figures from the National Communication Authority (NCA). The telecom company which launched commercial operations in May 2012, finished its first month of operations with 468,508 subscribers. However, telecom rival, MTN increased its subscribers to 10,644,804, representing a solid 47% market share, while Vodafone maintained its second position with 4,671,999 subscribers, representing 21% of the total market share.

    The stats also who that Tigo comes third with 3,457,427 subscribers, representing 15% market share, while Airtel finishing the period with 3,015,499 subscribers, representing 14% of the total market share. It is noteworthy that Globacom finished three times the subscriber base of Ghana’s only CDMA network, Expresso, which finished the period with 195,670 subscribers representing a one per cent market share.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - PSTN operator Angola Telecom has introduced a national single rate tariff to standardise the cost of making calls to all areas of the country within its network, news agency ANGOP reports. The wireline and CDMA network operator has set off-peak and peak tariffs for destinations countrywide between its subscribers, at KWZ7.20 (USD0.075) and KWZ8.93 per minute respectively. To promote the move Angola Telecom is offering customers free calls at the weekend this month.

    - Telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent has announced plans to help expand Smile Tanzania’s 4G mobile broadband network by the end of this year. Smile Tanzania is the first network in Africa to provide a 4G LTE service in the 800 MHz frequency band, providing businesses and consumers with fast internet access, initially in Dar es Salaam. But the company has plans to expand the coverage area beyond just one city. “There are plans for further expansion during 2012 to offer ubiquitous coverage as soon as possible,” said Sherine Aziez, Alcatel Lucent Africa head of communications.

Digital Content

  • Google has today announced the release of walking directions for Africa, although in Beta. This comes after it released the driving direction on Google Maps in 2010 in Africa.

    This is “a big release” noting that in Africa’s developing countries, people have more use for walking directions.

    The Walking Directions capability will enable users to get route maps for their destinations -- using paths, roads and sidewalks.

    To start using the walking direction, users have to first access Google Maps and instead of using the driving direction button on the top left part, there is a walking direction icon they can use.

    Google however cautions that the walking direction is still in Beta and many routes might be missing.

    “Walking directions are editable, so if anything is amiss, you can correct it with our community mapping tool Google Map Maker,” the company said.

    “We are always grateful to our active African online cartographers who have helped make our African maps what they are today,” Jacqueline Rajuai, GIS Specialist and Jarda Bengl, Business Product Manager, Google said in a statement.

    Google seems to be taking mapping in Africa seriously after years of neglect. Early this year, the company started the street view project in Botswana.

    Google street view is a component of the Google map project.  It enables users to view a real representation of various streets in given cities.

  • Radiologists in East Africa are now able to read and report on x-rays and scans for many physicians with quicker turn around.  They can accomplish their readings and report from their offices, homes, or from anywhere in the world thanks to a new distance radiology application, Teleradiology, developed by Medisoft East Africa Ltd.

    Teleradiology was developed by three, young Kenyans.  Two are medical doctors, Dr. Emmanuel Mukoya and Dr. Ndii Kanake who are also pursuing Masters of Medicine in radiology at The University of Nairobi. The third is Ruth Wangari a computer science graduate, who is in the midst of studying for her Masters in Business Administration at Africa Nazarene University.

    The three entrepreneurs recognised that radiologists who are qualified to correctly interpret x-rays and scans are in very short supply in Africa.  Doctors often have to keep their patients waiting for weeks before they can give them a proper diagnosis based on a radiology report.  Some doctors are even tempted to do the interpretations themselves, without proper training to do so.

    Medisoft's Teleradiology solution erases the boundaries between image acquisition, reporting and referring doctors.  It speeds up the process by enabling licensed radiologists to provide reports and consultation services for many doctors and hospitals either from their homes or offices.  Doctors can read these reports and view the images from their clinical office or from their homes.  The application also gives medical imaging centers and hospitals the freedom to outsource interpretation services to offsite radiologists around the clock, with ease.  Patients’ lives have been saved by Teleradiology by cutting down the time from scan to diagnosis.

    Doctors and radiologists can access the Teleradiology platform on a web browser or a light desktop program. They can manipulate the images and even download them to a flash drive.  The images and reports can be printed from any location.

    Teleradiology comes with the added benefit of allowing simultaneous viewing of studies by different users at different locations for collaboration between radiologists or doctors.  The platform allows for quick second opinions.  It also comes with the capability to automatically route studies from a given imaging facility to a specified radiologist and give off a sound alert for the radiologist to be notified of an incoming study.

    The Medisoft East Africa innovation was recently recognised by the Vision 2030 ICT Innovation Awards. The Teleradiology application took the top overall honour with over 400 entries.

    The technology stores all of the images and reports on the cloud so it cuts expenses involved in traditional radiology by doing away with the printing and physically storing images.  The images and reports can be immediately viewed anywhere on the planet.

    There are many realms of medical practice in Africa that are ripe for innovative IT solutions. There is much room for Medisoft East Africa and others to expand and profit while making better service available to doctors and patients.

  • Snapplify, a service that transform PDFs into company branded mobile applications, has signed a deal with Kotobarabia, an online e-book store that specialises in Arabic content.

    The deal with the South African-based startup has apparently been signed in a bid to make Kotobarabia’s content available to a wider audience. In part this is because it’s easier to make Snapplify’s mobile apps available to a wide range of devices and also because conventional e-publishing forms such as EPUB don’t deal well with Arabic text. According to director and co-founder of Kotobarabia Ramy Habeeb:

    “Snapplify’s platform is innovative because it is simple. Being a publisher from an emerging economy, it is difficult for me to comply with international standards such as EPUB, especially when EPUB does not comply with the standards of my language. As a result, digitally distributing my content on valuable e-real estate such as the iPad and other tablets is expensive, time-consuming and often impossible. Snapplify’s pdf-based platform solves those issues, and now my titles are available on the iPad.”

    Snapplify founder Wesley Lynch claims that his company’s service could become increasingly valuable to content producers, especially in Arab-speaking markets:

    “Content owners can serve these markets by converting their catalogue to mobile apps at the click of a button, at no upfront cost, and distribution and monetisation is part of the deal with the tablet app store model.”

  • Yezzi [translated as “enough” from Tunisian dialect], is a “cop watch map in Tunisia” which seeks to document and report police abuse ranging from taking bribes, physical or sexual abuse to racism and death threats. The platform was launched by the Tunisian Association for Digital Liberties [known by ATLN from its French Acronym], which deploy new technologies to create online platforms like Yezzi as a way to “help build a democratic, free and open society in Tunisia”.

    Last April, Yezzi came first in the National Contest for Free Softwares, which this year rewarded the most innovative open source projects.

    Based on Ushahidi platform, Yezzi seeks to collect violence testimonies sent by mobile, web, e-mail and SMS, and then place them on a Google Map. Yezzi deploys the concept of crowdsourcing in the service of the mobile social mapping, and a combination of social activism, citizen journalism, and geographical information…
    We believe that transparency can help not only solve problems but also better understand them.

    For so many years, Tunisia stood as a country where police corruption and abuse passed unnoticed - and unpunished. People would talk among themselves about such wrong doings, but only few would dare speak about them in public, or resort to justice. Yezzi, offers those who experience police abuse, or witness police officers involved in wrongdoings the chance to report on such incidents, and anonymously if they so wish. The users of this platform can also upload videos and pictures illustrating police abuse.

  • Africa Online, formerly MWeb Namibia, is rolling out WiFi hotspots in Windhoek, with more centres to follow. Marc Gregan, General Manager of AfricaOnline, said the massive increase in users of mobile devices and laptops led to the decision to expand the product.

    "AfricaOnline WiFi hotspots are used in lodges and hotels across Namibia. We received requests to introduce the product to various centres in Namibia and we begun the roll-out to the general public, using the same voucher system that is used in tourism," Gregan said.

    "More and more people are using laptops and mobile devices, to work and during their leisure time, for browsing, e-mail and social networking. AfricaOnline's WiFi hotspots will give access to well-maintained internet at very competitive rates."

    The first WiFi hotspots are available at Eros Park Shopping Centre, Baines Centre, the Old Power Station Centre, in Kleine Kuppe, at the Show Grounds and at the AfricaOnline offices.

    Gregan said any device with wireless networking capability can use AfricaOnline WiFi hotspots.

    "This includes laptops, desktops and many mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads and Kindles. All you have to do is use your wireless software to find the AFOL Hotspot network, enter the voucher details and you are on."

  • The BeMyApp Startup Weekend, has announced the winner, a mobile app “Taxi Counter,” from Morocco has won this BeMyApp World Cup.
    Every registered idea generator has 1 minute to pitch a mobile application concept to a specialized jury on the first day. The jury is composed of people with mobile/tech/digital and entrepreneurship backgrounds select the best mobile application concepts, around which teams are formed.

  • Nairobi — Researchers hope to harness mobile phone technology to improve water supplies in rural parts of Africa.

    A team from the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom, proposes installing handpumps containing devices that automatically send text messages to local water engineers whenever pumps break down or dry up.

    The device, known as a waterpoint data transmitter, is fitted into handpump handles, and automatically monitors the number of strokes made when a pump is operated.

    This data, which provides estimates of daily and seasonal demand, including critical under- or over-usage information, is then transmitted to a central hub - thus informing engineers, cheaply and regularly, of the need for repairs, and helping to ensure a constant flow of water.

    The researchers will trial their idea, which is known as the 'Smart Handpumps' initiative, in 70 villages in Kenya next month (August). A prototype transmitter was successfully trialled in Zambia in 2011.

    "We came up with the project in response to the widespread failure of hand pumps [largely because of wear and tear, and mechanical faults] and associated health and economic failure impacts on the 276 million Africans who do not have improved water services," lead researcher Rob Hope, a senior research fellow at the University of Oxford, told SciDev.Net.

    "It is estimated that at any one time, one third of handpumps in rural Africa are not working. Unimproved water access is associated with 1.5 million unnecessary deaths of children under five," said Hope.

    "Women and children spend close to 40 billion hours collecting water each year in Africa, and 448 million school days [are] lost because of unreliable water supplies," he added.

    Julius Kabubi, an East African Commission risk reduction adviser, said that the initiative would particularly benefit arid and semi-arid areas, which require a constant water supply.

    "A minor [pump] breakdown in a remote area can cause a well to be abandoned, and this is what the technology is trying to address," Kabubi said.

    He added that for the project to be effective, it needed to work closely with mobile communication providers to ensure good signal coverage, as in some remote areas the mobile network coverage, upon which handpump technology depends, is not very strong.

    Furthermore, Kabubi believes the initiative will work better if more water engineers - who are in low supply in Africa - receive training.

    The researchers hope to expand the technology to other African countries, including Malawi, South Sudan and Zambia.

More

  • IBM SA country GM Oliver Fortuin has stepped down in order to establish his own business. Long-serving IBM executive Abraham Thomas will take on the role. Abraham, who has been with IBM in a number of executive roles, including MD of IBM India and IBM Global Services India, has a business

  • Innovation Prize for Africa: Call for Proposals

    The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) have just  announced the call for the 2013 Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA).

    Eligible are innovations by Africans for Africa. Africans in the Diaspora can also apply if their innovations are of significance to Africa. The winning proposal will be awarded a cash prize of USD100,000, with the two runner-ups receiving USD25,000.

    The registration deadline for the 2013 prize has been set for 31 October 2012.

    For detailed information of competition categories, conditions of entry, and submission procedures, please visit here:

Issue no 613 13th July 2012

node ref id: 25358

Top story

  • Video streaming will be the next big wave of online content use in Africa. There are still considerable network challenges but… The level of existing use shows that once these issues are resolved, the volume of users will be in the millions. Russell Southwood spoke to the biggest player in the market Google’s YouTube. Elijah Kitaka explained how it sees the potential of video streaming being realized.

    YouTube is available in all African countries but has been localized in a number of African countries including: South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. In one West Africa country with a local Google cache server, the amount of traffic through the local IXP is now 800 mbs and the majority of it is YouTube use.

    So how does a country get to have a localized YouTube site? According to Kitaka:”We need to sign an agreement with a (rights) collection society for authors, publishers and composers. Typically one body plays that role and it deals not just with local rights collection but also works on behalf of global rights holders.”

    Once that important formality is dealt with, YouTube looks at levels of existing use and the number of potential content publishers to see whether any interest.”There’s still a lot of pain on the infrastructure side but this pain should reduce. Access and the cost of access is still really a barrier. But YouTube can play a key role in Africanising the web”. Google has installed local cache servers in 4 countries and neighboring countries can take advantage of their presence.

    In addition, the YouTube Feather feature allows users with much lower bandwidth access to watch a lower resolution version:”Feather will make these settings static and deactivate the fancy features. With optimization, a stream should run properly even with low bandwidth.”

    In terms of content providers, there are three categories that YouTube wants to work with:

    1.    Existing African broadcasters: YouTube can take broadcasters existing content and extend its audience, whether in the country itself or for the diaspora. Kenya’s NTV has a live stream of its prime time news programme and also uses YouTube as a platform for catch-up viewers. It has had 10 million views to date. South Africa’s SABC also makes use of it in much the same way.

    2.    African film and music producers: Much has now been written about the success of Nollywood Love but there are still film and music producers in other countries who are not yet properly exploiting the potential of online streaming. A typical example of this kind of content producer would be Homeboyz Entertainment Group in Kenya.

    3.    New wave user generated content: This is new African businesses that are beginning to explore business models that will generate real income for them. One example is Kenya’s Kulahappy which produces candid camera-style comedy clips. It has been going for just over six months and has generated 2 million views.

    What works in content terms is the same as for TV: where it’s available, users prefer local content:”80% of what’s popular is African content.”

    So how do views turn into money? “The secret is quite simple. You have to have an audience for the content. Once you’ve signed up as a Google Ads partner, there are two models: either you earn on a cost per click on adverts served or you get paid a cost per million views.

    But how many views do you need before you start seeing real money? This is where Google becomes a little more circumspect. To be fair, the answer is more complicated than a one-liner. You need an audience that is part of a market that is in “high-contention for advertising and has audiences that those advertisers want to reach.”

    It seems from the very few cases where income figures have been released that that you start to earn real money at between 0.5 million to 1 million views and that it’s important to have significant diaspora audiences in the mix. Also in terms of African audiences, there will have to be higher numbers online to see advertising revenue growth.

    As almost everything to do with data, Google is maddeningly coy. It will only say that between 2010 and 2011 YouTube use in South Africa grew by 110% and the number of uploads grew by 120%. Nevertheless partner revenues grew by 570%. For the other larger markets, it has to wait 12 months after the launch to get figures out.

    Nevertheless, it broke out the socio-demographic results on YouTube users from its Insights Africa survey. Although the sub-sample size is not completely robust, it does give some pointers. The majority of current users are in the 16-34 age group, reflecting the broader trend of technology take-up in Africa. Current male users outnumber female users 2 to 1. But as elsewhere in the developing world, this gender skew is likely to level up once the numbers increase.

    Two things need to happen before online streaming becomes more popular.
    One, mobile operators need to get their networks up to 3.75G and 4G so that the numbers who can access it goes up. There is an iron rule that no piece of content will ever attract all potential users. Two, African content and owners and producers need to take the plunge and get used to reaching potential audiences.

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

    A bumper crop of video clips this week on Balancing Act’s YouTube channel:

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

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

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

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

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Sean Krepp, Uganda Country Director, Apps Lab on raising farmers income using community knowledge workers with smartphones

    Kobus Roux, CSIR Meraka Institute on getting rural schools connected using local micro-entrepreneurs and Wi-Fi mesh technology

    Two experts discuss the challenges of mobile operators as brands:

    Laine Barnard, Founder, 8Brand - Mobile outlets as "giant waiting rooms" for selling airtime

    Sammy Thuo, Director, Saracen Media on differentiating African mobile brands

     

telecoms

  • Two mobile phone operators are involved in a Sh1.9 billion network dispute. Airtel has threatened to switch off Essar Telcom's, popularly known as Yu, connectivity over the disputed amount. According to the court documents, Yu and Airtel entered into a Site Leasing Agreement on April 3 2009, in which Airtel leased certain sites to Yu.

    Yu however claims that Airtel failed to meet the agreement which caused the former to start experiencing frequent site failures that disrupted its network and hampered the customer's ability to make calls, send sms and use data services. It also claims that it lost 34 batteries from the sites as a result of Airtels breach of the agreement to provide daily security at the sites.

    Yu claims Sh1.9 billion against Airtel and Airtel is claiming Sh252 million from Yu. Yu intends to refer the matter to arbitration and has succeeded in getting an injunction restraining Airtel from switching off its connectivity or interfering with the company's equipment at Airtel's sites. The case will proceed on July 20 before High Court judge Daniel Musinga.

  • Four mobile operators in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have acquired 3G licences, paying USD15 million apiece for the long-awaited concessions. The companies in question are Airtel DRC, Oasis Telecom (Tigo), Vodacom Congo and Africell, which only announced the launch of its GSM network late last month, almost two years after receiving rights and spectrum to offer wireless services in the DRC. Conspicuous by its absence is Congo Chine Telecom (CCT), which was taken over by France Telecom-Orange (FT-Orange) in October 2011, and which is currently in the process of being rebranded in line with Orange’s other operations in the regions.

    At the time of the transaction it was reported that, on top of the monies paid for the cellco itself, FT-Orange paid USD71million to the Congolese government for improved licence terms, including a ten year extension to its existing 2G concession, access to an additional 2MHz of spectrum in the 1800MHz band and 10MHz in the 2100MHz spectrum band for 3G services. It remains unclear whether the latest batch of 3G licensees have also been issued with frequencies in the 2100MHz band.

  • A South African farmer has equipped his sheep with cell phones to keep a tab on the flock and prevent livestock thefts from his vast farm.

    Whenever Erard Louw, a Cape Town farmer gets a call from his sheep, it’s always a bad news as the phones are programmed to switch on only when the sheep start running, a sign that the thieves might have cut through the fence.

    “As they run it gives me a phone call and says ‘sheep one’ or ‘sheep two’ and so on, so at least I know where to start looking because the farm is 750 hectares,” The Cape Times quoted Louw as saying.

    Louw reportedly had 27 sheep and 13 lambs stolen 10 days ago, which led him to innovate to protect his animals. He came up with the idea of tying cell phones on to the collars of four sheep in separate flocks.

    Louw said that since the police stations are located far away, there is not much point calling the police because either they did not have a vehicle available, or they had no petrol, or the tyres had been stolen, or there was no one who could drive.

    According to Louw, cell phones have proved to be useful as as one of the sheep snatchers was caught with the help of the devices.

    Stock theft of sheep is a major problem in the Western Cape and has led to sheep farmers leaving the industry. A few sheep-robbers have, however, managed to get away despite the devices.

    “The phone did start ringing that night and I went out. I checked all the fences — because they normally cut the fences — and they were all okay and the gates were closed. But the phone kept ringing, so I knew they were running. Then I found a new place where they had cut the fence.”

  • South Africa's foreign ministry has started an investigation into claims that the country's former Ambassador to Iran took a US$200,000 bribe to help MTN's attempt to secure a mobile license in the country.

    MTN is already facing a lawsuit from Turkey's Turkcell over its claims that MTN bribed officials to have Turkcell removed from a winning consortium for the license.

    South Africa's Foreign Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has confirmed that her department is investigating the allegations against Yusuf Saloojee, who was serving as Ambassador to Oman, but has since been suspended.

    The South African government has previously denied that any of its officials were involved in the MTN transaction, which enabled the company to secure a 49% stake in the Iranian mobile network.

    MTN has also repeatedly denied the charged, but has hired a UK Judge to investigate them.

internet

  • Businesses, institutions and consumers in Lesotho are set to experience faster, reliable and significantly more affordable internet connectivity as Africa’s carriers’ carrier WIOCC brings additional broadband capacity into Lesotho.

    Utilising its extensive terrestrial and submarine fibre-optic cable network, WIOCC is delivering lower-cost internet connectivity to Lesotho, bringing benefits to consumers and businesses in this mountainous African kingdom. Its arrival has already enabled a reduction in pricing of internet services by up to 67 per cent. This is supporting the Lesotho Government’s 8th Millennium Goal to make the benefits of new technologies available to its citizens and organisations, and to help businesses compete in the international arena.

    Educational institutions, such as the National University of Lesotho, are already benefitting – with Basotho students now able to access essential web-based resources that were previously unavailable.  For consumers, mobile internet services are being made more affordable to a wider section of the population through significantly reduced charges.

    “Until recently, internet access in Lesotho terminated in South Africa and was shaped and thus limited in international capacity. The connection provided by WIOCC terminates in Europe and provides Lesotho with faster and more affordable connectivity. This change will have a significant impact on the daily lives of the Basotho and Lesotho businesses,” explained WIOCC CEO, Chris Wood.

    “Our extensive network reach also enables international enterprises, ISPs and carriers to terminate their services in Lesotho. This, together with the introduction of reduced wholesale pricing, will open up further opportunities in the region.”

    Mpine Tente, General Manager of Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL) – the first operator in Lesotho to benefit from the  WIOCC capacity - commented:  “The extra bandwidth made available by WIOCC has enabled us to make a huge reduction in our internet access costs. We are taking advantage of our improved international connectivity to deliver more reliable and affordable broadband services to our customers. Public and private businesses will benefit from reduced prices. All Basotho will benefit from cheaper access to the internet.”

  • Kenya’s mobile service provider Safaricom has introduced a new service that will allow its customers to purchase data bundles using Scratch cards

    Safaricom says it has introduced a wide range of  scratch cards that will now retail in various shops with data bundles and expiry duration.

    The new 4MB, 8MB and 16MB will be active for one week. The 4MB scratchcard will cost KSh5 (US$0.06) while the 8MB and 16MB scratchcards will cost KSh10 (0.12) and KSh20 (US$0.24) respectively. The 50,100,250 and 500MB data bundles will last for 30 days retailing at KSh 50 (US$0.60), KSh100 (US$1.19), KSh250 (US$2.98) and KSH500 (US$5.96).

    I.5GB data bundle will costs KSh 1000 (US$11.92) with an expiry duration of 30 days.

    Users can purchase the bundles by dialing *544*, entering the 16 digits PIN, the hash sign (#) and pressing the "Ok" button in that order.

    Also, users can buy data bundles for a third party by dialling *544*, entering the other user’s cellphone number, the hash sign and then pressing the "Ok" button.

    Safaricom as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) faces stiff competition from other providers including Airtel, Yu and Orange.

    The Communication Commission of Kenya’s (CCK) April 2012 report indicates an increase in mobile service subscription. In the last financial year, 89.10 percent of the population in the country had access to the services compared to 84.5 percent in the previous year.

    An estimated 16 million people use Internet services, an increase of 13.20 percent from 86.62 percent which CCK attributes to high Internet subscriptions on General Packet Radio Services (GPRS), Enhanced Data for Global Evolution (EDGE) and 3rd Generation of Cellphone technology(3G).

  • Africa’s youngest nation has added its voice to the chorus of support for the bid to ensure the African online community is properly represented in cyberspace.

    The Republic of South Sudan (RSS) this week became the 39th African country to formally endorse the African Union-endorsed UniForum ZA Central Registry (ZACR) bid to administer the proposed .africa generic Top Level Domain (gTLD).

    The African Union Commission (AUC) endorsed the UniForum ZACR bid earlier this year and last week reaffirmed its support at the 44th meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in Prague, Czech Republic.

  • The South African government announced on July 8, that they would begin offering electronic visas in an effort to increase tourism and relations with other African nations such as Nigeria.

    allAfrica.com reports that Tourism Minister, Marthinus Van Schalkwyk spoke at the opening of the 2012 Routes Africa Conference in Seychelles. Van Schalkwyk said the creation of E-Visas would allow international visitors and intra-African travellers to move more efficiently.

    “The bureaucracy and costs involved in applying for and issuing visas are a major impediment to foreigners wishing to visit our shores, and to our own people who travel on our continent,” Van Schalkwyk said.

    E-Visas are becoming an attractive option for countries because it does not require travellers to visit a country’s consulate in person. Currently the only three countries that offer E-Visas are Australia, Sri Lanka and the United States.

    Van Schalkwyk said that that continent still has a significant amount of work ahead of itself in order to capitalize on its unique attractions and culture.

    According to multiple sources, Van Schalkywk believes that the continent of Africa is expected to experience a massive tourism boom over the coming decades.

    “In a mere three years from now, there will be just over 50 African cities with populations exceeding three million,” Van Schalkwyk said.

    Van Schalkywk added that old airline connectivity models are a current problem in Africa and need to be improved.

    “They inhibit growth and only serve to keep our destinations dependent on air arrivals from economically hard-pressed traditional source markets,” he said. “We need a long-term plan to create an intra-continental air transport architecture that facilitates intra-African travel and trade, including tourism.”

    According to Leader.ng Deputy South African President, Mr. Kgalema Motlanthe said Nigeria is an important strategic partner for South Africa and that both nations have been short changing themselves.

    Van Schalkywk said that the E-Visa would also improve and create new job opportunities.

    The importance of South Africa offering E-Visa’s should not be underestimated. When only three other countries currently offer this service, South Africa will now join this small group. Not only will this improve cross border efficiency but it should also significantly improve trade within South Africa and the continent of Africa.

  • Goal.com, the world’s biggest football website, believes that Africa loves football, a sport it is also passionate about. It is hence expanding to populations in love with soccer and this time round, it is launching in Ghana.

    In a post, Goal.com said: ”The continent loves football, and in Africa the beautiful game is more than just a pastime, it is a passion. In Ghana, the story is no different – the passion is on and soaring higher.

    “In few countries is that passion more inspiring than Ghana, and it was simply a matter of time before the world’s leading football and new media website – Goal.com – rewarded that inspiration with a local edition of the site.

    The site strives to maintain and outdo the high standards it has set in other places around the world.

    Kent Mensah, Chief Editor of the Goal.com Ghana edition, says he is very excited about the prospects of bringing Goal.com closer to the people of Ghana.

    Goal.com says it will also provide news, personal features, interviews, match reports and editorials to Ghanaians around the world.

    It is therefore our great pleasure to announce the launch of the Ghanaian edition of Goal.com, the site said.

    With a huge fan base in Ghana, Goal.com will serve loyal Ghanaian fans with a site of their own, which will however be managed by tested Ghanaian football journalists and columnists.

    It is Goal.com’s mission to unite the world through football, and with the launch of yet another African edition following the highly successful Goal.com Nigeria, it is one-step closer to bringing the game to the doorsteps of all football-loving nations.

    The service will be available via the Web, mobile or apps, with latest news, insightful commentary and worldwide match coverage.

    Goal.com launched in March in Nigeria and has been offering football news on the Nigerian football league, tournaments, friendly matches and on Nigerian international players.

    Now available on mobile, courtesy of Airtel and Etisalat Nigeria, its is a leading football website in Nigeria.

computing

  • If you really think that you are a hacker worth his salt, you need to be ready because Kenya’s election authority will be looking to involve you in a systems penetration test in the not so distant future.

    According to the CEO of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), James Oswago, the commission will be looking to involve hackers in testing its result transmitting system in November. The involvement of hackers is a move meant to assure all candidates of the systems capabilities and security.

    It comes after some of the top presidential contenders complained that they have not had access to the system to test its security and the failure of IEBC to assure the contenders that they will be allowed to assign specialised agents to monitor the system during the the general election.

    The commission is also looking to replicate the experience of India which offered even upto Ksh 1.5 Million to hackers who would have penetrated the Voter Verifiable Paper Trial (VVPT) machine. The VVPT is an electronic voting machine (EVM) that prints out paper as proof of data transmitted through it.

    There will no electronic voting but the provisional results of the election will be transmitted electronically. The commission has also promised to allow voters to authenticate their registration electronically. Voters will be verified through a biometric system before the elections.

  • A new technology that keeps records of academic, discipline and other information for students in secondary schools and colleges has been launched.

    The new system dubbed 'centralized students' information' will enable teachers, students as well as parents and guardians keep track of academic performance among other information of respective students.

    A brainchild of Hill Brokers Technology Limited, the technology is also envisaged to allow respective schools and colleges to easily manage students' information.

    "The system shows remarks by teachers, attendance, examination schedules, fees payments and discipline of the students which can be accessed anytime by the user of the system for a particular school," according to Hill Brokers Technology Chief Executive Officer, Mr Maleva Selestine.

    Speaking during the launch of the technology over the weekend, the Tanzania Association of Managers and Owners of Non-governmental Schools and Colleges (TAMONGSCO) was impressed by the system and called for modern ways of keeping school records of students.

    "Modern ways of keeping records help parents, guardians, school authorities and students to keep track of academic performance which also save time," TAMONGSCO Chairman, Mr Mark Mringo, said.

    He urged both private and government owned schools to use the facility as it is hassle-free, saves time, energy, money and other resources.

  • Open Society Foundation and Disability Right Initiative have formed an organization to cater specifically to the disabled African youth - African Youth With Disability Network.

    Through the network, African youths around the continent with disability received training on social media skills and how to work and portray themselves as journalists:

    Earlier this month, a workshop was held in Dakar, Senegal and several countries including Uganda, Kenya, Senegal, Zambia, and Tunisia. Persons with disability are not just covered in positive light but no light at all. The workshop empowered persons with disability with techniques on how to handle and take over media especially the social media and included communication and writing techniques.

    Rebecca, an active Kenyan blogger, discusses the workshop on her blog:

        This week I had a fabulous week with a group of young people; training on media, whether new or old is never easy. The media in every country is almost guilty of similar things; they don’t cover our issues, they entrench prejudice and stereotypes in most cases never have time to write and air positive stories.

    The workshop educated and trained the disabled so that they can in turn educate the public using tools such as Twitter and Facebook.

    Deputy Secretary General for Administration at Federation of Liberian Youth, Daintowon Pay-bayee ,says, “disability is not inability.” She then asks, “you have heard that before but what is your perception if you first meet a disabled person?” Ms Pay-bayee refuses to be judged because of what she is that's why she will keep working on her dream:

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • At least Shs 7 trillion worth of revenue resulting from 1.4 million payments have so far been receipted through electronic tax payments. This revenue is a result of over 360,000 tax returns that have been received online via the electronic tax system codenamed ‘e-Tax’ which commenced in June 2009.

    e-Tax is a web-based application developed to automate URA’s services. It enables taxpayers to access domestic revenue services such as registration, returns, payments and objections, and appeals through the internet daily from any part of the world. In 2011, e-Tax was linked to the customs’ Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) to further ease transactions.

    “Countrywide, taxpayers have embraced the e-Tax system and to date over 130,000 electronic Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs) have been issued,” said URA’s Manager Business Analysis, Myra Ochwo.

    A TIN is a unique identifier that anyone dealing or intending to deal with URA must possess and is issued in accordance with sections 50 and 135 of the VAT Act and the Income Tax Act respectively.

    “The system has boosted our ability in filing returns since we are not bound by distance, enables us to make self-assessments and pay in the bank without going to URA,” said Ephraim Sentamu Kaddu, the Secretary General of KACITA-Uganda. “It saves us costs of hiring services of middlemen, some of whom are unscrupulous.”

    Owing to the system, tax declarations among the large and medium taxpayers have improved dramatically with a slower though steady improvement by smaller taxpayers. The e-Tax system enables taxpayers to access exchange rates, search other taxpayers’ TINs to ensure that they are dealing with registered taxpayers and print submitted forms. Other advantages include accessing the Withholding Tax exempted list, extend due dates for filing tax returns and access return history.

    Additionally, taxpayers can make Owners Transport Vehicle (OTV) applications, dealer licence applications, access Tax Clearance Certificate formats, register motor vehicles, amend registration history and amend returns for individuals as well as access penalty reversal requests.

    These services can only be enjoyed by a taxpayer, who has an account with URA. An account is created after applying for registration and getting a TIN. The pass code that is allocated to the taxpayer together with the TIN is actually used to create an account and a password.

    Citing unstable internet, lack of skills among some of the users and the electronic bill that has not yet been passed into law - to allow electronic signatures hence necessitating submission of physical documents to URA offices, KACITA-Uganda’s Sentamu Kaddu called for more sensitization.

    “We still need more computer education and a URA permanent office in KACITA office to teach our taxpayers how to do transactions online,” said Mr Kaddu, adding that KACITA was ready to mobilize the business community.”

    Meanwhile, URA is in final stages of setting up tax hubs in various parts of business infested areas such as Kikuubo and Kiyembe, both trading communities in downtown Kampala.

    “The URA office at Diamond Trust building shall turn into a fully fledged service centre point to support business persons,” said URA Central Service Office acting Manager, Dorah Okuja.

    These tax hubs, to start in September, will be held weekly in selected parts of the central business district. At these hubs, URA officials will facilitate taxpayers in tax registration and online transactions, gather their views and sensitize them about tax matters.

  • Nigeria’s Globacom has acquired two per cent market share of the total Ghana telecom subscriber base just after a month of launching its operations in the West African country, according to latest figures from the National Communication Authority (NCA). The telecom company which launched commercial operations in May 2012, finished its first month of operations with 468,508 subscribers. However, telecom rival, MTN increased its subscribers to 10,644,804, representing a solid 47% market share, while Vodafone maintained its second position with 4,671,999 subscribers, representing 21% of the total market share.

    The stats also who that Tigo comes third with 3,457,427 subscribers, representing 15% market share, while Airtel finishing the period with 3,015,499 subscribers, representing 14% of the total market share. It is noteworthy that Globacom finished three times the subscriber base of Ghana’s only CDMA network, Expresso, which finished the period with 195,670 subscribers representing a one per cent market share.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - PSTN operator Angola Telecom has introduced a national single rate tariff to standardise the cost of making calls to all areas of the country within its network, news agency ANGOP reports. The wireline and CDMA network operator has set off-peak and peak tariffs for destinations countrywide between its subscribers, at KWZ7.20 (USD0.075) and KWZ8.93 per minute respectively. To promote the move Angola Telecom is offering customers free calls at the weekend this month.

    - Telecommunications company Alcatel-Lucent has announced plans to help expand Smile Tanzania’s 4G mobile broadband network by the end of this year. Smile Tanzania is the first network in Africa to provide a 4G LTE service in the 800 MHz frequency band, providing businesses and consumers with fast internet access, initially in Dar es Salaam. But the company has plans to expand the coverage area beyond just one city. “There are plans for further expansion during 2012 to offer ubiquitous coverage as soon as possible,” said Sherine Aziez, Alcatel Lucent Africa head of communications.

Digital Content

  • Google has today announced the release of walking directions for Africa, although in Beta. This comes after it released the driving direction on Google Maps in 2010 in Africa.

    This is “a big release” noting that in Africa’s developing countries, people have more use for walking directions.

    The Walking Directions capability will enable users to get route maps for their destinations -- using paths, roads and sidewalks.

    To start using the walking direction, users have to first access Google Maps and instead of using the driving direction button on the top left part, there is a walking direction icon they can use.

    Google however cautions that the walking direction is still in Beta and many routes might be missing.

    “Walking directions are editable, so if anything is amiss, you can correct it with our community mapping tool Google Map Maker,” the company said.

    “We are always grateful to our active African online cartographers who have helped make our African maps what they are today,” Jacqueline Rajuai, GIS Specialist and Jarda Bengl, Business Product Manager, Google said in a statement.

    Google seems to be taking mapping in Africa seriously after years of neglect. Early this year, the company started the street view project in Botswana.

    Google street view is a component of the Google map project.  It enables users to view a real representation of various streets in given cities.

  • Radiologists in East Africa are now able to read and report on x-rays and scans for many physicians with quicker turn around.  They can accomplish their readings and report from their offices, homes, or from anywhere in the world thanks to a new distance radiology application, Teleradiology, developed by Medisoft East Africa Ltd.

    Teleradiology was developed by three, young Kenyans.  Two are medical doctors, Dr. Emmanuel Mukoya and Dr. Ndii Kanake who are also pursuing Masters of Medicine in radiology at The University of Nairobi. The third is Ruth Wangari a computer science graduate, who is in the midst of studying for her Masters in Business Administration at Africa Nazarene University.

    The three entrepreneurs recognised that radiologists who are qualified to correctly interpret x-rays and scans are in very short supply in Africa.  Doctors often have to keep their patients waiting for weeks before they can give them a proper diagnosis based on a radiology report.  Some doctors are even tempted to do the interpretations themselves, without proper training to do so.

    Medisoft's Teleradiology solution erases the boundaries between image acquisition, reporting and referring doctors.  It speeds up the process by enabling licensed radiologists to provide reports and consultation services for many doctors and hospitals either from their homes or offices.  Doctors can read these reports and view the images from their clinical office or from their homes.  The application also gives medical imaging centers and hospitals the freedom to outsource interpretation services to offsite radiologists around the clock, with ease.  Patients’ lives have been saved by Teleradiology by cutting down the time from scan to diagnosis.

    Doctors and radiologists can access the Teleradiology platform on a web browser or a light desktop program. They can manipulate the images and even download them to a flash drive.  The images and reports can be printed from any location.

    Teleradiology comes with the added benefit of allowing simultaneous viewing of studies by different users at different locations for collaboration between radiologists or doctors.  The platform allows for quick second opinions.  It also comes with the capability to automatically route studies from a given imaging facility to a specified radiologist and give off a sound alert for the radiologist to be notified of an incoming study.

    The Medisoft East Africa innovation was recently recognised by the Vision 2030 ICT Innovation Awards. The Teleradiology application took the top overall honour with over 400 entries.

    The technology stores all of the images and reports on the cloud so it cuts expenses involved in traditional radiology by doing away with the printing and physically storing images.  The images and reports can be immediately viewed anywhere on the planet.

    There are many realms of medical practice in Africa that are ripe for innovative IT solutions. There is much room for Medisoft East Africa and others to expand and profit while making better service available to doctors and patients.

  • Snapplify, a service that transform PDFs into company branded mobile applications, has signed a deal with Kotobarabia, an online e-book store that specialises in Arabic content.

    The deal with the South African-based startup has apparently been signed in a bid to make Kotobarabia’s content available to a wider audience. In part this is because it’s easier to make Snapplify’s mobile apps available to a wide range of devices and also because conventional e-publishing forms such as EPUB don’t deal well with Arabic text. According to director and co-founder of Kotobarabia Ramy Habeeb:

    “Snapplify’s platform is innovative because it is simple. Being a publisher from an emerging economy, it is difficult for me to comply with international standards such as EPUB, especially when EPUB does not comply with the standards of my language. As a result, digitally distributing my content on valuable e-real estate such as the iPad and other tablets is expensive, time-consuming and often impossible. Snapplify’s pdf-based platform solves those issues, and now my titles are available on the iPad.”

    Snapplify founder Wesley Lynch claims that his company’s service could become increasingly valuable to content producers, especially in Arab-speaking markets:

    “Content owners can serve these markets by converting their catalogue to mobile apps at the click of a button, at no upfront cost, and distribution and monetisation is part of the deal with the tablet app store model.”

  • Yezzi [translated as “enough” from Tunisian dialect], is a “cop watch map in Tunisia” which seeks to document and report police abuse ranging from taking bribes, physical or sexual abuse to racism and death threats. The platform was launched by the Tunisian Association for Digital Liberties [known by ATLN from its French Acronym], which deploy new technologies to create online platforms like Yezzi as a way to “help build a democratic, free and open society in Tunisia”.

    Last April, Yezzi came first in the National Contest for Free Softwares, which this year rewarded the most innovative open source projects.

    Based on Ushahidi platform, Yezzi seeks to collect violence testimonies sent by mobile, web, e-mail and SMS, and then place them on a Google Map. Yezzi deploys the concept of crowdsourcing in the service of the mobile social mapping, and a combination of social activism, citizen journalism, and geographical information…
    We believe that transparency can help not only solve problems but also better understand them.

    For so many years, Tunisia stood as a country where police corruption and abuse passed unnoticed - and unpunished. People would talk among themselves about such wrong doings, but only few would dare speak about them in public, or resort to justice. Yezzi, offers those who experience police abuse, or witness police officers involved in wrongdoings the chance to report on such incidents, and anonymously if they so wish. The users of this platform can also upload videos and pictures illustrating police abuse.

