Newsletter English

Issue no 644 1st March 2013

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Top story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    New Balancing Act video clip interviews this week:

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

    Manfred Tumban, CEO, SNS Mobility on his Cameroon MVNO

    Video briefings on:

    The roll-out of LTE in the UK market:


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

    Film and Music video platforms in Africa:

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

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

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

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

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

    Gado on Buni TV

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

telecoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

internet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

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

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

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

Digital Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Issue no 644 1st March 2013

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Top story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    New Balancing Act video clip interviews this week:

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

    Manfred Tumban, CEO, SNS Mobility on his Cameroon MVNO

    Video briefings on:

    The roll-out of LTE in the UK market:


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

    Film and Music video platforms in Africa:

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

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

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

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

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

    Gado on Buni TV

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

telecoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

internet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

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

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

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

Digital Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Issue no 644 1st March 2013

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Top story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    New Balancing Act video clip interviews this week:

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

    Manfred Tumban, CEO, SNS Mobility on his Cameroon MVNO

    Video briefings on:

    The roll-out of LTE in the UK market:


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

    Film and Music video platforms in Africa:

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

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

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

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

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

    Gado on Buni TV

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

telecoms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

internet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

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

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

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

Digital Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Issue no 643 22nd February 2013

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Top story

  • Like a lot of technologies, augmented reality has long roots, going all the way back to the 1970s and 1980s. But the arrival of the smart phone has really started to put it on the map and generate a significant user base. Russell Southwood talked to Brett Levy, Managing Director, Rapid Blue Digital about how it’s been using the technology.

    Augmented reality allows a user to look at a view in front of them on a device (whether something as large as a screen with a projection on it or as small as smartphone screen) and see something in the image that isn’t there in real life. 

    For example, there is a company called iButterfly that puts flying digital butterflies into the air near retail outlets: you catch enough of them with your virtual digital net and you get prizes. Or it can be something as everyday as a translation of street and shop signs or additional information about the view you’re looking at. It can be anything from retail incentives to educational information about buildings.

    Those who are enthusiastic about the technology see it as the eighth mass media (see the video briefing clip link of mobile analyst Tomi Ahonen at the end of this story) but even if you don’t buy this entire bill of goods, it is – along with gesture recognition and motion control – going to play a serious role both in interfaces and in content delivery. 

    Why might this be relevant for Africa? The challenge for Africa is to produce low-cost smartphones that have interfaces that go beyond the usual tree-and-branch menu structure with type it in instructions. Gesture is natural and as children will show you, it’s also exploratory. Once you’ve figured out how the gestures work, it’s easy to make things happen. You don’t need to type www.whatever…..

    Brett Levy, Managing Director, Rapid Blue Digital is not the first to use augmented reality in advertising campaigns but is among a small group that has also included a campaign for Cadburys. But he does think that they’re probably the first people to use augmented reality on a large screen (3 x 6 metres) and it was a campaign for a telecoms client, South Africa’s incumbent Telkom.

    The user steps on an x marks the spot point on floor and at which point the continuously playing commercial stops and elements from the commercial hover at the person’s chest level. They are then given instructions to lift their arms and in so doing, the different elements separate and they then can touch all the different elements. 

    It then turns into a game in which they have to push away different things that are coming at them until it gets too fast to do so. The point being made by the client is that you can’t escape convergence which is Telkom’s pitch for an offer that includes fixed line, Internet, mobile and cloud services. (It might be quad play if they had a video service to sell but that’s another story).

    The screen has toured a number of major shopping malls like Sandton City (where the footfall is 200,000 a week) and this week will be in Johannesburg’s international airport.

    According to Levy:”We’ve positioned ourselves as leaders in this field and have probably done more augmented reality than anyone else on the continent.” The company has used the Aurasma engine and there are apps available for both iOS and Android phones (see here ) Already 2,000 people have downloaded these apps. The standard apps don’t work on Blackberry phones so they have used Wikitude to provide the location base for those handsets.

    These apps can be “white-labeled” for other companies and Rapid Blue Digital has done work with 8ta, Nedbank, two national newspapers and gaming company Alienwave. In terms of bandwidth, it can work on EDGE but it works best on 3G, Wi-Fi or LTE.

    So if you see butterflies floating across your screen….it’s just the future beating its wings.