  • Africa Online, formerly MWeb Namibia, is rolling out WiFi hotspots in Windhoek, with more centres to follow. Marc Gregan, General Manager of AfricaOnline, said the massive increase in users of mobile devices and laptops led to the decision to expand the product.

    "AfricaOnline WiFi hotspots are used in lodges and hotels across Namibia. We received requests to introduce the product to various centres in Namibia and we begun the roll-out to the general public, using the same voucher system that is used in tourism," Gregan said.

    "More and more people are using laptops and mobile devices, to work and during their leisure time, for browsing, e-mail and social networking. AfricaOnline's WiFi hotspots will give access to well-maintained internet at very competitive rates."

    The first WiFi hotspots are available at Eros Park Shopping Centre, Baines Centre, the Old Power Station Centre, in Kleine Kuppe, at the Show Grounds and at the AfricaOnline offices.

    Gregan said any device with wireless networking capability can use AfricaOnline WiFi hotspots.

    "This includes laptops, desktops and many mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads and Kindles. All you have to do is use your wireless software to find the AFOL Hotspot network, enter the voucher details and you are on."

  • The BeMyApp Startup Weekend, has announced the winner, a mobile app “Taxi Counter,” from Morocco has won this BeMyApp World Cup.
    Every registered idea generator has 1 minute to pitch a mobile application concept to a specialized jury on the first day. The jury is composed of people with mobile/tech/digital and entrepreneurship backgrounds select the best mobile application concepts, around which teams are formed.

  • Nairobi — Researchers hope to harness mobile phone technology to improve water supplies in rural parts of Africa.

    A team from the University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom, proposes installing handpumps containing devices that automatically send text messages to local water engineers whenever pumps break down or dry up.

    The device, known as a waterpoint data transmitter, is fitted into handpump handles, and automatically monitors the number of strokes made when a pump is operated.

    This data, which provides estimates of daily and seasonal demand, including critical under- or over-usage information, is then transmitted to a central hub - thus informing engineers, cheaply and regularly, of the need for repairs, and helping to ensure a constant flow of water.

    The researchers will trial their idea, which is known as the 'Smart Handpumps' initiative, in 70 villages in Kenya next month (August). A prototype transmitter was successfully trialled in Zambia in 2011.

    "We came up with the project in response to the widespread failure of hand pumps [largely because of wear and tear, and mechanical faults] and associated health and economic failure impacts on the 276 million Africans who do not have improved water services," lead researcher Rob Hope, a senior research fellow at the University of Oxford, told SciDev.Net.

    "It is estimated that at any one time, one third of handpumps in rural Africa are not working. Unimproved water access is associated with 1.5 million unnecessary deaths of children under five," said Hope.

    "Women and children spend close to 40 billion hours collecting water each year in Africa, and 448 million school days [are] lost because of unreliable water supplies," he added.

    Julius Kabubi, an East African Commission risk reduction adviser, said that the initiative would particularly benefit arid and semi-arid areas, which require a constant water supply.

    "A minor [pump] breakdown in a remote area can cause a well to be abandoned, and this is what the technology is trying to address," Kabubi said.

    He added that for the project to be effective, it needed to work closely with mobile communication providers to ensure good signal coverage, as in some remote areas the mobile network coverage, upon which handpump technology depends, is not very strong.

    Furthermore, Kabubi believes the initiative will work better if more water engineers - who are in low supply in Africa - receive training.

    The researchers hope to expand the technology to other African countries, including Malawi, South Sudan and Zambia.

More

  • IBM SA country GM Oliver Fortuin has stepped down in order to establish his own business. Long-serving IBM executive Abraham Thomas will take on the role. Abraham, who has been with IBM in a number of executive roles, including MD of IBM India and IBM Global Services India, has a business

  • Innovation Prize for Africa: Call for Proposals

    The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) have just  announced the call for the 2013 Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA).

    Eligible are innovations by Africans for Africa. Africans in the Diaspora can also apply if their innovations are of significance to Africa. The winning proposal will be awarded a cash prize of USD100,000, with the two runner-ups receiving USD25,000.

    The registration deadline for the 2013 prize has been set for 31 October 2012.

    For detailed information of competition categories, conditions of entry, and submission procedures, please visit here:

Issue no 612 6th July 2012

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Top story

  • On June 21st, Cellcom officially launched its HSPA+ services at a ceremony attended by a crowd of over 400 VIPs. For a day, Monrovia’s City Hall was decorated with Cellcom’s red and white flags and banners with the slogan “4G The First. The Fastest”. Isabelle Gross, who attended the event, looks at what it takes for a small mobile operation to launch a new 4G network and, at the commercial potential that becoming the technology leader in the data market may bring.

    One thing is for sure: no mobile operator is ever 100% ready when it comes to rolling out a new network based on a new technology. Cellcom is no exception to this rule, but a combination of technical, commercial and human elements gave the company and its CEO, Avishai Marziano, enough confidence to decide that now was the time to go to market. Cellcom’s HSPA+ network is provided by the Chinese telecommunications company ZTE. For now the network covers Monrovia and greater Monrovia as well as Buchanan in Grand Bassa county. Cellcom plans to further expand its 4G network coverage along the main axis from Monrovia to the border with Guinea (Kakata, Banga and Ganta). In order to get this level of coverage, dozens of BTSs had to be fitted with new 4G equipment, while at the same time new BTSs have been built to further strengthen the signal of the 4G network. The power requirements of each BTS had to be reviewed too in order to cope with the additional load coming from the new 4G equipment. At the same time the new core network was being set up and tested and the new 4G equipment on the BTSs had to “go on air”. Connecting the BTSs require a lot of tweaking and radio optimisation but what’s more important is that the existing 2G network and the new 4G network had to work together seamlessly.

    As the technical team was busying itself getting the new network up and running, the marketing department was engaged in building a commercial strategy and marketing plan about the new data services and devices that Cellcom would offer at- and post-launch. This was all about defining which market segments to target, what data packs to offer, how to price them, and above all how to communicate all this to mobile users and Liberians at large. So, for example, alongside a new range of 4G data bundles, Cellcom has introduced “out of bundle” data billing, which allows customers to stay online just a little more to let them finish what they are doing. It also works as a 12¢ per MB “pay as you go” option for customers who don’t want to buy a data bundle.

    Building a consistent data offering is only the first step in the process, as these data offers need to be integrated in the prepaid billing system. Least but not last, the people need to be trained up to deal with the new system. Rolling out a more advanced mobile technology implies a lot of training for the technical staff to make sure that they understand all the technical aspects of the new network and ensure that it will be up and running 24/7. Non-technical personnel such as sales and customer support staff also need to learn the ins and outs of the new 4G data devices and services. At the end of the day, it was the sum of each employee’s inputs that got Cellcom’s new baby up and running. The days up to the launch were especially hard for the person at the top who like a maestro had to get the whole orchestra to play in tune.

    Mobile telephony is a technology-driven business. Rolling out HPSA+ has given Cellcom a technology edge over its competitors as well as the means to poach their high ARPU customers. When it comes to mobile phones, these users are likely to be the owner of an iPhone, a Samsung Galaxy or a Blackberry smartphone. They might also have an iPad or a Galaxy tablet. To get the most from these devices high-end customers need access to a 3G, HSPA network or above. Connecting such devices to the Internet through a GPRS/Edge network is “slow slow” as Liberians would put it. Mobile data users across the world do not want their experience to be ruined by lethargic network performance and Liberian mobile users are no exception. Cellcom’s HSPA+ network is impressively quick, allowing me to watch a Youtube video on my HTC mobile phone without any buffering

    In a country that has hardly any fixed lines and therefore no competing broadband Internet technologies like ADSL+,  cable or fibre, rolling out a network that offers a download data speed of up to 21Mbps and an upload speed up to 5.8Mbps has wider commercial potential than just providing fast Internet access to smartphone owners. There is a growing variety of both mobile and fixed 4G devices that data users can choose from to fulfil their data access requirements. Alongside smartphones, Cellcom is also for example offering 4G USB dongles, hotspots (nomadic) and 4G routers (fixed) with the aim to tap into “the fixed wireless” broadband segment. HSPA+ data speed compares very well with WiMAX data speed and is far superior to what CDMA technology can offer. Furthermore, the evolution path of HSPA technology is already set providing Cellcom and mobile operators at large with a clear roadmap of what data speed they can except to sell in the coming years.

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

    A bumper crop of video clips this week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    NyashaMutsekwa, CEO, Metvafrica.com on its Pan-African VOD service

    Alan Knott-Craig Jr, CEO, MXit on his African expansion plans

    Mark Kaigwa, Afrinnovator talking about monetization of mobile content at OIAS

    EyalCoppitt, SVP Sales MEA, Amos Spascecom on the launch of the Amos 5 satellite


    Shawkat Ahmed, COO, Yahsat talks about its new low cost satellite broadband product


    Jonah Fink, SVP, net2phone on the potential for VoIP in Africa


    Angus Hay, Chair of WACS on the impact of this new, international cable

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Sean Krepp, Uganda Country Director, Apps Lab
    on raising farmers income using community knowledge workers with smartphones

    Kobus Roux, CSIR Meraka Institute on getting rural schools connected using local micro-entrepreneurs and Wi-Fi mesh technology

    Two experts discuss the challenges of mobile operators as brands:

    Laine Barnard, Founder, 8Brand - Mobile outlets as "giant waiting rooms" for selling airtime

    Sammy Thuo, Director, Saracen Media on differentiating African mobile brands

telecoms

  • The Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) has issued a notice to operators to develop infrastructure-sharing plans, following the drawing up of passive infrastructure sharing guidelines. The three-month notice is in line with the BTA's strategic intent of promoting rapid deployment of efficient infrastructures and better service provision.

    CEO Thari Pheko said the development encourages and promotes the sharing of rights of way, antennae, poles, ducts, trenches and space in equipment shelters and buildings. He said the guidelines will promote fair competition by granting equal access to the installations and facilities of operators on mutually agreed terms.

    Telecommunications operators in the country are urged to cooperate and embrace infrastructure sharing as means of improving network quality, particularly in congested areas, he added. Pheko said infrastructure sharing will improve rollout in underserved areas, protect the environment by reducing the proliferation of infrastructure and facilities installations, and avoid duplication of network deployment to save cost and reducing customer tariffs.

    Pheko said the BTA is committed to continuously monitoring the market in order to prevent the possibility of anti-competitive practice that may occur with infrastructure sharing.

  • ccording to an unverified report by Egyptian news website Alborsa, telecoms tycoon Naguib Sawiris has indicated that his Orascom Telecom Media and Technology (OTMT) holding company is actively pursuing management contracts for Libya’s two state-owned mobile operators, Libyana and Al Madar Telecomm Company. Sawiris told Alborsa that OTMT is currently conducting talks regarding management contracts and the reactivation and development of the two firms’ networks. Further, Sawiris said that OTMT’s interest could potentially exceed a management contract if the Libyan government displays an interest in privatising the cellcos.

    OTMT was formed on 29 November 2011 as a result of the merger between Orascom Telecom Holding and Russian telecoms group Vimpelcom. Following the completion of the deal certain Orascom assets – notably its part-ownership of Egyptian cellco Mobinil (which in the process of being sold to France Telecom-Orange) and a 75% stake in CHEO, a cellular operator in North Korea – fell under the control of the new entity.

  • Telecommunications operators in the country will pay in, annually, 3 per cent of their business turnovers to an account at the Central Bank opened by the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. This is to feed a Special Telecommunications Fund set up within the framework of the 1998 reforms that came with the liberalisation of the sector. Initially, they were paying in 2 per cent to the "Fond Spécial d'Affectation" in the Ministry of Finance.

    This innovation is contained in a Presidential decree of June 26, 2012 setting out the modalities for the management of the Special Telecommunications Fund, code-named, "Le Fonds" (The Fund). The Telecommunications Regulatory Board, by the decree, is charged with ensuring that the operators effectively pay in the required amount to the account. Like any tax that is paid based on what operators declare as their business turnover, the decree empowers the Telecommunications Regulatory Board to verify the amounts declared. As such, in case of any doubt, the regulator can carry out an audit at the expense of the operator.

    The Fund permits the State to develop the telecommunications sector by taking telecoms services to where operators cannot by virtue of their profit motive, especially in the rural areas where profit margins are either low or inexistent, as well as pay the country's contributions in international organisations concerned with information and communication technologies.

  • Leading electronics and mobile phone maker, Samsung Electronics West Africa has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Co-Creation Hub (Cchub) Nigeria’s foremost technology innovation centre. The agreement will allow Samsung to provide expertise, resource, capacity building, and marketing support to local mobile apps developers in addition to availing them the right platforms to create awareness for and monetise their creations.

    As part of this partnership, Samsung recently sponsored the June 2012 edition of CcHUB’s ‘Developers Parapo’, where Nigerian web and mobile application developers network to share and gain knowledge required for starting and growing viable businesses.

    The Head of Product Marketing for Samsung Electronics West Africa, Jude Omozegie, who officially opened the event with a presentation entitled Samsung Business Content, expressed Samsung’s delight at the opportunity provided by the platform to interface with young developers whose contributions are critically needed to drive local participation in the blossoming mobile application industry.

    “Learning, entertainment, social networking, health services, financial services and so on are going mobile. As a result, applications have emerged as a fundamental part of this evolution, as more and more consumers want to access relevant content on the go on their mobile devices,” he said.

    Omozegie added that Samsung is in tune with this dynamics, and recognises the pivotal role of mobile phones in facilitating innovation-based services, which he said, explains why Samsung is currently the topmost Smartphone manufacturer in the world.

    “At Samsung, our core business is apps and technology solutions, but we still rely on different stakeholders to help provide content; hence our interest in building a strong mutually beneficial relationship with Cchub. Samsung recognises the need for partnership because fast-growing portfolios of mobile applications would be fuelled by efficient developer ecosystem”.

    Also speaking at the event, the Head, Content and Services, Samsung South Africa, Mr. Thabiet Allie, urged the young developers to strive to combine marketing and business perspectives with their technology or coding background, stressing that this is key to their emerging successful entrepreneurs. “The essence of apps developing business is recognising a niche market and matching it with a solution”, said Allie.

    Chief Executive Officer, Co-Creation Hub, Mr. Bosun Tijani in his remarks thanked Samsung for supporting the community, which according to him had availed local technology entrepreneurs of the opportunity to meet face to face with Samsung to explore mutually beneficial opportunities.

    “Our relationship with Samsung will enable members acquire new skills and leverage Samsung’s extensive reach in the market to promote their solutions. Opportunities available to members under this partnership will include the possibility of preloading their apps on Samsung devices and retailing them at Samsung apps store, among others” said Tijani.

    He implored other corporate organisations to follow in the footsteps of Samsung by partnering with local technology entrepreneurs and developers for the overall benefit of mobile phone users.

    Samsung and CcHUB also used the event to announce an Ideation Challenge for developers to develop concepts for localized content in the Nigeria market.

internet

  • Airtel  unveiled the 3.75 G Internet in Rwanda’s capital Kigali. The mobile phone service provider terms it as “the fastest Cellphone Internet in Rwanda.”

    Commenting on the new service, Airtel's Rwanda country manager Marcellin Paluku said:  “This latest technology on our 3.75G network will offer our customers the opportunity to interact with data in a different way. They will be able to share ideas with people globally to allow growth in the business and social sector.”

    Paluku added that people in  Rwanda who are business oriented whether in small or medium enterprises will benefit from the new development.

    According to him, the Internet technology is up to 21 Mbps speed. He rates it as the fastest and latest 3G.

    “Customers through their smartphones will access the fast Internet to explore all the relevant information in the social network, accessing e-mail, music as well as acquire knowledge through e-books. Companies will also witness increased productivity due to prompt communication,” Paluku  said.

    It’s only in Kigali that customers will be able to access the Internet. Plans are underway to extend the service to other regions in the country within this month.

    Airtel Rwanda’s customers will have free daily Internet access of 1GB for the first two weeks, and 20 Rfw per MB from 6:00 hrs to 00:00 hrs and 10 Rfw from 00:00 hrs to 5:59 hrs.

  • The world’s largest Video sharing website, Youtube has officially launched in Ghana with a domain name, youtube.com.gh The website is expected to feature the most popular videos in Ghana, together with those that have high views.

    “We are thrilled to be launching YouTube in Ghana today”, said Estelle Akofio Sowah, Google Ghana’s Country Manager. “YouTube receives more than 3 billion views a day and has 72 hours of video uploaded every minute. It is an ideal platform for Ghanaian local video content to be more easily discovered both in Ghana and around the world. With a new local version of YouTube, it has become much easier for Ghanaians to connect with a worldwide audience”.

    The website will allow users in Ghana and other parts of the world to easily find local content and relevant videos, it will also give anyone the ability to publish or share local videos online, a way of making local content more accessible to internet users and giving Ghanaians more exposure to the outside world.

  • In a bid to prevent youths from falling prey to terrorist propaganda, the Mauritanian government may tighten control over internet use.

    Mauritania's cabinet recently discussed the possibility of establishing a centre to monitor the internet.

    The body will "play an important role in the standardisation of systems between different actors", according to the statement on June 7th.

    "It will ensure the safety of national databases and contribute to solutions that allow the isolation of viruses and copyright protection," the statement read.

    The number of Facebook users in Mauritania reached 85,440 in June, which puts the country in the 151st position globally in terms of network users, according to social marketing firm Socialbakers.

    The figure represents 2.67% of the Mauritanian population.

    The largest group (35,030) of Facebook users in Mauritania are aged 18-24, followed by those aged 25 to 34. Males make up 73% of the total number of users.

    Young internet users are more likely to be exposed to content published by jihadists online, according to the journalist Mokhtar Salem. This calls for more government efforts to control dissemination of materials encouraging extremism and violence, he said.

    According to the Information Distribution Centre (CDI) in Mauritania, "more than 50% of the users of social networks do not pay attention to the seriousness of the issue".

    The regional upheavals known as the "Arab Spring" have caused the government to pay greater attention to the electronic domain.

    Security and information technology experts discussed means to protect information in a seminar held by the CDI in March. The workshop included a training course on information security in co-operation with anti-virus company Kasperky. Bab Ould Bomes, the Secretary-General of the Delegate Ministry in charge of Employment, attended the event.

    "Mauritanian authorities think that access of jihadists to the electronic network is now widely available," journalist and analyst Zine El Abidine Ould Mohamed told Magharebia. "The dissemination of subversive ideas as religiously justified is within the philosophy of terrorists. This is a threat to young people, particularly at an early age. Monitoring the internet will allow the authorities to block these sites and deny access by militants to the Mauritanian space."

    He argued that internet control would also "allow the tracking of these sites and the opportunity to assess their activities and follow them up technically as far as possible".

    "It is known today that al-Qaeda depends on the internet to transmit its ideas," Ould Mohamed added. "However, monitoring must be followed by a strategy of security training for bloggers and journalists in order to avoid their being exploited for the purposes of the jihadists in their coverage of terrorism issues."

    Work will start this summer on a giant submarine cable to strengthen internet speed in Mauritania during the current year, according to the secretary-general of the Mauritanian Post office (Mauripost). This will increase the current speed of the internet by 40 times and support scientific, medical and technical research in the country.

    The anticipated submarine cable cost of $25 million will be funded by the Mauritanian government and communication companies.

    "The new centre which the government intends to launch may plant the seeds for creating good blogs in Mauritania," terrorism analyst Hamadi Ould Dah noted. "The country needs more than ever a law that fights jihadist extremist sites. They are dangerous to society, especially in light of the high proportion of young users of the internet."

  • Namibia was one of the last countries in Africa to introduce competition in the mobile communications sector when a second network finally launched in 2007. Despite this, the country has achieved a market penetration rate well above the regional average, according to Research & Markets. However, the average revenue per user has more than halved since then.

    Both GSM operators – MTC (managed by Portugal Telecom) and Cell One (renamed Leo by its new owner, Orascom) – have entered the internet and broadband market with 3G mobile broadband services in a bid to create new revenue streams. MTC introduced fourth generation (4G) technology to the market in May 2012 when it launched an LTE network in the capital, Windhoek. In addition, Telecom Namibia (TN) is offering 3G mobile broadband services using EV-DO technology.

    Fixed-line services are still a monopoly of TN, but as a member of the WTO the government plans to open the telecom sector to full competition. TN entered the lucrative mobile market as the third player with a CDMA network but was put on hold by the industry regulator, the Namibian Communications Commission, until a new communications law was enacted which, among other issues, addresses fixed-mobile convergence. Since then, however, the absence of effective regulation during the transition to a new regulatory authority, the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia, has led to further delays in market liberalisation.

    Despite being reasonably competitive with six ISPs, development of Namibia’s internet and broadband sector has been held back by high prices for international bandwidth, caused by the lack of a direct connection to international submarine fibre optic cables. This changed in early 2011 when the WACS cable landed in the country, with services launched in May 2012. In parallel, Namibia is working to diversify its transit access routes via neighbouring countries, but broadband price reductions on the retail level have only been moderate so far.

    The country is well prepared for a broadband boom, with 3G and 4G mobile services and a national fibre backbone infrastructure in place. Several WiMAX and other wireless broadband services offer additional access options and are standing by to bring additional competition to the voice market as well, once internet telephony is deregulated.

computing

  • The Starz College of Technology has developed an information technology program under the name "Starz for Kids" to provide IT skills training and education in various disciplines such as math, spelling, reading and Art, among others to Liberian youth.

    According to the administration of the school, the initiative will help to broaden the minds of Liberia's future generation and help them gain interest in technology.

    The program is expected to operate in three different categories with students having access to computer and typing skills, Mathematics, English and spelling lessons along with educational and challenging computer games. The IT kid academy is first of its kind in the country for children between 5 and 15.

    The President of the institution Latim Dathong said in an interview with this paper the prime objective is to provide kids with basic computer literacy and computerized educational experiences as well as training that will improve their skills in Math, English, reading and spelling, using the computer.

    He said the school has done a lot for adults, adding, it is about time the kids of Liberia be given an opportunity to enable them get on the path of technology like in other countries.

    "Liberian kids are really smart; by providing resources for them to learn, it will help them in many different ways as they grow with technology", Dathong stressed.

    He said though the program seeks sponsorship from donors, the school will eventually open by the end of July. "We are hoping that many people will invest in the kids for a better Liberia; if the kids' minds are open to technology, they will think positively as the world advances in technology," he added.

    He explained that the first phase of the program will comprise of students between ages 5 and 9 years and they will undergo three separate levels. Level one will last for two months while levels two and three will last for three months each. He added that a child within this category will last for eight months before advancing to the next stage.

    Dathong said students in category two will be between ages 9 and 12, and that levels one and three will last for three months each, while level two will last for two months. According to him, kids in category two will attend classes for seven months before moving to the next stage.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Nigeria’s mobile payment startup, Paga has processed over 276,000 transactions that are worth more than N2.6 billion (about $9.8 million) transaction volumes to date.

    The company recently announced a recent series of investments from high calibre investors including Adlevo Capital, Omidyar Network, Acumen Fund, Capricorn Investment Group, and its current investors, Goodwell West Africa Microfinance Development Company.

    Last September when Paga officially launched its commercial and marketing operations, it did over 18,000 transactions and processed over N100 million transaction volumes in a few weeks.

    It also announced that its growing agent network now comprises of more than 850 agents currently located in 19 cities. The company is now building a grassroots distribution network which would see it achieving 30,000 agents by 2015.

  • Dahabshiil Group, a leading remittance company in East Africa, officially denied rumours on Sunday that it has purchased a majority stake in Telcom Somalia.

    The chief of media relations and public information, Hassan M. Jama “Heiss”, said he was “pleasantly surprised” with the news, flatly denying the acquisition.

    “Lately, the Somali media have been circulating various versions of Dahabshiil’s takeover of Telcom Somalia and that their staff have been laid-off,” he said in a statement.

    “Dahabshiil wants to make crystal clear that these rumours are far-fetched, preposterous and far from the truth. Dahabshiil has no affiliation nor interest in the affairs of Telcom Somalia,” he said.

    Hassan furthermore stated the company was committed to making a real and sustainable difference to communities in need.

    “The community has known Dahabshiil for its customer-focused-service, trustworthiness, and its commitment to wide range of community programs,” Mr. Heiss stated.

    He finally said that Dahabshiil stands ready lend a supporting hand through a wide range of initiatives, to communities wherever they might be.

    From its humble beginning as a small funds transfer company in Burao, Dahabshiil has evolved into an international success story – operating in 144 countries, with over $300 million annual revenue just 40 years after its inauguration by Mr. Mohamed Saeed Duale.

    With strong roots in its native Somaliland, Dahabshiil operates 24,000 branches worldwide and over 2,000 staff.

    Telcom Somalia is regarded as the oldest telecommunication service operator in Somalia and controls about 34 percent of the market. It provides wireless services including mobile and internet and local and long distance telephone.

  • EAC countries need to harmonize mobile money regulations to allow the expansion of such services in the region, a UN body has said.

    The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said the EAC is a world leader in mobile money transactions hence the need to study how laws governing such services are evolving.

    In a report titled Mobile Money for Business Development in the East Africa Community, UNCTAD notes: "The EAC is a world leader in offering mobile money services and hosts more than one quarter of all known such systems in Africa," says UNCTAD. "Africa has taken the lead in mobile money implementation, with about 60 mobile money services already in place, a quarter (16) of which are in the EAC. Three of the EAC platforms now have more than 1 million active subscribers. M-Pesa, operated by Safaricom of Kenya, is currently the most popular platform."

    It is because of this rapid development in mobile money systems that UNCTAD feels a robust legal framework with a regional outlook should be put in place. "Steps are needed to address concerns related to consumer protection, registration and transaction limits, regulatory collaboration and interoperability, meaning interconnection between telecommunication networks," UNCTAD says.

    "The report recognizes progress made by the EAC Task Force on Cyberlaws in preparing regional guidelines on electronic transactions, electronic signatures and authentication, data protection and privacy, consumer protection and computer crime. One option to increase regulatory collaboration around mobile money would be to undertake similar work to promote harmonization in the area of mobile money services, the report says."

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - AppChat mobile voice network operator is set to revolutionize South Africa’s telecom sector with its promise of affordable local and international calls.
    AppChat promises per-second billing for daily off-net calls other than in-bundle and out-of-bundle billing rates. According to John Holdsworth, the founder and CEO of the MOVO, the firm will cut the calling costs in SA by 50 percent. Holdsworth told TechCentral he will achieve this through lean operations and instead of circuit switched operations, AppChat will use mobile VoIP in partnership with Cell C.

    - SOMTEL Subscribers can now select multiple ring-back tones depending on who is calling or what time they receive a call, this was revealed during a press conference held at the company Headquarters . Speaking during the press conference SomTel head of marketing and sales Mr. Nassir Haji saleban Abdi accompanied by the Managing Director of SomTel Mr. Awil Salah and Mr. Farah Mohamed Elmi head of finance, said Danan allows SomTel users to preview new ring-back tones on the Web, upload their own voice clips, update their profiles, and perform other self-service activities.

    - Nigeria - The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) have partnered with Airtel in providing public health information for Nigerians.  As part of the arrangement, Airtel will provide dedicated lines for citizens to call in to NACA or NAFDAC. Citizens also receive text messages and alerts on issues of public health concern.

Digital Content

  • Second-year students at the Makerere University College of Computing and Information Technology (CIT), in Uganda, have invented a hand-held pregnancy scan-like machine called WinSenga.

    The machine, which consists of a funnel-like pinnard horn similar to the one used by midwives, can be used to scan a pregnant woman’s womb or detect problems such as ectopic pregnancy or abnormal foetal heart beats.

    “We called it WinSenga to relate to traditional birth attendants,” the team said.
    The students- Aaron Tushabe, Joshua Okello and Josiah Kavuma, said the project was carried out under the tutelage of Dr. Davis Musinguzi, who works with UNICEF as a health systems consultant. The team also call themselves Cipher256.

    The pinnard horn part of the machine while connected to a smart phone is pressed against the abdomen of the pregnant woman. The smart phone screen then displays data on the location and condition of the foetus.

  • A mobile developer in Botswana has come up with an app set to frustrate music piracy specially through file sharing. This move, he says, was motivated by the fact that African musicians lose billions of shillings a year to piracy and copyright-related issues.

    Itumeleng Garebatshabe, the developer, said the new mobile application will make it hard for sharing of music files from one device to another via bluetooth.

    Garebatshabe’s firm Intelligere Media built the application that once users install on the phone, keeps the songs intact in the application on the phone memory. The songs cannot be shared or transferred afterwards.

    According to Intelligere Media, the mobile digital application cannot play a song that is not on the smartphone. The developer believes that this will help fight music piracy, which has been detrimental to Africa’s music industry for long.

    A report in Kenya claims from 10 songs played, nine are pirated. The pirates earn billions of shillings a year even as the artists and the government lose an estimated KSh4 billion annually.

    The Kenya Copyrights Board, its legal counsel Edward Sigei, recently asked the Kenya government to introduce stiffer penalties to pirates -- apart from the 10-year jailterm for offenders and the KSh800,000 fine.

    Sigei was quoted by the Daily Nation as sayingt the fine should be "increased and the sentence lengthened.”

    Although religious places and non-commercial activities are exempted from paying the penalties, Sigei wanted the board to be empowered to ensure premium content providers paid more to the artists.

    According to Garebatshaber, this new app is well oiled to reduce and even end music piracy.

    He said: "the  Mobile Digital Album Application only plays a music album from an internal player within the phone and as smartphones become commonplace in Africa by the day, this app will help revolutionise music on the continent”.

    Presently, Intelligere Media claims the US$10  priced app has received over 1,000 downloads across the world.

  • Globacom has introduced a service that allows subscribers, especially job seekers send their Curriculum Vitae (CV) or resumes to prospective employers through Short Messaging Service (SMS).

    In a statement, the company said the service, Glo Job Express, is a new feature of Glo Messenger which allows subscribers send their CVs using regular SMS by sending the keyword CV or REG to 2034 to start.

    Glo Messenger is an SMS to email/Instant Messaging service that was launched to enable non- Internet users send and receive emails on Yahoo, MSN, etc, directly from their mobile phones via SMS.

    Globacom’s Head of Value Added Services, Mr Samson Isa, explained that with Glo Job Express, a subscriber sends CV via SMS. This is delivered to the recipient such as the employer or recruitment agent as a regular mail with pre–composed job application or cover letter in the body of the email with the sender’s CV as an attachment.

More

  • Vodacom’s Pieter Uys resigns
    South African mobile operator Vodacom announced today that CEO Pieter Uys would be stepping down from his position, which he has occupied since 2008.
    Uys will remain in the position of CEO until March 2013, after which Shameel Joosub will take over.

  • ASP.NET & MySQL Developer Finance in Motion GmbH
    Vacancies: 1
    Location: Anywhere, Kenya
    Deadline: 30 Sep, 2012

    Job Description: Finance in Motion develops its core business tools in-house and is currently looking for an experienced programmer and business analyst to strengthen its internal software development capacity. The candidate will be working from his home office and will liaise frequently with colleagues based in Nairobi and with the head-office based in Frankfurt.

    These will be the duties and responsibilities:

    Liaise with the IT manager and with the operational departments to collect specification and produce technical description for the software development projects.
    Recommend on the most appropriate technologies to be employed for secure and scalable web solutions.
    Provide leadership, methodology and example when managing the development of new software modules for the company.
    Provide high quality code in line with company coding guidelines and thorough technical documentation on the modules developed.

    Qualifications / Skills:
    NET development. Preferred language VB.NET, but C# is welcome, too
    Good experience in database design and development. Preferred platform: MySQL
    Experience of collaborative software development in teams: source control, versioning, with tools like SVN or Visual Source Safe
    Proven track record in all phases of the software delivery life-cycle, from technical specification, to development, roll-out, documentation and support
    Minimum of 5 years of professional experience in software development
    Creative, responsible and self motivating attitude

    Besides above formal qualifications, it is equally important that our team members show a high commitment to development finance and international cooperation. We are a young, multicultural team and enthusiastic about what we do, convinced that a strong and dedicated team is the key to success. We promote free thinking to generate results that will contribute to developing inclusive financial systems in transition economies and developing countries.
    Apply for this position:

    Send a resume to it.jobs@finance-in-motion.com

    Nokia contest targets East African music lovers

    Phone maker Nokia has launched a competition aimed at promoting her smart phones among youth in East Africa.

    Dubbed “Don’t Break the Beat” the campaign is linked to the Nokia Asha range of mobile phones, centres on a competition to find ‘the definitive rapper, also known as a cypher, among the youth in East Africa.’

    “The search will be conducted in cities and towns across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, with a number of auditions and elimination rounds in each country to determine the national finalists. This will culminate in early September with the East Africa battle to determine the overall champion who walks away with the title and a whopping 250,000 Kenyan Shillings,” said Angela Githuthu, Marketing Activation Manager for Nokia East Africa.

Issue no 611 29th June 2012

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Top story

  • There are now several online and mobile music TV platforms that have started in Africa. Some like Iroko Partners started with Nollywood film and went into music, whilst others like Spinlet have started with music and could easily go into TV programming. Orange has thrown its hat into the ring with entry of its minority-owned Deezer platform into Africa. Sylvain Beletre, Senior Research Analyst, Balancing Act talks to the key players.

    African mobile operators are still stuck in the SMS way of thinking about content: it’s the stuff that the aggregators turn up with at their doorsteps. In the main, they don’t drive developments and they make it hard for others to use their platforms. Procedures are slow and the financial splits are awful.

    The future of mobile content in Africa has two big bits: either it will be international brands that secure market share and then localise (Like Facebook and You Tube) or it will be local operators who seek to compete both within and outside the content. Music will be one of the key drivers of the coming mobile content war.

    Whatever its successes and failures, Orange is a mobile company that has a lot of commitment to content, through its Pay TV operations and more recently, through its launching of music streaming service, Deezer, which is now coming to Africa.

    Over the past few years there have been several online music services in Africa including radio stations streaming. Nigeria’s Spinlet , a mobile music management and storage service launched at Midem in January 2012 and iROKING  is a free music Nigerian music streaming service that came out of Iroko Partners (Nollywood Love). Also Google’s initiative to have local servers on the continent for You Tube has put a large number of African countries within reach of free local music videos.

    On 12 June 2012, Deezer, a European and international music streaming service aimed at encouraging the growth of legal online music offers announced that it was now joining Africa’s digital music armada in two high potential African countries: Mauritius and Ivory Coast. There are the first countries to launch Deezer’s service in the Middle East and Africa region. It plans to rollout in about ten African countries in total with Orange, which is a minority shareholder. Currently it offers 18 million tracks from 2,000 different music labels so it has content in depth and it has 1.5 million premium users.

    As part of its new content strategy, Orange is currently only one of two operators to offer a large scale unlimited music streaming service: Deezer Premium bundled with its broadband internet tariff plans in Mauritius and Ivory Coast. It seems that only Spotify has actually set up a similar agreement with Telenor. Since 2010, Orange and Deezer entered a new phase in the evolution of legal online music offer and are helping to develop them on all available digital media.

    Set up in August 2007, Deezer launched the first internet and mobile offers integrating Deezer Premium+ in France in 2010 and then in the UK at the end of 2011. Deezer now has over 23 million users with 6 million unique visitors per month in France only. Each week, Deezer sees its number of subscribers driven from Facebook increase by 20%, excluding France, said Deezer’s CEO.

    It has a number of different approaches to the business model. There is:

    *   Deezer free of charge financed by advertising with 5 hours limited access time;

    * Deezer Premium at 4.99 Euros per month with unlimited access and extra benefits; and

    * Deezer Premium + at 9.99 Euros/month available to mobile phones and an offline mode (no internet and 3G+ network required) once music is downloaded.

    Contributing to the multi-screen and music everywhere revolution, the Deezer Premium+ service is available on all forms of devices whether it is PC, mobile, Wi-Fi walkman, IP channels, IP TV, or tablets.

    The advertising-free, premium services also deliver an editing app (Deezer Mix) and helps optimise listening quality.

    All three options provide access to web radios and 18 million music tracks from 2,000 different labels, including majors like Sony BMG, Universal Music, Warner Music International and EMI.

    Deezer wants to hit 200 countries (but not including the USA and Japan) noting that by January 31, 2012, Canada and Latin America would be added to its roster, with Australasia to follow the month after. Today Deezer is available in 88 territories.

    Competition on these online music platforms is intense both at a global and international level. The best know platform is Apple’s iTunes but access to the platform in Africa is limited by the limited number of people with access to an international credit card. Furthermore with the exception of the iPhone, Africa seems to have hardly registered in Apple’s overall emerging markets sales strategy. China seems to have been more attractive.

    It competes with global services like ShareTheMusic  a free and global MP3 service with 100,000 unique tracks; GrooveShark  which offers 15 million tracks to 20 million users globally; Guvera, a new breed of online music download and streaming service and Pandora, Spotify and many more.

    By comparison, Swedish Spotify offers 15 million tracks, has 10 million users including 3 million paid subscribers but is available in less than 20 countries, though it does have the USA sewn up – a country Deezer has no immediate intentions of touching. However, Spotify and Pandora are not present in all countries and have little visibility in Africa.

    Within the African region, Nigerian music platform Spinlet announced plans to roll out its music app to global users a week ago. It has global distribution rights for 1 million tracks, primarily for African record labels and is clearly eying the diaspora markets already captured for Nollywood movies by Iroko. It is available in 72 contries with a free streaming and pay per download offers for its African music catalogue. 22 of these countries are in Africa where it will start offering international content in December of this year.

    Spinlet is supported on the most popular smart phones including Android, BlackBerry and Symbian 3 and is available for free download via the Android Market, Blackberry Store, and Symbian Platform. Within Spinlet, users can remotely store, manage and listen to music from anywhere using their mobile device. Spinlet promotes social sharing with an interface that allows users to create accounts, make playlists and share their favorite titles using social-networking sites, such as Facebook with their friends.

    This has given Spinlet the clout to sign digital distribution agreements in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and other African Countries. Spinlet offers an array of multi-national, award winning music and has signed hundreds of artists and labels to the service. Additionally, any music rights holders can upload their music for sale on the Spinlet platform.

    "Spinlet launched with our main goals being to create a revenue stream for artists with a legitimate outlet for sales and to fight the piracy markets by making to model readily available to music lovers including a free streaming service and downloads that are priced at an affordable level" said Eric Idiahi, Spinlet Chairman.

    "The presence of online and mobile music services can easily have a negative effect on traditional mediums. At Spinlet we have created a model that supports them by creating strategic partnership agreements with radio and television stations that benefit each medium and most importantly benefit the content rights holder by showcasing their music and increasing awareness and sales of their tracks" added Mark Redguard, Spinlet CMO.

    More can be found here

    To date, iROKING  free music online platform has 35,000 tracks in its catalogue dating from 1963 to the present day and 75,000 registered users in total. It also manages over 70 artist’s You Tube pages with more than 100 million views in the past 12 months. Its deal structure is 60/40 in favour of rights owners, the complete reverse of what the mobile companies are currently offering.

    It monetises and protects artists’ content for among others: P-Square, 2face, Bracket, Flavour, Omawumi, Timaya, Duncan Mighty, Lynxxx. The company has significantly reduced piracy of Nigerian music content to near zero.. iROKING also audio ID's digitally fingerprint sound recordings on Youtube to ensure rights are protected and also publishes Nigerian music content to the iTUNES/ Amazon stores for diaspora consumption (paid downloads etc).

    iROKING is present globally servicing the local (Africa) and Diaspora markets (Europe, US, Canada etc). The company has also launched mobile applications for its music solution on the iOS, Android, Windows and Symbian (Nokia) mobile handsets. The application allows access to thousand of the latest Nigerian tracks and stream songs over Wifi or 3G. The iROKING Mobile Application features include: Favourite selected songs; Create playlists and share them via Twitter or Facebook; Integrated ‘offline’ functionality where you can listen to your favourite tunes offline.

    So what about paid options to listen to music, do you have any (like Deezer premium)?:”Download economics at present do not work locally. iTunes/Amazon for diaspora users is currently the most viable option in terms of downloads. Mobile money is in its infancy. Premium SMS is exploitative. A subscription model is the model of choice however digital subscription culture is not yet tested. Our sister platform iROKOtv is testing this come July 1st 2012. For now we stream content for free. We pay license fees to large artists for exclusive partnerships. The freely available nature of Nigerian music content on sites like 4shared, Hulkshare, etc. stifles any move to charge the online audience. Critical mass audio ads and monthly subscriptions will come online. For now Youtube ad revenue is our primary source of income”.

    Apart from these above two solutions, other smaller African music entrants on the web include “Musique Kabyle”, djindo , afrique-music  streaming  websites, a growing number of local radio stations and a few informative web portals.

    With Deezer, Orange clients in these two African countries can now enjoy their favourite music anywhere and at any time and share it with their friends easily and legally explained Axel Dauchez, President of Deezer, but right now a broadband internet tariff plan is the sine qua non condition to gain access. With Deezer, “African music and artists will be more powerful than they are today” added Dauchez.

    Ms. Laurence Le Ny, Music Director at Orange Group explained that Deezer will partner with local providers of quality music content to enrich Deezer’s catalogue. Deezer signs non-exclusive agreements with rights owners and will have local bureaux in Africa to set up deals with local music content aggregators, music labels and even the small and unknown independent producers, Laurence Le Ny added. “We are working closley with the marketing and technical teams of our local subsidiaries in MEA countries in order to find the best way to integrate Deezer Premium into our mobile offers” Le Ny concluded. This should also benefit to local African musicians and producers.

    If it works out well, Deezer could potentially offer Deezer Premium across the whole continent, perhaps even independently of any operator partnership.

    The Middle East will apparently be following suit shortly with Orange/Deezer tie-ups, as will more countries across Europe and Africa.

    In France, Orange includes Deezer Premium in several of its broadband offers and Deezer Premium + in mobile offers such as Origami Jet and Origami Star. Deezer Premium is also available as an option for 5€ a month for broadband services and Deezer Premium + for 10€ per month for mobile services. This could happen soon in some Africa countries once networks are capable of supporting large music files and once legal and commercial barriers are cleared off.

    The content revolution towards unlimited legal music consumption is under way and Africans have started enjoying it. This will help combat piracy further on the continent but the question remains as to how well these online solutions will contribute to financing the African music sector.

    The only barriers for paid music in Africa are credit card payment and broadband capacity. Mobile money could be the answer to the first one and improved infrastructure is the answer to the second.

    The online music services partly rely on the explosion of smartphones and demand in emerging markets, especially Africa, Asia and Latin America. In a process of recovering from a decade of contraction, the music industry needs to generate new revenues and online access seems to be the way forward.

    Some of these new online players have managed to cajole hitherto reluctant record labels, scalded by cannibalizing their CD sales since the rise of digital audio services into signing deals. Today, the trend seems to be more about selling the music experience rather than selling records.

    African Voice ARPUs will continue to drop. Competition has already driven them down to teeth-clenchingly low levels in the key markets and the steady impact of mobile VoIP will build and build as it becomes an entrenched habit, particularly for continental and global calling at the top end of the market. This leaves data capacity sales and money from content and transactions as the two sources of revenue to replace the current voice income. Data may not be hugely profitable but Over-The-Top services based on transactions and advertising have potential. The mobile content war is only just beginning so watch out for more content that will really capture users’ imagination.

    The upcoming event Broadcast, Film and Music Africa will discuss many of the issues raised in this article. event to be held over 10-11 July 2012 at Oshwal Centre, Westlands, in Nairobi, Kenya will be the occasion to review what’s happening on the online music front in Africa. Among others, iROKING, Spinlet and Orange will send representatives

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

    A bumper crop of video clips this week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    NyashaMutsekwa, CEO, Metvafrica.com on its Pan-African VOD service

    Alan Knott-Craig Jr, CEO, MXit on his African expansion plans

    Mark Kaigwa, Afrinnovator talking about monetization of mobile content at OIAS

    EyalCoppitt, SVP Sales MEA, Amos Spascecom on the launch of the Amos 5 satellite


    Shawkat Ahmed, COO, Yahsat talks about its new low cost satellite broadband product


    Jonah Fink, SVP, net2phone on the potential for VoIP in Africa


    Angus Hay, Chair of WACS on the impact of this new, international cable

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Sean Krepp, Uganda Country Director, Apps Lab
    on raising farmers income using community knowledge workers with smartphones

    Kobus Roux, CSIR Meraka Institute on getting rural schools connected using local micro-entrepreneurs and Wi-Fi mesh technology

    Two experts discuss the challenges of mobile operators as brands:

    Laine Barnard, Founder, 8Brand - Mobile outlets as "giant waiting rooms" for selling airtime

    Sammy Thuo, Director, Saracen Media on differentiating African mobile brands

telecoms

  • Jasco Networks has expanded its operations into Central Africa with the formation of Jasco Congo, a subsidiary company with dedicated presence and local shareholders in the region.

    Following this expansion, the newly-formed Jasco Congo subsidiary has signed a partnership agreement with Warid Congo to manage and maintain a carrier-neutral co-location data centre in Congo-Brazzaville.

    Mobile operator, Warid Congo is part of the multinational Warid Telecom and as the owners of the data centre infrastructure, it will share in the revenues generated by the data centre and benefit from skills transfer as a result of the partnership.

    Jasco Congo will, in turn, benefit from the ability to tap into local expertise, knowledge and market presence, the group said.

    “Data centres are one of the fastest growing segments of the IT industry, but the data centre built by Warid was not being used to full capacity. We were looking for a seasoned, highly experienced partner in the field to help us reposition our organisation to meet the needs of corporates around data centres and carrier neutral services. Jasco delivers on all of our requirements and are the ideal partner,” said Michel Elame, MD of Warid Congo.

    According to Jasco, market research conducted in Central Africa has revealed that the Internet market is still in its infancy, being very expensive and only accessible via satellite due to lack of infrastructure.

    However, users in the region are well aware of technological innovations and businesses are eager to embrace connectivity. This is becoming easier to achieve thanks to the recent landing of the WACS undersea cable connecting West Africa to the world, and growing investment into improving infrastructure.

    The group notes that local Internet in the region remains expensive as a result of a lack of local hosting and local Internet exchange.

    Jasco Congo has entered into a service partnership with Warid Congo, using its existing infrastructure and taking over the operational costs and maintenance of the data centre. Jasco will be designing and building an Internet switch exchange and providing local Internet hosting from the Warid Telecom data centre, helping to drive down the cost of Internet access. The company will also be hosting local telecommunications operators, providing a carrier neutral switching location for international traffic.

    “Our research indicated that the region was ripe with opportunities, which are being held back due to the expense of building infrastructure. The situation is reminiscent of the South African market several years ago, and our experience in South Africa puts us in an ideal position to not only harness these opportunities but to assist with growth and skills transfer in the Central African region,” it said.

    “The Jasco Congo operation, in partnership with Warid Telecom, enables us to expand our co-location solutions offering into Africa without the expense of physically investing in infrastructure, while creating local empowerment and business stimulation,” said Eckart Zollner, business development manager for Jasco Co-location Solutions.

    “Expansion into Africa is an important part of Jasco’s growth strategy, and this venture offered the perfect opportunity to launch into a new market. Congo Brazzaville is one of the more stable and economically active countries in Central Africa, the government is on an aggressive growth drive and a lot of investment is being injected into the economy.

    “Jasco Congo and our partnership with Warid Telecom will enable us to be a part of this development and to build relationships with local suppliers in this region. This in turn will provide a launch platform for future growth and expansion,” added Paul McKibbin, divisional managing director of Jasco Networks.

  • Nine hundred thousand Safaricom service subscribers may be cut off from the network in the next three months because they either have not registered their SIM cards or are using fake handsets.

    This follows an announcement on 26th June by the Information and Communications permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo that a three month campaign begins today to sensitize mobile phone users on the mandatory requirement to register their SIM cards and buy genuine phones. Ndemo said at the same time they will identify and lock out those with fake handsets without valid IMEI numbers for subsequent disconnection alongside all unregistered SIM cards.

    Peter Arina, General Manager, Safaricom's Consumer Business said three to five percent of their revenue will be affected by the termination of the services to the non compliant customers. He said the drive is motivated by the need for traceability of users involved in criminal activities using the ease of mobile phone communication to co-ordinate their activities. "It is even absolutely necessary now that we are seeing heightened political campaign to minimise propagation of hate speech," Ndemo said

    He was speaking at the launch of the latest Ideos mobile handset by Huawei in partnership with Safaricom. Huawei launched its Ideos Ascend Y-100 entry level smart phone, an upgrade of its locally popular IDEOS U8150 handset, which has been Safaricom's flagship handset selling an estimated 200,000 units. The Huawei Ideos handsets recorded the highest returns for Safaricom accounting for 18.5 per cent of the data number of data users, according to Peter Arina, the General Manager of Safaricom's Consumer Business Unit.

    The Huawei U8185 branded Ideos Ascend Y100 will retail at Sh 8,499, the same price its forerunner introduced at. The phone will be available in 3 colours, Black, White and Pink. Customers will also get a one off 1.5 GB data offer valid for 90 days, airtime worth Sh1000, 7 days unlimited SMS and a 2GB SD card. Several competing devices including Samsung models have have flooded the market threatening the runaway success registered by the Ideos in the recent past.

  • There are two types of Internet service: the spotty and the steady. “Bad” service is when a signal exists, but its strength is too weak to consistently access. “Good” service is a strong and steady signal. As mobile coverage increases and Internet/mobile penetration expands, users are demanding the latter. And understandably so – Internet/mobile coverage is great, but truly enjoying that coverage is much better.

    Regulators and operators alike are beginning to place on emphasis on quality instead of quantity. ARTP, Senegal’s telecommunications regulatory agency, understands the importance of quality of service, as evidenced by an interactive national campaign. From June 25th until July 25th, ARTP will field toll-free phone calls (around the clock) from Senegalese citizens who find telecoms services lacking in quality. The goal is to push operators to provide the best communication service possible.

    The campaign is quite progressive, but then again, mobile subscription rate is 77% and growing. Hopefully ARTP will be able to push the operators to address apparent weaknesses. For example, it could suggest for infrastructure to be laid in certain areas to fill in the gaps of service. Operators can upgrade systems. Resources can be allocated differently at different times of the day.

    Of course, this is not the first time a telecoms regulator or operator in Africa has honed in on QoS. Last November, Uganda’s cellcos were warned that quality of service will form the basis of license renewal applications. The Prime Minister of Rwanda recently told MTN, the nation’s largest mobile provider, to improve services so the population can fully access fair services.

    Not every nation is ready to devote the resources to a QoS audit. Many less-developed areas are glad to have mobile Internet coverage, period. And, even if every African telecoms regulator initiative a QoS campaign, results would no doubt be mixed. After all, it takes a strong regulator to ensure operators make necessary changes to boost the quality of service.

  • Hyperia Limited, an indigenous Internet Service Provider (ISP), and Yahsat, a satellite communications company, have rolled out a satellite-based broadband service in the country.

    Deputy Managing Director, Hyperia, George Opara, who spoke at the pre-service inauguration of the broadband service in Lagos, recently, said the solution would assist in reducing the high cost of broadband internet service in Nigeria.

    He said, "We have been working over two to three years to bring this solution into the market. Hyperia already has major VSAT product in the C-band and KU band. We have our hub in London and we service every part of Nigeria. When we saw the importance of this project and how it is going to help reduce the cost of Internet broadband, Hyperia Limited became very much interested. We have tested the C and KU bands and with emergence of KA band we have seen immense potential. This is a pre-service launch and we expect that the service will be up and running few weeks from now."

    He explained that the broadband service would compete favourably with WiMAX and Wi-Fi service in Nigeria, adding that the satellite-based broadband solution was totally independent of terrestrial infrastructure.

    According to him, the inauguration of the satellite service into Nigeria's telecommunications market would enable more Nigerians especially those in undeserved and unserved areas to have access to efficient and reasonably priced broadband service via satellite technology.

    This, according to him, would enable more Nigerians to enjoy broadband internet access without having to wait for terrestrial systems to roll out expensive fibre networks.

    Commenting on the satellite service, Chief Commercial Officer, Yahsat, Mr. Shawkat Ahmad, said the broadband solution would cover the entire country.

    He pointed out that the service would play a pivotal role in economic development by connecting rural and urban communities thereby creating informed societies.

    On the cost-effectiveness of the broadband solution, Ahmad said Nigerians could instantaneously connect to the internet using a small satellite dish and satellite modem wherever the satellite signal was received.

    While delivering a paper on broadband delivery through satellite communications, the President, Society of Satellite Professionals International, Andrew Aro, said the broadband service rode on the KA band which was undeniably suitable for the peculiarities of Nigeria's internet access market.

    With the satellite service, Aro explained that ISPs could expand the reach of their terrestrial broadband infrastructure network without need to invest in expensive infrastructure.

internet

  • An IT based-educational database for teachers and students has been launched in Abuja. The data base called Green Book system will provides a wide range of IT enhanced free learning tools for students and teachers in Nigerian schools.

    Initiator of the system, Victor Odiah, said the program provides a free and dedicated database for academic materials for teachers at both secondary and tertiary levels.

    With the new system "teachers can now upload their lecture notes and tutorials to their GreenBook workspace and their students can access these materials anytime and from anywhere. Their students will also be able to post questions, contributions or comments on the online discussion forums," he said.

    Odiah said "beyond the classrooms, students and their teachers can now stay connected on the class based online discussion forums. They can share ideas, discuss academics topics on a wider scale and build a valuable pool of academic discussions."

    The Green Book project started in 2008 at the University of East London, UK, following a research by Odiah, who was then a post-graduate student.

    He said that the program is designed in a user friendly, social networking structure, "where e-learning /academic document sharing application delivers its educational tools on a standard social networking environment making it easy for teachers and students to use."

    "One of the objectives of the Green book project is to make universities and colleges greener by reducing the amount of paper consumed within the institutions," he said.

    It also provides a database for O'level and UME/JAMB students, who can now have access to hundreds of short tutorials and also connect to other students writing the same exams. "These tutorials are contributed by selected teachers from all over Nigeria," Odiah said.

  • With the launch of Map Maker in Egypt, “anyone who cares about maps can lend their local expertise to create more detailed views of the places they know, such as their town, school, and more. Users can locate, draw, label and provide attributes for Egyptian map features for their area,” read the statement.

    “Users can add town details such as local coffee shops, restaurants and street directions, add details on the area surrounding historical locations like the Pyramids of Giza or the Valley of the Kings as well as detailed maps of buildings and public areas such as a detailed campus map for Cairo University with description of academic buildings, athletic facilities and walkways,” Google said.

    “This helps people best navigate the area, especially when it’s their first visit. The information is verified by the amount of similar information and a team of experts.”

    Before the update is uploaded and verified on Google maps, pending information is available online and users can contribute to it more or even verify the information. The system takes into consideration user contributions, identifies duplicates and detects potential spam. The final approval is made by regional experts and a small team of Google reviewers considering Egyptians submissions.

  • Online Arabic newspaper Hurriyat Sudan has reported that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has blocked its website since June 25, following its coverage of protests in Khartoum and other towns.

    The protests over the last week have spread from university students to some members of the wider population. Activists are promoting Friday June 29 as large demonstration to mark the anniversary of current regime coming to power on June 30 1989.

    The press in Sudan has been restricted during the protests and journalists and activists arrested by the National Security and Intelligence Services (NISS).

    On Tuesday June 26, Sudan deported Bloomberg's correspondent in Khartoum, Salma El Wardany, and briefly detained Maha El Sanousi, a prominent Sudanese blogger.

    The two had been detained together for several hours on 21 June. While covering protests at the University of Khartoum on 19 June, Simon Martelli, an AFP journalist, was also detained for 12 hours. Martelli, who was AFP's reporter in Khartoum for the whole of 2011, has since left Khartoum as he was covering for the new AFP correspondent.

    In a press release, Hurriyat said that the site's readers in Sudan had informed them that from around 5.30pm local time on 25 June, the site was blocked. The National Telecommunications Commission usually uses its special filtering unit to block pornographic websites.

    Hurriyat Sudan's Chief Editor, Elhag Warrag said that blocking its website "is part of a systematic attempt by the Sudanese regime to stop news about anti-government demonstrations reaching the Sudanese people and the world at large."

    Sudan's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has accused some websites of launching a campaign to distort the country's image in collaboration with opposition parties and the United States (US).

    In the press release Hurriyat encouraged readers to access Hurriyat through its facebook page and inside Sudan by downloading special software from the Ultrasurf website.

  • Internet services firm AccessKenya is seeking to ride on increased activity in real estate market to grow sales by connecting homes and offices to its fibre network during construction.

    “We will lay one single high speed fibre that other services will be connected to and it is cost-effective because it avoids multiple connections and hiring numerous providers,” said Jonathan Somen, adding AccessKenya is selling the idea to property developers.

    This system also allows for the control of services from a central location in what is dubbed Intelligent Properties.

    AccessKenya hopes the model will allow it to grow subscriber base when Kenya’s middle class is increasingly developing an appetite for home Internet.

    Property developers use Internet connecting as a value-add in the battle for home buyers.

    The bulk of connections come after construction and some building owners ask for payment to allow entry into their premises.

    AccessKenya is betting on the step to cut the dominance of rivals Kenya Data Networks and Wananchi whose market share stood at 33 per cent and 23 per cent respectively, according to the communication regulator, CCK.

computing

  • Madagascar has launched an online research network, the Research and Education Network for Academic Learning Activities (iRENALA), which aims to boost science, technology and education in the country, as well as internationalise its science.

    The network, launched earlier this month (8 June), will promote discussions between worldwide researchers, students and policymakers, and facilitate access to digitised documents available in virtual libraries, according to Horace Gatien, president of Toamasina University. It will also encourage remote learning in the higher education sector, he said.

    According to a statement issued at a government cabinet meeting last month (30 May), the project aims to forge new links between Madagascar's six state universities, three higher institutes of technology, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and all national research centres.

    iRENALA will also connect Madagascar to a cluster of worldwide networks through GÉANT, an existing pan-European research and education network, which connects 40 million users in over 8,000 institutions worldwide.

    "Madagascar is one of five African countries ... [privileged] with such an opportunity", said Ny Hasina Andriamanjato, the Malagasy minister of post, telecommunications and new technologies.

    Andriamanjato added that the network is part of wider movement of digitising African universities, an idea launched by African researchers during a France-Africa summit held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in December 1996.

    The project stems from an agreement signed in December 2011 between the government and Telma, an Internet and mobile phone service provider, which functions via the high speed fibre optic cable running through the Eastern African Submarine Cable System.

    "Learning and research activities are destined to improve, despite the fact that Malagasy universities are poorly equipped with infrastructure and resources," the Malagasy prime minister, Jean Omer Beriziky, said at the launch. "We will produce many more experts capable of taking the country forward and ending poverty within 20 years."

    Patrick Pisal-Hamida, chief executive of Telma, said at the launch: "From today, a new era has begun for the higher education system in Madagascar. A fundamental stage has been reached, thanks to the digitalising of the universities and other institutions involved in research."

    Etienne Hilaire Razafindehibe, minister of higher education and scientific research, said the iRENALA association was created to ensure effective use of the network, but he added that users will have to pay to access the network.

  • Kenya is among the six nations earmarked for a multi-million project in six Sub Saharan African nations, for the launch of digital hubs under Badiliko project. The project which is being funded by the British Council and Microsoft Company will build 90 digital hubs in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria.

    According to the British Council Director of Programmes Mutuku Nguli over the next two years, the BC and MS will each invest $1million in cash, plus staff and in kind resources to build the hubs. He said that the project is aimed at improving ICT use in innovative teaching practice, helping teachers hone skills and providing content to help educators increase their students' knowledge and ability to engage in a global environment.

    Speaking in Shujaa Mekatilili Secondary School in Magarini constituency during the launch of a digital hub, Nguli noted that Badiliko is expected to train more than 20, 000 school leaders and teachers across the Sub Saharan Africa and provide more than 100, 000 learners and communities with digital access, while promoting literacy. "We formed this partnership in November 2011 based on the complementary expertise in technology and internationalism in education. We seek to combine expertise in order to increase innovative teaching and learning practices and better prepare young people for life and work in the 21st century," he said.

    MS Academic Programmes Manager Alex Nyingi also pointed out that MS has committed nearly $500 million to help education systems in the world under its Partners in Learning Project. Nyingi said that since the project's inception in 2003, they have reached more than 196 million teachers and students in 114 countries. "Our main aim is to see that students, teachers and the community as a whole living in today's increasing digital and connected world have ICT skills," he said. The BC Kenya has five digital hubs functioning in Molo, Maralal, Siaya, and Malindi. Under the Badiliko, the BC and MS will set up 20 additional hubs in seven regions in the country.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Adlevo     Capital Managers, a private    equity    fund manager     focused on investments   
    into technology-enabled businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa last week announced that   
    it has completed an investment into the parent company of Pagatech Limited (“Paga”), a leading provider    of mobile money transfer services in Nigeria.   
     
    Co-investing with Adlevo Capital were Omidyar Network, Acumen Fund, Capricorn   
    Investment Group, and current investor, Goodwell West Africa Microfinance Development    Company.   
          
    This investment will    further stimulate Paga’s growth and enable it to expand its footprint across Nigeria.Nigeria presents one of the most attractive markets for transformative financial services in the region with a population of 160 million people, GDP in excess of $200 billion and a 70%    literacy rate.   
      
    Paga is leveraging the deep penetration of mobile telephony –    more than two-thirds of Nigerian adults use a mobile phone – to deliver innovative and universal access to financial services to both banked and un-banked customers.   

  • Vodacom’s Tanzanian operating subsidiary intends to expand coverage of its popular money transfer service M-PESA to even the most remote parts of the country, by dint of the TZS130 billion (USD83.8 million) network upgrade it is currently undertaking. Rene Meza, managing director of Vodacom Tanzania, says that the M-PESA service – launched in 2008 – is now taken by almost three million subscribers, helping to drive overall customer growth. Speaking in February this year, Meza said the sharp increase in subscribers was largely driven by people signing up to M-PESA, which has a claimed 85% share of total e-mobile commerce transactions in the country. It is clear that the money transfer service has made a significant contribution to the socio economic development of the country and ‘revolutionised’ the way many people do business there.

    Meza is now confident that, with the planned network upgrade, Vodacom will be able to open up some otherwise ‘uncovered’ areas to its products and services.

  • The Kenyan government has struck a deal with China for a Sh6.04 billion soft loan to fund the National Optic Fiber Backbone Infrastructure (NOFBI) and e-government expansion projects.

    Finance Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua said the two governments were currently putting together the details of the draft ahead of a formal signing by the end of July 2012.

    The NOFBI project will include the construction Fibre optic links (systems which provides a data connection between two given points) to connect the Larger Area Network (LAN) of 36 administrative District Centers across the country with the National Fibre optic, hence allow the locals to access faster internet services.

    Kinyua said this will facilitate implementation of various e-governance initiatives such as e-health, e-banking and e-education, thereby facilitating economic growth.

  • MTN Rwanda and Bank of Kigali (BK), have entered into partnership to extend financial services to the unbanked population through mobile banking.

    The partnership is tailored to boost mobile banking services, promote financial inclusion and enhance the country's policy towards a cashless economy.

    The new partnership allows MTN mobile money subscribers to receive and send money through any BK branch across the country. Traditionally, money is received at authorised MTN mobile money dealers.

    Lawson Naibo, Chief Operating Officer, Bank of Kigali, says that the partnership will also help the bank to roll out its services and reach out to those financially excluded.

    "This partnership is leveraging our efforts to meet our customers promise and we will be able to increase our footfall in our branches," Naibo said.

    MTN subscribers will also enjoy mobile money services like account opening, cash deposits, transfers and withdrawals free of charge.

    "Mobile money subscribers will be able to get into any of our branches and get served and be able to go to our ATM and transact using their virtual accounts at no extra cost," he said.

    The partners are eyeing to use the service and encourage people to open bank accounts and thus attracting many into the financial system. Currently, 22 per cent of the population has access to financial services and government targets to raise this to 80 per cent by 2017.

    Currently, 41 of 56 BK branches offer the service though the lender is committed to roll out the service to the remaining 13 branches by the end of the year.

    Naibo noted that since the mobile phone is the most ubiquitous distribution channel on the continent at the moment, the bank believes that the delivery of financial services through mobile telephony is where the real innovation and development is taking place in the retail market.

    MTN Rwanda's Chief Executive Office, Khaled Mikkawi said partnerships with financial institutions would widen access to their services.

    "The mobile money platform should not be seen as competition to consumer banking but instead as a catalyst to services offered by leading financial institutions like BK. Rwandans can only benefit from greater convergence between conventional banking services and the mobility that mobile telephony offers."

    Mikkawi said MTN Rwanda has a total of 500,000 subscribers on the mobile money platform since the service started two years ago and is targeting to have all the subscribers (3 million) on mobile money.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Airtel Ghana has launched a new service dubbed “Airtel Smart Zone”, which offered customers discounts of up to 99% on on-net and off-net calls and SMS at different times of the day. A statement from the company quoted Marketing Director Oare Ojeikere as saying Airtel SmartZone was the only one of its kind, which allowed discounts to be applied to both on-net and off-net calls.

    “What that means is that subscribers can use their discounts on Airtel-to-Airtel calls as well as Airtel-to other network calls,” he explained.

    Airtel has over the past few weeks introduced a number of products unto the market, driven largely by consumer interests. These included Facebook Zero (where subscribers have free access to the text version of Facebook), Airtel Frndz (where subscribers can make discounted calls to 10 special friends), reduction on the prizes of modems from GHC 60 to GH49, Opera Mini on Airtel (where users can freely download one of the world’s most popular browsers for their handsets), etc.

Digital Content

  • The Ethiopian government has dismissed allegations that it has banned Skype and other use of Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) services that offer audio and video related communications over the internet.

    Reporters Without Borders last week alleged that Ethiopia has endorsed a new law that bans the internet based services.

    The group accused the East African country of trying to "attack every means of information exchange" and criticised it of a new crackdown on Internet users.

    However, Ethiopia government spokesperson, Shimeles Kemal, said the draft proclamation presented to the parliament last week does not restrict users access to Skype or IP-related internet activities.

    According to Kemal the draft law intends to control the growing number of telecom related offences.

    "The draft law aims to restrict internet telephone activities, not between telecom activities from computer to computer, but it aims to restrict unlicensed service providers who use internet to provide telephone services from internet to telephone lines. The aim of the regulation is not aimed at restricting IP and cyber activities. Nor did it intend to restrict computer to computer services," said Kemal.

    The state owned Telcome has been accusing a number of internet service providers of permitting unlawful international calls in order to gain illegal revenue.

    Kemal said the primary purpose of the proclamation is to tackle illegal activities such as generating income by bypassing the domestic telecom service which, according to him, is causing substantial financial damage to the national service.

    Kemal said Ethiopia has lost more than US$50 million this year due to illegal internet-based activities by independent telephone operators.

    The Government Communication Affairs Office (GCAO) in a statement stressed that the draft law does not target personal users of the service, as was reported by Medias.

    "There is no prohibition of people calling abroad on Skype from internet cafes or elsewhere," said Kemal.

    Addis Ababa has long been under fire froma number of international press freedom groups of press censorship and endangering safety of journalists using controversial laws.

    According to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) research, Ethiopia drove more journalists into exile than any other country, over the past decade. The country is also Africa's foremost jailer of journalists, after neighbouring Eritrea.

    In the RSF 2011-2012 press freedom index Ethiopia was 127 out of 179.

    Freedom House's 2011 report into internet freedom said "In Ethiopia and Cuba, for example, state-run telecommunications companies hold a monopoly on internet service, giving them unchecked control over users' ability to communicate with one another and the outside world".

    Freedom House also listed Ethiopia amongst the ten countries with greatest declines in a variety of freedoms during the 2010-2011 period.

  • A Kenyan developer has won Ksh1million for his mobile application “Skinswap” - which allows users to receive wallpapers easily and create a hybrid of animals and skins.

    With the application users can, for example, create a wallpaper of a lion with a zebra skin.

    “I’m extremely delighted to have won with Nokia. It’s a clear demonstration that Kenya’s mobile app developers, like me, have a great chance to place themselves on a global platform with locally relevant ideas,” said competition winner, Mike Kivuva.

    Other winners in the 48-hour challenge include Andrew Mutua who won Khs300 000 as the first runner up for his app “Mhasibu”, which helps users manage finances, expenses, bills and debt.

    “Quick Drums”, a beat creation app, developed by Jotham Nguri was the second runner up.

    “We are incredibly proud of the developers that won, as they rose to the challenge and pushed the envelope in developing applications that stood out with the judges,” said Peter Karimi, business development manager, EDX: Nokia East Africa.

    “The energy and enthusiasm that the developers brought to this challenge was amazing and we encourage them to keep up the momentum,” he added.

    The two-day event pitched developers against each other, in the search for rich, compelling apps for Nokia smartphones.

    Other notable mobile apps that were presented include Safety Plus, an app for road safety where user’s report and share incidents, iBudget which helps users with budgeting and calculation of daily and monthly expenses and Dashboard, which notifies drivers once they go over a certain speed limit.

  • Have you ever been in a situation where you’re in need to use the closest ATM within your location? Or perhaps you’re looking for a particular bank’s ATM within that location?

    A new mobile app called SeeAm wants to help you identify the closest ATM to your current location and provide turn-by-turn navigation to the location of that particular ATM.

    With a list of ATM locations and their bank addresses across Nigeria, the app helps you sort each ATM by bank and also shows the locations of the ATMs in a particular state. For each listing, you can choose to see its location on a map and view the route from where you are.

    SeeAm app claims to be the only app out there with extensive database coverage of ATM locations of all banks within Nigeria. The app is currently available for Android (download on Google Play) and BlackBerry devices (download on Blackberry App World).

    However, the current version of the app which only shows the ATM list is available for 7 days after download. Users would be required to get a paid upgrade for N350 to have access to the app’s full functionality including access to locations and turn-by-turn navigation.

    The SeeAm app was developed by Hinansho Green, a Nigerian-based application development group founded in March 2012 with focus on mobile apps development.

More

  • Orange launches second edition of the Orange African Social Venture Prize

    Armed with the success of the previous edition in 2011, Orange has launched the second edition of its Orange African Social Venture Prize. The goal is to promote social innovation that supports development through Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

    With this prize, Orange will provide a financial endowment as well as expert-support to young companies that put forward innovative projects with a significant social impact.

    Last year, more than 600 candidates responded to the call for projects, reflecting the strong entrepreneurial spirit and the high potential of telecommunications services in Africa. Of the 634 entries, 55 projects were from Kenyan entrepreneurs; representing close to 10% of the entries drawn from the 18 Orange affiliate in Africa. One of these 55, Kuza Doctor, an agriculture oriented project, was shortlisted as one of the final 10 projects.

    The three prize-winners of the first edition, announced at the AfricaCom Awards in Cape Town in November 2011, proposed the following projects:

    -          Horticultural Tele-Irrigation: a Nigerian project that puts mobile technology in the hands of horticulturalists;

    -          Agasha Business Network: a Ugandan community-based e-commerce platform that promotes small African businesses to the global market;

    -          Kachile: an Ivory Coast e-commerce start-up for African craft products.

    The Orange African Social Venture Prize will be awarded once again this year to three entrepreneurs or start-ups offering solutions that use ICT in innovative ways to meet the needs of populations on the African continent. Projects proposed during the first edition covered a variety of fields, such as healthcare, agriculture, banking services and education.

    Orange is committed to financially supporting and offering its expertise to the management of the growing small and midsize companies who are awarded this prize. In addition to receiving an endowment of 10,000 to 25,000 Euros, the three prize-winners will receive six months of support from entrepreneurial and ICT experts. In addition, a “favourite project”, selected by visitors of the Orange Group’s web portal will be highlighted before the jury responsible for selecting the winning projects.

    Any entrepreneur or legal entity that has been in existence for less than three years at the time of the competition, may participate at no cost and with no restriction on nationality. Submitted projects must be designed to be deployed in at least one of the African countries in which Orange operates and must use Information and Communication Technology in an innovative way to help improve the living conditions of the populations in these countries.

    Applications will be accepted from May 22, 2012 to September 21, 2012 on Orange’s pan-African web portal.

    Orange operates in 18 African countries and has a total of 70 million customers. To contribute to the social and economic development of these countries, the Group has put together the “Orange for Development” programme, which is based on three central themes:

        The development of its networks to maximize the number of people who are able to benefit from digital services;
        Innovation to meet the needs of populations through value-added services in essential fields such as healthcare, education, agriculture and banking services; and
        Contributing to the local development of ICT markets and innovation ecosystems.

    The Orange African Social Venture Prize was launched therefore to help the Group meet this last goal, which is aligned with both its innovation strategy as well as its Corporate Social Responsibility policy.

    The Rules have also been placed online on the Website of the Competition here.

Issue no 610 22nd June 2012

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Top story

  • A joint venture between local and Indian investors, Bharat Telecom Ltd has set itself the ambitious target of connecting every home and office in Mauritius to a fibre network. It has been testing its technology in one community on the island and is due to launch soon. Russell Southwood spoke to one of its directors, Baljinder Sharma.

    Bharat Telecom Ltd is investing US$50 million in creating a 2,900 kms fibre network to cover Mauritius. The core 200 kms of that 10gbps network will be underground and a further 2,700 kms will be slung over the poles of the Central Electricity Board, consisting of single core and 24 core fibre. It wants to cover 70% of the population in the first phase and the other 30% in the second phase.

    Licensed in November 2011, it has moved fast to get operational and so far has done 80 kms of its core network in a month and a half. It piloted the service with a demonstration at a number of test sites in Quatres Bornes and Rose Hill. It will offer high speed broadband (100 mbps) and IPTV through a GPON network.

    The subscriber to the network will get a basic package for US$10 per monthwhich will give him or her a 2 mbps connection and 40 TV channels (a mixture of free-to-air and paid). The top end package will be US$200 per month, providing a mix of high-end bandwidth and a wider selection of premium content. The current content package includes Fox, HBO, Zee TV and UTV:”We will show most Indian news channels and soaps, Hollywood, French programmes and Bollywood.”

    As Sharma told us:”I personally want us to disrupt the whole market. The competition will respond and it will therefore be beneficial to the country. The cheaper it is, the more uptake there will be and therefore there will be more subscribers, which in turn will sustain lower bandwidth prices. So far no-one has really tried this. We will breakeven on the low-cost packages and in some instances make money.” Overall average revenues will be US$20 per user. He wants to break the idea of long-term contracts:”We’re trying to free subscribers from long-term contracts. Typically users currently have to subscribe for one year. We want to offer them the choice of not needing to do so. We will offer scratch cards for a monthly subscription.”

    It has set itself a target of 50,000 subscribers. The subscribers will be a mixture of corporate and household subscribers:”We want to be able to deliver e-commerce and education through partners and there’s lots of interest from people who want to do IPTV channels.

    It will not offer voice:”We don’t have telephony licences and we deliberately kept out of voice. We didn’t want to get into a fight with the two local big boys. The set-top box has a telephone port and some of the subscribers might want to call within the network, no problem. That’s up to the subscribers.”

    Once the network begins to start generating revenues, the plan is to start looking at other African countries in the next 18-24 months.

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

    A bumper crop of video clips this week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    NyashaMutsekwa, CEO, Metvafrica.com on its Pan-African VOD service

    Alan Knott-Craig Jr, CEO, MXit on his African expansion plans

    Mark Kaigwa, Afrinnovator talking about monetization of mobile content at OIAS

    EyalCoppitt, SVP Sales MEA, Amos Spascecom on the launch of the Amos 5 satellite


    Shawkat Ahmed, COO, Yahsat talks about its new low cost satellite broadband product


    Jonah Fink, SVP, net2phone on the potential for VoIP in Africa


    Angus Hay, Chair of WACS on the impact of this new, international cable

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Sean Krepp, Uganda Country Director, Apps Lab
    on raising farmers income using community knowledge workers with smartphones

    Kobus Roux, CSIR Meraka Institute on getting rural schools connected using local micro-entrepreneurs and Wi-Fi mesh technology

     

More

  •  

    Managed Services World Congress 2012
    18 – 19 September 2012, Maritim Pro Arte Hotel, Berlin, Germany

    With Managed Service business models evolving in new and exciting directions, it’s time to reassess the market and your place in it. Managed Services World Congress – the biggest global MS event – is the perfect place to bring leading players together and address these issues. With a 50% operator audience, and 65% CXO / Director level attendance, there is no better opportunity to meet new and existing clients. It’s a must-attend event for anyone looking to maximise the value of their technology, their networks and their brand in today’s evolving MS world. FREE PASSES FOR OPERATORS. For more information visit here:

    Broadband World Forum
    16 – 18 October 2012, Amsterdam RAI Convention Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    The event, now in its 12th year, is the most respected in the regions Telecoms calendar and the comprehensive agenda includes breakfast briefings, 3 co-located summits,  keynote plenary sessions and a choice of 4 tracks for delegates each day as well as the world class exhibition area. For more information please click here:

  • The Uganda minister of Information and Communication Technology, Ruhakana Rugunda has commended Themba Khumalo for his three years leadership at MTN Uganda and urged him to be an Ambassador for Uganda at his next posting. "You are welcome to return frequently to continue supporting the growth of our ICT sector both in your official capacity, since you are still a highly influential member of the MTN Group," Rugunda said in a recent statement issued by MTN.

  • Fashion Sprout
    Vacancies: 1
    Location: Nairobi, Kenya
    Deadline: 04 Jul, 2012

    We are an american based company offering a challenging, innovative and friendly environment where you will work to extend and improve the capabilities of our e-commerce platforms and help bring forward new e-business opportunities.

    Our ideal candidate is an Ruby on Rails developer with back-end developer skills. We offer an environment where highly motivated, self-learners will grow their knowledge and capabilities in all tiers of Rails application development and deployment. You will be responsible for the full application life cycle -- from specification/design through project delivery -- and will work directly with our business sponsors and other team members to ensure that our team is successful.

    Our Environment:

    Ruby on Rails, Linux, MySQL, Nginx, Passenger, javascript, HTML, CSS, SASS, HAML

    Required skills:

    :: Proven experience developing significant web applications
    :: Hand-coding front-end development experience (HTML, CSS)
    :: Working knowledge of standards-compliant HTML, CSS, Javascript/JQuery and AJAX

    :: Familiarity with design and prototyping tools such as Photoshop
    :: Solid Ruby on Rails development experience
    :: Commitment to iterative development practices
    :: Knowledgeable in relational database technologies, including MySQL
    :: Experience working in the Linux operating system
    :: Proficiency with Git or other source control products
    :: Demonstrated ability to learn new technologies and quickly grasp new concepts

    Desired skills:

    :: Experience gained with website setup and management through a commercial web hosting provider
    Apply for this position:

    Send your C.V. to james@fashionsprout.com

telecoms

  • The federal government is planning to abandon the $200 million National Rural Telephony Project (NRTP) it conceived in 2001 to take telephony services to the rural areas. The exit follows the full liberalisation of the telecommunications sector and government's poor execution of the project from inception.

    A top official of the Ministry of Communications Technology said the government was about to finalise the handing over to the indigenous operators that won the bid. "We are about finalizing the handover of the authority to the private operators to manage the project. We will soon make the announcement," the official said.

    The project, inaugurated under former President Olusegun Obasanjo's first term in office, was to cover 218 local government areas in the first phase and provide over 636,256 CDMA lines in the 774 local government areas and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the second phase to bridge the digital divide between the urban and rural areas.