    Video briefings on this topic and related issues like gesture recognition and motion control:

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

    Niall Austin, OmniMotion Technology on using gesture recognition and motion control 

    Leonard Ah Kun, Cobi Interactive on augmented reality, Leap Motion and Google glasses

    Also videos on winning apps that have a relevance to Africa:

    Dr Kosala Liyange on Prognosis – Your Diagnosis on his doctors' learning app that uses case studies

    J P Ellis & Agatha Simanjuntak-Ellis, Harpoen - digital grafitti app that leaves trail of images and memories

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

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

     

telecoms

  • The managements of Cellcom GSM and Total Liberia have announced a business partnership for the provision of all Cellcom products and services to be sold at Total service stations across the country.

    The announcement was made at a news conference held in Monrovia last week. Speaking at the conference, Total Liberia Retail Supervisor Remma Bull said the partnership is a strategic venture that has brought together two strong service providers from two distinctively and important business sectors by means of the petroleum and telecommunication.

    Bull explained that Total Liberia was proud to join such partnership with Cellcom, noting that the partnership is based on mutual goals that focuses on the decentralization of professional and quality product and services to Liberians as well as a business norm where services to customers must be convenient and satisfactory at all times.

  • Ghana’s National Communications Authority (NCA) has awarded Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) licences in the 2500 – 2690 MHz band to Surfline Limited and GoldKey Properties Limited, as well as an unpaired configuration licence to G-Kwiknet Limited.Each licence, costing USD6 million, is valid for 10 years.

    “BWA licences are intended to provide wireless broadband connectivity to subscribers and licensees are authorised to develop and operate broadband networks to provide nationwide BWA services,” NCA said.

    The NCA said in a statement that the Licensee(s) and end-users shall be allowed to employ any suitable technology of their choice to provide fixed, nomadic or mobile broadband services throughout Ghana.

    The NCA said nine applications had gone through the process: five for paired frequency configuration of 2 x 15MHz, and four for unpaired frequency configuration of 1 x 30MHz.

  • Cameroon regulator Agence de Regulation des Telecommunications (ART) has refused to accept proposed mobile tariffs pitched by operators MTN and Orange for authorisation based on dissatisfaction over suggested off-peak discounts.

     This follows ART appeals to operators to decrease mobile service fees for off-peak times, with specific reference to voice calls, to make communication in the West African country more affordable.

    “Orange did not take up the regulator’s recommendation for the off-peak interconnection rates to be applied on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays,” Jean-Louis Beh Mengue, Chairman at ART, said.

    Orange Cameroon submitted proposals for 2013 in June last year, but received no approval for the peak hour rates of XAF32 per minute and off-peak hour rates of XAF30 per minute.

    “Operators [must] reduce their rate to XAF25 per minute and a significant cut in the SMS tariff until the process of adopting an interconnection tariff calculation model is completed,” the ART responded to MTN’s identical tariff suggestions.

    The ART stands firm that all Cameroon operators should enter negotiations before officially announcing fees to the public.

    The fees insisted upon by the regulator is to remain a fixed ultimatum until the complete interconnection tariff calculation model is available.

internet

  • Telecom Namibia has entered into an agreement with NewTelco South Africa, represented by Jasco Co-location Solutions, to establish a total of four international Points of Presence (PoPs) connected into the WACS undersea cable that became active in May 2012. These PoPs, to be located in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Frankfurt and London, will be procured and built by NewTelco SA for exclusive use by Telecom Namibia. As part of the agreement, Telecom Namibia is currently making use of NewTelco’s existing infrastructure until the dedicated infrastructure is built. A number of global carriers are already connected into the service.

    Namibia was the second country to extend the reach of their network into Europe on the WACS cable. The agreement between Telecom Namibia and NewTelco SA is a pioneering step in connecting Africa to the world, removing the reliance of a number of African telecoms operators on third parties to connect internationally and driving down the cost of communications for the continent.

    “In order to connect to global telecommunications providers, Telecom Namibia needed space in multiple data centres as well as a company  to manage and maintain services. NewTelco SA, through our ties to NewTelco GmbH, is perfectly positioned to deliver on Telecom Namibia’s requirements and fulfil this role. Not only will this assist with bringing down the cost of telecommunications, it will also provide cheaper Internet connectivity as Namibia will no longer have to route data traffic through South Africa,” says Eckart Zollner, Business Development Manager for Jasco Co-location Solutions.