    The federal government had borrowed $200 million from the China Export Import (EXIM) Bank and provided 15 per cent counterpart funding of N5 billion to execute the project, but its design and execution was faulty from the beginning. Three Chinese companies - ZTE Corporation, Huawei and Shangai Bell - were awarded the NRTP contract to take telephony services to the rural areas but ended up building only exchanges.

    Minister of Communications Mrs Omobola Johnson said the exchange centres that were built in six geopolitical zones were being concessioned to the private sector. "The telecom industry is fully liberalised, there is very little government involvement and, therefore, we believe that the National Rural Telephony Project is better implemented and managed outside of government.

    "So these six rural telephony exchanges are being concessioned to companies that have paid for them and our role is to monitor the implementation and delivery of services to rural areas. In a sense, we are getting out of the rural telephony," she stated.

    The government had, in 2009, transferred the second phase to G-cell Wireless Limited, Hezomic Limited, Key Communications Limited, Suburban Broadband Limited and Voicewares Network Limited to manage the rural telephony project. Under the new arrangement, Suburban Broadband won the bid to manage the FCT and Kaduna zones with $140.5 million.

    Key Communications won the Ibadan zone with a $38million bid. Voiceware Networks won the Enugu zone bid with $30 million; Hezonic won its bid for $30million. G-Cell Wireless won the Bauchi zone bid with $20 million. They were to build, operate and maintain the project in the different zones.

    Lanre Ajayi, president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), said, "If the project was done today, it would have been done differently." He noted: "At the time it was started, nobody knew that GSM operators would cover ground very fast. Today, GSM service has covered 80 per cent of the populace."

  • Tecno Mobile Ethiopia, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based mobile manufacturer, is to release its first locally assembled smartphone in mid July for a price possibly between 6,000 Br and 8,000 Br.

    The new brand, Tecno T3, supports Google's Android 2.3 a smartphone operating system.

    Android is a Linux-based operating system for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. The initial developer of the software, Android Inc, was purchased by Google in 2005.

    Most Android devices to date run the older OS version 2.3.x Gingerbread that was released on December 6, 2010, even though the newest OS version, 4.0.x Ice Cream Sandwich was released over six months ago.

    Established in 2006, Tecno Telecom Ltd came to Ethiopia five years later in September 2011, with a capital of over one million dollars. Ethiopia was part of its bigger plan to increase its presence in the African market.

    Tecno already has several models on the market, all of which support Amharic, Oromiffa, and Tigrigna languages. The new phone will, for the time being, support only Amharic, according to Henry Yu, Tecno's general manager in Ethiopia.

    The Amharic application was developed by a local company called Information Technology Transfer Services (ITTS). The software, Amharic Soft Keyboard and Messaging Application, works on all phones supporting Android, according to Ayalew Aseffa, CEO and founder of the company, which was established in 2010/11 with a capital of five million Birr. It supports SMS, email, and other information transferring systems, he says.The phone also has GPS.

    The company is still studying the market to decide on the price of its new release, according to Yu.

    Currently, Android smartphones from other makers are sold with prices ranging from 6,000 Br to 15,000 Br. The new samsung Galaxy Nexus 3 reaches 20,000 Br.

  • Flexenclosure, a specialist provider of intelligent green power management solutions for base stations, has been honoured as a top sustainable solution at Rio+20. Last night, sustainability activist Gro Harlem Brundtland, media industrialist and philanthropist Ted Turner and 150 VIP guests celebrated the first concrete outcome at Rio+20: The launch of Sustainia100. Flexenclosure’s E-site has been chosen for this prestigious list of sustainable solutions.

    Flexenclosure’s award-winning green power management solution for the telecom industry, E-site, has been chosen as one of the 100 most sustainable technologies and solutions in the world (Sustainia100). They list consists of “great ideas, innovations and technologies that help build a sustainable tomorrow”. See here:

    The list was announced at the Rio+20 conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio+20 is United Nations’ environmental conference about green economy and sustainable development. The conference is attended by 50,000 politicians, activists and NGO’s.

    Flexenclosure was included in Sustania100 for E-site, its revolutionary green energy solution that enables mobile base stations off-grid to be powered mainly by renewable energy sources (sun and wind) instead of dirty and expensive diesel fuel. It has the capacity to reduce diesel consumption for powering base stations by up to 95 per cent, reduce CO2 emissions by as much, and slash operating expenses by up to 90 per cent.

    “We are very happy to be included in this prestigious list, and to be introduced to such a large and influential audience as at Rio+20”, said David King, CEO, Flexenclosure. “I especially like the word sustainable – our solutions truly help mobile network operators to ‘go green’ in a profitable and enduring way that strengthens their bottom line while at the same time benefiting the environment.”

  • The 7th annual Connecting Rural Communities Africa conference organized by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), under the auspices of the Sierra Leone government, has commenced yesterday in Freetown at the Miatta Conference Hall.

    The 3-day forum with the theme 'The road to rural broadband: making the economics work' will focus on key issues such as how to catalyze internet and broadband use in rural areas, the critical role of the Universal Service Funds, policy and regulatory tools for stimulating rural demand and supply and measuring and understanding the socio-economic impact of rural ICT development, among other issues.

    In her remarks, Chair of the programme, NATCOM's Director of Legal and Licensing Affairs, Michala Mackay, said it is a privilege for Sierra Leone - a country of less than six million people - to serve as an international platform to share ideas and experiences in bridging the global digital divide gap in ICT.

    She said it is a forum to "gain insight through experience sharing with overseas experts" and to "closely examine how people in the rural area connect themselves with towns and cities through affordable and efficient means".

    The information minister, I.B. Kargbo, also made a speech before President Ernest Bai Koroma declared the forum open after a short remark.

    The President said his government views access to ICT services, telecom and postal services in the rural and urban areas as a sine qua non and expressed his pleasure that NATCOM and the information ministry took the initiative to invite CTO to Sierra Leone.

  • A shortage of foreign currency and a variation in exchange rates, alongside rising competition and an increase in taxes, are having a negative impact on Sudan’s telecoms industry, according to a report by Reuters.

     ‘The availability of foreign currency is a big issue for telecoms companies because we depend on imported services and equipment,’ Zain Sudan chief executive Elfatih Erwa told the news agency. He added that Zain, a unit of Kuwaiti telecoms operator Zain Group, had sometimes delayed payments to foreign suppliers, although these were still delivering on schedule. Sudan lost around three-quarters of its oil output when the South seceded in July 2011, ending its main source of state revenue and foreign currency.

    Sudatel’s director for corporate sales, Mohamed Nasir, meanwhile said that deliveries of equipment can be delayed due to the ‘limitations in the use and transfer of US dollars’. The situation is compounded by a new tax on telecoms operators introduced by the government in December 2011 to make up for the loss of oil revenue from newly independent South Sudan. Sales and services taxes for telecoms firms were increased from 20% to 30%, while a tax on profits was hiked from 15% to 30%.

    Despite these factors, market leader Zain expects to sign up an additional one million mobile subscribers in 2012 to boost its total customer base to 14 million by year-end, although earnings gains will be offset by weaker operating margins due to the higher taxes and the worsening economic situation. Zain – alongside the market’s two other mobile operators, MTN Sudan and Sudatel – began dividing their operations into two units after the South gained independence last year, but have yet to agree a licence fee with the new country.

  • Three leading telecom companies have again been slapped with penalty totaling GH¢250,000 by the industry regulator, National Communications Authority (NCA), for what it described as “various Quality of Service (QoS) infractions” after a QoS test for March, this year.The companies are MTN, the industry’s market leader and second place Vodafone and tiGO.

    According to information posted on the regulator’s website, “MTN was penalised GH¢50,000 for call setup delays in the Central Region and a further GH¢100,000 for call congestion in the Brong Ahafo and Central regions”.

    Vodafone, which overtook tiGO to become the second biggest telecom company in terms of subscriber market share, was on the other hand sanctioned to pay GH¢50,000 for Call Setup delays in the Western Region.Third placed-tiGO was slapped with the same amount as in the case of Vodafone as penalty for signaling congestion in the Brong Ahafo Region.

    Sanctions to Airtel on call congestion in the Brong Ahafo Region were suspended pending the completion of their expansion plan in Sunyani.Meanwhile, the company has up to end of June this year to complete that project.

    In a related development, sanctions according to the NCA to Expresso on call setup delays were also suspended until July this year for infractions in the Eastern Region when coverage is expected to improve in Koforidua.

    The company was also directed to improve coverage at Tarkwa by September 2012.Barely six months ago, MTN was fined GH¢300,000 for poor quality service noticed by the regulator in the Upper East and West, Greater Accra and Brong Ahafo regions.

    Airtel, at the time, suffered the heaviest fine of GH¢350,000, while Expresso defaulted in its service quality in three regions; Western, Greater Accra and Brong Ahafo.

    Vodafone, which also defaulted in its service quality in three regions; Western, Greater Accra and Brong Ahafo, was fined GH¢150,000.

    tiGO at the time was fined GH¢100,000 for defaulting in call service in the Western and the three northern regions.

    The Telecoms Chamber at the time had expressed misgivings about the fine, saying it was not deliberate for the operators to offer poor services to their customers, particularly at a time when competition among them has heightened.

    It blamed the problem on a number of issues including fibre cuts by ongoing construction works in various parts of the country and the stealing of the fibre cables. But the sector Minister, Haruna Iddrisu, has described the excuses of the Chamber as untenable and indicated that much as the government was ready to help ameliorate the challenge, there was the need for the operators to give their customers value for money.

internet

  • One of the country's leading Internet service providers, Utande, has introduced an innovative broadband service designed for households and small businesses. The latest offering from the data services provider that falls under the Dandemutande Investments group promises to provide unrivalled connection quality, true broadband speeds and unbeatable service for households and small businesses.

    uMAX was unveiled to industry leaders and stakeholders in Harare last week. Dandemutande Investments chairman Joe Mutizwa said the new product would complement the services that Utande has been offering the corporate world for the past 15 years.

    "This follows a six-month testing phase based on significant network investments made over the past two years." He added.

    Dandemutande Investments is majority owned by Masawara plc, a Jersey-registered investment company, primarily focused on acquiring interests in companies and projects based in Zimbabwe and the Southern African region.

    Dandemutande Investments has made an initial capital investment of over US$17 million as part of its uMAX rollout.

    uMAX promises an exceptional and very different broadband Internet customer experience. It offers super-fast 1 Mbps connections for all customers; 24-hour customer services support, an expertly managed network for maximum up time and superior and consistent quality; and multiple "MAX mini-stores" within some of Harare's leading retail stores and brands.

    Dandemutande interim chief executive Mr Mike Weeden said communications was one of the fastest growing industries and the launching of uMAX, initially to the Harare retail market, provided an important investment in the Zimbabwean economy, which in turn supports other businesses.

    "There is significant opportunity in the market for a new service provider, focused on delivering true broadband Internet services and unbeatable customer experiences to home users and small businesses," he said.

    "To date these segments have not been adequately served by local Internet providers and those that do are unable to deliver to the high standards people want and expect. Our research shows that customers want a better end-to-end experience and we are convinced there is considerable demand for a service provider that can consistently deliver exceptionally fast speeds, unrivalled connection and reliability, and unbeatable service. That service provider is uMAX." He added.

    The uMAX service has been arduously tested for over six months under the direction of Dandemutande's chief technical officer, Mr Colin Franco, with a team of local and international technical consultants.

    "Dandemutande has installed 11 base stations throughout greater Harare, providing service across much of the city. Through pro-active network management, uMAX technical services will avoid congestion with a robust and resilient network core," said Mr Franco.

    uMAX head of sales, Mr Naguib Omar, explained that the company is now selling its services in Harare through a unique distribution and sales model and will be partnering with other strategic retail partners, in whose premises uMAX will have considerable visibility and presence in "MAX mini stores".

  • iBurst (Pty) Ltd. is expanding Internet capacity beyond the capital of South Sudan, Africa’s youngest country, in a three-year plan to provide services to the nation’s government and biggest companies.

    “By the end of June we will have a few base stations running in the Abyei region” to enable services, Thami Mtshali, chief executive officer of the South African provider of mobile Internet services, said in an interview at the company’s Johannesburg headquarters.

    IBurst has four base stations in the South Sudan capital of Juba using fourth-generation systems, which allow faster downloads. The stations service Juba’s population of about 250,000 and coverage will extend to the whole nation in three years, said Mtshali.

    “From nothing to 4G, that is what we’re doing to the place,” Mtshali said. “It’s an initial $20 million investment,” and iBurst has already signed up some customers in the regions in which it is expanding, where the biggest clients are government institutions and the military.

    South Sudan is building infrastructure and institutions after gaining independence from Sudan last July. South Sudan seceded after a referendum on independence, the culmination of a 2005 peace agreement intended to end a two-decade civil war. The south kept three-quarters of the formerly united country’s oil output of about 490,000 barrels a day.

    “We first identify the customer and then build the infrastructure after doing the agreements,” Mtshali said. Customer subscriptions immediately pay the company’s costs, he said. “Margins are very good out there, because there’s absolutely nothing in that country,” he said.

    In Abyei, iBurst will enable “all the people to communicate and to have access to globally competitive technology this year,” Mtshali said.

    Abyei lies in a contested border region, with Sudan and South Sudan both claiming sovereignty. The two countries’ militaries have clashed in the area, and the north sent in the army in May last year. The UN established an “interim security force” to maintain peace ahead of a planned referendum in which the population will choose which country they want to be part of.

    While iBurst is rolling out infrastructure in South Sudan, the country is setting up a commission to regulate telecommunications, Khamisa Wani-Ndah, deputy minister of telecommunications and postal services, said in an interview in Cape Town on June 7.

    As South Sudan doesn’t have a fiber-optic network, iBurst will rely in satellite connections for its rollout, said Mtshali. Within three years iBurst will cover the entire nation with 4G long-term evolution technology. “We have access to funds and we are always in talks with our backers,” he said.

    The company also plans to put up 1,500 base stations using LTE technology in South Africa by the end of the year, and aims to reach a total of 4,000, Mtshali said in an interview this month. The first set of stations will cost $150 million, he said. IBurst has 100,000 data users in South Africa.

  • Jasco Networks has expanded its operations into Central Africa with the formation of Jasco Congo, a subsidiary company with a dedicated presence in the region.

    Following this expansion, the newly formed Jasco Congo subsidiary has signed a partnership agreement with Warid Congo to manage and maintain a carrier-neutral co-location data centre in Congo-Brazzaville.

    Warid Congo is part of the multinational Warid Telecom and is one of the fastest growing mobile operators in the region. As the owners of the data centre infrastructure, they will share in the revenues generated by the data centre and benefit from skills transfer as a result of the partnership. Jasco Congo will in turn benefit from the ability to tap into local expertise, knowledge and market presence.

    “Data centres are one of the fastest growing segments of the IT industry, but the data centre built by Warid was not being used to full capacity. We were looking for a seasoned, highly experienced partner in the field to help us reposition our organisation to meet the needs of corporates around data centres and carrier neutral services. Jasco delivers on all of our requirements and are the ideal partner,” says Michel Elame, Managing Director of Warid Congo.

    Market research conducted by Jasco in Central Africa showed that the Internet market is still in its infancy, being very expensive and only accessible via satellite due to lack of infrastructure. However, users in the region are well aware of technological innovations and businesses are eager to embrace connectivity. This is becoming easier to achieve thanks to the recent landing of the WACS undersea cable connecting West Africa to the world and growing investment into improving infrastructure. Local Internet in the region remains expensive as a result of a lack of local hosting and local Internet exchange.

    Jasco Congo has entered into a service partnership with Warid Congo, using the local company’s existing infrastructure and taking over the operational costs and maintenance of the data centre. Jasco will be designing and building an Internet switch exchange and providing local Internet hosting from the Warid Telecom data centre, helping to drive down the cost of Internet access. The company will also be hosting local telecommunications operators, providing a carrier neutral switching location for international traffic.

    “Our research indicated that the region was ripe with opportunities, which are being held back due to the expense of building infrastructure. The situation is reminiscent of the South African market several years ago, and our experience in South Africa puts us in an ideal position to not only harness these opportunities but to assist with growth and skills transfer in the Central African region. The Jasco Congo operation, in partnership with Warid Telecom, enables us to expand our co-location solutions offering into Africa without the expense of physically investing in infrastructure, while creating local empowerment and business stimulation,” says Eckart Zollner, Business Development Manager for Jasco Co-location Solutions.

    “Expansion into Africa is an important part of Jasco’s growth strategy, and this venture offered the perfect opportunity to launch into a new market. Congo Brazzaville is one of the more stable and economically active countries in Central Africa, the government is on an aggressive growth drive and a lot of investment is being injected into the economy. Jasco Congo and our partnership with Warid Telecom will enable us to be a part of this development and to build relationships with local suppliers in this region. This in turn will provide a launch platform for future growth and expansion,” adds Paul McKibbin, Divisional Managing Director of Jasco Networks.

    The Warid partnership and launch of Jasco Congo represent the start of an exciting growth phase for Jasco in Central Africa. There are many opportunities to take the full range of complementary Jasco solutions, from networks to broadcasting, converged communications, energy, security and more, into the region. Jasco Congo will be working with local shareholders, telco’s and Internet service providers to develop new business in the region in line with the ONE Jasco philosophy of fully converged, intelligent solutions that deliver value for customers and end users.

    “This type of business has high barriers to entry in Central Africa due to the cost of infrastructure, but there is not much competition so margins can be very lucrative and growth happens fast. However, we are also a fairly isolated region which can be difficult for companies to break into, as a result of vastly different clients and culture. Our partnership with Jasco is mutually beneficial and will enable both parties to leverage opportunities in this active and growing economic region. We are looking forward to working together and are also exploring further opportunities with Jasco,” Elame concludes.

  • Turkish multi-industry holding group Yda is in talks with the Rwanda Development Board's (RDB's) ICT department to invest in a data centre in the country, IT Web reported. Rwanda has become a 'sweet spot' for Turkish investors after the opening of a Rwandan consulate in Istanbul last September.

    The data centre will be in addition to the USD 5 million National Data Centre (NDC) co-financed by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). The NDC connects and allows secure access to information from government offices, and provides back-up information for companies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) commercially.

    Other countries are also eyeing opportunities in Rwanda's ICT sector. The RDB signed a USD 6.7 million contract in April with the Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) to provide 1.244 Gbps of internet bandwidth. The RDB hopes that these inputs, together with other ICT-related investments, will make Rwanda East Africa's ICT hub as it reduces its dependency on agriculture.

computing

  • Thousands of pupils and teachers from public primary schools in Zanzibar and Mtwara region are set to benefit from the TZ21 project, a five-year United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded programme.

    Speaking to the 'Daily News' on Wednesday, the USAID Tanzania Education Team Leader, Mr Thomas LeBlanc, said that the project will provide a laptop for every three pupils in Standard One up to Five in public primary schools in the said areas.

    The project whose focus is on four subjects, English, Kiswahili, Mathematics and Science, uses video and games to assist the children to read, do calculations and spellings. "This project will have a huge impact on the quality of education in the country, it will take a few years but it will eventually build up to great success," Mr LeBlanc said enthusiastically adding that integration of information communication technologies in primary education will also strengthen professional development of primary school teachers.

    The five-year project is a partnership between the USAID, with a funding of US 50 million dollars and private sector comprising Cisco, Intel, Microsoft with a US 45 million dollars funding and two local Internet Service providers, UhuruOne and Zantel. Mr LeBlanc said the laptops are tough and wont break or be affected by water and will not work if taken away from the school area because they are connected to a central server.

    "The laptops cannot be stolen because they will not work far from the school because they are connected to a central server, neither will they break if they accidentally fall or be affected by water poured on them," he explained.

    The laptops are charged overnight with solar panels, LeBlack explained optimistically, noting that the project will yield high results once fully implemented. Mtwara was specifically chosen because of USAID previous education project in the region but also because the region is soon set to develop extensively due to discovery of natural gas and oil.

    "This project will equip them with skills and tools they need to succeed in getting jobs and build a more prosperous Tanzania," Mr LeBlanc said.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Nigerian submarine cable company, Main One Cable says it has stepped up investment in distribution networks in the face of a dearth of commercially reasonable alternatives.

    The company announced last weekend a major expansion programmes into other cities in the country and West Africa, with an additional investment of $15 million within its two years of operations in Nigeria. Main One, which will clock two years in July, further disclosed that it has already begun to stretch its infrastructure towards Togo with an interconnection through Ghana, and is presently servicing the Republic of Benin from Nigeria.

    Funke Opeke, chief executive officer of the company told journalists in Lagos, weekend that the underwater cable company plans extension of its services to landlocked areas including the Republic of Burkina Faso, Niger, among others, further adding that presently, the customer base of the company in the country is nearing 200.

    The CEO explained that the landing of the submarine cable in July 2010, has so far brought down bandwidth cost and increase accessibilities’ of Nigeria to the Internet, adding that the company, was determined to service the country’s huge market and those of neighbouring countries with broadband services.

    According to her, many people had discovered the need for a fast and cheap Internet access amid the desire to use different kinds of applications.

    “People know they want better access to Internet. They want it faster, cheaper, and they want to be able to drive new kinds of applications and access different types of content,” she said. She argued that the fresh investment became imperative in view of the increasing demand for the company’s broadband services.

    Opeke said the company had started investing in distribution infrastructure as well as building its own networks in the face of a dearth of commercially reasonable alternatives.

    To her, “The biggest challenge that we see is getting the capacity we have in this big pipe that we brought into Nigeria and Ghana across the region to reach the people and businesses where they need the service. But looking back two years now, we were totally unproven in the market and the viability of our services was something yet to be experienced, which was subject to speculation. But we can confidently say today that our services have proven to be extremely reliable and highly available.”

    She explained that the firm successfully launched last year its IP service, which today, she claims makes them the largest wholesale provider in Internet connectivity into West Africa.

    Explaining the new value proposition of the company, the Content Delivery Network Solution, MainOne’s head of sales, Bolanle Ogundogba said the new offering is in partnership with Tata Communications.

    “Today, they have a product offering and we bought into it because we have the highway, which is the submarine cables to provide real connectivity that will provide access for the kind of content that you desire.

    For instance, the Olympics coming up, we want to be able to stream it live from there to Nigeria and avoid having it recorded and play here. The product has been developed and is coming for launch next month.”

    In his own contribution, Babatunde Dada, Chief Finance Officer, Main One Cable said though the investment cost MainOne and its partners about $240 million, we have expended about $15 million within the last two years of operation, especially in the areas of creating access and expanding reach across Nigeria and others West African countries.

  • The Maroc Numeric Fund has solid backing and a healthy attitude to risk – good news for bright ideas.

    A state-backed Moroccan risk-capital fund focused on technology start-ups has invested €1.8m in the past 18 months in seven companies, opening up a new stream of funding to a nascent industry.

    Investments by the Maroc Numeric Fund (MNF), a 100m dirham ($11.7m) fund run by MITC Capital, have included 2m dirhams in March 2012 in mydeal.com, a Moroccan daily deal or 'group buying' website, and 3.9m dirhams in Majalatouki, a web portal for North African women.

    MNF has solid backing, from both the state – through MITC, which runs Casablanca's Technopark – and Moroccan banks BMCE, Attijariwafa, the Caisse de Dépôt et de Gestion and the Banque Centrale Populaire.

    Each has a representative on the investment committee, which has studied 130 applications so far.

    "MNF has invented risk capital Morocco. Until its creation, nobody would finance projects through a business plan," said Mohamed Attahri, co-founder of Greendizer, one of the first start-ups to be funded by MNF when it received 5m dirhams at the end of 2010.

    Although private-equity funds are well established in Morocco, young companies, particularly in the technology sector, have found it hard to find financing.

    "Between now and the end of 2013, our objective is to make 15 investments," explained Ali Bassit, director general of MITC. Most of the start-ups chosen so far have founders with international experience.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - MTN Ghana has launched a new facebook page that allows its customers to interact with the company on facebook absolutely free of charge.Chief Marketing Officer of MTN Ghana, Rahul De told Adom News it would be an avenue for MTN to also address customer queries online.

    - Senegalese telecoms watchdog the Agence de Regulation des Telecoms et Postes (ARTP) has published state owned fixed line PTO (Sonatel’s) new catalogue for interconnection services covering 2011/12. In a website announcement ARTP reports that the new rates were approved on 24 May 2012, Full details can be found here:

Digital Content

  • A notice on Korean Air’s website announcing the start of non-stop flights from Korea to Kenya sparked a flurry of angry Tweets and Facebook postings Monday over the description of Kenyans as indigenous people full of “primitive energy.”

    Muthui Kariuki, who is handling public relations for Korean Air in Kenya, said that the notice had been removed from the website and that the word “primitive” was a result of a mistake in translation from Korean to English.

    Kariuki said the airline, which is supposed to launch the thrice-weekly flights this Thursday, will post an apology.

    Kenyans expressed their anger on social media.

    “An insult to a nation. Kenya doesn’t have primitive people,” posted a Twitter user who identified himself as George Njoro.

    Others however felt that the mistake in the notice was an intentional marketing gimmick.

    “Now everybody knows Korea Air is coming to Kenya. Nice marketing strategy,” tweeted another person using the Twitter handle of Komboste.

    Kenya is a regional hub where passengers can connect to flights to other countries in the region and in Africa.

  • In sixteen countries across Africa, including Nigeria, farmers are gradually overcoming the problem of information failure through a mobile platform called Esoko. In the past, they accepted whatever prices middlemen were willing to pay without any leads as to what the reigning prices were. Today, by simply sending a text message with the required key word, farmers can know how much the produce is going for in all the main markets.

    It all started in 2005 when TradeNet started providing market data on agricultural marketing and trends to stakeholders within the Ugandan agricultural sector. By 2009, TradeNet had become Esoko (from the Swahili word for market – Soko) and had established itself across several countries in West Africa, including Nigeria, as an online marketplace for various agricultural resources. The Esoko team was able to put two and two together: if mobile penetration rates were around 60 percent in Africa and about 60 percent of Africans gain their means of livelihood through agriculture, then there is a great opportunity to exploit the potential of mobile services for agricultural stakeholders. As aptly noted by The Economist, “Africa’s enthusiasm for technology is boosting growth. It has more than 600m mobile-phone users – more than America or Europe. Since roads are generally dreadful, advances in communications, with mobile banking and telephonic agro-info, have been a huge boon. Around a tenth of Africa’s landmass is covered by mobile-internet services – a higher proportion than in India.”

    The technology is simple. Imagine that we have a fish farmer or fisherman named Tamuno. Everyday, traders come to buy his fish to sell in the bigger markets in the Niger Delta. However, without information on how much fish is being sold for in these markets, he has no choice but to take the traders’ word for it. This could mean that Tamuno will sell his fish for N100 each to a trader who is actually going to sell it in the market for N350, making a 250 percent profit. This could go on for many years, leaving Tamuno, a hardworking farmer, with very little profits to improve his livelihood and expand his enterprise.

    Upon acquiring Esoko service, Tamuno keys in the word “fish” and starts receiving text messages about the market prices of fish in different cities. He learns that the average selling price is N300 and not the N200 that the trader tried to convince him it was. Armed with this knowledge, he sticks to his guns in demanding N180 or N200 from the trader, thereby earning N80 or N100 extra per fish. What’s more, knowing now that Tilapia is being sold at a higher price than Knifefish, he can work harder to increase his stock of Tilapia and make even more money. With access to market trends, Tamuno may choose to sell his produce on a particular day in order to take advantage of favourable market factors.

    All this is possible through the technology. For Esoko, something as simple as text messaging is a silver bullet. Through these texts, they are able to gather and share information about farming techniques, crop prices, stock levels, market trends, sales and employment opportunities, etc. Because of its customized and personalized nature, users are able to get information tailored to address their specific needs. This is not only useful for small farmers but for big businessmen. The knowledge of the value of this information to the latter has helped Esoko sustain itself as a for-profit enterprise, charging investors and stakeholders a fee while opening up information channels to them.

    In agriculture, as in many other fields, information is power. With mobile phones and applications and large repositories of information on the internet, farming practices can be improved; markets can be discovered; business opportunities can be revealed; impending disasters can be averted; and food security can be improved. With information, yields and profits rise as the cost of inputs reduces. Information is the difference between poverty and financial buoyancy.

  • To protect the state-owned telecom provider, the Ethiopian government has introduced legislation that will make using online communication tools such as Skype punishable by up to 15 years in jail, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

    The new law, passed on 24 May, criminalises the use of independent Internet communications like Skype, Viber and GTalk, says IPI.

    Although the government said the law was introduced to prevent the country's sole telecom provider, state-run Ethio Telecom, from losing money to low-cost online competitors, CPJ say banning online communication technology will also prevent journalists and dissidents from talking to sources abroad cheaply and securely - effectively shutting down their ability to carry out independent reporting.

    The law also makes it an offence to import, sell or own telecom equipment, says CPJ. Anyone caught trying to circumvent the law could be charged with a number of violations, such as "obstructing or interfering" with the network, which is punishable by 15 years in prison, or "disseminating terrorising messages," punishable by up to eight years in prison and a US$4,500 fine.

    The anti-terrorism law already criminalises reporting that is favourable to banned opposition groups and causes, says CPJ.

    The group also notes that the government has been trying to control Internet-based communications in recent years, citing reports that Internet cafés offering services like Skype are required to keep records of the names and addresses of their customers.

    At the same time, the Ethiopian government has installed sophisticated online filters in efforts to shut down back-door access to the Internet. RSF, IPI and OpenNet Initiative, a group that investigates and exposes Internet filtering and surveillance practices, report that Ethio Telecom had blocked access to the Tor network, an online tool that allows users to anonymously browse the Internet.

    To be doing this type of selective blocking, says RSF, Ethio Telecom must be using Deep Packet Inspection, an advanced network filtering method that is commonly used by repressive countries such as China and Iran. RSF is concerned this move marks a new low point for the Ethiopian authorities and could be a precursor to intercepting emails, social media messages and online conversations.

    "We fear that Deep Packet Inspection will be misused for surveillance purposes by a government that already subjects the political opposition and privately-owned media to a great deal of harassment," says RSF.

    The moves to criminalise dissent online are the latest in a wave of repression against independent journalists and media outlets. Journalist Eskinder Nega and several activists are accused of inciting terrorism and are facing the death penalty. A verdict on their case is expected on 21 June.

    CPJ says an American reporter with Voice of America and his Ethiopian translator were also recently detained, and Voice of America's Amharic broadcast was jammed and its website blocked, while "The Reporter", a privately-owned weekly newspaper, told RSF that its website was censored.

    "Authorities are obviously deeply threatened by any source of independent information, from critical journalism to sharing of information online," said CPJ.

Issue no 609 15th June 2012

node ref id: 25138

Top story

  • Outside of South Africa, the games sector in Africa has had almost no profile, which is strange considering that it will almost certainly be one of the key content drivers on mobile handsets. Two Nigerian games developers spoke to Russell Southwood this week about the games they have developed and how they see the business model developing.

    Victor Dibia is the founder of Denveycom.com that has launched the Gidi Games range and he started his company in January this year. It has taken games everyone has played at some point and localized them, giving them an “African touch.” The games include Puzzlemania, Tic-Tac-Toe, Noughts and Crosses and Wic-Wac-Woe.

    Currently they are available on the company’s website and through Google Trader. There is an Android version of the games available and they are working on versions for Windows, Blackberry and a range of feature-phones.

    At the moment the games are being offered for free as beta versions because Dibia wants to “test the market and get a lot of feedback, allowing a local market with users to develop and so that we can see what local content works.” This for free phase will last 8-12 months:”We want to build a large user base.”

    Currently no marketing has been done so there has been only 70 downloads but they are now starting the marketing phase, with media coverage and social media campaigns.

    When the moment comes to go “pay-for”, Dibia see N100-200 (US61 cents-US$1.20) which is the same range as for the SMS services promoted by mobile operators.

    Hugo Obi, the founder of Maliyo Games launched in April this year and is aiming squarely at what he calls the “casual games” market:”There are four core local elements: characters, narrative, sound and environment.” There are seven games available on the Maliya.com site: Adanma, Class Fight, Mosquito Squasher, Football Goalie, Okada Ride, Aboki and Kidnapped. Okada Ride is based on the motorcycle taxis that swarm dangerously like angry wasps around Lagos: the character in the game is trying to get a job and has to dodge potholes and traffic. Mosquito Squasher is as simple as the name implies: you take revenge online on Nigeria’s many mosquitos.

    The games are free to play online on its web site and are not downloadable. Again the numbers of people playing is in the tens because the games have only been out for two weeks and there’s not yet been a concerted marketing push.

    The next stage is to build a mobile pay-for version which it will co-brand and market with the Nokia Ovi store. It is also looking for similar co-branding opportunities with the Samsung and MTN stores.

    As Obi told us:”We’ve built seven games in seven weeks so we’ve shown we can do it. This is a big, big opportunity. You’re looking at the 44 million in Nigeria who access the Internet via mobile so it will be an insanely huge opportunity.”

    Both companies work out of the Lagos incubator CC Hub which is offering the Nokia/CCHub Growth Academy aimed at accelerating top Nigerian mobile software companies in growing their companies on regional and international levels.

    The academy program is the first of its kind business accelerator programme in Africa dedicated to providing intensive continuous hands-on support to help approximately thirty (30) early stage mobile technology start-ups grow into high growth businesses and build world class mobile applications for the Nokia platform regionally and globally.

    The first programme of the Growth Academy started on May 10th and will run till end of July 2012, featuring ten (10) companies, which are expected at the end of the three months to have a world class mobile app launch on the Nokia platform with full marketing support by Nokia. They will also have access to funding to scale their business through an investor presentation as the end.

    The program comes in three parts; Training, Development and Launch of world class mobile apps for Nokia platform. Selected participants will undergo hands-on, structured and technical training to actualize your ideas.  Futurice, a leading global mobile software house from Finland with expertise in mobile application development and user driven design will have several face to face sessions with the participants in Nigeria and also provide constant online support and mentoring to the participants during the Growth Academy.

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

    A bumper crop of video clips this week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    NyashaMutsekwa, CEO, Metvafrica.com on its Pan-African VOD service

    Alan Knott-Craig Jr, CEO, MXit on his African expansion plans

    Mark Kaigwa, Afrinnovator talking about monetization of mobile content at OIAS

    EyalCoppitt, SVP Sales MEA, Amos Spascecom on the launch of the Amos 5 satellite


    Shawkat Ahmed, COO, Yahsat talks about its new low cost satellite broadband product


    Jonah Fink, SVP, net2phone on the potential for VoIP in Africa


    Angus Hay, Chair of WACS on the impact of this new, international cable

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Sean Krepp, Uganda Country Director, Apps Lab
    on raising farmers income using community knowledge workers with smartphones

    Kobus Roux, CSIR Meraka Institute on getting rural schools connected using local micro-entrepreneurs and Wi-Fi mesh technology

telecoms

  • Most rural Kenyans do not own mobile phones, and women are less likely to own phones than men, a new study has revealed.

    The study was carried out by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard School of Public Health, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), and the University of Oxford.

    They used data captured during a 2009 national survey conducted by Financial Sector Deepening Kenya, a financial services support programme in Nairobi. More than 30,000 people aged over 16 - from nearly 650 communities across the country - took part in the survey.

    Participants were asked about their mobile phone usage, ownership and monthly airtime expenditure, and questions relating to their demographic background.

    The study, published in PloS One (25 April), found that levels of mobile phone usage and ownership across the country varied greatly.

    However Abdisalan Noor, one of the paper's authors who is based at KEMRI, told SciDev.Net that low ownership levels did not necessarily reflect low usage, as many subscribers reported sharing a single handset.

    "[We] found that although only 44 per cent of individuals owned a mobile phone, 85 per cent reported [having used] a mobile phone, with results showing high levels of phone-sharing," Noor said.

    "Many people in Kenya own sim cards but don't have handsets, so they share handsets with [each other]."

    Low levels of handset ownership stemmed from a range of factors, including poverty, education, urbanisation and gender, Noor added.

    Despite varied levels of ownership, the study found a strong appetite for mobile phone use in Kenya.

    Amy Wesolowski, another author on the paper, said that improvements to national coverage should be geared towards rural Kenya, to help reduce geographical differences in mobile phone ownership.

    The authors were particularly interested in mobile technology's potential to relay health messages to health workers and the general population, she added.

    Leonida Mutuku, a researcher at iHub Research in Nairobi, said the findings would be especially useful to designers of mobile phone applications.

    However, Mutuku also warned that data from the 2009 survey could already be out of date, because mobile phone ownership levels in Kenya was constantly changing.

  • Telecom operator Flashcom Limited risks losing its licence because of illegal connection of international voice traffic through Safaricom’s network and failure to pay annual operation fees.

    In a letter dated May 16, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has given Flashcom Ltd 45 days to clear its annual licence fees arrears of Sh67 million, a penalty of Sh2 million and submit its quarterly returns. CCK has also suspended the company’s connection agreement with Safaricom.

    Flashcom is also accused of operating a faulty billing system that overcharged its subscribers who mainly access its services for fixed calls and data products.      

    “You are further directed to remedy all the above conservations within 45 days of the date hereof, failure to which further enforcement measures will be taken against, including but not limited to licence revocation,” said Francis Wangusi, the acting CCK director general. “The commission hereby suspends the interconnection agreement between yourself and Safaricom Ltd until and unless remedial action is taken as herein before directed.”

    Flashcom’s trouble with the regulator began early in January, following a sudden increase in volume traffic on its network, which Flashcom attributed the surge to signing of a new client Encom Solutions, but which later CCK found out to be terminating international traffic, which was against the licensing condition. CCK says it has been forced to take the tough measures against the firm after it refused to comply with its earlier warning.

    “The commission notified you of the foregoing contravention and directed that you remedy the same. However, in a blatant disregard of the said notice, you persist in the contraventions.”

    CCK’s action could be the last blow to the only local loop operator (LLO) that has remained in operation after the other Popote Wireless closed shop due to new regulatory framework and stiff competition from mobile firms.

    While CCK had licensed a total of 24 local loop operators by 2007, only the two firms managed to rollout their services. The local loop operators were issued with licences to increase access to fixed lines, popularly known as landlines and expand last mile access for the internet access.   The conditions, however, limited their on-net traffic to a geographical area.

  • Samsung are looking to Africa to enhance its influence further afield. The latest Samsung Galaxy SIII smartphone was launched in Johannesburg on Friday but this is set to be just the opening gambit as part of a general charge on developing markets.

    50,000 handsets were pre-ordered within South Africa, prior to the launch, indicating a general change in consumer trends among the middle classes across the continent.

    Samsung is now looking to use this as the starting point for a complete assault on the market, aiming for specific growth in Africa, to go alongside expansion in similar global regions too.

    The cost of some of its devices was thought to be a potential issue, but Samsung has declared its intentions to offer a varied enough range of products to suit all sectors of industries and the public.

    At present, 65 percent of the South African smartphone market is dominated by BlackBerry, due to the BlackBerry Internet Service, but Samsung expects the African market to slowly conform to global trends that it is currently experiencing. The Korean company recently overtook Nokia as the largest manufacturer of mobile phones around the world, with its market share rising to 25.4 percent.

    Craig Fleischer, Head of Mobile Communications at Samsung South Africa is optimistic for the future of the company in the developing country: "South Africa and the African continent is a massive focus for Samsung - not only from a mobile phone perspective, but also from a holistic perspective.

    "We have strong confidence from our partners in South Africa, and it will be very interesting to see how the sales look. We predict significant growth for this product.

    "We have our Build for Africa programme where specific devices and units, not only on the mobile device front, but across the range, have been specifically built for Africa for Africans."
    Samsung produces a range of consumer devices and Fleisher said that success in Africa could lead to further penetration into Africa.

    "The South African market is a unique market. We are the stepping stone into Africa and it's a very important market for Samsung and we have invested significantly here."

internet

  • The Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) fibre optic will land in Sierra Leone in October and become operational at that time, The Freetown Concord Times reported.

    Project Coordinator of the West Africa Regional Communication Programme (WARCIP) in Sierra Leone Julius Kamara said the government succeeded in securing funding from the World Bank to ensure that the project would finish at the scheduled time. The cable connecting 22 other countries in Africa and Europe is expected to bring down telecom costs, promoting better communication among Sierra Leoneans and businesses.

  • The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has named award winning American actress Geena Davis, as the body's special envoy for women and girls in the field of technology.

    The post is linked to a new ITU campaign highlighting the empowering role technology can play in the lives of women and girls.

    One of Davis' first activities in her new role as special envoy will be to promote ITU's new 'Tech Needs Girls' campaign throughout the course of 2012, through public appearances at high-profile events held by ITU and others.

    "I'm thrilled with this new position because ITU is an incredible organisation that wields a lot of clout globally," she is quoted in a statement sent to The New Times yesterday.

    "This role will enable me to take the work I'm doing to a much bigger scale globally, through developing and consulting on strategies to advance gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women in ICTs.

    She said that it's incredibly important to get more women and girls connected to technology, and a big factor in making this happen is going to be ITU's work.

    The Hollywood celebrity and rights activist, this year scooped the 2012 ITU World Telecommunication and Information Society Award in recognition for leadership and dedication towards promoting ICTs as a means of empowering women and girls.

    Earlier this year, ITU launched a new multilingual web portal focused on helping girls and women access training, job opportunities and career information in the fast-growing ICT sector.

    The Girls in ICT portal hosts over 400 programmes, including over 100 scholarship programmes and an equal number of contests and awards, some 60 training and internship opportunities, over 100 online networks offering career support and mentoring, as well as tech camps and other activities.

  • VC4Africa is pleased to announce new tools that make private investment easy, secure and social. This is a first for the African space and is part of our constant drive to bring the continent’s best ideas closer to the vital resources they need to grow.

    This new functionality allows entrepreneurs to register their funding needs. These intentions to raise a round of funding are screened by the team at VC4Africa before they are published for investors, registered as part of the VC4Africa investor network, to review. Interested investors can follow the venture and get regular updates on their progress. They are able to engage the entrepreneur with questions, review secure documents and discuss the terms. At any stage they can express their interest to support the entrepreneur and step forward as a lead investor. If the venture requires addition funding, they can enter a fundraising mode for 90 days needed to attract additional support. This is the next step in VC4Africa’s efforts to help close the startup funding gap, bringing quality entrepreneurs and qualified investors closer together.

    This new functionality builds on a pilot in which VC4Africa successfully connected 3 out of 5 participating companies. One deal has since closed and another two are in final stages. Saskia Reus-Makkink, Head of Investor Relations at VC4Africa, explains, “We are stepping up our efforts to connect entrepreneurs with the resources they need to realize their potential. With this launch, we make it even easier for entrepreneurs to connect with possible partners.” Saskia expands, “We screen all of the business plans and related documentation of the ventures that apply for fundraising. If they meet our quality standards the venture is made visible for the investors registered as part of the VC4Africa investor network.  If the entrepreneur does not meet the quality criteria, we identify areas they can work on. They are free to make use of our growing number of tools and and can apply to the VC4Africa mentorship program. These are resources the entrepreneur is free to tap into as they get themselves to the next level.”

    For investors to give VC4Africa listed entrepreneurs a serious look, the venture has to be well beyond idea stage. The documentation has to be top level and social traction within the community counts. Entrepreneurs have already raised more than a USD $1 million in funding and joint ventures and investments have been secured by members in countries as diverse as Cameroon, South Africa, the United States, Kenya, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Somalia and Zambia.

    As a community, we hope these new tools get us one step closer to our mission. With a user friendly platform and cutting edge tools,  we seek to empower our members in ways that make it easier and easier for us to unlock the resources available across the member base.

  • MTN Ghana, has introduced a product dubbed 0.Facebook.com, to enable its subscribers link up on its Facebook page at no cost.

    Speaking at the launch of 0.Facebook.com in Accra on Monday, which was also carried live on Joy FM, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Rahul De, said this was the first online and radio launch of any product in the telecoms industry.

    According to him, "MTN Ghana, with its fastest internet, widest coverage, and with the biggest community as a market leader with over 10.5 million subscribers on its network, finds it exciting to give its customers the opportunity to link up with friends at no cost on Facebook."

    He further stated that 0.Facebook.com would be the strongest driver for mobile internet access, and assured the general public that the company had the capacity in place to ensure that subscribers experience the fastest connectivity provided by MTN.

    To achieve this, he pointed out that three high capacity switch and data centers had been built in Accra and Kumasi by MTN to support the provision of high speed internet access to subscribers.

    He, therefore, noted: "We in MTN Ghana are happy to join other countries on 0.Facebook.com, and to give our subscribers that unique experience of accessing Facebook for free."

    Additionally, he expressed the hope that this would add to the revolution in the media landscape that has brought about a change in the way people access information, and help to change the lives of many people.

  • Coverage of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics will be screened live on YouTube in Africa, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has confirmed.

    In total the service will available in 64 countries, not only across Africa, but in Asia too, in Nigeria and Kenya, among others. 

    There will be 11 different channels all together, which will all be HD and will be free for people to access.

    Overall there will be 2,200 hours of sport available to watch, of a variety of different events, including the medal ceremonies for all 32 sporting events.

    It is thought the arrangement will be worth billions of dollars, although YouTube has declined to comment on the details financial agreement.

    However, estimations have been based on similar situations in the past.

    For example, it reportedly cost American Broadcaster, NBC, $2 billion for the rights to both the Winter Olympics in 2010 and this year’s Games.

    Live screening major is just one of the things YouTube has introduced to enable it to become the world’s most popular video site.

    The first event it screened live was the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in April 2011.

    Webcasts of other sporting events, such as India's Premiere League cricket matches and the cup sailing contest in America, have also been available on YouTube.

computing

  • Ethiopian and Norwegian researchers have developed a mathematical model that can identify conditions that increase the likelihood of a malaria outbreak up to two months ahead of its occurrence.

    The computer model, Open Malaria Warning (OMaWa), incorporates hydrological, meteorological, mosquito-breeding and land-use data to determine when and where outbreaks are likely to occur.

    Torleif Markussen Lunde, one of the model's developers and a researcher at Norway's University of Bergen, told SciDev.Net that the model made direct use of the limited real-time information available in typical rural areas.

    "The model also reproduces observed mosquito species composition in Africa. It is the first time this has been done with a biophysical model. We are now looking at which areas in Africa the model can be applied," he said.

    Lunde said that past attempts at predicting malaria epidemics have had limited success because "some models [were] oversimplifications of the reality, and might have led to problematically high or low sensitivity to changes in the environment".

    Predictions made by the model compared favourably with observations from field trials and health clinics, the researchers said.

    However the model needs to be tested during a significant malaria outbreak, and its outputs compared with case studies and field observations, according to Bernt Lindtjørn, professor of international health at the University of Bergen and a co-author of the paper.

    "It is [also] specific to African mosquitoes and may require modification before being applied outside Africa," he added.

    "Our model is not only a tool for predicting malaria, but can also be used to understand the dynamics of malaria transmission," he added, noting that the tool could be used to better understand the effects on a malaria outbreak of interventions such as residual spraying and bednet use.

    Daniel Argaw, of the World Health Organisation in Ethiopia, said that "the development of a model that can predict malaria outbreaks will have a significant role in combating malaria," adding that no other models have been developed for this purpose. The research was published in Forecasting Malaria in April.

  • There would be no Silicon Valley if it was not because of the garages and Stanford University's dorms from where computer wizards developed today's most influential web based companies.

    With Rwandans' case it is different; the Computer Wizards do not have to meet in garages, there is a special high tech laboratory that has been set up for them in the Telecom house.

    The high tech lab dubbed kLab is located 5th floor of the Kaciru Telecom house. Fabulously decorated with the fastest Internet speeds available in the country being offered by BSC and cloud sourcing facilities, the kLab opened its doors as a beta release late this May 2012.

    kLab is a project created by Rwanda Development Board, JICA and Carnegie Mellon University.

    Nicolas Pottier, an enthusiast programmer at Nyaruka and active member of kLab writes "This is a Beta release, some things aren't quite done yet, some edges are still a bit rough, but we are pretty sure you'll still find it pretty awesome. Thanks to BSC we have some fast internet, and thanks to RDB we have some incredible space for you to work in."

    kLab being a community workspace, all of its services are offered free of charge and recruitment of its members is on a two basis system.

    There are tenants and mentors types of kLab members, with the currently registered number of tenants at 10; the management of kLab has scheduled to recruit more tenants before 6th June 2012.

    Walking into the fantastically decorated kLab, you get to see coders vigorously scrambling their keyboards or projecting power point presentations or discussing solutions to computer programs.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, last week announced an equity investment of $35 million in the Convergence Partners Communications Infrastructure Fund to support more rapid development of information and communications technologies across Africa. The fund is expected to play an important development role in Africa, where ICT infrastructure bottlenecks impede the growth of business and companies lack access to finance, especially risk capital and related expertise from investors that can help businesses succeed.

     The investment focus of the fund will be to address the lack of enabling infrastructure that provides quality, affordable communications services, especially broadband, across Africa. The fund aims to develop and invest in new wholesale, open access networks and related services. The fund will capitalize on the potential for communication technology platforms to deliver critical services such as banking, healthcare, education and government programs that contribute to improved living standards.

    The fund will be managed Convergence Partners Management (Proprietary) Limited, a project development and investment advisory firm with an established track record of developing projects and providing growth capital as well as expertise to investee companies in the first Convergence Partners investment portfolio.

    Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Convergence Partners said, “There is an exciting opportunity to accelerate the development of Africa through increased investment in critical infrastructure, specifically ICTs. We are proud to be working together with the IFC in our new fund to deploy critical capital and expertise into this sector to the benefit of the Continent”.

     Saleem Karimjee, IFC Senior Country Manager for Southern Africa, said, “The Convergence Partners Communications Infrastructure Fund will further spur Africa’s development. Access to communications helps improve economic competitiveness, facilitates efficient government services, increases the productivity of private businesses, and enhances living standards.”

     The fund eventually aims to grow to $500 million. The first closing of the Fund, which is scheduled for later in 2012, will also involve other investors, including local and international development finance institutions and banks.

  • South African telco Telkom has reported operating revenues of ZAR33.08 billion (USD3.92 billion) for the twelve months ended 31 March 2012, down 0.7% compared to the company’s full year revenues one year earlier. Telkom notes that its reporting segments consist of two separately managed business units; the ‘Fixed line’ segment provides fixed line access and data communications services, whilst the ‘Mobile’ segment accounts for mobile voice, data services and handsets sales through its ‘8ta’ unit. ‘Fixed line’ revenues decreased 2.8% year-on-year to ZAR30.64 billion year-on-year and ‘Mobile’ sales increased 1381.5% to ZAR1.2 billion as the service gained traction. Telkom’s results include a ZAR896 million loss relating to the disposal of ill-fated Nigerian venture Multi-Links, as well as an impairment charge of ZAR569 million, relating to iWayAfrica goodwill and assets.

    In operational terms, fixed line telephony customers grew 4.6% to 819,019 as at 31 March, whilst Telkom’s ADSL broadband subscriber base increased 10.0% to 827,091. In addition, the operator reported 3,381 WiMAX subscribers, a 5.7% rise y-o-y. Meanwhile, Telkom’s mobile unit 8ta – which launched in October 2010 – has signed up 3.053 million subscribers since its launch, a 154.5% rise on an annualised basis. However, the number of ‘active’ subscribers at 31 March was less than half of that figure, 1.483 million (albeit up 213.2% y-o-y). TeleGeography notes that the latter figure refers to customers who have used an 8ta SIM card during the previous 90 days; three months is standard practice.

    Telkom South Africa CEO Nombulelo Moholi commented: ‘Telkom faces many challenges at the moment but we will advance calmly, determined and focused on delivering on the promise of our business and strategy going forward. Group financial results for the year under review reflects our challenges but we took a number of significant steps towards securing a successful future for Telkom and we began casting the foundation that will allow the Group to compete well and build value in the future. It was a year of clean-up and consolidation across the Telkom Group. Our strategy going forward is clear and focused.’

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - The Internet Service Providers' Association of SA (ISPA) has welcomed Cell C's reduced and transparent pricing plans as clear indications of how competition benefits South African consumers while simultaneously calling on all mobile operators to take further pro-competitive steps and provide a wholesale APN product. "Cell C's actions in effecting significant voice call reductions across both prepaid and contract subscribers and, in particular, the shift to an easily-understood pricing structure can only be described as innovative given the history of the mobile services sector in South Africa," said Jaap Scholten, co-chair of ISPA. Cell C has decided to compete on price and honesty as opposed to marketing.

Digital Content

  • Village leaders in the Kolda region, assisted by the Sonatel Foundation and the NGO Aide et Action, are to promote a new initiative aimed at helping parents to register births of their children to using the phone.

    In the Kolda region, some 7,500 children, old enough to go to school, are not reported to the registry, according to the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF).

    This project is in a test phase, according to its promoters, who have developed an innovation of birth registration through the mobile phone with village leaders. The village leaders are responsible for sending the statements recorded in civil registration services.

    This initiative is beginning to bear fruit. '' The project is welcomed by the people here. Birth registrations by phone arouse enthusiasm among people. Householders adhere, which eventually result in the end for late reporting. [...]'', Testifies Kandé Yaya, an assistant village chief Dioulacolon.

    '' In four statements a year of birth, a few years ago, we ended up with 20 returns for only a month,'' he adds.

    Software is used to store data (birth registration), according to proponents. They explain that the phone, available to each village chief, is attached to its center of vital statistics, which are transferred to the data collected, says Testifies Kandé Yaya, an assistant village chief Dioulacolon.

  • The GSMA has launched the Mobile and Development Intelligence (MDI) project in conjunction with Omidyar Network the philanthropic investment firm established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Through an open access portal, MDI will offer data and analysis to support business decision-making and clarify the evidence of the socio-economic impact of the mobile industry in the developing world. MDI will provide any user with over 70 metrics and the ability to tabulate, graph, map and export the datasets with country-level dashboards available for more than 140 developing world countries. MDI will continually add new datasets throughout the project and users can add data and content to the portal.

    “The GSMA believes that open access to high-quality data will improve business decision-making, increase total investment from both the commercial mobile industry and the development sector, and amplify economic, environmental and social impact,” said Chris Locke, Managing Director, GSMA Development Fund. “The GSMA is uniquely positioned to aggregate and host data and analysis on behalf of our mobile operator members and the wider industry. This open data portal will provide for the first time a complete landscape of the organisations and mobile services that are influencing and changing lives in developing populations throughout the world.”

    “Omidyar Network is proud to partner with the GSMA on the MDI portal to help foster a thriving mobile ecosystem in the developing world,” said Raj Gollamudi, director of investments, Omidyar Network. “Using the power and ubiquity of the mobile platform to empower individuals with information and opportunities to improve their lives is core to Omidyar Network’s mission. We believe the mobile industry in emerging markets needs a credible and trusted source of market data to enable greater collaboration across various sectors and drive incremental investments in the most promising opportunities. In addition to becoming the industry’s de-facto data platform, we envision MDI becoming a vibrant community hub for all players in the ecosystem.”

    A challenge facing mobile industry stakeholders in the developing world is the lack of publically available data and analysis to support their business decision making. MDI will fill this information gap and will aggregate and host publically available data from multiple sources such as the GSMA, the United Nations, the World Bank, the wider mobile industry and development organisations.

    MDI hosts a landscape of more than 800 organisation profiles; in addition, over 750 products and services have been summarised, with an initial focus on mobile money and mobile health. Users can see these organisations, products and services on a global map and search for particular types of organisations. This will allow stakeholders to identify each other, understand each other’s offerings and objectives, and form collaborations and partnerships.

    There are an estimated 6.6 billion mobile connections globally, with the developing world providing the majority of global connections growth. The industry is moving beyond basic voice to the use of mobile to deliver services in adjacent sectors such as agriculture, education, financial services and health. As the most widely adopted technology in history, mobile is uniquely positioned to drive economic, environmental and social benefit. MDI will help increase this momentum by providing a robust, data-rich, user-friendly and freely available portal that offers a new level of global visibility.

    Locke continued, “By helping to increase the level of investment and the number of products and services offered that prove to be fundamentally valuable to developing populations, MDI will have an impact on the livelihoods of millions of people in the developing world.”

  • At the recent Pivot East competition, an event in which developers pitch their mobile apps to possible investors, Uganda was represented by 4 startups. The contestants included Easy Order, Story Spaces, mPoultry and MafutaGo. With a 50% success rate, two of the four pitching teams walked away with $10.000.

    The four startups that competed:

    1) Easy Order: EasyOrder is an SMS based mobile ordering and supply chain management application developed to simplify the way customers order for goods from manufacturers and distributors.

    2) Story spaces: A digital story telling portal. Collective Mentoring Through the African Story Telling Experience. StorySpaces is a digital story telling application. create stories at your own time and on the move.

    3) mPoultry: Mpoultry is a simple technological solution that enables chicken farmers to simply monitor the conditions of the brooder via SMS. It utilizes environmental  sensors and an android device to monitor the temperature, lights and chicken feed inside the brooder. The farmer receives an SMS when his intervention is required.

    4) MafutaGo: Helps users find the nearest fuel stations with the prices and Services that best suit their needs. Recently AppsDivision the makers of MafutaGo made a merger with Code Sync, taking on three more members to make an amazing team of eight.  The team is more diversified and skillsets balanced out.

    The two winners were Easy Order, in the Business and Resource Management category, and MafutaGo, in the Utilities category. It’s nice to see Uganda do so well at a competition like this and it confirms what a lot of people in the Kampala community already know….

  • Kwami Ahiabenu, II, is a team leader of International Institute for ICT Journalism, the co-ordination organisation for African Elections Project (AEP). With over nine years of experience in management, marketing, new media, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and development, Kwami was Executive Director of AITEC Ghana and a former board member of Ghana Information Network for Knowledge Sharing (GINKS).

    He served as a key committee member for the organization of World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) African Regional Meeting 2005. He has undertaken several training sessions on new media across Africa. He is a Steve Biko and Foster Davies Fellow.

    African Elections Project was established in 2008 with the vision of enhancing the ability of journalists, citizen journalists and the news media to provide more timely and relevant elections information and knowledge while undertaking monitoring of specific and important aspects of governance.

    AEP has covered elections in Ghana, Cote d‟Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Togo, Niger and Liberia. African Elections Project uses social media tools and ICT platforms such as blogs, interactive maps, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook.

    L. Abena Annan (LA): What is your affiliation with the African Elections Project?

    Kwami Ahiabenu, II (KA): I am part of [the] founders, currently serving as a consultant to the project, providing management support and serving as the training director.

    LA: How long have you been involved with the project?

    KA: Since the birth of the project in year 2008. We started the project by launching the coverage of Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea elections. Ghana elections did take place in 2008 but Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea took place in subsequent years.

    LA: How would you describe this project for the average person to understand? What do you intend to accomplish with it?

    KA: It is an online, SMS, mobile service which provides authoritative elections information and knowledge specifically news, analysis, elections powered by ICTs and new media. The service is brought to our audience by a team of dedicated journalists supported by civil society actors and citizen journalists

    LA: What countries have you worked in? Do you intend to go to other countries as your website states only 10?

    KA: We have worked in 11 countries to date, namely Botswana, Namibia, Ghana, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Mozambique, Malawi, Togo, Liberia and Niger working across English, French and Portuguese speaking countries. We currently cover each election happening on the continent on our homepage with Ghana elections 2012 being the current country we are covering. In addition to elections coverage, we have done some work in post-elections focusing on transparency and accountability issues and currently in partnership with Africatti we are monitoring health and education issues in two districts of Ghana under “Enabling Governance and Economic Transparency in Ghana using new media Project,” with plans to roll out to other African countries in the near future.

    LA: How can people effectively use your website or information provided on it?

    KA: Our audiences come to our website because of the high quality content which we generate and they consider it useful for themselves, so we can only improve our services by ensuring we constantly provide timely and relevant content to our audience base.

    LA: Do you believe new technologies have improved democracy in Africa? Why?

    KA: Democracy is a long journey, in this direction new technologies are assuming important roles in ensuring our people benefit from the fruits of democracy. That said, the journey is a long one; though we are recording some improvements we still have a long way to go to ensure that Africa as a whole nurtures its democracy.

    LA: How empowering would you say technology has become to citizens of Africa?

    KA: Technology can only play a role when the fundamentals are in place. If there is no true freedom of speech or free press, technology role becomes limited, though one may argue that technology can contribute to empowerment but it is important to stress the fact that technology plays a facilitating role and it works best when empowering environments are in place and protected to ensure technology’s role strive.

    LA: What do you think the effect of technology on democracy will be 10 years from now?

    KA: Technology roles cannot be discussed in isolation. Rapid growth of the tenets of democracy on the continent is a sure guarantee that technology impact on democracy is going to grow and become very important each passing day.

    LA: What are your biggest challenges as an organization?

    KA: We like to deploy cutting edge technologies in our coverage, but the high cost of ICT tools coupled by expensive bandwidth are always a challenge. Also user content generation is picking albeit slowly and our work will be made more interesting if the grandmother in the village can also contribute to our project.

    LA: Any successes so far?

    KA: The project has contributed significantly to building the capacity of journalists and citizen journalists in covering elections using new technologies, more importantly providing them with skills set they need to cover elections impartially thereby contributing to better elections which is a cornerstone of any democracy. One key achievement worthy of mention is the successful pilot of Ghana Post elections Project (”Because Accountability Counts”), where we contribute to the promotion of the culture of political accountability by providing a mechanism for citizens to match campaign promises and manifesto versus action and inaction of the ruling government.

    The project incorporates citizen journalism mostly driven by mobile phones and has so far covered elections in 11 African countries namely Botswana, Cote d'lvoire, Ghana, Niger, Togo, Guinea, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Liberia and Namibia. This is one of key result area.

    The project has also contributed local content from an African prospective for the global market, thus, presenting the African story using African voices.

    We have also contributed to the body of knowledge in African elections and democracy through our country specific countries and recently we contributed “A JOURNEY THROUGH 10 COUNTRIES - Online election coverage in Africa” article in the Journal of Journalism Practice.

    At its innovation fair, “Moving beyond Conflict”, Cape Town, South Africa 2010, the World Bank ranked African Elections Projects as innovative in the area of improving governance and accountability through communication technologies.

More

  • Ayo Alli resigns as Business Development & Sales Director for Eskimi in Nigeria, effective from 1st June 2012. “It is with some regret that I’m leaving Eskimi effective immediately. It is an interesting site, and I have learnt a lot in the 6 months I worked with them. While I’m sure they’ll get where they’re headed, I don’t feel I can continue my association with Eskimi. My next project will put my energy, skills and experience into developing capacity, skills and jobs in the Nigerian tech space. While I am always open and happy to work with anyone adding value to Nigeria’s tech industry, wider economy and general development – opening up the Nigerian market to foreign companies isn’t really a priority.”

  • The 2012 Google Apps Developer Challenge is Here!

    In the past year, the Google team has been engaging with local developers by running various Google conferences and Google+ Hackathons, showcasing creative applications, and supporting Tech Hubs. Since we are always looking for opportunities to encourage (and challenge!) you, we are looking forward to giving developers the opportunity to take on this year’s challenge, which will focus on Google Apps Script, Google Apps and Google Drive APIs.

    With the Google Apps Developer Challenge, we hope developers across the globe will find new and innovative ways to use Apps Script, Apps and Drive APIs to build cool apps. This challenge is particularly unique as the APIs are available to a large community of developers who code in a variety of languages that include Java, PHP, Python, and .Net.

    We will be working in collaboration with our Google Developer Groups (also known as GTUGs) andGoogle Business Groups to organize events and prepare for this challenge. Make sure to join your local community so that you are aware of meet ups.

    How familiar are you with the various Google Apps and Drive APIs? If you aren’t familiar, make sure to read up about Google Apps Script, Google Apps and Drive APIs on Google Developers. Use theChrome Web Store as a source of inspiration. Create an innovative application using Google Apps Script, Google Apps, and Drive APIs. If your application is the best within one of the three categories defined below in your region, you could win a prize of $20,000 dollars! Google is also committed to nurturing the next generation of computer scientists as well as encouraging more women to get into coding, so we have special prizes for all-student or all-female teams that make the second round — $1,000 dollars.

    Fans Connect Online, one of the winners of last year’s Android Developer Challenge

    The first round of submissions will start on the 24th of August 2012. The categories are
    Enterprise / Small Business Solutions e.g., Accounting, Sales, Workflow, Collaboration
    Social / Personal Productivity / Games / Fun
    Education / Not for Profit / Water / Food & Hunger / Health

    Make sure you read all the details about the competition on the Google Apps Developer Challenge page and follow the hashtag #gappschallenge on Google+ for any additional updates.

Issue no 608 8th June 2012

node ref id: 25087

Top story

  • There’s a mismatch happening out there in African markets. Users have demonstrated that they want streaming video services and they want them now. However, the majority of operators do not have the networks required to deliver these services. New entrants are coming to market and the pressure to deliver streaming effectively can only intensify. Russell Southwood talks to Nyasha Mutsekwa, CEO, MeTVAfrica.com about how things are shaping up.

    The table below shows the position of You Tube in the Alexa web site rankings:

    Cameroon        5th
    Cote d’Ivoire    4th
    Ghana             5th
    Kenya             5th
    Madagascar     6th
    Nigeria            5th
    Senegal          4th
    South Africa    4th
    Sudan            3rd
    Uganda          5th

    These rankings are in spite of the poor bandwidth availability in many countries. Ookla Net Index reported a 5.3 mbps average speed for Ghana in March of this year. The Index listed Ghana Telecom (6.13 Mbps), Zipnet/Broadband Home Ltd (2.02 Mbps) and Scancom Limited (1.51 Mbps) as the major Internet service providers (ISPs) in the country. However, those familiar with trying to stream video there will be sceptical of these claims. The reality – even in places like Kenya where the bandwidth has massively improved – is that video streaming is something that still involves a lot of buffering. 3G and 3G+ was such a relief after things like EDGE that it seemed like the answer. But proper streaming on 3G or 3G+ crashes very quickly with any volume of users.

    There are probably four places where African VOD sites will succeed: the diaspora; Nigeria; East Africa and South Africa. Nollywood Love has successfully parked its tent on the Nigerian diaspora space but MeTVAfrica.com is looking for a pan-continental audience from the more bandwidth-friendly South Africa.

    VOD operator MeTVAfrica.com has been in existence for little over a year: its alpha launch was in December 2011, followed by its beta launch in April 2011. It is currently offering free content but is looking to also include premium content in 6-12 months time.

    There is still the issue of bandwidth as for all but the most premium users in South Africa, streaming over a broadband connection is not easy over any length of time. There is still no-one in South Africa who is planning to offer Fibre to the Cabinet or Fibre to the home despite the fact that there are probably around 2 million households that could afford to pay for it.

    As a start-up, MeTVAfrica.com went the easy route to start with and used Akamai in the USA but it has plans to set up a local server in South Africa. It is owned by WASP provider iBurst and plans to put the server in its core so that iBurst subscribers and those peering with iBurst should get a low latency service.

    The current reality is that the majority of people tend to watch for 15 minutes:”Keeping users attention for more than 15 minutes is hard. We’ve started saying to content makers, keep it to 15 minutes.” However, it’s clear that buffering plays its part in keeping people’s attention span short.

    According to Mutsekwa:”We want to get people used to watching things on their computers. There’s a lot of pirate sites out there but we want them to do it legally. All the content we stream has either been paid for or we have a revenue share with the content owners. We give them another way to monetise their content and get it seen, which is very important to them”

    Whilst Nollywood Love’s primary focus is the Nigerian diaspora, MeTVAfrica.com is focused on Africa:”We do stream to users in the UK and USA but we are focused on a continental audience.”

    So how is the service promoted?”It’s frustrating because we are not funded and can’t spend huge amounts on marketing. So it’s largely through social media.” Currently it is doing 10,000 views per month and Mutsekwa believes that with the right content it could easily be hundreds of thousands or millions of views. This increase in user volume will increase the requirement for bandwidth considerably.

    ”Currently it’s mainly indie content, that is content not previously shown on TV. But users want to see what they’ve already seen. In the context of South Africa that would be Generations from 10 years ago and in the Zimbabwean context, it would be Mukadota.” So he’s looking to get “long tail” archive material for shows or films that were successful in local markets.

    The business model is advertising with ads played in the stream at the front and back end of the clip. To be successful with this approach, he will need to hit the hundreds of thousands of views to attract advertisers:”We don’t want to put a pay gateway on the site as we think this will discourage high levels of usage.”

    60-80% of current users come from South Africa and the next biggest country is Kenya, followed by Nigeria. MeTVAfrica.com has got Nollywood content but has taken the view that others are doing that well and is focused on content from other African countries, with a specific focus on East Africa, Zimbabwe and South Africa:”You succeed where you start. If you can succeed in South Africa, it will grow into the rest of the continent.”

    It has had three big hits in content terms: a reality show on SABC with Jozi hip-hop group Ghetto Rough; Isicoco; and Rocket in Flight. The Getto Rough reality show that travels across Africa airs on SABC on Tuesdays and appears on MeTVAfrica.com as a catch-up programme thereafter. Rocket in Flight is produced by digital agency Half Loaf with an actor from the UK called Humanoid. Isicoco is a short series of one minute animations about a comical Zulu Warrior who is also a superhero:”Animation and comedy are really developing on the continent. Rocket in Flight is not a show about “us” (Africans) but just something that entertains.”

    The attitude of content makers is also beginning to change:”Last year it was hard to get people to talk to us. They had no structure for it. One year later we’re still here and there are now structures in place and people are talking to us.”

    The dilemma for telecoms operators is that users want more bandwidth for services like video streaming but these are over-the-top services where the operators’ main contribution is selling the bandwidth to make them work. Operators’ current business models are based on selling low cost, low use packages for e-mail and web browsing. Soon they will have to re-engineer these models to deliver data both at home and on the move for heavy users as a matter of course.

    Related

    New market report: VoD and Africa - A review of existing VoD services, drivers, challenges and opportunities (Dec. 2013)


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

    A bumper crop of video clips this week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    NyashaMutsekwa, CEO, Metvafrica.com on its Pan-African VOD service

    Alan Knott-Craig Jr, CEO, MXit on his African expansion plans

    Mark Kaigwa, Afrinnovator talking about monetization of mobile content at OIAS

    EyalCoppitt, SVP Sales MEA, Amos Spascecom on the launch of the Amos 5 satellite


    Shawkat Ahmed, COO, Yahsat talks about its new low cost satellite broadband product


    Jonah Fink, SVP, net2phone on the potential for VoIP in Africa


    Angus Hay, Chair of WACS on the impact of this new, international cable


    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Two experts discuss the challenges of mobile operators as brands:

    Laine Barnard, Founder, 8Brand
    - Mobile outlets as "giant waiting rooms" for selling airtime

    Sammy Thuo, Director, Saracen Media on differentiating African mobile brands

telecoms

  • RascomStar-QAF, the pan-African satellite operator, will deliver mobile coverage and fixed telephony access for IPX Extenso in remote and rural areas of the Republic of Congo through a unique collaboration with ViaSat and ip.access.

    RascomStar-QAF offers end-to-end remote and rural solutions including phone boxes, remote base stations and its own VSAT terminals – all connected to the operator’s core network by satellite backhaul. These innovative solutions, which have been developed in partnership with ViaSat and ip.access, allow operators to minimize not only the initial investment but also to reduce recurring costs.

    To deliver the service, ip.access small cells will be deployed in around 50 sites throughout the country with one gateway in the capital. Installation and the first pilot service will begin this summer with plans to widen the deployment in 2013 and include at least ten more countries in the central African region.

    The service will use ip.access small cells and gateway technology to deliver mobile coverage and services directly into the heart of the remote communities. Simon Brown, CEO of ip.access said the company was proud to be associated with the project and praised the work of the development team involved.

    “Working closely with our partners we have helped to create an end to end system by using our expertise in small cell deployments to bring voice and Internet access to previously unconnected parts of the world at a price-point they can afford. It’s a great project to be part of and we look forward to its expansion into other African countries,” he said.

    FarajElamari, CEO of RascomStar-QAF added: “Our services were developed to provide affordable universal access telephony in rural and remote areas and have a particular role to play serving low ARPU communities. Together with our partners, we believe that we have designed a service that meets the needs of a region underserved by mobile and indeed fixed telephony.”

  • The Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) has reportedly suspended the two operating licences of MTN Liberia, trading under the Lonestar Cell brand, for two weeks in relation to its ‘unilateral disconnection’ of rival operator Comium Liberia. In a press release, the LTA said that the action had been taken for MTN Liberia’s non-compliance with the subsequent instruction of the LTA to reconnect Comium within a specific timeframe.

    However, the statement goes on to say that ‘the modalities of implementing the suspension decision are being discussed between Lonestar and the LTA as well as with other GSM networks and service providers, including the point in time when the suspension will begin and how it will be implemented in a way that will have less far-reaching impact on consumers.’ Given that MTN Liberia is by far the biggest mobile operator – it has over a million subscribers – the shutting down of its network is likely to cause severe disruption among the population – subject to what exactly the ‘modalities’ reached mean.

    However, MTN was able to get a “stay order” from a local court preventing the removal of the licence.

  • Mauritius Telecom posted a slight rise in pretax profit last year, up 4 percent to MUR 2.55 billion, on revenues of MUR 3.5 billion, Reuters reported. It posted a 4.3 percent rise in mobile revenues, while the internet segment saw revenues climb 14 percent to MUR 766 million.

    Earnings per share rose to MUR 9.77 from MUR 8.98 a year ago. France Telecom owns 40 percent in the operator, while the government and State Bank of Mauritius jointly own 59 percent, and 1 percent is owned by present and former employees.

    The company was expected to list in 2010 and raise USD 1.5 billion, according to the budget that year, but the plan was shelved after the global financial crisis. Chairman Appalsamy Thomas said, referring to the timing of an eventual bourse debut, that shareholders tend to await a favourable economic environment before launching an IPO.

  • South Africa's anti-corruption police force has started looking into allegations that MTN paid bribes to secure its Iranian mobile operating license. The company denies the claims, which were made by Turkish mobile network,Turkcell after it lost the license.

    Turkcell has also published a letter it has sent to the UK judge, Lord Hoffmann investigating the claims for MTN citing evidence that it claims proves the allegations.

    Turkcell has also alleged that MTN pressured the government to vote in favour of Iran at international forums. The government also denied the claims.

    The police investigating the allegations are the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), also known as the Hawks, South Africa's equivalent of the USA's FBI.

    MTN is also coming under pressure to explain reports that its Iranian subsidiary was able to secure computer hardware that is banned under US sanctions against the country.

internet

  • The Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation, which is the sole telecommunication service provider in Ethiopia, has deployed or begun testing Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) of all Internet traffic. We have previously analyzed the same kind of censorship in China, Iran, and Kazakhstan.

    Reports show that Tor stopped working a week ago -- even with bridges configured. Websites such as gmailfacebooktwitter,  and even tor project,  continue to work. The graphs below show the effects of this deployment of censorship based on Deep Packet Inspection:

    An analysis of data collected by a volunteer shows that they are doing some sort of TLS fingerprinting. The TLS server hello, which is sent by the Tor bridge after the TLS client hello, never reaches the client. We don't know exactly what they are fingerprinting on, but our guess is that it is either the client hello or the server hello. An illustration can be found in this network flow diagram.

    A few days ago, we published a blog post exposing the use of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to filter all Internet traffic in Ethiopia, including connections to the Tor network. We concluded that they are doing some sort of TLS fingerprinting, but had not been able to figure out exactly what they are fingerprinting on. Since then, we have managed to determine exactly how Ethiopia blocks Tor and we have developed a workaround. We will publish a full technical analysis very soon.

    The long-term solution for Tor users in Ethiopia is to use the Obfsproxy Tor Browser Bundle. The bundles are, unfortunately, not up to date at the moment, but this is something we are working on (see #5937 for details). In the meantime, try using one of the following three bridges:

    213.138.103.17:443
    107.21.149.216:443
    46.137.226.203:55440

  • The African Internet Governance Forum - AfIGF 2012 is to take place 3 - 4 October 2012, in Cairo, Egypt.

    The establishment of the African Internet Governance Forum comes within the context of the launching of four regional initiatives, including the West Africa Internet Governance Forum (WAIGF), the East Africa Internet Governance Forum (EAIGF), Forum de Gouvernance de l'Internet en AfriqueCentrale (FGI-CA), and the Southern Africa Internet Governance Forum (SAIGF).

    The African Internet Governance Forum (AfIGF) supports and strengthens the ongoing regional initiatives. It shall also reach out to continental and global stakeholders and guide in their engagement in continental, regional and national initiatives.

    AfIGF is meant to be a platform to conduct multilingual discussions about significant issues between African stakeholders related to Internet in Africa in general and Internet Governance issues in particular.

    Internet Governance space in Africa has been very active during the WSIS process with regional meetings held from 2002 to 2005 in Bamako, Accra, Addis Ababa, Cairo, Johannesburg, Douala and Tunis. Moreover, within the IGF global initiative, Africa has hosted IGF in Egypt (2009) and in Kenya (2011).

    This is why the African Internet Governance Forum comes to increase awareness and build capacity on Internet Governance for African users to ensure that all stakeholders are well prepared for contribution and interaction. It is also to ensure that the concerns of Africa are taken into account in the IGF process and to promote use of African languages in the cyberspace.

  • Telecom Namibia has launched its latest product, SpeedLink, which is a fixed broadband product with faster Internet connections and higher bandwidths for both home and business users.

    Telecom Namibia's Managing Director, FransNdoroma, said the product is a game-changer in Internet service provision for Namibian homes and businesses, adding that it will offer cheaper prices, faster speeds and unlimited downloads starting at a cost of N$349 per month.

    The new product is enabled through the official commissioning of the West Africa Cable System (WACS) in Cape Town on May 11 2012. The WACS will offer improved and faster Internet services.

    The system has 15 landing stations across Africa's west coast from Europe to Cameroon, Nigeria, Angola and Namibia among other countries, before it ends in South Africa. It will cover over 14 000 kilometers under the Atlantic Ocean.

    The WACS cables landed in Swakopmund last year. This is in line with the promise of free Internet access by the Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), Joel Kaapanda, recently. Institutions of higher learning, vocational training centres, state schools as well as health centres will enjoy free Internet access, a venture that will be launched soon by the MICT.Kaapanda at the time explained that government had spent approximately N$300 million to make the services available.

    He added that Telecom Namibia made available the telephone line infrastructure, as well as wireless technology for the implementation of the project.

    However, the most daunting challenge is the lack of electricity at all schools, as well as the lack of computer equipment, according to Kaapanda.

    Existing Telecom customers will receive upgrades to the new system at no cost, according to Ndoroma.

    Kaapanda yesterday said there is need for Namibia to adapt to broadband technology to contribute to the economic growth of the country.

    "Namibia cannot afford to lag behind," he stressed, while Ndoroma added that WACS would enhance e-medicine, e-commerce and e-learning, as well as become an instrument for achieving Vision 2030.

    "The WACS submarine fibre-optic cable has enhanced Telecom Namibia's ability to provide improved and cheaper Internet services for the benefit of our customers," he said.

    The Telecom MD added that the speeds of SpeedLink can go up to 2 mega bits per second for home use and up to 10 mega bits per second for business use.

computing

  • The threat of cybercrime has become an integral part of the daily lives of individuals, businesses and government agencies in Morocco.

    Every day, news websites and social networks report attacks against personal accounts, corporate websites and information systems of public agencies.

    The increasing number of attacks indicates that public and private information systems are mature and that information technologies are steadily spreading amongst the general public.