    Jasco says in a statement that direct routing not only provides more cost effective interconnections, it also enables the operator to offer higher speeds of connectivity at lower prices, as well as better customer service. Telecom Namibia are now able to manage their own networks and make broadband connectivity more accessible to the Namibian public, helping them to bridge the digital divide and allowing the country to compete on a global stage.

    The strategic location of the four PoPs mean that Telecom Namibia can now offer its customers in South Africa or abroad direct connections to a number of existing and future undersea cable systems such as WACS, SAT3, EASSY, SEACOM, ACE and BRICS.  This not only provides for a fault tolerant international service platform, but also provides an opportunity to benefit from an optimised pricing model as traffic can be routed over any of these cable systems.

computing

  • A Batch A corps member, Tom Samuel serving in Gadabuke Development Area of Nasarawa State has built an ICT resource centre for the residents of Kullo Village in the area as part of his determination to positively affect the lives of people in his place of primary assignment.

    The computer resource centre with modern facilities offers all computer services such as; digital computer laboratory, digital computer almanacs, design cottons, window nets, generator, flash drives, computer parts and many others.

    While speaking during the commissioning of the centre, the NYSC state co-ordinator, Mr Stephen Alabi represented by the NYSC Local Inspector, Gadabuke Development Area, Engr. Moses Adamolekuncommended the initiator of the project.

    He said; "When he first discussed the project with me, I thought it was impossible, but through the determination and zeal of Tom Samuel, the dream has come to fulfillment."

    He, however, challenged other corps members who are yet to take up any community development projects to do so to affect their place of primary assignment positively.

  • The Sierra Leone Prisons Service last Thursday 14 February officially launched its website, which is expected to closely bringthe activities of the Prisons to the public - both nationally and internationally.

    Dennis K. Harman of the Prison Service said the website is a system of document that can be accessed through the internet and that they wanted to give wider access to the public about the operations of the Prisons. He explained that the initiative of launching the website was in line with the 'Agenda for Prosperity' as the Prisons Service is about to join the global network in giving the public vast knowledge about their society. Harman added that the website would also fast-track the work of Prisons and provide education for the children of inmates as well as those of prisons officers, noting: "Children of inmates are the future prisoners". 

    Director of Prisons, Sanpha Bilo Kamara, said the launch of the website was a move in the right direction as they are poised to transform the Prisons Service into a correctional centre. He thanked the German and Nigerian embassies for their support in constructing a primary school for his department.

    Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Sheka Tarawalie, said he was a former prisoner not as a lawbreaker but as a result of his profession and that he knew what the needs of prisoners and prisons officers were.

    He maintained that launching a website was an appropriate thing to do in the 21st century; a development he said would help the Prisons Service to interact with other institutions both national and international.

    "We will see to it that the condition of the prisons improve and we'll also focus on the officers and their dependants because their work is challenging. We will build schools for children of prisoners and those of prison officers," Tarawalie pledged.

    He promised to be monitoring the website on a daily basis and called on the officers responsible for updating it to do so with current events and adequate information.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Essar Kenya has joined market leader Safaricom in raising charges for its mobile money transfer as operators pass on a new excise tax effected recently.

    Orange and Airtel are yet to respond to the charges for all money transfer which bankers are headed for court to oppose.

    Essar, which owns the yu brand, has from Thursday increased withdrawal charges for its yuCash service by 10 per cent but has retained the current zero charge on sending money.

    On February 8, Safaricom raised M-Pesa charges by a similar margin for transactions above Sh101, as it rushed to protect its revenues.

  • Safaricom has partnered with Kenya Commercial Bank to offer M-Pesa agents loans at 20 per cent interest, payable in 12 months.The bank has allocated Sh1.5 billion for the unsecured loan facility dubbed 'M-Pesa Agent mkopo na KCB'.

    The agents can borrow six times their average commissions earned over a six month period, or a minimum of Sh50,000 and a maximum of Sh5 million.

    Safaricom's chief executive Bob Collymore said the product is aimed at boosting the agents' trading capital popularly known as float.

    KCB hopes the product will help to net a large section of the small scale entrepreneurs in the thriving mobile money business which has become the new competition frontier for banks.

  • Standard Chartered’s Maxweber Asiimwe has dismissed as untrue reports that banks are feeling the heat from telecom companies offering mobile money services in Uganda.

    In an email to The Independent, Asiimwe said mobile money is simply an extension of mobile telephony. He said judging by how well the mobile phone was embraced on the African continent long before the facility of mobile money came into being; mobile money was always destined for the phenomenal take off that the country has witnessed.

    Now other than concentrate on the threat posed by mobile money to the banking industry or the reverse for that matter, Asiimwe said, the opportunities for building a completely symbiotic relationship between banks and telecoms are immense and will increase exponentially with further technological advancements.

    “We are already witnessing the use of bank infrastructure by telecoms whereby mobile money customers could use bank branches or ATMS to safely access their cash sent through electronic channels,” he said.

    He added payment of electricity, water and other domestic bills can be done courtesy of the mobile phone by the customer miles away from the bank branch.

    He said the telecom service is in this case being used by banks to offer more convenience to their customers. He said Stanchart are looking at the mobile money impact as an opportunity of adding the formerly unbanked sections of the population that have been attracted by mobile money to their client base.

    “This will no doubt be made possible through relentless innovation on our part in our association with telecoms,” he said.

    It is estimated that Uganda has about 3.5 million bank accounts compared to about 17 million mobile phone subscribers as of June 2012.

    Mazen Mroue, the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Uganda, whose company pioneered the service in the East Africa’s third largest economy, says Shs 600 billion is transferred through its mobile money platform on a monthly basis.

    He says over 25 million transactions were carried out on MTN Mobile Money during December 2012. In total, MTN Uganda recorded over 200 million transactions on its platform during 2012.

    The other players in the industry include Airtel Uganda, Warid telecom, Uganda telecom and Orange Uganda.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Telecel, a major mobile operator in Zimbabwe, is offering a new fixed payment contract which aims to give consumers more control and flexibility over their expenditure.

     As well as offering unlimited calls to one Telecel number or unlimited local calls, those who sign up will receive “priority customer service” at the Red Desks at Telecel outlets.

    The new product, Telecel Red, provides three different packages costing US$30, US$60 and US$150.

    Donald Mupfunya, Sales and Distribution Director, said: “We are fully aware of the need to increase our retail footprint and plans are at an advanced stage to acquire and open additional shops countrywide.

    “We have deployed a full sales force to ensure we reach anyone and everyone wanting to come onto Telecel Red. Just give us a call and we will come to you and advise you on the best plan for you.”

    The flexi subscribers can recharge their accounts using the regular vouchers, while postpaid customers will be billed for usage outside of the credit package. They will be advised by SMS when they exceed their usage.

Digital Content

  • Beliaa, a mobile road assistance app, has won the Cairo Transport App challenge.

    The challenge sought solutions to traffic problems in Cairo, offering prizes of cash and a trip to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

    The first prize went to Beliaa, an innovative "mobile car mechanic" designed to assist car owners. It is described as the first app for road assistance and car maintenance in Egypt, using GPS to help drivers locate road assistance centres and send car maintenance requests with the required service, date and time to authorised car workshops.

    Africa: Competition Seeks Best Ways to Use Technology to Stop Atrocities

    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its partner Humanity United have announced the first-round winners of the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention, a technology competition enlisting problem solvers from around the world in support of the Obama administration's effort to design new tools to prevent mass atrocities.

    Physicians for Human Rights, a nonprofit organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, won a first-place prize of $5,000 for a mobile phone app that allows physicians in developing countries to better document evidence of mass atrocities. Le-Marie Thompson, the founder of a product development company based in Bowie, Maryland, also won a first-place prize for Web-based software that allows product designers to ensure that a product's electronic components are "conflict-free."

    Second-place winning ideas include a platform to promote socially conscious tourism, submitted by Fiona Mati, a project manager at a solar energy company in Kenya.

    Applicants from 22 countries submitted 88 innovative technologies addressing two challenges: identify, spotlight and deter third-party enablers of atrocities; or support documentation of atrocities to hold perpetrators accountable. Seven innovations won first-, second- and third-place prizes ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

    The Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention is part of a broader effort by USAID to promote open source development, including the use of prizes to access untapped solutions and problem solvers for specific development issues.

    "At the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last April, President Obama spoke about one of these challenges: preventing mass atrocities and genocide. Recognizing the power of NGOs, faith groups, and young people to help prevent mass atrocities, the President emphasized that achieving this goal didn't start from the top: 'It starts from the bottom up,'" USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said in a February 14 press release.