    In response to the surge in cybercrime and to help citizens and strategic operators tackle issues related to the security of networks and information systems, the government has created a “digital trust” strategy.

    Morocco’s new “MA-CERT” (Computer Emergency Response Team) aims to address computer security incidents, co-ordinate responses on the national level, provide analysis of vulnerabilities and restore attacked systems.

    In operational terms, this new structure of public cyber-safety targets three priority areas: the government, administration and the public sector.

    Morocco has also upgraded its legal arsenal to offer better guarantees to users of information technologies. To ensure compliance with the provisions of the new law, a National Commission for the Protection of Personal Data (CNDP) was established in 2011.

  • Zimbabwean firms are set to benefit from a new cloud computing platform, the Sage Enterprise Resource Planning X3 Cloud.

    The new Internet-based computing product, which will allow for sharing of resources, software and information, is a partnership between Chips Computing Services, which represents Sage Enterprise in Zimbabwe, and Utande Internet Services.

    The product was launched in Harare last week. In terms of the partnership, Utande Internet Services is supporting Sage with "cloud" infrastructure.

    Sage ERP X3 is an adaptable product that provides multi-site data and workflow integration. It is a single product that services a variety of its customers' needs.

    It is anticipated that the introduction of "cloud" infrastructure to the Sage ERP X3 product will help its customers realise a reduction in information technology expenditure and an increase in agility, making it possible to change the way they do things as well as improve their risk and reputation responsiveness.

    It should also help them realise growth in revenue and a reduction in cost, while at the same time making it possible to recognise any shift in customer demands.

    Speaking at the launch, Utande Internet Services cloud computing General Manager Mike Weeden said some of the characteristics of "cloud" include broad network access and rapid elasticity, which he said was ideal for businesses that grow rapidly, as well as resource pooling and on demand service and self-service.

    "Cloud" also addresses some of the security issues that some customers might have. It has resilience when it comes to communications," he said. Some of the modules that come with Sage ERP X3 include telesales, projects, which is ideal for those who run big complex projects such as engineers, RMS, which makes it possible to track customer information and do an analysis, enterprise asset management.

    This allows for the running of any sort of equipment that needs maintenance, as well as enterprise documents management.

    Sage has a leading presence in 19 countries and is a popular brand in Zimbabwe, where a number of listed and non-listed companies make use of its products.

    Meanwhile, although the introduction of the Utande-Sage cloud system is commendable, the challenge for the country is for the establishment of vendor neutral co-location spaces for sharing and selling cloud services. This is basically a data centre environment where cloud providers can co-locate their service offering.

    Cloud computing refers to the delivery of computing and storage capacity as a service to a heterogeneous community of end-recipients

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • MTN Group and MFS Africa today announced the launch of an online money transfer service. MTN Mobile Money customers can now receive international remittances directly on their mobile phones. The service is now live for transfers to Rwanda and Cote d’Ivoire and will be rolled out across other MTN Mobile Money markets, including Benin, Cameroon and Ghana later this year.

    Senders can register on the website  from anywhere in the world and remit funds by simply entering a beneficiary’s mobile phone number. Funds are delivered immediately to the beneficiary’s MTN Mobile Money account at attractive price levels.

    While Mobile Money customers today can already send and receive domestic remittances, the MTNMMO.COM service opens up MTN Mobile Money to receive international remittances through a fully integrated and secure platform.

    The MTNMMO.COM service marks an important step in MTN’s ongoing partnership with MFS Africa to introduce simple and relevant financial services.

    “Introducing MTNMMO.COM together with MFS Africa is a logical step in the development of MTN Mobile Money across our networks,” says Christian de Faria, MTN Group Chief Commercial Officer.

    “We expect that just as MTN Mobile Money has changed the way people receive local remittances in each of the countries we operate, MTNMMO.COM will change the way people receive international remittances. With MFS Africa as a partner, we look forward to expanding MTNMMO.COM to other markets,” Mr. de Faria adds.

    Filip Nilsson, Vice President Money Transfer at MFS Africa says MTNMMO.COM is a clear example of how the combination of technology and innovative ideas can transform existing financial services; simplify them, make them more widely available and affordable to people.

    “Partnering with MTN to launch MTNMMO.COM provides tangible value to MTN Mobile Money customers and their families. The service also extends the benefits of mobile wallets to the African Diaspora – sending money home to their loved ones is easier than ever,” concludes Nilsson.

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo Supreme Court has suspended a planned mandatory auction of shares in the local unit of South African mobile phone provider Vodacom, the parent company said on Monday.

    The auction was planned for June 3 but was suspended pending the outcome of "certain legal proceedings", the group said in a statement, without giving further details.

    Vodacom, a unit of Britain's Vodafone Plc, said on May 21 it would fight a court ruling which said that it must pay $21 million in fees to local consultant Namemco Energy or face the sale of all its shares in the Congolese unit.

    The company was already locked in a long-standing battle over fees with its partner in the DRC, Congolese Wireless Network.

    It had been looking at options to exit the business, but that process has been halted by the suit from Namemco.

    The value of the unit is also disputed. Congolese Wireless Network chairman AlieuConteh told Reuters in 2010 that Vodacom Congo was worth more than $1.5 billion, a figure Vodacom quickly described as "ludicrous".

    Vodacom's major African operations are in South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, where it is fighting to defend market share from larger competitors such as MTN Group and India's BhartiAirtel.

    Vodacom shares in Johannesburg were up 0.48 percent at 102.15 rand at 1001 GMT compared with a 0.31 percent fall in the JSE Top-40 index of blue-chip companies.

  • South Africa based Africa Cellular Towers (AC Towers) has been placed into provisional liquidation after a major creditor sought a winding up of the company last Friday.The company, listed on the stock exchange declined to name the creditor but simply said that a liquidator will be appointed shortly.

    The company's shares were suspended on the stock exchange just prior to the winding-up order and the company has had its bank accounts frozen by the unnamed creditor.

    Two directors also resigned from the company.

    The company operates three divisions, providing power lines, cellular towers and equipment shelters.The company has been posting losses and was seeking an outside investor but had not secured the necessary investment before the winding up order was served.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • - African telecommunications operator Smile Telecom Holdings Ltd (Smile) has launched a new service in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, enabling the delivery of mobile broadband services including live video chat and TV streaming, thanks to 4G LTE technology supplied by Alcatel-Lucent.The network will be the first in Africa to provide 4G LTE service in the 800 MHz frequency band, providing businesses and consumers with super-fast, high-quality Internet access, initially in the principal commercial city and major seaport of Tanzania. Smile’s intention is to offer ubiquitous coverage as soon as possible.

    - South Africa's Cell C has cut call rates to five international destinations to 99c per minute with per second billing. The promotion runs until 31 August 2012.

Digital Content

  • Youth in northern Mali are exasperated by the politics plaguing their homeland. Since Islamist rebels and Tuaregs took over, the internet has provided a place for them to congregate, seeking solutions to the upheaval. Some pledge to fight until they die.

    Youths in a small town on the border between southern and northern Mali created a Facebook page to discuss the region's plight and through which to organize themselves. Social media seems to be the only tool they have to defend themselves, athough the page, entitled 'DouentzaGroupe', has gone offline in the last 24 hours.

    In fact, most of these youth live outside Douentza. They may study or work in southern Mali, in Equatorial Guinea or as far away as Europe, like the Facebook page's creator, IbrahimaCisse in Grenoble, France.

    Cisse was inspired by the youth demonstration in Gao, although the situation in his hometown, is different.

    "Gao is a regional capital, where there are structures," he says, also speaking to RNW by phone. "The youth are relatively well organized. There are people who remained there. Much of the population left Douentza at the beginning of the rebellion. Today, there is almost nothing left to organize a revolt."

    Clandestine organization via internet is thus useful. "The information I get on Facebook, consists of messages from a station that I cannot name, in Douentza," he says. "A young man uses the internet connection from an administrative service to send information to me. The cybercafé of a local radio in Douentza, I do not know if it still works."

  • A study of young people in Ghana, Morocco, Uganda and Maharashtra aims to encourage networks to improve education through mobile technology

    Globalisation, as defined by the rich, is a very nice thing, the former US president Jimmy Carter once reflected. "You're talking about the internet, you're talking about cell phones, you're talking about computers," said Carter. "This doesn't affect two-thirds of the people in the world."

    That was in 2001; a lot has changed. In Kenya, mobile phones have become an integral part of cash transfer schemes, enabling poor people in urban areas to buy food. In remote rural areas of Peru, computers provided by the Euro-Solar programme are fuelling an appetite for learning among children. And the senior US political adviser Alec Ross – acknowledging the galvanising influence of social media on the Arab spring – has described the internet as "the Che Guevara of the 21st century".

    If the global spread of technology can do all this, what else might it achieve? Quite a lot, according to the authors of a report prepared by the GSMA mobile industry body and published to coincide with last week's eLearning Africa conference in Cotonou, Benin.

    Shaping the future – realising the potential of informal learning through mobile, explores mobile technology's potential to improve access to education for young people in developing countries. The study looks at Ghana, Morocco, Uganda and Maharashtra, in India, identifying young people's aspirations and priorities, exploring the education and employment challenges they face, and scrutinising their mobile phone use.

    The endgame is to establish how the mobile industry and international development community can pool their expertise to create m-learning services that improve teaching and learning, and therefore promote long-term development.

    "It's a big step in the right direction in terms of putting the possibilities in front of the GSMA's members and raising awareness of the commercial and business opportunities education represents in the developing world," says John Traxler, professor of m-learning at the University of Wolverhampton in the UK. "Clearly it's a small sample, covering only four countries, so it's indicative rather than representative. But if the networks get the message, it's a valuable piece of work. Networks don't need to hear it's virtuous, they need to hear it's profitable – just enough to encourage them to get out there and do something."

    Mobile phones are increasingly ubiquitous in poor countries, which now account for four in every five connections worldwide (pdf). As Elsie Kanza, of the World Economic Forum, recently said: "Regardless of social class, almost everyone [in Africa] has a mobile phone, or two or three. Even in remote villages, mobile phones have replaced the bicycle or radio as prized assets."

    An obvious caveat is that voice-calls far outstrip data use in poor countries, which remain an emerging market for smartphones and other data-enabled devices. One reason is cost. A quarter of the young people surveyed – and almost half of those from Ghana – said a shortage of money was the biggest obstacle to accessing educational resources. Even so, the rapid spread of mobile technology offers clear possibilities for learning. Of the young people participating in the study who had accessed the internet, half had done so on a mobile device.

    Enthusiasm for learning was a common thread in the feedback. Only family and health were felt to be of greater importance by the study's participants, 30% of whom said having a good career ranked higher among their priorities than marriage or home ownership.

    Despite this aspirational outlook, however, only a quarter said the classroom was their principal source of information and education. Friends and family were identified as more important by 41%, while 43% gleaned most of their knowledge from TV programmes.

    So can m-learning help? Yes, say the report's authors, who suggest that, by using the study's findings to tap into common interests among young mobile users, the reach and impact of educational material can be increased. Many of those surveyed used their devices to access music and sports content (49% and 24% respectively across the four areas studied); by bundling learning material with, say, football updates, the GSMA researchers believe technology can make a significant difference.

    Others, however, are sceptical. Some experts say there is little demonstrable evidence of m-learning's impact, suggesting it threatens to undermine traditional teaching methods and – by leaving those without access to devices at a disadvantage – reinforce inequality.

    Traxler believes such arguments are misguided. "You don't have to pay for mobile technology, and it reaches the people you want to reach," he argues. "Computers, books, television sets and college buildings may be infinitely more respected, but people already have mobile phones – they buy them, pay for them, and carry them. So let's look at how the technology is representative of our society, and how we can use it, rather than worrying about the niceties of education."

    The report preaches a message Traxler has long championed, one he hopes will now trickle down not only to mobile networks and their commercial departments, but also to governments. "That's where the action needs to happen," he says. "We've had 10 years of relatively small-scale, short-term projects, and by their very nature I'm not sure how much they would really have told us, or how rigorous they were.

    "The case that needs to be made is about sustainability, scale, return on investment and impacting on government policies. If the GSMA can do a better job than the rest of us have done in the past 10 years, then good luck to them – and I think they probably will."

  • By the time protests began in December 2010, Nesh-Nash, now 34, was already both technologically apt and politically active. The son of a human rights activist, he had also already volunteered for the Red Crescent Morocco, worked for Microsoft in Seattle, Wash., earned a master's degree and left software to work as a protection delegate in Iraq with the International Committee for the Red Cross.

    "I had plans and ideas, and the Arab Spring brought them all together. I thought: 'This is the time to do it!'" he told me over Skype.

    Among other projects, Nesh-Nash conceived of and became part of the team that built Mamdawrinch, a just-launched site to map incidents of bribery in Morocco. Built with Transparency Maroc, the Moroccan chapter of Transparency International, the site tackles what Nesh-Nash says is an "endemic" problem in the North African country. Transparency International ranks perception of corruption in Morocco as about as bad as it is in Greece and Columbia, but slightly better than in India. ("Mamdawrinch" means "we will not bribe" in Moroccan dialect.)

    The focus, says Nesh-Nash, is on the petty corruption that has become part of everyday life in Morocco.

    "I wanted to open up the debate on the topic," says Nesh-Nash.

    Suppose people in certain parts of Morocco — such as small towns where the local administration or the mayor might be worse than average — report corruption more often than folks elsewhere.Geotagged reports should show up as clusters on a map — certainly something for locals to talk about.

    So far, the reports on Mamdawrinch document events ranging from bribes given to national ID card officers in order to receive a card to corruption in a psychiatric emergency ward. It was built by a team of four in two months thanks to funding from Transparency Maroc.

    With Facebook, Twitter and YouTube integration, and mapping through Ushahidi, the site is an evolution of previous bribery-tracking applications, like India's I Paid a Bribe. It doesn't publish names associated with incidents unless they can be verified by media reports.

    So far, the site has gathered 73 reports. The site hasn’t had any publicity yet, and since it doesn’t address current issues like parliamentary elections or the constitutional rewrite, which would naturally catch people’s attention, Transparency Moroc is banking on a media bump to grow a base of users.

    What reports that will come, if past projects are any indication, are likely to come from men, aged 18-45, who live in cities — that's the type of person who interacted most often with Marsad.ma, an election-monitoring site Nesh-Nash built for fall 2011 parliamentary elections.

    Marsad.ma offered people the ability to report what they saw during elections via SMS, but that, too, is a problematic point of entry: United Nations human development statistics peg the literacy rate in Morocco at 56 percent. Asking someone to write in with a report is problematic in a country where nearly half population cannot read or write, but may not be a deal-breaker. I Paid a Bribe has accumulated over 18,000 reports in India since its launch in August 2010, all done in a far larger country, with a slightly higher literacy rate, but with similar issues around poverty and the digital divide. Eighteen thousand reports in a country of 1.2 billion doesn't sound like a lot — but it was enough to get noticed.

    "Data is powerful and if you have enough data, no office can ignore you," says SubrahmanyamIvatury, the technological coordinator for I Paid a Bribe. The site is an initiative of the JanaagrahaCenter for Citizenship and Democracy in Bangalore. It confronts corrupt authorities with citizen reports and asks what kind of action the authorities are planning to take. It's a tedious task.

    "Working with the government to make process changes takes time," Ivatury admits.

    As a sort of grown-up sibling to the nascent Mamdawrinch site, I Paid a Bribe offers some examples for Nesh-Nash's effort. In India — which ranks slightly worse than Morocco in Transparency International's corruption report — Ivatury and team have trained 200 college students to put up posters about the site in government offices. The posters, coupled with SMS — meant to use the ubiquity of mobile phones as a bridge across the digital divide between rich and poor — could put a powerful tool in the hands of citizens. But I Paid a Bribe's text-message outreach has been underutilized, Ivatury says.

    So Nesh-Nash is looking offline for ways to build engagement too.

    "Internet alone is limited," he says. "We need to start partnering with NGOs. They are very good at collecting funds and campaigning, lobbying and having a network on the field."

    Mamdawrinch is one of several I Paid a Bribe-like sites springing up around the world, in the wake of the India-based platform's success. In Kenya, a local version (http://ipaidabribe.or.ke/) is already up and running, and as more people get in touch with I Paid a Bribe, Ivatury is compiling a qualification document to assess the seriousness and resources of potential partners.

    "There is a big need to share know how right now," Nesh-Nash says. "In Vilnius I sat down with a Bulgarian person who built a similar site (like Mamdawrinch) and exchanged ideas on how to better integrate it with Facebook."

    He is contemplating setting up a free tech-sharing site after attending a conference in Lithuania about tech-enabled tools for transparency. Among the other participants were Prijavikorupcija in Macedonia and the global Bribespot. An even more recent initiative is the Tunisian I Watch. And the global Corruptiontracker is trying to map it all.

    Does this brand of online transparency tool have a future in North Africa? Mamdawrinch has only been online since January 2012 so it's as yet unclear. But it fits Nesh-Nash's trajectory as an online activist, building tools to try, with varying success, to influence the growth and direction of his home country's reformation. Marsad.ma covered the election, but that was a last step.

    His earliest project, he told techPresident, was Juriste.ma, an online encyclopedia of law content — shades, here, of American law-liberator Carl Malamud. With a Moroccan friend who was based in Seattle, Mehdi SlaouiAndaloussi, in March 2011 he answered King Mohamed VI's Arab Spring-inspired speech — in which the king promised to redraft the constitution, rather than face the kind of uprising that was destabilizing other regimes — by building a platform to let citizens vote on individual articles of the old constitution, leave comments and suggest new laws. He stayed up all night working across an 8-hour time gap with Andaloussi by communicating via Skype.

    That site garnered 150,000 visitors and 10,000 comments; some suggestions that appeared there also appear in Morocco's new constitution. And in the run-up to elections last fall, he launched Charik.org — charik means "participate" in Arabic — for citizens to highlight the national issues closest to their heart.

    "The idea was to involve citizens in the political decision process, and to make politicians pay more attention to the popular demands," says Nesh-Nash.

    Then came Marsad, to track the elections that would put people into government, and now Mamdawrinch, to — hopefully — expose it when officials open themselves to corruption.

    "What drives me today is to use technology for more participatory democracy," Nesh-Nash says.

  • A new citizen journalism project, Eyes & Ears Nuba, plans to give voice to the people affected by the ongoing violence in southern Sudan. The project trains locals in journalism and equips them to broadcast the stories of people caught in the crossfire of a war being waged by the Sudanese government in the areas just north of the Sudan/South Sudan border.

    The project goes public at an important turning point in Sudan’s history. After much fanfare as South Sudan became its own state, conflict has raged in disputed border areas, especially Abyei, where both countries lay claim to valuable areas rich in oil.

    SAF occupied Abyei in May last year after its troops came under attack by southern forces. Later in June, Sudan and South Sudan signed an agreement stipulating the immediate withdrawal of their troops from the region, the deployment of UN Ethiopian peacekeepers and establishment of joint administrative and legislative bodies in the region.

    Eyes and Ears Nuba has trained men like Ahmed Khatir, who had a solid job before the war broke out, but was forced to flee his home by the outbreak of war. Ahmed is now a journalist posting footage for Nuba Reports.

    NGO founder, Ryan Boyette, is no hands-off organiser who issues orders from afar, nor is he a touring celebrity activist like George Clooney, who has backed another project monitoring events in Sudan. Boyette lives in the war zone with his wife, and is directly affected by the issues for which he is campaigning, as his own home has, he claims, become a military target because of his involvement with Eyes & Ears Nuba.

    From day one, the project has caught the eye of foreign correspondents in the area. It has been quietly operating in the background for several weeks to ensure that its YouTube channel was stocked with recent footage.

More

  • OluAkanmu joins Airtel as Chief Marketing Officer

    Telecommunications Services Provider Airtel Nigeria has announced the appointment of OluAkanmu as Chief Marketing Officer with effect from 1 June, 2012.

    Speaking on the appointment, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Airtel Nigeria, RajanSwaroop, said Airtel is extremely committed to empowering more Nigerian professionals to take top leadership positions in the company, saying the company is proud that more talented Nigerian professionals are targeting it as their employer of choice.

  • Developer Team   
    Reality Creating Media
    Vacancies: 3
    Location: Nairobi, Kenya
    Deadline: 31 Jul, 2012

    Shadow Election is a service for promoting democratic participation in election debates.

     It was initially trialed in Finland and is about to be soft launched in the US. We are now also preparing a Kenyan version in time for next year's elections.
    The application helps voters get a better understanding of who the candidates are and what they represent. Users rate the opinions of candidates on topical issues, and the system uses these to make candidate voting recommendations. It also allows people to cast a virtual vote – resulting in a "live" election poll. Users can then help support their preferred candidate with Facebook promotional options.
    The services is being developed by Reality Creating Media and we are now looking for a developer team to build the next version of Shadow Election and a mobile version.
    Android mobile application skills and knowledge in the following areas would be preferable:

    Hardware: Amazon EC 2 scalable

    Architecture: Linux

    Database: MySQL

    Coding language PHP

    Front end: HTML5, Javascript+Ajax, CSS3, HTML

     We are interested in coders who have enjoyed working together in the past on successful projects. We are, however, also interested in individual coders who feel they would be particularly suitable for the project.

    The company language is English and we are used to working remotely with partners already in three countries: Finland, USA and Holland.

    The product manager will mostly likely be based in Finland and we will use scrum and Lean Startup methods.

    Ideally we are looking for people who are highly motivated to help improve democracies around the world, and will bring their own thoughts to the table regarding how to make Shadow Election even better.
    Apply for this position:

    Please fill out the application form here:

Issue no 607 1st June 2012

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Top story

  • Sponsored by Nokia, infoDev and the Government of Finland, this week’s Open Innovation Africa Summit (OIAS) in Nairobi focused on how to create the ecosystem that will help develop services and applications for the mobile Internet. Russell Southwood attended and used it as an opportunity to see where things have got to since that last event 18 months ago.

    Eighteen months is a long time in Africa in terms of Internet development.Eighteen months ago was almost the point that large-scale use of Internet began to become apparent, particularly social media. Facebook numbers began to grow rapidly from that point and continue to do so. MXit numbers on the continent have also shot up outside South Africa. Venture capital companies like Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital have made significant bets on tech companies on the continent. There are now 22 tech incubator spaces on the continent engaged in the process of trying to breed successful, new companies.

    But the obstacles to the creation of a functioning mobile Internet ecosystem remain. Eighteen months ago I wrote a report after the first event that said:” Mobile operators have to decide whether they are “content guys” or not. In the medium term, it matters less what the decision is and more that they simply have clarity. In our view, mobile operators are not “content guys”: if they were, they would know something about how to develop content and not deal with it tactically through SMS aggregators as deals. There is currently no intelligent “content publishing” function in most operators’ structures. So the key issue for the success of data revenues is: how can you create a compelling, financially rewarding ecosystem to generate apps, content and services that users want more of?” Nothing has really changed.

    There were no mobile operators at this OIAS event and you rarely see them at any of the mobile web events on the continent. Their channels to receive new content are narrow (both in terms of staffing and launches) and they are holding back content and services development. So if you are a developer or entrepreneur in this space you either have to assume that you find a way to go round the mobile operators (the mobile web but it has far fewer users with handsets to access it) or that you will find a way to deal with them. As we will see later, neither approach presents easy options.

    Perhaps for this reason, this OIAS was a much more practically focused event than last time, where people grappled with this central roadblock along with wider issues like reaching the bottom-of-the-pyramid customers; getting Government to use this emerging means of communication and media; and providing finance to create new services and applications.

    Mercifully the event had less of the “build a tower with straws and plastic cups” exercises and was a very nourishing mixture of high-level plenaries with good speakers on key issues like leadership and small team-working in streams. You might not like all parts of the programme but all the right people were there and the conversations were rich and rewarding.

    The highlight for me was the leadership speakers. Patrick Awauah launched a private not-for-profit university in Ghana (Ashesi) because he saw that African education was based on rote learning and did not produce people who could analyze problems and solve them. Fred Swaniker (also a Ghanaian) travelled the same road and launched the African Leadership Academy. He wants to create a network of 6,000 African leaders and the Academy’s intake is the process for achieving this goal. Each intake gets to access a small VC fund to create companies. There is perhaps some irony that two of the continent’s most articulate leadership speakers come from a country in need of incisive leadership in the ICT field.

    However, the stand-out presentation was from Yves Morieux, Boston Consulting Group. He warned Africa not to accept the “poisoned seed” contained in the phrase best leadership practices. He described with great subtlety the awful consequences of trying to respond to the complex requirements of the 21st century. At the heart of this overwhelming complexity was the matrix organization.

    He described a car manufacturer that had 5 functional areas and five horizontal responsibilities at the international level and that at regional level there were a further 5 functional areas and 5 horizontal responsibilities. Little surprise that company surveys showed staff members spending 40% of their time writing reports and 30% of their time in meetings.

    A Demo event was held where 12 companies got the opportunity to present their company’s products and services and people voted for what they thought was the best one. The entrants included: Umuntu Media (virtual pinboard); M-ganga (a recording system for community medicines); MoMaths (education); Nokia Education Delivery; MyShop (running a small business on a smartphone); WetteIndeApps (Ushahidi-style social network platform); MaxMalipo (payment terminal); Snapplify (content delivery for mobile platforms); M-Shop (as it sounds); MyOrder (ordering platform for businesses); Uhasibu (cloud-based accounting for things like petty cash); and EGG-Energy (portable rechargeable batteries). The winner was Namibian-based Umuntu Media run by Johan Nel.

    I took part in the Mobile Information Society Stream that focused on trying to overcome some of the obstacles to delivering mobile services and applications. The team looked at how to monetize mobile content. The ways listed included: mobile income split on SMS; advertising revenues (through companies like inMobi); virtual currencies (like MXit’sMoolah); apps sold through app stores; sponsored sites (like the Guinness football site in Nigeria); and content syndication. The sad truth was that where the income split was favourable (through app stores), there was unfortunately far fewer users with appropriate phones. At almost every turn, the income split with mobile operators (70/30 or 80/20) was the issue on all the other routes.

    The team decided that an industry lobby , a mobile content and service providers association (representing SMS aggregators, media and developers) should sit down and negotiate with mobile operators to improve both routes to market and income splits. It would pioneer a Young Developers scheme that would allow those in the scheme to receive a far better income share to offer them some encouragement. Afrinnovator’s Mark Kaigwaagreed to take on the difficult task of trying to get one off the ground in Kenya.

    This was one of a whole slew of ideas that were presented to the plenary session at the end of the event. Rather too many of these were about exchanging information and setting up networks (as if these did not already exist) but nevertheless there were good ideas, including a number to improve the financing of entrepreneurs and start-up companies.

    For Africa to be successful in this area many things need to happen but two stand out above the rest:

    1. The mobile content roadblock described at the beginning of this article needs to be changed in some way. Mobile will not become the powerful media it has the potential to be without this occurring. Africa’s mobile operators may yet live to regret not taking a greater interest in this problem.

    2.    A venture capital company needs to invest in an African company and sell it on at a good profit. The more times this happens, the more the continent will attract interest from elsewhere.

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

    New on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Bosun Tijani, Cocreation Hub in Lagos talks about innovation and social entrepreneurs

    Jesse Oguns, blogger at o TeKbits talks about ICT innovation in Nigeria

    From the previous week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Samantha Fleming, Afrosocialmedia on NGOs using social media

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

telecoms

  • Airtel, the largest telecom network in DRC, is the first operator to be visited by the new Telecommunications & ICT Minister in the country –Tryphon Kin-Kiey Mulumba. The visit was part of the newly appointed Minister’s familiarization program to understand the realities that the telecom operators are dealing with in the country. 

    The Minister was delighted with the  level of investments made by the Airtel telecom network in DRC: More than a billion U.S. dollars has been invested in the network over the years, and Airtel plans to invest an additional 615 million U.S. dollars over the next three years.

    Commenting on his visit, Kin-Kiey Mulumba said: “Our country is very large and the potential is huge. Airtel is a big company, and the investments made so far by Airtel in our country are amazing. We, as the Government, are under the obligation to make available the essential infrastructures to enable operators like Airtel and others to continue investing in our country and improve the national coverage. "

    "The Government’s instructions are very clear as for an immediate sale of the 3G license to telecom operators and completion of the Optical fiber landing station. The Optical fiber question is a matter of priority for the Government," he added.

    Airtel DRC Managing Director, Antoine Pamboro, thanked the Minister for this visit which allowed the new head of the telecom sector to interact with Airtel’s team. The Minister and his delegation were impressed by Airtel’s technical achievements. Whist 60% of the Congolese population is covered, there is still a lot more potential. He also pointed out the organizations commitment to youth education. To date, three schools in Kinshasa, Kasai-Oriental and Bas-Congo benefit from Airtel’s adopt a school program.

    Airtel has also expressed willingness to take up a 25 % participation of the company to be set up to manage the Optical Fiber in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • Airspan Networks Inc., a provider of broadband wireless access networks, announced last week that it has been chosen by Millenium Telecom Centrafrique for a 4G Wireless deployment in Central African Republic (CAR).

    Millenium, a new Internet Service Provider, is the first mobile broadband operator in CAR, founded in April 2011, with the aim to provide reliable and affordable high-speed Internet access to individuals & businesses.

    The initial deployment is focused on delivering mobile 4G data services to approximately 1,000 users in Bangui, the capital of CAR. Subsequent phases will expand service to 10,000 consumer and corporate users throughout the city.

    Using Airspan's leading-edge Air4G macro cell solution, the deployment incorporates a wide selection of user devices including long-range outdoor, self-install indoor, and USB devices. Millenium offers VPN services to corporations and organizations, Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities in hotels and restaurants and pre-paid card services to consumers.

    "We are very happy to work with Airspan on the first wireless high-speed Internet network in CAR," commented Souleymane Diallo, Founder & CEO of Millenium Telecom. "With Airspan's Air4G platform, we will be able to provide the best quality network and offer unique, cost-effective, data services to the population of CAR. Our objective is to cover the whole capital city, Bangui, with mobile WiMAX and Wi-Fi hotspots in our first phase launch. We expect further expansion into additional provinces by the end of 2012."

    The network, operating in the 2.5 GHz band, is delivering never-before-accessed Internet speeds and services. The city of Bangui has a population of just under 600,000 people. The estimated current Internet penetration rate in CAR is 2% of the population.
    "Africa is a dynamic and fast-growing region for 4G Internet services," commented Amit Ancikovsky, President of Products and Sales for Airspan Networks. "Airspan is seeing an acceleration of 4G network deployments and I am very optimistic on our continued growth in this territory. Millenium is just an example of the entrepreneurial 4G Internet Service Providers popping up across underserved African regions, working diligently to modernize networks and help economic growth with broadband mobile data access. Airspan provides an ideal solution that helps these companies accomplish their goals."

  • Communications technology provider Ericsson has partnered up with TiGo Ghana to deploy a free voice and data network in that country using a hybrid power solution.

    Alan Triggs, Vice President & Head of Operations Sub-Saharan Africa and Country Manager for Ericsson, said the move was aimed at bringing better education and creating opportunities for those unconnected in Ghana’s rural areas.

    Most parts of Ghana's West Mamprusi and Builsa districts have no internet and mobile cellphone connections, making communication very difficult.

    "Mobile services along with internet connectivity will boost all levels of development in this otherwise neglected area,” said Amadou Niang, the director of the Millenium Development Goals for West Africa.

    Niang adds, "I believe we will see quick advances in health, education and agriculture infrastructure and business development through this partnership.”

    Acting chief executive officer of TiGo Ghana, Obafemi Banigbe, said the mobile operator’s participation was aimed at providing access to modern communication technology to people in deep rural areas, who do not enjoy similar communication social networks as their urban counterparts.

    "It is our overriding vision to create a world where mobile services are affordable accessible and available to everywhere and to all," said Banigbe.

    The Ericsson-TiGo partnership is financed by the United Nations' Millennium Village Project and includes partners Earth Institute and Millennium Promise.

    “More than 500,000 people in 10 sub-Saharan Africa countries have benefited from mobile connectivity as a result of the Millennium Village Project,” said Triggs.

  • Broadcast, Film and Music Africa, an conference international event will take place on 10-11 July 2012 at the Oshwal Centre Westlands, Nairobi, in Kenya. An estimated 400 delegates are expected this year including some top audiovisual experts and speakers. 
    “Through our ‘Broadcast, Film and Music Africa (BFMA)’ event, we have realised that content owners, the media and telecoms industries are increasingly developing synergies. These players need to establish stronger partnerships if they want to stay competitive” said Sean Moroney, Chairman of AITEC Africa. BFMA is the continent’s only business and technology event to serve the creative content and electronic media industry through an integrated platform. It is the  fourth conference in the series and will provide a stock-taking opportunity for stakeholders in all three industries, and empower them with the knowledge and business contacts they need to build Africa’s electronic media future.

    The conference is aimed at senior and middle managers in: national television and radio stations; pay TV companies; international broadcasters like CNN, BBC, NBC, VOA and CCTV; television and film production companies; facilities providers including production equipment hire, post-production and outside broadcast; donors and faith-based organisations that run their own broadcast organisations for development purposes; television and film equipment vendors and satellite capacity suppliers;advertising and marketing agencies; and mobile and fixed telephone operators looking at convergence opportunities.

    For more information on the event, sponsorship opportunities and booking a stand, email info (@) aitecafrica.com or call +44 (0) 1480 880774

internet

  • Egypt has become the first African country to join a high-speed Internet network aimed at research institutions that will boost the speed of data transfer with thousands of universities and science facilities across the world.

    The Global Ring Network for Advanced Applications Development (GLORIAD) offers research institutions speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. It was started in 1998, initially linking the United States with Russia.

    The African link first arrived in Egypt in 2010 — making it an entry point for this high-speed research network to the rest of Africa — but its activation was delayed due to the social upheaval that accompanied the Arab Spring.

    "Although we successfully demonstrated the link during the fourth meeting of the African Ministerial Council of Science and Technology (AMCOST IV) in March 2010, the uprising in Egypt disrupted the project, and brought new challenges," Majid Al-Sadek, project manager at the Egyptian National Scientific and Technical Information Network (ENSTINET), told SciDev.Net.

    "The major challenge was that the body that promised our funding — other than the seed funding from US National Science Foundation (NSF) —  was no longer prepared to fund the link after the revolution, but the Ministry of Scientific Research secured the funds, and the link came to life at the end of 2011."

    Al-Sadek said that the new link was designed to intelligently direct Internet traffic between the ordinary Internet and GLORIAD, depending on whether the user is focusing on research. It can also support around 75,000 concurrent videoconferences.

    But, although though the link to the GLORIAD network became active in December 2011, many researchers are still unaware of it.

    Maged El-Sherbiny, president of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology told SciDev.Net: "Most researchers in Egypt still need to be introduced to the new link, so the academy is planning a large international workshop at the start of next month."

    He added that the workshop will gather "all Egyptian universities and research centres' representatives with their counterparts in many African countries to highlight the best use of the link".

    According to El-Sherbiny the academy is now discussing extending the link to the countries in the region via two rings: a northern one for North African countries (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia), and an eastern one for the Nile Basin countries (Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan).

    Egypt is working to improve research networks in the Gulf region through GLORIAD's new GulfLight project, and in West Africa through a partnership with the telecommunications provider Baharicom. It is also seeking to develop the first Global Optical Light Exchanges (GOLE) in Africa to serve scientists and educators by increasing the speed of internet connection.

  • Africa's Internet users had something to celebrate this month. A total of 13 West African countries have just hooked up to a new underwater fiber optic cable running from Cape Town to London, bringing them better phone connections and a new high speed Internet link. But one country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), missed the boat bringing the cable ashore.

    Officially, the Democratic Republic Congo is about four months behind schedule to connect to the West African Cable System (WACS).  This is not the first time the DRC has missed out on a high speed Internet link.

    As Internet user Didier Bobange tries to download a document at his local cybercafé in Kinshasa, he has plenty of time to reflect on his country's position in the cyberspace race.
     
    "So we don't know how long we wait for it to come…you know. I was in Benin Republic 10 years ago and the connection [there] was far better than we have here today in Kinshasa," recalled Bobange.

    High speed Internet would be a blessing for Congo's businesses, researchers and even doctors who could make long distance diagnoses. It's past time they had it, says Laurent Ntumba, founder of the local Internet service provider Microcom.

    "There are many [fiber optic] cables in Africa. There are maybe seven or eight, and we're not connected. It's unacceptable," said Ntumba.

    In fact, he says, a fiber optic link between Muanda on the DRC's Atlantic coast and Kinshasa could have been switched on years ago.

    "The cable from Muanda to Kinshasa [has] already [been installed] underground three years now - we can use it," added Ntumba.

    But they cannot connect to the international line until the government has given permission, paid its dues to the cable consortium and builds a landing station at the coast. And, that is taking some time. It was a similar story in other countries, but the Congo has taken the longest time.

    The immediate reason why the Congo is not linked to WACS is that the cable landing station was not built to the right standards. Local media report that the company contracted to build it had never done this kind of job before.

    They also report that $3 million of government funds for the contract went missing last year and the former director-general of the national telecoms company, SCPT, was charged with high treason and jailed for three months in connection with the affair.

    The scandal came to light after SCPT employees protested plans to create a private company, Congo Cable, to manage fiber optic connections.

    Jean Paul Kamalata, a union representative for the telecoms sector, says this is unacceptable to cut out SCPT employees from the future revenues when they are already owed years in back pay. He also told said that the union has other valid concerns.

    Kamalata says he campaigned against the plan to create Congo Cable because he believes international telecom links are vital to a country's security and you cannot entrust a country's security to a private company.
     
    The government seems to have dropped the idea of creating a new company to manage the cable.

    Microcom's Ntumba thinks it was not a bad idea in principle. He says the SCPT will need competent private sector partners to install and maintain the fiber optic network.

    "Managing the cable is not something easy. You need to have the knowledge, you need all the support, and I don't know if the SCPT has this level of competence," Ntumba explained.

    Ntumba is also doubtful about the government's plan for the next stage, which is to lay 2,000 kilometers of cable from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi in the southeast corner of the country. He suggests it would be quicker and cheaper to connect Lubumbashi to Zambia's fiber optic cable, and other eastern cities to cables from Rwanda and Uganda. The money saved could be spent on laying connections within big cities.

    But many Congolese would oppose the idea of connecting eastern cities via Rwanda, a country that was at war with the DRC from 1998 to 2003.

    The current director general of the SCPT, Placide Mbatika, said that deals have already been signed with Ex-Im Bank China and a Chinese contractor to lay the 2,000 kilometer cable, although there will still be a need for investors for subsequent phases.

    Mbatika says the country is open to all investors for the fiber optic program. He says that thanks to President Joseph Kabila's intervention, SCPT now has political backing, competent management and a committed workforce. He predicts that the first phase of the project, landing the cable and connecting it to Kinshasa, will be finished by the end of August.

    Local media say that any further delays could jeopardize the Congo's chances of hosting the next summit of French speaking countries, scheduled to be held in Kinshasa in October.

  • South African internet service provider, MWeb plans to shut-down its lingering wireless network at the end of this month, having already migrated customers over to alternative platforms.

    The wireless network was a remnant of an early WiMAX trial in 2007 and when the trial license wasn't extended, the company retained the infrastructure to support a Wi-Fi based last-mile ISP service.

    MWeb Business General Manager, Andre Joubert told BusinessTech that expanding the network is not economically viable and that without coverage the company was turning away customers.

    When the WiMAX network was trialed, it offered service to about 1,000 customers in Cape Town and Gauteng.

computing

  • After training 150 people in 3 tranches, the nonprofit organization Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) has enrolled more 60 people in their basic ICT training courses.

    DOT Project Manager in Gakenke District, Daniel Mbaga said that their trainings are one month scheduled with intention of equipping the youth with basic ICT skills necessary for job creation and marketing of their activities.

    Speaking of the problems that face DOT project, Mbaga said that most of their trainees are male, thus living them with less number of females attending their course studies thus creating gender imbalance.