    "What's exciting about the Tech Challenge is the opportunity for individuals and groups around the world to provide innovative solutions to some of the world's most intractable problems. The chance to leverage the skills and experience of such a global audience is truly extraordinary," said Randy Newcomb, CEO of Humanity United.

    A jury comprising human rights and technology experts and U.S. government leaders reviewed the proposals and chose the winners. Following the awarding of prizes, Humanity United and USAID will work to pilot and scale the most promising innovations.

    The Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention will host in the coming weeks an interactive Google+ Hangout to launch its next three subchallenges.

  • Afta-robot, a South African taxi app providing a two-way solution to South African taxi drivers and commuters, will be launched by developer Sowertech next month.

    Whereas most similar services only offer those needing transport options to locate drivers, the app enables both parties to supply information to each other.

    The Beta phase of the app will be released on March 15 to 240,000 commuters in the selected pilot area of the Gauteng province.

    The service aims to reduce commuter waiting times and provide an opportunity for drivers to generate an increased daily income for approximately 65 percent of the country’s population with an income below R600 (US$68).

    Within six months other areas in Gauteng, such as Randburg, will also be included in the monitored areas to benefit from the service.

    The service is accessible with any Internet-enabled mobile device at R0.20 per dial.

    Nathi Tshabalala, Director of Projects & Technology, referred to the South African taxi market as a “R25 billion industry” with a current count of 122,000 12 and higher-seater vehicles in action, in his presentation at the BT Global Services International Trade Bootcamp last week,

    The first Gold-Members of mLab Southern Africa, Johannesburg-based Sowertech is a technology developing company.

    The company is on the lookout for early stage investment, technology partners and system inventors to expand into previously disadvantaged areas.

    Sowertech is one of 15 businesses that have been selected to participate in the BT Global Services International Trade Bootcamp programme as hosted by Micro Enterprise Development Organisation (MEDO).

    The programme assists entrepreneurs in mastering business presentation skills, among other training courses, and offers a selected group the opportunity to present to investors in the United Kingdom in April 2013.

  • Despite the successful pilot of m-health programmes in developing countries, especially in Africa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says m-health implementation is still being hampered by competing health system priorities, which it has identified as a top barrier globally across high, upper-middle and lower-middle income countries.

    WHO says that most health systems are severely overburdened, which means they are constantly challenged by the need to make difficult decisions about competing priorities.

    Dakar-based industry watcher Leopold Camara agrees, saying that most African governments already have ‘very little food’ on their plates to share among ‘so many people’, which he said making a decision about who will take what and who will get little or who won’t get nothing, becomes very difficult.

    “Concepts such as e-health and m-health can seriously change the face of a country’s health system, but implementing such initiatives becomes problematic if there is no adequate funding, especially in the face of unknown cost-effectiveness of available m-health solutions,” Camara says, adding that that is the reason why many m-health initiatives in developing countries are privately-funded.

    “Sometimes, I have the feeling that technology is putting too much pressure on Africa, and forcing already-burdened African governments to bite more than they can chew.”

    The Geneva-based UN agency also says competing priorities generally indicates that funding is allocated to other programmes ahead of m-health, or can reflect a lack of general interest or understanding of the field.

    Camara explains: “It becomes difficult when you have so little to spend to solve your problems. Africa has too many health needs, from lack of drugs to medical staff asking for a pay increase, no electricity at state hospitals, not enough beds, no ambulances, replacing obsolete equipment, building more clinics, and so on.

    “African decision-makers firmly believe these needs must be taken care of, first, before they think of investing in m-health, which they may think is ‘less important’. This lack of interest or knowledge continues to constitute a dangerous obstacle to the development of e-health and m-health in Africa.” 

    The Royal Tropical Institute, which says the majority of m-health initiatives in resources-poor settings are pilots and few have been identified for scaling up, lists about 50 Africa m-health programmes, most of which have been implemented in countries such as Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Botswana, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Gambia and Senegal.

    Senegal’s well-known m-health initiative is called Djobi, which was financed by the Fond Francophone des Inforoutes and set up by RAES (Réseau Africain d’Educationpour la Santé), an NGO, in partnership with Orange, PAMAS and Gaston Berger University.

    Djobi, which is also implemented in Mali, aims to reduce child mortality by 30% among children of under five in both countries. Djobi was among the eight m-health initiatives which received grants from the Norway-owned Innovation Working Group (IWG) and mHealth Alliance in September 2012.