    Lack of enough computer services in comparison to an overwhelming number of youth who wish to pursue their studies is also another hindrance that DOT faces.

    Apart from ICT skill development, DOT also equips its trainees with business development skills like business plan preparations and advertising tips.

    Emmanuel Habiyambere on of DOT's trainees aged 38 and a resident of Rusagara Cell, Gakenke Sector in Gakenke district says that the received training is very crucial to his career since prior he was only dealing with electronics hardware but this time he will tackle even the software part of gadgets.

    Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) is a leading international organization, headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. DOT focuses on creating educational, economic, and entrepreneurial opportunity through the effective use of ICT for communities and people in countries that are developing, are in transition, or are under stress.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Sierra Leone’s National Commission for Privatisation signed a three-year management contract with Management and Development International Co. of Beirut to run the state-owned telecommunications company, Sierratel.

    “Sierratel still remains 100 percent government-owned,” Madonna Thompson, head of the commission’s utilities section, said in an interview in Freetown, the capital, today. “All the structures still remain, it’s just that the day-to-day operations to turn around the business will be done by a management contractor.”

    The talks over the contract lasted for nine months, Thompson said. Sierratel has monopoly over landlines in the West African nation and also provides mobile-phone and internet services.

  • A fund, which will raise money to promote access to telecommunications services in rural areas, is to be setup in Kenya..

    Kenya’s minister of information and communications, Samuel Poghisio, has confirmed that the fund is to be gazetted within the next two weeks, after plans of implementing it had been delayed for three years.

    All companies in the communications sector – be they mobile operators, ISPs, broadcasters or postal service providers - will be required to contribute 0.5% of their turnover to the fund.

    The collected money will then be focused on spreading communications across the country, especially in low income and neglected areas.

  • MTN Rwanda and MFS Africa today announced the launch of an online money transfer service that enables MTN Mobile Money customers to receive international remittances directly on their mobile phones.

    The service referred to as MTNMMO.COM is an online facility that enables MTN Mobile Money customers in Rwanda to receive international remittances directly on their mobile phones from senders in the Diaspora. MTN Rwanda is among the first MTN operations to connect to this service.

    Senders from outside Rwanda can register on the website MTNMMO.COM and send funds from their debit card or bank transfer via the internet to Rwanda by simply entering a beneficiary's mobile phone number. Funds are delivered immediately to the beneficiary's Mobile Money account in Rwanda.

    While Mobile Money customers today can already send and receive money from within Rwanda, the MTNMMO.COM service for the first time enables cross-border transfers into MTN Rwanda. The service is facilitated by MFS Africa, in partnership with BCR.

    "Making the connection to MTNMMO.COM to enable international remittances together with MFS Africa was high priority for us to better serve our customers, understanding their need to use their Mobile Money accounts to receive money from abroad," said Albert Kinuma, head of MTN Business. "We will continue to add new services to MTN Mobile Money, and grow our agent network, now standing at over 700 agents across Rwanda. With MFS Africa as a partner, we look forward to introducing additional products to Mobile Money in the near future."

    Auke Algera, the General Manager East Africa at MFS Africa said MTNMMO.COM is the first product being launched in Rwanda by the company. "The service extends the benefits of Mobile Money to the Rwandan Diaspora," he explained. "We established ourselves in Rwanda because we are committed to deploying a range of innovative financial products for mobile money providers in the region."

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • One Rwandan Mugabe Thomas has been announced the first subscriber to win a Turkish Airlines ticket to Europe in the on-going MTN Mobile Money promotion as of 25th May 2012 announcement. MTN is running a 4-week long Mobile Money consumer promotion, which started on the 16th of May and runs until the 13th of June 2012. MTN subscribers will also be rewarded with 10 percent bonus on airtime loaded through the Mobile Money platform. Every day throughout the promotion each of any 10 lucky winners receive Rwf20, 000 on their Mobile Money accounts, after making at least a registration or a transaction with Mobile Money.

Digital Content

  • Rwanda is set to open its first innovation incubator to promote the development of technologies by the tech and entrepreneurial community in Kigali.

    kLab will be based in Rwanda’s ICT Park and follow the lead of Nairobi’s iHub, which has spawned numerous start-ups as a result of linkups between techies and investors.

    Rwanda’s incubator will bring together students, engineers and designers, allowing them to share ideas and link up with entrepreneurs and investors.

    The kLab has already held a competition amongst members to develop its logo, which was won by graphic designer Eugene Rwagasore.

    He stressed the importance of the kLab’s slogan, “Community, Innovation and Openness”.

    “The numbers are there but it takes more, the truth is that a group scattered doesn't connect, misses the benefits that cohesion brings,” he said. “Having kLab as a focal point, a place where minds can meet, interact and share will help create that community.”

    The new tech hub is being developed in a joint effort between the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Carnegie-Mellon University Rwanda.

    The Rwandan Ministry of Education alongside the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), government has also initiated the Rwanda Innovation Endowment Fund (RIEF) to promote innovation that will further the social and economic development of the country.

  • Discovery Health has launched an iPad application called HealthID that it claims will ease the burden of paperwork and administration on SA doctors, making it easier for the medical aid administrator to process claims in real time while maintaining patient confidentiality.

    Discovery Health SA CEO Jonathan Broomberg says the app is aimed at doctors and specialists. He says ability to make claims and request payment for prescribed medication in real time is saving two to three days in processing time. Doctors can also receive laboratory reports via the app.

    HealthID has been in development since 2010. Trials of an early version with 10 doctors began in March 2011, with a second version rolled out to 100 doctors in August. The latest version was launched last week.

  • Beverly Hills- River Naija Productions a division of the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce-USA launches African Women Are Gorgeous International, an online lifestyle and entertainment platform that empowers everyday women of African descent to celebrate and share their inner and aesthetic beauty with the world.

    African Women Are Gorgeous International underscores newsworthy people and events lending insight into the plight of the African woman and her desire to be recognized as beautiful, strong, self-reliant and integral to the sociological underpinnings of our world.

    African Women Are Gorgeous International also features sections on Health, Education, Beauty, Relationships, Fashion, Faith, Africa’s Finest and the AWAG International competition; which is an interactive virtual beauty contest specifically designed to uplift African Women.

    The AWAG International competition is the most popular feature of the site, enabling users to nominate their friends, colleagues and/or loved ones into a global voting pool for a chance to win luxurious products and services furnished in part by Villa Blanca Beverly Hills and Sprinkles gourmet cupcakes.

    We encourage you to visit us at www.africanwomenaregorgeous.com and cast your votes for your favorite nominees. We also invite you to follow us on Twitter @AfricanWomen1 or “Like” us on Facebook.

  • Safaricom has become the first mobile operator in Africa to open up its network for Internet Protocol version 6 testing through its partnership with iHub Nairobi, an initiative aimed at bringing together application and content developers.

    Safaricom has been running IPv6 on its network for the last year but had not opened the technology up for public services because it needed to better prepare internally to provide the technology and there was no demand from organizations for the service. In addition, there were few IPv6 applications developed for local use.

    IPv6 was designed to address the upcoming depletion of IPv4 addresses, and among other things allows for greater efficiency and flexibility in allocating addresses and routing traffic.

    With growing awareness of the technology, however, the network feels it is ready for developers to start testing applications on its IPv6 platform.

    “We chose to work with iHub because we believe that by offering IPv6 services here we help in opening a whole new world of possibilities for the community here,” said Thibaud Rerolle, Safaricom’s technology director. “The concept of iHub is to spur a revolution in the technology products and services space, give the tech community a facility where they can bring their ideas to life; our partnership will be more to enable the capabilities of this facility, which (iHub) gives Safaricom that perfect environment to test new services, too.”

    Offering an open, incubator-type space for the tech community in Kenya, iHub is hoping to encourage more application and Web developers to take advantage of the initiative and develop innovative products suited for the market.

    “In the last two years, Safaricom has opened up to the tech community especially on the data side; IPv6 deployment is vital for the tech industry because of the immense business opportunities provided,” said Erik Hersman, iHub founder.

    The Africa Network Information Center (AfriNIC), Africa’s regional Internet registry, has been working with governments, universities and corporations to drive up the rate of deployment. It was projected that the lack of legacy systems would lead to faster IPv6 deployment in the region, fueled by growing connectivity numbers and mobile network expansion.

    “IPv6 allocations and assignments have grown by more than 200 percent during the past 12 months; this is a sign that the message has started bearing fruit; 33 countries in Africa have at  least one IPv6 prefix, with the leading countries being South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Mauritius,” said Adiel Akplogan, AfriNIC CEO.

    While AfriNIC has been offering IPv6 training for the last four years, it has been hard for operators to see the business value of deploying IPv6 and the continuing availability of IPv4 has allowed some providers to wait until addresses based on the older technology are depleted. AfriNIC is projecting its IPv4 pool to last two or three years, depending on the rate of uptake.

    For Safaricom, the deployment is driven by the desire for business continuity; growing data revenue to complement voice revenue, which is on the decline; support for its growing 3G deployment; and expanding the number of residential users who have multiple gadgets, all of which require connectivity and IP addresses.

    “The issue of migration to IPv6 requires very high visibility; although stockpiles of IPv4 are still being held with AfriNIC, lack of IP addresses will pose a real threat to subscriber growth and this will become a real threat to business continuity,” added Safaricom’s Rerolle. “Looking at the low broadband penetration in the country and the need to grow numbers, (the issue of) IP addresses will come in sharp focus; migration to IPv6 will offer Safaricom an opportunity to tap into new business streams made possible by a potentially large community of connected devices that will use this protocol exclusively.”

    Given the extent of its network, Rerolle said IPv6 deployment will be gradual, and that the company will work closely with the developer teams at iHub to identify any issues that may arise before opening up the whole network to the public.

    “As you have seen with other businesses in Africa, the fast movers have the ability to lead the market in terms of products and services; if iHub developers can provide Safaricom with new products and services, then they will win the market,” said Hersman.

    Apart from tackling new business opportunities, Safaricom is hoping to reduce capital expenditure through auto-configuration of its nodes, increased security and mobility. IPv6 will also eliminate the need for Carrier Grade Network Address Translation (CGNAT), further lowering the costs. CGNAT is a service provided by major equipment vendors, that allows operators to continue offering services on both IPv4 and IPv6 but if the network fully deploys IPv6, then the company will not invest in CGNAT.

  • Alltel Limited's flagship product, K-Pad tablet, is gaining worldwide attention due to its increased patronage, affordability and locally developed free web applications for users, according to its manufacturers.

    It runs on Google's Android operating system as well as Microsoft's Windows 7 and 8.

    The 'K' in 'K-Pad' stands for Kludgeson. Kofi Kludgeson, the Executive Chairman of Alltel Limited, a Ghanaian IT company.

    Talking to newsman this week, he said, "After five years of technical development, we have come out with a product that is a major breakthrough in the world of technology. We have come out with K-Pad and in three months the product has hit the world market in a mighty way."

    The product, which comes in 7, 8, 9.7 and 10.1-inch variants, allows people to enjoy many free web applications like never before, most of which are local content developed to suit the Ghanaian and African environment.

    It has high definition videos, precise touch screen technology, camera with high images, downloadable software, e-learning material, advanced picture quality and the latest blue tooth application.

    "Our focus on K-Pad", said Kludgeson "is to look at the rural communities because there they have problems with data.

    In the health sector for instance, we want nurses to use K-Pad to record the basic data requirement for patients in order to make healthcare more accessible and efficient."

    He said K-Pad has transformed into an African project and the goal of Alltel is to target only five per cent of each economy's population.

    "In the last few months, we have had a lot of the international press, some from Belgium Television, Reuters and BBC wanting to know more about Alltel and its products, especially the K-Pad."

    One major advantage K-Pad has is that it is an open system device with USB. "From generation to revelation, we have factored all on the K-Pad. We have negotiated for the right to have free web applications for our customers because in our part of the world affordability is a major concern."

    Another innovation Alltel is going to introduce in the next two weeks is a product called "K-Phone".

    K-Phone, is mobile phone with an android operating system and dual SIM that will give 24/7 internet service to users. In addition, Alltel hopes to develop a 4G network in Ghana.

    Alltel's mission, Mr. Kludjeson noted, is to encourage Ghanaian youth to go into web application development so that they can be self-sustaining and create jobs for themselves and other people through the devices they develop.

    "In the next three years, we should be able to create and empower skills development for about one million youths in Ghana. The country is growing currently at 15% and a lot is happening and if we do not take advantage of the knowledge and technology gap, a time will come when only foreigners will do that for us."

    Alltel intends to list on the Ghana Stock Exchange in the next 12 months, where it aims at giving about 100,000 people the right to become part owners of the company.

More

  • Virgin Mobile SA CEO Steve Bailey, who resigned from the company this month, has been appointed as chief commercial officer at Glo, the second largest mobile operator in Nigeria after MTN with more than 25m subscribers. Bailey says he will take up the new role as soon as he receives the necessary visas to travel to and work in the West African country. His responsibilities will include sales and marketing and “the commercial role and all that encompasses”. Founded in 2003, Glo Mobile is owned by the Mike Adenuga Group and has more than 2 500 employees.

  • Call for Open Data’s Code4Kenya fellows

    Do you want to help kickstart a media and civil society revolution in Kenya? Code4Kenya is offering four Code4Kenya fellowships for civic hackers who want to help change the way that our societies work.

    The fellows will be embedded into some of Kenya’s most influential media and civil society organisations (CSOs) for six months to help them re-engineer the way they use open data. They will also work with “issue experts” and data holders who are supporting public sector innovation through the use of open data.

    This means your help will build scalable, sustainable and data-driven services on the web and mobile platforms. Initial themes to catalyze the public will be focused on basic services that are essential to Kenyan citizens:

        water
        health
        education.

    The fellowships will be paid, full time positions. Host organisations may offer permanent employment or consulting positions after the fellowship, depending on your performance. The Fellowship is jointly supported by the World Bank and the African Media Initiative (AMI). Embedded fellows will be supported by an external team of specialist developers, a veteran project manager and design thinking experts from iHub Research. Host organisations will also offer internal support, ranging from technical assistance, to content specialists.

    Please follow THIS link:

    Deadline is midnight on Tuesday, June 4th 2012.

Issue no 607 1st June 2012

node ref id: 25027

Top story

  • Sponsored by Nokia, infoDev and the Government of Finland, this week’s Open Innovation Africa Summit (OIAS) in Nairobi focused on how to create the ecosystem that will help develop services and applications for the mobile Internet. Russell Southwood attended and used it as an opportunity to see where things have got to since that last event 18 months ago.

    Eighteen months is a long time in Africa in terms of Internet development.Eighteen months ago was almost the point that large-scale use of Internet began to become apparent, particularly social media. Facebook numbers began to grow rapidly from that point and continue to do so. MXit numbers on the continent have also shot up outside South Africa. Venture capital companies like Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital have made significant bets on tech companies on the continent. There are now 22 tech incubator spaces on the continent engaged in the process of trying to breed successful, new companies.

    But the obstacles to the creation of a functioning mobile Internet ecosystem remain. Eighteen months ago I wrote a report after the first event that said:” Mobile operators have to decide whether they are “content guys” or not. In the medium term, it matters less what the decision is and more that they simply have clarity. In our view, mobile operators are not “content guys”: if they were, they would know something about how to develop content and not deal with it tactically through SMS aggregators as deals. There is currently no intelligent “content publishing” function in most operators’ structures. So the key issue for the success of data revenues is: how can you create a compelling, financially rewarding ecosystem to generate apps, content and services that users want more of?” Nothing has really changed.

    There were no mobile operators at this OIAS event and you rarely see them at any of the mobile web events on the continent. Their channels to receive new content are narrow (both in terms of staffing and launches) and they are holding back content and services development. So if you are a developer or entrepreneur in this space you either have to assume that you find a way to go round the mobile operators (the mobile web but it has far fewer users with handsets to access it) or that you will find a way to deal with them. As we will see later, neither approach presents easy options.

    Perhaps for this reason, this OIAS was a much more practically focused event than last time, where people grappled with this central roadblock along with wider issues like reaching the bottom-of-the-pyramid customers; getting Government to use this emerging means of communication and media; and providing finance to create new services and applications.

    Mercifully the event had less of the “build a tower with straws and plastic cups” exercises and was a very nourishing mixture of high-level plenaries with good speakers on key issues like leadership and small team-working in streams. You might not like all parts of the programme but all the right people were there and the conversations were rich and rewarding.

    The highlight for me was the leadership speakers. Patrick Awauah launched a private not-for-profit university in Ghana (Ashesi) because he saw that African education was based on rote learning and did not produce people who could analyze problems and solve them. Fred Swaniker (also a Ghanaian) travelled the same road and launched the African Leadership Academy. He wants to create a network of 6,000 African leaders and the Academy’s intake is the process for achieving this goal. Each intake gets to access a small VC fund to create companies. There is perhaps some irony that two of the continent’s most articulate leadership speakers come from a country in need of incisive leadership in the ICT field.

    However, the stand-out presentation was from Yves Morieux, Boston Consulting Group. He warned Africa not to accept the “poisoned seed” contained in the phrase best leadership practices. He described with great subtlety the awful consequences of trying to respond to the complex requirements of the 21st century. At the heart of this overwhelming complexity was the matrix organization.

    He described a car manufacturer that had 5 functional areas and five horizontal responsibilities at the international level and that at regional level there were a further 5 functional areas and 5 horizontal responsibilities. Little surprise that company surveys showed staff members spending 40% of their time writing reports and 30% of their time in meetings.

    A Demo event was held where 12 companies got the opportunity to present their company’s products and services and people voted for what they thought was the best one. The entrants included: Umuntu Media (virtual pinboard); M-ganga (a recording system for community medicines); MoMaths (education); Nokia Education Delivery; MyShop (running a small business on a smartphone); WetteIndeApps (Ushahidi-style social network platform); MaxMalipo (payment terminal); Snapplify (content delivery for mobile platforms); M-Shop (as it sounds); MyOrder (ordering platform for businesses); Uhasibu (cloud-based accounting for things like petty cash); and EGG-Energy (portable rechargeable batteries). The winner was Namibian-based Umuntu Media run by Johan Nel.

    I took part in the Mobile Information Society Stream that focused on trying to overcome some of the obstacles to delivering mobile services and applications. The team looked at how to monetize mobile content. The ways listed included: mobile income split on SMS; advertising revenues (through companies like inMobi); virtual currencies (like MXit’sMoolah); apps sold through app stores; sponsored sites (like the Guinness football site in Nigeria); and content syndication. The sad truth was that where the income split was favourable (through app stores), there was unfortunately far fewer users with appropriate phones. At almost every turn, the income split with mobile operators (70/30 or 80/20) was the issue on all the other routes.

    The team decided that an industry lobby , a mobile content and service providers association (representing SMS aggregators, media and developers) should sit down and negotiate with mobile operators to improve both routes to market and income splits. It would pioneer a Young Developers scheme that would allow those in the scheme to receive a far better income share to offer them some encouragement. Afrinnovator’s Mark Kaigwaagreed to take on the difficult task of trying to get one off the ground in Kenya.

    This was one of a whole slew of ideas that were presented to the plenary session at the end of the event. Rather too many of these were about exchanging information and setting up networks (as if these did not already exist) but nevertheless there were good ideas, including a number to improve the financing of entrepreneurs and start-up companies.

    For Africa to be successful in this area many things need to happen but two stand out above the rest:

    1. The mobile content roadblock described at the beginning of this article needs to be changed in some way. Mobile will not become the powerful media it has the potential to be without this occurring. Africa’s mobile operators may yet live to regret not taking a greater interest in this problem.

    2.    A venture capital company needs to invest in an African company and sell it on at a good profit. The more times this happens, the more the continent will attract interest from elsewhere.

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

    New on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Bosun Tijani, Cocreation Hub in Lagos talks about innovation and social entrepreneurs

    Jesse Oguns, blogger at o TeKbits talks about ICT innovation in Nigeria

    From the previous week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Samantha Fleming, Afrosocialmedia on NGOs using social media

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

telecoms

  • Airtel, the largest telecom network in DRC, is the first operator to be visited by the new Telecommunications & ICT Minister in the country –Tryphon Kin-Kiey Mulumba. The visit was part of the newly appointed Minister’s familiarization program to understand the realities that the telecom operators are dealing with in the country. 

    The Minister was delighted with the  level of investments made by the Airtel telecom network in DRC: More than a billion U.S. dollars has been invested in the network over the years, and Airtel plans to invest an additional 615 million U.S. dollars over the next three years.

    Commenting on his visit, Kin-Kiey Mulumba said: “Our country is very large and the potential is huge. Airtel is a big company, and the investments made so far by Airtel in our country are amazing. We, as the Government, are under the obligation to make available the essential infrastructures to enable operators like Airtel and others to continue investing in our country and improve the national coverage. "

    "The Government’s instructions are very clear as for an immediate sale of the 3G license to telecom operators and completion of the Optical fiber landing station. The Optical fiber question is a matter of priority for the Government," he added.

    Airtel DRC Managing Director, Antoine Pamboro, thanked the Minister for this visit which allowed the new head of the telecom sector to interact with Airtel’s team. The Minister and his delegation were impressed by Airtel’s technical achievements. Whist 60% of the Congolese population is covered, there is still a lot more potential. He also pointed out the organizations commitment to youth education. To date, three schools in Kinshasa, Kasai-Oriental and Bas-Congo benefit from Airtel’s adopt a school program.

    Airtel has also expressed willingness to take up a 25 % participation of the company to be set up to manage the Optical Fiber in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • Airspan Networks Inc., a provider of broadband wireless access networks, announced last week that it has been chosen by Millenium Telecom Centrafrique for a 4G Wireless deployment in Central African Republic (CAR).

    Millenium, a new Internet Service Provider, is the first mobile broadband operator in CAR, founded in April 2011, with the aim to provide reliable and affordable high-speed Internet access to individuals & businesses.

    The initial deployment is focused on delivering mobile 4G data services to approximately 1,000 users in Bangui, the capital of CAR. Subsequent phases will expand service to 10,000 consumer and corporate users throughout the city.

    Using Airspan's leading-edge Air4G macro cell solution, the deployment incorporates a wide selection of user devices including long-range outdoor, self-install indoor, and USB devices. Millenium offers VPN services to corporations and organizations, Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities in hotels and restaurants and pre-paid card services to consumers.

    "We are very happy to work with Airspan on the first wireless high-speed Internet network in CAR," commented Souleymane Diallo, Founder & CEO of Millenium Telecom. "With Airspan's Air4G platform, we will be able to provide the best quality network and offer unique, cost-effective, data services to the population of CAR. Our objective is to cover the whole capital city, Bangui, with mobile WiMAX and Wi-Fi hotspots in our first phase launch. We expect further expansion into additional provinces by the end of 2012."

    The network, operating in the 2.5 GHz band, is delivering never-before-accessed Internet speeds and services. The city of Bangui has a population of just under 600,000 people. The estimated current Internet penetration rate in CAR is 2% of the population.
    "Africa is a dynamic and fast-growing region for 4G Internet services," commented Amit Ancikovsky, President of Products and Sales for Airspan Networks. "Airspan is seeing an acceleration of 4G network deployments and I am very optimistic on our continued growth in this territory. Millenium is just an example of the entrepreneurial 4G Internet Service Providers popping up across underserved African regions, working diligently to modernize networks and help economic growth with broadband mobile data access. Airspan provides an ideal solution that helps these companies accomplish their goals."

  • Communications technology provider Ericsson has partnered up with TiGo Ghana to deploy a free voice and data network in that country using a hybrid power solution.

    Alan Triggs, Vice President & Head of Operations Sub-Saharan Africa and Country Manager for Ericsson, said the move was aimed at bringing better education and creating opportunities for those unconnected in Ghana’s rural areas.

    Most parts of Ghana's West Mamprusi and Builsa districts have no internet and mobile cellphone connections, making communication very difficult.

    "Mobile services along with internet connectivity will boost all levels of development in this otherwise neglected area,” said Amadou Niang, the director of the Millenium Development Goals for West Africa.

    Niang adds, "I believe we will see quick advances in health, education and agriculture infrastructure and business development through this partnership.”

    Acting chief executive officer of TiGo Ghana, Obafemi Banigbe, said the mobile operator’s participation was aimed at providing access to modern communication technology to people in deep rural areas, who do not enjoy similar communication social networks as their urban counterparts.

    "It is our overriding vision to create a world where mobile services are affordable accessible and available to everywhere and to all," said Banigbe.

    The Ericsson-TiGo partnership is financed by the United Nations' Millennium Village Project and includes partners Earth Institute and Millennium Promise.

    “More than 500,000 people in 10 sub-Saharan Africa countries have benefited from mobile connectivity as a result of the Millennium Village Project,” said Triggs.

  • Broadcast, Film and Music Africa, an conference international event will take place on 10-11 July 2012 at the Oshwal Centre Westlands, Nairobi, in Kenya. An estimated 400 delegates are expected this year including some top audiovisual experts and speakers. 
    “Through our ‘Broadcast, Film and Music Africa (BFMA)’ event, we have realised that content owners, the media and telecoms industries are increasingly developing synergies. These players need to establish stronger partnerships if they want to stay competitive” said Sean Moroney, Chairman of AITEC Africa. BFMA is the continent’s only business and technology event to serve the creative content and electronic media industry through an integrated platform. It is the  fourth conference in the series and will provide a stock-taking opportunity for stakeholders in all three industries, and empower them with the knowledge and business contacts they need to build Africa’s electronic media future.

    The conference is aimed at senior and middle managers in: national television and radio stations; pay TV companies; international broadcasters like CNN, BBC, NBC, VOA and CCTV; television and film production companies; facilities providers including production equipment hire, post-production and outside broadcast; donors and faith-based organisations that run their own broadcast organisations for development purposes; television and film equipment vendors and satellite capacity suppliers;advertising and marketing agencies; and mobile and fixed telephone operators looking at convergence opportunities.

    For more information on the event, sponsorship opportunities and booking a stand, email info (@) aitecafrica.com or call +44 (0) 1480 880774

internet

  • Egypt has become the first African country to join a high-speed Internet network aimed at research institutions that will boost the speed of data transfer with thousands of universities and science facilities across the world.

    The Global Ring Network for Advanced Applications Development (GLORIAD) offers research institutions speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. It was started in 1998, initially linking the United States with Russia.

    The African link first arrived in Egypt in 2010 — making it an entry point for this high-speed research network to the rest of Africa — but its activation was delayed due to the social upheaval that accompanied the Arab Spring.

    "Although we successfully demonstrated the link during the fourth meeting of the African Ministerial Council of Science and Technology (AMCOST IV) in March 2010, the uprising in Egypt disrupted the project, and brought new challenges," Majid Al-Sadek, project manager at the Egyptian National Scientific and Technical Information Network (ENSTINET), told SciDev.Net.

    "The major challenge was that the body that promised our funding — other than the seed funding from US National Science Foundation (NSF) —  was no longer prepared to fund the link after the revolution, but the Ministry of Scientific Research secured the funds, and the link came to life at the end of 2011."

    Al-Sadek said that the new link was designed to intelligently direct Internet traffic between the ordinary Internet and GLORIAD, depending on whether the user is focusing on research. It can also support around 75,000 concurrent videoconferences.

    But, although though the link to the GLORIAD network became active in December 2011, many researchers are still unaware of it.

    Maged El-Sherbiny, president of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology told SciDev.Net: "Most researchers in Egypt still need to be introduced to the new link, so the academy is planning a large international workshop at the start of next month."

    He added that the workshop will gather "all Egyptian universities and research centres' representatives with their counterparts in many African countries to highlight the best use of the link".

    According to El-Sherbiny the academy is now discussing extending the link to the countries in the region via two rings: a northern one for North African countries (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia), and an eastern one for the Nile Basin countries (Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan).

    Egypt is working to improve research networks in the Gulf region through GLORIAD's new GulfLight project, and in West Africa through a partnership with the telecommunications provider Baharicom. It is also seeking to develop the first Global Optical Light Exchanges (GOLE) in Africa to serve scientists and educators by increasing the speed of internet connection.

  • Africa's Internet users had something to celebrate this month. A total of 13 West African countries have just hooked up to a new underwater fiber optic cable running from Cape Town to London, bringing them better phone connections and a new high speed Internet link. But one country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), missed the boat bringing the cable ashore.

    Officially, the Democratic Republic Congo is about four months behind schedule to connect to the West African Cable System (WACS).  This is not the first time the DRC has missed out on a high speed Internet link.

    As Internet user Didier Bobange tries to download a document at his local cybercafé in Kinshasa, he has plenty of time to reflect on his country's position in the cyberspace race.
     
    "So we don't know how long we wait for it to come…you know. I was in Benin Republic 10 years ago and the connection [there] was far better than we have here today in Kinshasa," recalled Bobange.

    High speed Internet would be a blessing for Congo's businesses, researchers and even doctors who could make long distance diagnoses. It's past time they had it, says Laurent Ntumba, founder of the local Internet service provider Microcom.

    "There are many [fiber optic] cables in Africa. There are maybe seven or eight, and we're not connected. It's unacceptable," said Ntumba.

    In fact, he says, a fiber optic link between Muanda on the DRC's Atlantic coast and Kinshasa could have been switched on years ago.

    "The cable from Muanda to Kinshasa [has] already [been installed] underground three years now - we can use it," added Ntumba.

    But they cannot connect to the international line until the government has given permission, paid its dues to the cable consortium and builds a landing station at the coast. And, that is taking some time. It was a similar story in other countries, but the Congo has taken the longest time.

    The immediate reason why the Congo is not linked to WACS is that the cable landing station was not built to the right standards. Local media report that the company contracted to build it had never done this kind of job before.

    They also report that $3 million of government funds for the contract went missing last year and the former director-general of the national telecoms company, SCPT, was charged with high treason and jailed for three months in connection with the affair.

    The scandal came to light after SCPT employees protested plans to create a private company, Congo Cable, to manage fiber optic connections.

    Jean Paul Kamalata, a union representative for the telecoms sector, says this is unacceptable to cut out SCPT employees from the future revenues when they are already owed years in back pay. He also told said that the union has other valid concerns.

    Kamalata says he campaigned against the plan to create Congo Cable because he believes international telecom links are vital to a country's security and you cannot entrust a country's security to a private company.
     
    The government seems to have dropped the idea of creating a new company to manage the cable.

    Microcom's Ntumba thinks it was not a bad idea in principle. He says the SCPT will need competent private sector partners to install and maintain the fiber optic network.

    "Managing the cable is not something easy. You need to have the knowledge, you need all the support, and I don't know if the SCPT has this level of competence," Ntumba explained.

    Ntumba is also doubtful about the government's plan for the next stage, which is to lay 2,000 kilometers of cable from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi in the southeast corner of the country. He suggests it would be quicker and cheaper to connect Lubumbashi to Zambia's fiber optic cable, and other eastern cities to cables from Rwanda and Uganda. The money saved could be spent on laying connections within big cities.

    But many Congolese would oppose the idea of connecting eastern cities via Rwanda, a country that was at war with the DRC from 1998 to 2003.

    The current director general of the SCPT, Placide Mbatika, said that deals have already been signed with Ex-Im Bank China and a Chinese contractor to lay the 2,000 kilometer cable, although there will still be a need for investors for subsequent phases.

    Mbatika says the country is open to all investors for the fiber optic program. He says that thanks to President Joseph Kabila's intervention, SCPT now has political backing, competent management and a committed workforce. He predicts that the first phase of the project, landing the cable and connecting it to Kinshasa, will be finished by the end of August.

    Local media say that any further delays could jeopardize the Congo's chances of hosting the next summit of French speaking countries, scheduled to be held in Kinshasa in October.

  • South African internet service provider, MWeb plans to shut-down its lingering wireless network at the end of this month, having already migrated customers over to alternative platforms.

    The wireless network was a remnant of an early WiMAX trial in 2007 and when the trial license wasn't extended, the company retained the infrastructure to support a Wi-Fi based last-mile ISP service.

    MWeb Business General Manager, Andre Joubert told BusinessTech that expanding the network is not economically viable and that without coverage the company was turning away customers.

    When the WiMAX network was trialed, it offered service to about 1,000 customers in Cape Town and Gauteng.

computing

  • After training 150 people in 3 tranches, the nonprofit organization Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) has enrolled more 60 people in their basic ICT training courses.

    DOT Project Manager in Gakenke District, Daniel Mbaga said that their trainings are one month scheduled with intention of equipping the youth with basic ICT skills necessary for job creation and marketing of their activities.

    Speaking of the problems that face DOT project, Mbaga said that most of their trainees are male, thus living them with less number of females attending their course studies thus creating gender imbalance.

    Lack of enough computer services in comparison to an overwhelming number of youth who wish to pursue their studies is also another hindrance that DOT faces.

    Apart from ICT skill development, DOT also equips its trainees with business development skills like business plan preparations and advertising tips.

    Emmanuel Habiyambere on of DOT's trainees aged 38 and a resident of Rusagara Cell, Gakenke Sector in Gakenke district says that the received training is very crucial to his career since prior he was only dealing with electronics hardware but this time he will tackle even the software part of gadgets.

    Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) is a leading international organization, headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. DOT focuses on creating educational, economic, and entrepreneurial opportunity through the effective use of ICT for communities and people in countries that are developing, are in transition, or are under stress.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Sierra Leone’s National Commission for Privatisation signed a three-year management contract with Management and Development International Co. of Beirut to run the state-owned telecommunications company, Sierratel.

    “Sierratel still remains 100 percent government-owned,” Madonna Thompson, head of the commission’s utilities section, said in an interview in Freetown, the capital, today. “All the structures still remain, it’s just that the day-to-day operations to turn around the business will be done by a management contractor.”

    The talks over the contract lasted for nine months, Thompson said. Sierratel has monopoly over landlines in the West African nation and also provides mobile-phone and internet services.

  • A fund, which will raise money to promote access to telecommunications services in rural areas, is to be setup in Kenya..

    Kenya’s minister of information and communications, Samuel Poghisio, has confirmed that the fund is to be gazetted within the next two weeks, after plans of implementing it had been delayed for three years.

    All companies in the communications sector – be they mobile operators, ISPs, broadcasters or postal service providers - will be required to contribute 0.5% of their turnover to the fund.

    The collected money will then be focused on spreading communications across the country, especially in low income and neglected areas.

  • MTN Rwanda and MFS Africa today announced the launch of an online money transfer service that enables MTN Mobile Money customers to receive international remittances directly on their mobile phones.

    The service referred to as MTNMMO.COM is an online facility that enables MTN Mobile Money customers in Rwanda to receive international remittances directly on their mobile phones from senders in the Diaspora. MTN Rwanda is among the first MTN operations to connect to this service.

    Senders from outside Rwanda can register on the website MTNMMO.COM and send funds from their debit card or bank transfer via the internet to Rwanda by simply entering a beneficiary's mobile phone number. Funds are delivered immediately to the beneficiary's Mobile Money account in Rwanda.

    While Mobile Money customers today can already send and receive money from within Rwanda, the MTNMMO.COM service for the first time enables cross-border transfers into MTN Rwanda. The service is facilitated by MFS Africa, in partnership with BCR.

    "Making the connection to MTNMMO.COM to enable international remittances together with MFS Africa was high priority for us to better serve our customers, understanding their need to use their Mobile Money accounts to receive money from abroad," said Albert Kinuma, head of MTN Business. "We will continue to add new services to MTN Mobile Money, and grow our agent network, now standing at over 700 agents across Rwanda. With MFS Africa as a partner, we look forward to introducing additional products to Mobile Money in the near future."

    Auke Algera, the General Manager East Africa at MFS Africa said MTNMMO.COM is the first product being launched in Rwanda by the company. "The service extends the benefits of Mobile Money to the Rwandan Diaspora," he explained. "We established ourselves in Rwanda because we are committed to deploying a range of innovative financial products for mobile money providers in the region."

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • One Rwandan Mugabe Thomas has been announced the first subscriber to win a Turkish Airlines ticket to Europe in the on-going MTN Mobile Money promotion as of 25th May 2012 announcement. MTN is running a 4-week long Mobile Money consumer promotion, which started on the 16th of May and runs until the 13th of June 2012. MTN subscribers will also be rewarded with 10 percent bonus on airtime loaded through the Mobile Money platform. Every day throughout the promotion each of any 10 lucky winners receive Rwf20, 000 on their Mobile Money accounts, after making at least a registration or a transaction with Mobile Money.

Digital Content

  • Rwanda is set to open its first innovation incubator to promote the development of technologies by the tech and entrepreneurial community in Kigali.

    kLab will be based in Rwanda’s ICT Park and follow the lead of Nairobi’s iHub, which has spawned numerous start-ups as a result of linkups between techies and investors.

    Rwanda’s incubator will bring together students, engineers and designers, allowing them to share ideas and link up with entrepreneurs and investors.

    The kLab has already held a competition amongst members to develop its logo, which was won by graphic designer Eugene Rwagasore.

    He stressed the importance of the kLab’s slogan, “Community, Innovation and Openness”.

    “The numbers are there but it takes more, the truth is that a group scattered doesn't connect, misses the benefits that cohesion brings,” he said. “Having kLab as a focal point, a place where minds can meet, interact and share will help create that community.”

    The new tech hub is being developed in a joint effort between the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Carnegie-Mellon University Rwanda.

    The Rwandan Ministry of Education alongside the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), government has also initiated the Rwanda Innovation Endowment Fund (RIEF) to promote innovation that will further the social and economic development of the country.

  • Discovery Health has launched an iPad application called HealthID that it claims will ease the burden of paperwork and administration on SA doctors, making it easier for the medical aid administrator to process claims in real time while maintaining patient confidentiality.

    Discovery Health SA CEO Jonathan Broomberg says the app is aimed at doctors and specialists. He says ability to make claims and request payment for prescribed medication in real time is saving two to three days in processing time. Doctors can also receive laboratory reports via the app.

    HealthID has been in development since 2010. Trials of an early version with 10 doctors began in March 2011, with a second version rolled out to 100 doctors in August. The latest version was launched last week.

  • Beverly Hills- River Naija Productions a division of the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce-USA launches African Women Are Gorgeous International, an online lifestyle and entertainment platform that empowers everyday women of African descent to celebrate and share their inner and aesthetic beauty with the world.

    African Women Are Gorgeous International underscores newsworthy people and events lending insight into the plight of the African woman and her desire to be recognized as beautiful, strong, self-reliant and integral to the sociological underpinnings of our world.

    African Women Are Gorgeous International also features sections on Health, Education, Beauty, Relationships, Fashion, Faith, Africa’s Finest and the AWAG International competition; which is an interactive virtual beauty contest specifically designed to uplift African Women.

    The AWAG International competition is the most popular feature of the site, enabling users to nominate their friends, colleagues and/or loved ones into a global voting pool for a chance to win luxurious products and services furnished in part by Villa Blanca Beverly Hills and Sprinkles gourmet cupcakes.

    We encourage you to visit us at www.africanwomenaregorgeous.com and cast your votes for your favorite nominees. We also invite you to follow us on Twitter @AfricanWomen1 or “Like” us on Facebook.

  • Safaricom has become the first mobile operator in Africa to open up its network for Internet Protocol version 6 testing through its partnership with iHub Nairobi, an initiative aimed at bringing together application and content developers.

    Safaricom has been running IPv6 on its network for the last year but had not opened the technology up for public services because it needed to better prepare internally to provide the technology and there was no demand from organizations for the service. In addition, there were few IPv6 applications developed for local use.

    IPv6 was designed to address the upcoming depletion of IPv4 addresses, and among other things allows for greater efficiency and flexibility in allocating addresses and routing traffic.

    With growing awareness of the technology, however, the network feels it is ready for developers to start testing applications on its IPv6 platform.

    “We chose to work with iHub because we believe that by offering IPv6 services here we help in opening a whole new world of possibilities for the community here,” said Thibaud Rerolle, Safaricom’s technology director. “The concept of iHub is to spur a revolution in the technology products and services space, give the tech community a facility where they can bring their ideas to life; our partnership will be more to enable the capabilities of this facility, which (iHub) gives Safaricom that perfect environment to test new services, too.”

    Offering an open, incubator-type space for the tech community in Kenya, iHub is hoping to encourage more application and Web developers to take advantage of the initiative and develop innovative products suited for the market.

    “In the last two years, Safaricom has opened up to the tech community especially on the data side; IPv6 deployment is vital for the tech industry because of the immense business opportunities provided,” said Erik Hersman, iHub founder.

    The Africa Network Information Center (AfriNIC), Africa’s regional Internet registry, has been working with governments, universities and corporations to drive up the rate of deployment. It was projected that the lack of legacy systems would lead to faster IPv6 deployment in the region, fueled by growing connectivity numbers and mobile network expansion.

    “IPv6 allocations and assignments have grown by more than 200 percent during the past 12 months; this is a sign that the message has started bearing fruit; 33 countries in Africa have at  least one IPv6 prefix, with the leading countries being South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Mauritius,” said Adiel Akplogan, AfriNIC CEO.

    While AfriNIC has been offering IPv6 training for the last four years, it has been hard for operators to see the business value of deploying IPv6 and the continuing availability of IPv4 has allowed some providers to wait until addresses based on the older technology are depleted. AfriNIC is projecting its IPv4 pool to last two or three years, depending on the rate of uptake.

    For Safaricom, the deployment is driven by the desire for business continuity; growing data revenue to complement voice revenue, which is on the decline; support for its growing 3G deployment; and expanding the number of residential users who have multiple gadgets, all of which require connectivity and IP addresses.

    “The issue of migration to IPv6 requires very high visibility; although stockpiles of IPv4 are still being held with AfriNIC, lack of IP addresses will pose a real threat to subscriber growth and this will become a real threat to business continuity,” added Safaricom’s Rerolle. “Looking at the low broadband penetration in the country and the need to grow numbers, (the issue of) IP addresses will come in sharp focus; migration to IPv6 will offer Safaricom an opportunity to tap into new business streams made possible by a potentially large community of connected devices that will use this protocol exclusively.”

    Given the extent of its network, Rerolle said IPv6 deployment will be gradual, and that the company will work closely with the developer teams at iHub to identify any issues that may arise before opening up the whole network to the public.

    “As you have seen with other businesses in Africa, the fast movers have the ability to lead the market in terms of products and services; if iHub developers can provide Safaricom with new products and services, then they will win the market,” said Hersman.

    Apart from tackling new business opportunities, Safaricom is hoping to reduce capital expenditure through auto-configuration of its nodes, increased security and mobility. IPv6 will also eliminate the need for Carrier Grade Network Address Translation (CGNAT), further lowering the costs. CGNAT is a service provided by major equipment vendors, that allows operators to continue offering services on both IPv4 and IPv6 but if the network fully deploys IPv6, then the company will not invest in CGNAT.

  • Alltel Limited's flagship product, K-Pad tablet, is gaining worldwide attention due to its increased patronage, affordability and locally developed free web applications for users, according to its manufacturers.

    It runs on Google's Android operating system as well as Microsoft's Windows 7 and 8.

    The 'K' in 'K-Pad' stands for Kludgeson. Kofi Kludgeson, the Executive Chairman of Alltel Limited, a Ghanaian IT company.

    Talking to newsman this week, he said, "After five years of technical development, we have come out with a product that is a major breakthrough in the world of technology. We have come out with K-Pad and in three months the product has hit the world market in a mighty way."

    The product, which comes in 7, 8, 9.7 and 10.1-inch variants, allows people to enjoy many free web applications like never before, most of which are local content developed to suit the Ghanaian and African environment.

    It has high definition videos, precise touch screen technology, camera with high images, downloadable software, e-learning material, advanced picture quality and the latest blue tooth application.

    "Our focus on K-Pad", said Kludgeson "is to look at the rural communities because there they have problems with data.

    In the health sector for instance, we want nurses to use K-Pad to record the basic data requirement for patients in order to make healthcare more accessible and efficient."

    He said K-Pad has transformed into an African project and the goal of Alltel is to target only five per cent of each economy's population.

    "In the last few months, we have had a lot of the international press, some from Belgium Television, Reuters and BBC wanting to know more about Alltel and its products, especially the K-Pad."

    One major advantage K-Pad has is that it is an open system device with USB. "From generation to revelation, we have factored all on the K-Pad. We have negotiated for the right to have free web applications for our customers because in our part of the world affordability is a major concern."

    Another innovation Alltel is going to introduce in the next two weeks is a product called "K-Phone".

    K-Phone, is mobile phone with an android operating system and dual SIM that will give 24/7 internet service to users. In addition, Alltel hopes to develop a 4G network in Ghana.

    Alltel's mission, Mr. Kludjeson noted, is to encourage Ghanaian youth to go into web application development so that they can be self-sustaining and create jobs for themselves and other people through the devices they develop.

    "In the next three years, we should be able to create and empower skills development for about one million youths in Ghana. The country is growing currently at 15% and a lot is happening and if we do not take advantage of the knowledge and technology gap, a time will come when only foreigners will do that for us."

    Alltel intends to list on the Ghana Stock Exchange in the next 12 months, where it aims at giving about 100,000 people the right to become part owners of the company.

More

  • Virgin Mobile SA CEO Steve Bailey, who resigned from the company this month, has been appointed as chief commercial officer at Glo, the second largest mobile operator in Nigeria after MTN with more than 25m subscribers. Bailey says he will take up the new role as soon as he receives the necessary visas to travel to and work in the West African country. His responsibilities will include sales and marketing and “the commercial role and all that encompasses”. Founded in 2003, Glo Mobile is owned by the Mike Adenuga Group and has more than 2 500 employees.

  • Call for Open Data’s Code4Kenya fellows

    Do you want to help kickstart a media and civil society revolution in Kenya? Code4Kenya is offering four Code4Kenya fellowships for civic hackers who want to help change the way that our societies work.

    The fellows will be embedded into some of Kenya’s most influential media and civil society organisations (CSOs) for six months to help them re-engineer the way they use open data. They will also work with “issue experts” and data holders who are supporting public sector innovation through the use of open data.

    This means your help will build scalable, sustainable and data-driven services on the web and mobile platforms. Initial themes to catalyze the public will be focused on basic services that are essential to Kenyan citizens:

        water
        health
        education.

    The fellowships will be paid, full time positions. Host organisations may offer permanent employment or consulting positions after the fellowship, depending on your performance. The Fellowship is jointly supported by the World Bank and the African Media Initiative (AMI). Embedded fellows will be supported by an external team of specialist developers, a veteran project manager and design thinking experts from iHub Research. Host organisations will also offer internal support, ranging from technical assistance, to content specialists.

    Please follow THIS link:

    Deadline is midnight on Tuesday, June 4th 2012.

Issue no 607 1st June 2012

node ref id: 25027

Top story

  • Sponsored by Nokia, infoDev and the Government of Finland, this week’s Open Innovation Africa Summit (OIAS) in Nairobi focused on how to create the ecosystem that will help develop services and applications for the mobile Internet. Russell Southwood attended and used it as an opportunity to see where things have got to since that last event 18 months ago.

    Eighteen months is a long time in Africa in terms of Internet development.Eighteen months ago was almost the point that large-scale use of Internet began to become apparent, particularly social media. Facebook numbers began to grow rapidly from that point and continue to do so. MXit numbers on the continent have also shot up outside South Africa. Venture capital companies like Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital have made significant bets on tech companies on the continent. There are now 22 tech incubator spaces on the continent engaged in the process of trying to breed successful, new companies.

    But the obstacles to the creation of a functioning mobile Internet ecosystem remain. Eighteen months ago I wrote a report after the first event that said:” Mobile operators have to decide whether they are “content guys” or not. In the medium term, it matters less what the decision is and more that they simply have clarity. In our view, mobile operators are not “content guys”: if they were, they would know something about how to develop content and not deal with it tactically through SMS aggregators as deals. There is currently no intelligent “content publishing” function in most operators’ structures. So the key issue for the success of data revenues is: how can you create a compelling, financially rewarding ecosystem to generate apps, content and services that users want more of?” Nothing has really changed.

    There were no mobile operators at this OIAS event and you rarely see them at any of the mobile web events on the continent. Their channels to receive new content are narrow (both in terms of staffing and launches) and they are holding back content and services development. So if you are a developer or entrepreneur in this space you either have to assume that you find a way to go round the mobile operators (the mobile web but it has far fewer users with handsets to access it) or that you will find a way to deal with them. As we will see later, neither approach presents easy options.

    Perhaps for this reason, this OIAS was a much more practically focused event than last time, where people grappled with this central roadblock along with wider issues like reaching the bottom-of-the-pyramid customers; getting Government to use this emerging means of communication and media; and providing finance to create new services and applications.

    Mercifully the event had less of the “build a tower with straws and plastic cups” exercises and was a very nourishing mixture of high-level plenaries with good speakers on key issues like leadership and small team-working in streams. You might not like all parts of the programme but all the right people were there and the conversations were rich and rewarding.

    The highlight for me was the leadership speakers. Patrick Awauah launched a private not-for-profit university in Ghana (Ashesi) because he saw that African education was based on rote learning and did not produce people who could analyze problems and solve them. Fred Swaniker (also a Ghanaian) travelled the same road and launched the African Leadership Academy. He wants to create a network of 6,000 African leaders and the Academy’s intake is the process for achieving this goal. Each intake gets to access a small VC fund to create companies. There is perhaps some irony that two of the continent’s most articulate leadership speakers come from a country in need of incisive leadership in the ICT field.

    However, the stand-out presentation was from Yves Morieux, Boston Consulting Group. He warned Africa not to accept the “poisoned seed” contained in the phrase best leadership practices. He described with great subtlety the awful consequences of trying to respond to the complex requirements of the 21st century. At the heart of this overwhelming complexity was the matrix organization.

    He described a car manufacturer that had 5 functional areas and five horizontal responsibilities at the international level and that at regional level there were a further 5 functional areas and 5 horizontal responsibilities. Little surprise that company surveys showed staff members spending 40% of their time writing reports and 30% of their time in meetings.

    A Demo event was held where 12 companies got the opportunity to present their company’s products and services and people voted for what they thought was the best one. The entrants included: Umuntu Media (virtual pinboard); M-ganga (a recording system for community medicines); MoMaths (education); Nokia Education Delivery; MyShop (running a small business on a smartphone); WetteIndeApps (Ushahidi-style social network platform); MaxMalipo (payment terminal); Snapplify (content delivery for mobile platforms); M-Shop (as it sounds); MyOrder (ordering platform for businesses); Uhasibu (cloud-based accounting for things like petty cash); and EGG-Energy (portable rechargeable batteries). The winner was Namibian-based Umuntu Media run by Johan Nel.

    I took part in the Mobile Information Society Stream that focused on trying to overcome some of the obstacles to delivering mobile services and applications. The team looked at how to monetize mobile content. The ways listed included: mobile income split on SMS; advertising revenues (through companies like inMobi); virtual currencies (like MXit’sMoolah); apps sold through app stores; sponsored sites (like the Guinness football site in Nigeria); and content syndication. The sad truth was that where the income split was favourable (through app stores), there was unfortunately far fewer users with appropriate phones. At almost every turn, the income split with mobile operators (70/30 or 80/20) was the issue on all the other routes.

    The team decided that an industry lobby , a mobile content and service providers association (representing SMS aggregators, media and developers) should sit down and negotiate with mobile operators to improve both routes to market and income splits. It would pioneer a Young Developers scheme that would allow those in the scheme to receive a far better income share to offer them some encouragement. Afrinnovator’s Mark Kaigwaagreed to take on the difficult task of trying to get one off the ground in Kenya.

    This was one of a whole slew of ideas that were presented to the plenary session at the end of the event. Rather too many of these were about exchanging information and setting up networks (as if these did not already exist) but nevertheless there were good ideas, including a number to improve the financing of entrepreneurs and start-up companies.

    For Africa to be successful in this area many things need to happen but two stand out above the rest:

    1. The mobile content roadblock described at the beginning of this article needs to be changed in some way. Mobile will not become the powerful media it has the potential to be without this occurring. Africa’s mobile operators may yet live to regret not taking a greater interest in this problem.

    2.    A venture capital company needs to invest in an African company and sell it on at a good profit. The more times this happens, the more the continent will attract interest from elsewhere.

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

    New on Balancing Act’s You Tube Channel:

    Bosun Tijani, Cocreation Hub in Lagos talks about innovation and social entrepreneurs

    Jesse Oguns, blogger at o TeKbits talks about ICT innovation in Nigeria

    From the previous week on Balancing Act’s You Tube channel:

    Samantha Fleming, Afrosocialmedia on NGOs using social media

    Dare Okoudjou, CEO, MFS Africa on selling mobile life insurance and the potential for mobile health insurance

    Johan Nel, CEO, Umuntu Media on the launch of Mimiboard, an online pinboard for Africa

    Roukaya Kasenally, Director of Comms, AMI on its new mobile news apps incubator

    Ofer Ronen, Sales Director - East Africa, GilatSatcom on doing business in South Sudan

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Erik Hersman, founder of Kenya’s iHub in conversation with Russell Southwood, Balancing Act about the successes and failures of ICT4D:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

telecoms

  • Airtel, the largest telecom network in DRC, is the first operator to be visited by the new Telecommunications & ICT Minister in the country –Tryphon Kin-Kiey Mulumba. The visit was part of the newly appointed Minister’s familiarization program to understand the realities that the telecom operators are dealing with in the country. 

    The Minister was delighted with the  level of investments made by the Airtel telecom network in DRC: More than a billion U.S. dollars has been invested in the network over the years, and Airtel plans to invest an additional 615 million U.S. dollars over the next three years.

    Commenting on his visit, Kin-Kiey Mulumba said: “Our country is very large and the potential is huge. Airtel is a big company, and the investments made so far by Airtel in our country are amazing. We, as the Government, are under the obligation to make available the essential infrastructures to enable operators like Airtel and others to continue investing in our country and improve the national coverage. "

    "The Government’s instructions are very clear as for an immediate sale of the 3G license to telecom operators and completion of the Optical fiber landing station. The Optical fiber question is a matter of priority for the Government," he added.

    Airtel DRC Managing Director, Antoine Pamboro, thanked the Minister for this visit which allowed the new head of the telecom sector to interact with Airtel’s team. The Minister and his delegation were impressed by Airtel’s technical achievements. Whist 60% of the Congolese population is covered, there is still a lot more potential. He also pointed out the organizations commitment to youth education. To date, three schools in Kinshasa, Kasai-Oriental and Bas-Congo benefit from Airtel’s adopt a school program.

    Airtel has also expressed willingness to take up a 25 % participation of the company to be set up to manage the Optical Fiber in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • Airspan Networks Inc., a provider of broadband wireless access networks, announced last week that it has been chosen by Millenium Telecom Centrafrique for a 4G Wireless deployment in Central African Republic (CAR).

    Millenium, a new Internet Service Provider, is the first mobile broadband operator in CAR, founded in April 2011, with the aim to provide reliable and affordable high-speed Internet access to individuals & businesses.

    The initial deployment is focused on delivering mobile 4G data services to approximately 1,000 users in Bangui, the capital of CAR. Subsequent phases will expand service to 10,000 consumer and corporate users throughout the city.

    Using Airspan's leading-edge Air4G macro cell solution, the deployment incorporates a wide selection of user devices including long-range outdoor, self-install indoor, and USB devices. Millenium offers VPN services to corporations and organizations, Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities in hotels and restaurants and pre-paid card services to consumers.

    "We are very happy to work with Airspan on the first wireless high-speed Internet network in CAR," commented Souleymane Diallo, Founder & CEO of Millenium Telecom. "With Airspan's Air4G platform, we will be able to provide the best quality network and offer unique, cost-effective, data services to the population of CAR. Our objective is to cover the whole capital city, Bangui, with mobile WiMAX and Wi-Fi hotspots in our first phase launch. We expect further expansion into additional provinces by the end of 2012."

    The network, operating in the 2.5 GHz band, is delivering never-before-accessed Internet speeds and services. The city of Bangui has a population of just under 600,000 people. The estimated current Internet penetration rate in CAR is 2% of the population.
    "Africa is a dynamic and fast-growing region for 4G Internet services," commented Amit Ancikovsky, President of Products and Sales for Airspan Networks. "Airspan is seeing an acceleration of 4G network deployments and I am very optimistic on our continued growth in this territory. Millenium is just an example of the entrepreneurial 4G Internet Service Providers popping up across underserved African regions, working diligently to modernize networks and help economic growth with broadband mobile data access. Airspan provides an ideal solution that helps these companies accomplish their goals."

  • Communications technology provider Ericsson has partnered up with TiGo Ghana to deploy a free voice and data network in that country using a hybrid power solution.

    Alan Triggs, Vice President & Head of Operations Sub-Saharan Africa and Country Manager for Ericsson, said the move was aimed at bringing better education and creating opportunities for those unconnected in Ghana’s rural areas.

    Most parts of Ghana's West Mamprusi and Builsa districts have no internet and mobile cellphone connections, making communication very difficult.

    "Mobile services along with internet connectivity will boost all levels of development in this otherwise neglected area,” said Amadou Niang, the director of the Millenium Development Goals for West Africa.

    Niang adds, "I believe we will see quick advances in health, education and agriculture infrastructure and business development through this partnership.”

    Acting chief executive officer of TiGo Ghana, Obafemi Banigbe, said the mobile operator’s participation was aimed at providing access to modern communication technology to people in deep rural areas, who do not enjoy similar communication social networks as their urban counterparts.

    "It is our overriding vision to create a world where mobile services are affordable accessible and available to everywhere and to all," said Banigbe.

    The Ericsson-TiGo partnership is financed by the United Nations' Millennium Village Project and includes partners Earth Institute and Millennium Promise.

    “More than 500,000 people in 10 sub-Saharan Africa countries have benefited from mobile connectivity as a result of the Millennium Village Project,” said Triggs.

  • Broadcast, Film and Music Africa, an conference international event will take place on 10-11 July 2012 at the Oshwal Centre Westlands, Nairobi, in Kenya. An estimated 400 delegates are expected this year including some top audiovisual experts and speakers. 
    “Through our ‘Broadcast, Film and Music Africa (BFMA)’ event, we have realised that content owners, the media and telecoms industries are increasingly developing synergies. These players need to establish stronger partnerships if they want to stay competitive” said Sean Moroney, Chairman of AITEC Africa. BFMA is the continent’s only business and technology event to serve the creative content and electronic media industry through an integrated platform. It is the  fourth conference in the series and will provide a stock-taking opportunity for stakeholders in all three industries, and empower them with the knowledge and business contacts they need to build Africa’s electronic media future.

    The conference is aimed at senior and middle managers in: national television and radio stations; pay TV companies; international broadcasters like CNN, BBC, NBC, VOA and CCTV; television and film production companies; facilities providers including production equipment hire, post-production and outside broadcast; donors and faith-based organisations that run their own broadcast organisations for development purposes; television and film equipment vendors and satellite capacity suppliers;advertising and marketing agencies; and mobile and fixed telephone operators looking at convergence opportunities.

    For more information on the event, sponsorship opportunities and booking a stand, email info (@) aitecafrica.com or call +44 (0) 1480 880774

internet

  • Egypt has become the first African country to join a high-speed Internet network aimed at research institutions that will boost the speed of data transfer with thousands of universities and science facilities across the world.

    The Global Ring Network for Advanced Applications Development (GLORIAD) offers research institutions speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. It was started in 1998, initially linking the United States with Russia.

    The African link first arrived in Egypt in 2010 — making it an entry point for this high-speed research network to the rest of Africa — but its activation was delayed due to the social upheaval that accompanied the Arab Spring.

    "Although we successfully demonstrated the link during the fourth meeting of the African Ministerial Council of Science and Technology (AMCOST IV) in March 2010, the uprising in Egypt disrupted the project, and brought new challenges," Majid Al-Sadek, project manager at the Egyptian National Scientific and Technical Information Network (ENSTINET), told SciDev.Net.

    "The major challenge was that the body that promised our funding — other than the seed funding from US National Science Foundation (NSF) —  was no longer prepared to fund the link after the revolution, but the Ministry of Scientific Research secured the funds, and the link came to life at the end of 2011."

    Al-Sadek said that the new link was designed to intelligently direct Internet traffic between the ordinary Internet and GLORIAD, depending on whether the user is focusing on research. It can also support around 75,000 concurrent videoconferences.

    But, although though the link to the GLORIAD network became active in December 2011, many researchers are still unaware of it.

    Maged El-Sherbiny, president of the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology told SciDev.Net: "Most researchers in Egypt still need to be introduced to the new link, so the academy is planning a large international workshop at the start of next month."

    He added that the workshop will gather "all Egyptian universities and research centres' representatives with their counterparts in many African countries to highlight the best use of the link".

    According to El-Sherbiny the academy is now discussing extending the link to the countries in the region via two rings: a northern one for North African countries (Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia), and an eastern one for the Nile Basin countries (Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan).

    Egypt is working to improve research networks in the Gulf region through GLORIAD's new GulfLight project, and in West Africa through a partnership with the telecommunications provider Baharicom. It is also seeking to develop the first Global Optical Light Exchanges (GOLE) in Africa to serve scientists and educators by increasing the speed of internet connection.

  • Africa's Internet users had something to celebrate this month. A total of 13 West African countries have just hooked up to a new underwater fiber optic cable running from Cape Town to London, bringing them better phone connections and a new high speed Internet link. But one country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), missed the boat bringing the cable ashore.

    Officially, the Democratic Republic Congo is about four months behind schedule to connect to the West African Cable System (WACS).  This is not the first time the DRC has missed out on a high speed Internet link.

    As Internet user Didier Bobange tries to download a document at his local cybercafé in Kinshasa, he has plenty of time to reflect on his country's position in the cyberspace race.
     
    "So we don't know how long we wait for it to come…you know. I was in Benin Republic 10 years ago and the connection [there] was far better than we have here today in Kinshasa," recalled Bobange.

    High speed Internet would be a blessing for Congo's businesses, researchers and even doctors who could make long distance diagnoses. It's past time they had it, says Laurent Ntumba, founder of the local Internet service provider Microcom.

    "There are many [fiber optic] cables in Africa. There are maybe seven or eight, and we're not connected. It's unacceptable," said Ntumba.

    In fact, he says, a fiber optic link between Muanda on the DRC's Atlantic coast and Kinshasa could have been switched on years ago.

    "The cable from Muanda to Kinshasa [has] already [been installed] underground three years now - we can use it," added Ntumba.

    But they cannot connect to the international line until the government has given permission, paid its dues to the cable consortium and builds a landing station at the coast. And, that is taking some time. It was a similar story in other countries, but the Congo has taken the longest time.

    The immediate reason why the Congo is not linked to WACS is that the cable landing station was not built to the right standards. Local media report that the company contracted to build it had never done this kind of job before.

    They also report that $3 million of government funds for the contract went missing last year and the former director-general of the national telecoms company, SCPT, was charged with high treason and jailed for three months in connection with the affair.

    The scandal came to light after SCPT employees protested plans to create a private company, Congo Cable, to manage fiber optic connections.

    Jean Paul Kamalata, a union representative for the telecoms sector, says this is unacceptable to cut out SCPT employees from the future revenues when they are already owed years in back pay. He also told said that the union has other valid concerns.

    Kamalata says he campaigned against the plan to create Congo Cable because he believes international telecom links are vital to a country's security and you cannot entrust a country's security to a private company.
     
    The government seems to have dropped the idea of creating a new company to manage the cable.

    Microcom's Ntumba thinks it was not a bad idea in principle. He says the SCPT will need competent private sector partners to install and maintain the fiber optic network.

    "Managing the cable is not something easy. You need to have the knowledge, you need all the support, and I don't know if the SCPT has this level of competence," Ntumba explained.

    Ntumba is also doubtful about the government's plan for the next stage, which is to lay 2,000 kilometers of cable from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi in the southeast corner of the country. He suggests it would be quicker and cheaper to connect Lubumbashi to Zambia's fiber optic cable, and other eastern cities to cables from Rwanda and Uganda. The money saved could be spent on laying connections within big cities.

    But many Congolese would oppose the idea of connecting eastern cities via Rwanda, a country that was at war with the DRC from 1998 to 2003.

    The current director general of the SCPT, Placide Mbatika, said that deals have already been signed with Ex-Im Bank China and a Chinese contractor to lay the 2,000 kilometer cable, although there will still be a need for investors for subsequent phases.

    Mbatika says the country is open to all investors for the fiber optic program. He says that thanks to President Joseph Kabila's intervention, SCPT now has political backing, competent management and a committed workforce. He predicts that the first phase of the project, landing the cable and connecting it to Kinshasa, will be finished by the end of August.

    Local media say that any further delays could jeopardize the Congo's chances of hosting the next summit of French speaking countries, scheduled to be held in Kinshasa in October.

  • South African internet service provider, MWeb plans to shut-down its lingering wireless network at the end of this month, having already migrated customers over to alternative platforms.

    The wireless network was a remnant of an early WiMAX trial in 2007 and when the trial license wasn't extended, the company retained the infrastructure to support a Wi-Fi based last-mile ISP service.

    MWeb Business General Manager, Andre Joubert told BusinessTech that expanding the network is not economically viable and that without coverage the company was turning away customers.

    When the WiMAX network was trialed, it offered service to about 1,000 customers in Cape Town and Gauteng.

computing

  • After training 150 people in 3 tranches, the nonprofit organization Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) has enrolled more 60 people in their basic ICT training courses.

    DOT Project Manager in Gakenke District, Daniel Mbaga said that their trainings are one month scheduled with intention of equipping the youth with basic ICT skills necessary for job creation and marketing of their activities.

    Speaking of the problems that face DOT project, Mbaga said that most of their trainees are male, thus living them with less number of females attending their course studies thus creating gender imbalance.

    Lack of enough computer services in comparison to an overwhelming number of youth who wish to pursue their studies is also another hindrance that DOT faces.

    Apart from ICT skill development, DOT also equips its trainees with business development skills like business plan preparations and advertising tips.

    Emmanuel Habiyambere on of DOT's trainees aged 38 and a resident of Rusagara Cell, Gakenke Sector in Gakenke district says that the received training is very crucial to his career since prior he was only dealing with electronics hardware but this time he will tackle even the software part of gadgets.

    Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) is a leading international organization, headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. DOT focuses on creating educational, economic, and entrepreneurial opportunity through the effective use of ICT for communities and people in countries that are developing, are in transition, or are under stress.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Sierra Leone’s National Commission for Privatisation signed a three-year management contract with Management and Development International Co. of Beirut to run the state-owned telecommunications company, Sierratel.

    “Sierratel still remains 100 percent government-owned,” Madonna Thompson, head of the commission’s utilities section, said in an interview in Freetown, the capital, today. “All the structures still remain, it’s just that the day-to-day operations to turn around the business will be done by a management contractor.”

    The talks over the contract lasted for nine months, Thompson said. Sierratel has monopoly over landlines in the West African nation and also provides mobile-phone and internet services.

  • A fund, which will raise money to promote access to telecommunications services in rural areas, is to be setup in Kenya..

    Kenya’s minister of information and communications, Samuel Poghisio, has confirmed that the fund is to be gazetted within the next two weeks, after plans of implementing it had been delayed for three years.

    All companies in the communications sector – be they mobile operators, ISPs, broadcasters or postal service providers - will be required to contribute 0.5% of their turnover to the fund.

    The collected money will then be focused on spreading communications across the country, especially in low income and neglected areas.

  • MTN Rwanda and MFS Africa today announced the launch of an online money transfer service that enables MTN Mobile Money customers to receive international remittances directly on their mobile phones.

    The service referred to as MTNMMO.COM is an online facility that enables MTN Mobile Money customers in Rwanda to receive international remittances directly on their mobile phones from senders in the Diaspora. MTN Rwanda is among the first MTN operations to connect to this service.

    Senders from outside Rwanda can register on the website MTNMMO.COM and send funds from their debit card or bank transfer via the internet to Rwanda by simply entering a beneficiary's mobile phone number. Funds are delivered immediately to the beneficiary's Mobile Money account in Rwanda.

    While Mobile Money customers today can already send and receive money from within Rwanda, the MTNMMO.COM service for the first time enables cross-border transfers into MTN Rwanda. The service is facilitated by MFS Africa, in partnership with BCR.

    "Making the connection to MTNMMO.COM to enable international remittances together with MFS Africa was high priority for us to better serve our customers, understanding their need to use their Mobile Money accounts to receive money from abroad," said Albert Kinuma, head of MTN Business. "We will continue to add new services to MTN Mobile Money, and grow our agent network, now standing at over 700 agents across Rwanda. With MFS Africa as a partner, we look forward to introducing additional products to Mobile Money in the near future."

    Auke Algera, the General Manager East Africa at MFS Africa said MTNMMO.COM is the first product being launched in Rwanda by the company. "The service extends the benefits of Mobile Money to the Rwandan Diaspora," he explained. "We established ourselves in Rwanda because we are committed to deploying a range of innovative financial products for mobile money providers in the region."

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • One Rwandan Mugabe Thomas has been announced the first subscriber to win a Turkish Airlines ticket to Europe in the on-going MTN Mobile Money promotion as of 25th May 2012 announcement. MTN is running a 4-week long Mobile Money consumer promotion, which started on the 16th of May and runs until the 13th of June 2012. MTN subscribers will also be rewarded with 10 percent bonus on airtime loaded through the Mobile Money platform. Every day throughout the promotion each of any 10 lucky winners receive Rwf20, 000 on their Mobile Money accounts, after making at least a registration or a transaction with Mobile Money.

Digital Content

  • Rwanda is set to open its first innovation incubator to promote the development of technologies by the tech and entrepreneurial community in Kigali.

    kLab will be based in Rwanda’s ICT Park and follow the lead of Nairobi’s iHub, which has spawned numerous start-ups as a result of linkups between techies and investors.

    Rwanda’s incubator will bring together students, engineers and designers, allowing them to share ideas and link up with entrepreneurs and investors.

    The kLab has already held a competition amongst members to develop its logo, which was won by graphic designer Eugene Rwagasore.

    He stressed the importance of the kLab’s slogan, “Community, Innovation and Openness”.

    “The numbers are there but it takes more, the truth is that a group scattered doesn't connect, misses the benefits that cohesion brings,” he said. “Having kLab as a focal point, a place where minds can meet, interact and share will help create that community.”

    The new tech hub is being developed in a joint effort between the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and Carnegie-Mellon University Rwanda.

    The Rwandan Ministry of Education alongside the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), government has also initiated the Rwanda Innovation Endowment Fund (RIEF) to promote innovation that will further the social and economic development of the country.

  • Discovery Health has launched an iPad application called HealthID that it claims will ease the burden of paperwork and administration on SA doctors, making it easier for the medical aid administrator to process claims in real time while maintaining patient confidentiality.

    Discovery Health SA CEO Jonathan Broomberg says the app is aimed at doctors and specialists. He says ability to make claims and request payment for prescribed medication in real time is saving two to three days in processing time. Doctors can also receive laboratory reports via the app.

    HealthID has been in development since 2010. Trials of an early version with 10 doctors began in March 2011, with a second version rolled out to 100 doctors in August. The latest version was launched last week.

  • Beverly Hills- River Naija Productions a division of the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce-USA launches African Women Are Gorgeous International, an online lifestyle and entertainment platform that empowers everyday women of African descent to celebrate and share their inner and aesthetic beauty with the world.

    African Women Are Gorgeous International underscores newsworthy people and events lending insight into the plight of the African woman and her desire to be recognized as beautiful, strong, self-reliant and integral to the sociological underpinnings of our world.

    African Women Are Gorgeous International also features sections on Health, Education, Beauty, Relationships, Fashion, Faith, Africa’s Finest and the AWAG International competition; which is an interactive virtual beauty contest specifically designed to uplift African Women.

    The AWAG International competition is the most popular feature of the site, enabling users to nominate their friends, colleagues and/or loved ones into a global voting pool for a chance to win luxurious products and services furnished in part by Villa Blanca Beverly Hills and Sprinkles gourmet cupcakes.

    We encourage you to visit us at www.africanwomenaregorgeous.com and cast your votes for your favorite nominees. We also invite you to follow us on Twitter @AfricanWomen1 or “Like” us on Facebook.

  • Safaricom has become the first mobile operator in Africa to open up its network for Internet Protocol version 6 testing through its partnership with iHub Nairobi, an initiative aimed at bringing together application and content developers.

    Safaricom has been running IPv6 on its network for the last year but had not opened the technology up for public services because it needed to better prepare internally to provide the technology and there was no demand from organizations for the service. In addition, there were few IPv6 applications developed for local use.

    IPv6 was designed to address the upcoming depletion of IPv4 addresses, and among other things allows for greater efficiency and flexibility in allocating addresses and routing traffic.

    With growing awareness of the technology, however, the network feels it is ready for developers to start testing applications on its IPv6 platform.

    “We chose to work with iHub because we believe that by offering IPv6 services here we help in opening a whole new world of possibilities for the community here,” said Thibaud Rerolle, Safaricom’s technology director. “The concept of iHub is to spur a revolution in the technology products and services space, give the tech community a facility where they can bring their ideas to life; our partnership will be more to enable the capabilities of this facility, which (iHub) gives Safaricom that perfect environment to test new services, too.”

    Offering an open, incubator-type space for the tech community in Kenya, iHub is hoping to encourage more application and Web developers to take advantage of the initiative and develop innovative products suited for the market.

    “In the last two years, Safaricom has opened up to the tech community especially on the data side; IPv6 deployment is vital for the tech industry because of the immense business opportunities provided,” said Erik Hersman, iHub founder.

    The Africa Network Information Center (AfriNIC), Africa’s regional Internet registry, has been working with governments, universities and corporations to drive up the rate of deployment. It was projected that the lack of legacy systems would lead to faster IPv6 deployment in the region, fueled by growing connectivity numbers and mobile network expansion.

    “IPv6 allocations and assignments have grown by more than 200 percent during the past 12 months; this is a sign that the message has started bearing fruit; 33 countries in Africa have at  least one IPv6 prefix, with the leading countries being South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Mauritius,” said Adiel Akplogan, AfriNIC CEO.

    While AfriNIC has been offering IPv6 training for the last four years, it has been hard for operators to see the business value of deploying IPv6 and the continuing availability of IPv4 has allowed some providers to wait until addresses based on the older technology are depleted. AfriNIC is projecting its IPv4 pool to last two or three years, depending on the rate of uptake.

    For Safaricom, the deployment is driven by the desire for business continuity; growing data revenue to complement voice revenue, which is on the decline; support for its growing 3G deployment; and expanding the number of residential users who have multiple gadgets, all of which require connectivity and IP addresses.

    “The issue of migration to IPv6 requires very high visibility; although stockpiles of IPv4 are still being held with AfriNIC, lack of IP addresses will pose a real threat to subscriber growth and this will become a real threat to business continuity,” added Safaricom’s Rerolle. “Looking at the low broadband penetration in the country and the need to grow numbers, (the issue of) IP addresses will come in sharp focus; migration to IPv6 will offer Safaricom an opportunity to tap into new business streams made possible by a potentially large community of connected devices that will use this protocol exclusively.”

    Given the extent of its network, Rerolle said IPv6 deployment will be gradual, and that the company will work closely with the developer teams at iHub to identify any issues that may arise before opening up the whole network to the public.

    “As you have seen with other businesses in Africa, the fast movers have the ability to lead the market in terms of products and services; if iHub developers can provide Safaricom with new products and services, then they will win the market,” said Hersman.

    Apart from tackling new business opportunities, Safaricom is hoping to reduce capital expenditure through auto-configuration of its nodes, increased security and mobility. IPv6 will also eliminate the need for Carrier Grade Network Address Translation (CGNAT), further lowering the costs. CGNAT is a service provided by major equipment vendors, that allows operators to continue offering services on both IPv4 and IPv6 but if the network fully deploys IPv6, then the company will not invest in CGNAT.

  • Alltel Limited's flagship product, K-Pad tablet, is gaining worldwide attention due to its increased patronage, affordability and locally developed free web applications for users, according to its manufacturers.

    It runs on Google's Android operating system as well as Microsoft's Windows 7 and 8.

    The 'K' in 'K-Pad' stands for Kludgeson. Kofi Kludgeson, the Executive Chairman of Alltel Limited, a Ghanaian IT company.

    Talking to newsman this week, he said, "After five years of technical development, we have come out with a product that is a major breakthrough in the world of technology. We have come out with K-Pad and in three months the product has hit the world market in a mighty way."

    The product, which comes in 7, 8, 9.7 and 10.1-inch variants, allows people to enjoy many free web applications like never before, most of which are local content developed to suit the Ghanaian and African environment.

    It has high definition videos, precise touch screen technology, camera with high images, downloadable software, e-learning material, advanced picture quality and the latest blue tooth application.

    "Our focus on K-Pad", said Kludgeson "is to look at the rural communities because there they have problems with data.

    In the health sector for instance, we want nurses to use K-Pad to record the basic data requirement for patients in order to make healthcare more accessible and efficient."

    He said K-Pad has transformed into an African project and the goal of Alltel is to target only five per cent of each economy's population.

    "In the last few months, we have had a lot of the international press, some from Belgium Television, Reuters and BBC wanting to know more about Alltel and its products, especially the K-Pad."

    One major advantage K-Pad has is that it is an open system device with USB. "From generation to revelation, we have factored all on the K-Pad. We have negotiated for the right to have free web applications for our customers because in our part of the world affordability is a major concern."

    Another innovation Alltel is going to introduce in the next two weeks is a product called "K-Phone".

    K-Phone, is mobile phone with an android operating system and dual SIM that will give 24/7 internet service to users. In addition, Alltel hopes to develop a 4G network in Ghana.

    Alltel's mission, Mr. Kludjeson noted, is to encourage Ghanaian youth to go into web application development so that they can be self-sustaining and create jobs for themselves and other people through the devices they develop.

    "In the next three years, we should be able to create and empower skills development for about one million youths in Ghana. The country is growing currently at 15% and a lot is happening and if we do not take advantage of the knowledge and technology gap, a time will come when only foreigners will do that for us."

    Alltel intends to list on the Ghana Stock Exchange in the next 12 months, where it aims at giving about 100,000 people the right to become part owners of the company.

More

  • Virgin Mobile SA CEO Steve Bailey, who resigned from the company this month, has been appointed as chief commercial officer at Glo, the second largest mobile operator in Nigeria after MTN with more than 25m subscribers. Bailey says he will take up the new role as soon as he receives the necessary visas to travel to and work in the West African country. His responsibilities will include sales and marketing and “the commercial role and all that encompasses”. Founded in 2003, Glo Mobile is owned by the Mike Adenuga Group and has more than 2 500 employees.

  • Call for Open Data’s Code4Kenya fellows

    Do you want to help kickstart a media and civil society revolution in Kenya? Code4Kenya is offering four Code4Kenya fellowships for civic hackers who want to help change the way that our societies work.

    The fellows will be embedded into some of Kenya’s most influential media and civil society organisations (CSOs) for six months to help them re-engineer the way they use open data. They will also work with “issue experts” and data holders who are supporting public sector innovation through the use of open data.

    This means your help will build scalable, sustainable and data-driven services on the web and mobile platforms. Initial themes to catalyze the public will be focused on basic services that are essential to Kenyan citizens:

        water
        health
        education.

    The fellowships will be paid, full time positions. Host organisations may offer permanent employment or consulting positions after the fellowship, depending on your performance. The Fellowship is jointly supported by the World Bank and the African Media Initiative (AMI). Embedded fellows will be supported by an external team of specialist developers, a veteran project manager and design thinking experts from iHub Research. Host organisations will also offer internal support, ranging from technical assistance, to content specialists.

    Please follow THIS link:

    Deadline is midnight on Tuesday, June 4th 2012.

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