  • Mobile-phone masts in Africa could be used for other development initiatives, such as filling gaps in rainfall data and providing electricity to refrigerate vaccines, experts say.

    For example, masts could be used to measure rainfall in areas without rain gauges, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) this month (4 February).

    A general lack of rain gauges across Africa hinders countries' ability to monitor water resources and improve early warning systems that could save lives and cut the cost of flooding.

    In the PNAS study, the researchers estimated average rainfall intensity from telecommunication network data for the Netherlands, taking advantage of the fact that rain causes signal losses between mobile-phone masts. They then compared these estimated rainfall maps with those generated from radar and rain gauges.

    "There was a good match between the rainfall maps based on the mobile network and those based on the radar and rain gauge data," says lead author Aart Overeem, a hydrologist with Wageningen University in the Netherlands and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

    The researchers say their findings could be applicable in Africa and other places that lack a reliable network of rain gauges.

    They hope their study will persuade mobile-phone companies to release relevant data freely for use in research and to measure rainfall.

    But Overeem adds that the rain-measuring technique must be studied further both over a longer period and in places, such as the tropics, where mobile-phone masts often operate at lower radio frequencies. At such frequencies, there is a more complex relationship between rain and signal weakening that could affect the accuracy of rainfall maps.

    A further application for mobile-phone towers could be to divert some of their electricity supply to cool vaccines, says Harvey Rubin, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States and a director of Energize the Chain (EtC), an organisation that aims to set up this refrigeration.

    The power for masts comes from generators, electricity companies or renewable energy sources such as the wind, which is paid for by mast operators.

    As part of an EtC project in Zimbabwe, telecommunications firm Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has provided mast-cooled vaccine refrigerators at more than 100 sites, Rubin says, adding that the organisation will be focusing on India and Kenya next.

    "Through the EtC initiative, it costs just 60 US cents a day to run one of the World Health Organization-approved vaccine refrigerators in remote villages," he says.

    Judah Levine, an EtC director who is also chief executive officer of HIP Consult, a US-based firm with expertise in African telecommunications markets, says that masts in countries such as Ghana and Zambia are owned and operated by companies on behalf of mobile telecommunication firms, so it is important to get both tower and telecommunication operators on board.

    But Amekugee Eugene Gameli, project manager at mobile mast firm Helios Towers Ghana, says that, although using towers to cool vaccines is innovative, guidelines on masts' positioning could hinder the idea's implementation. In Ghana, he says, mobile masts must be at least 400 metres from hospitals, making them less suitable for storing vaccines.

    On masts' rainfall-mapping abilities, Gameli warned that their use in urban areas could lead to errors because pollution also contributes to signal loss between towers, which could be mistaken for rainfall.

     

  • A Ghanaian start-up planning to popularise crowdfunding in Africa has been selected as one of the winners of this year's Apps4Africa competition.

    SliceBiz plans to develop a service that will deliver 30-second pitches recorded by entrepreneurs to potential backers over the phone.

    It says investors will then be able to transfer cash into the projects they like via their mobiles.

    The Apps4Africa scheme is funded by the US State Department and the World Bank,

    It gives awards of $10,000 (£6,500) to three selected projects with the possibility of top-up funds if the winners meet set targets.

    Crowdfunded cash

    SliceBiz was founded by William Edem Senyo, a Ghana-based businessman who previously worked in banking and on a non-profit project, and Heather Cochran, a former social worker from California.

    They aim to shake up Africa's start-up scene by adapting the crowdfunding model that has already proven popular in the West through online services such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe and others.

    "Hundreds of start-up founders can't access credit from banks and other financial institutions," their competition entry explained.

    "People all over the world with some disposable income are about to see how they can deploy their funds to better use."

    After learning of the win Mr Senyo told the BBC: "Less than three months ago no one would have been able to convince me that I would quit my job, find a great partner, start a possibly disruptive company, and to top that win Apps4Africa.

    "This is a major validation for our business."

    Investors are asked to provide between $250 and $100,000 depending on how much they earn. Smaller sums can be sent via mobile, while larger ones will still rely on more traditional means.

    The competition is supported by the US government and the World Bank

    Unlike some other crowdfunding services, SliceBiz's model involves recipients giving up a stake in their business in return for the money received.

    In addition the Accra-based company will ask for equity in any business that manages to raise capital with its help, and also plans to charge an additional matchmaking fee.

    Following the Apps4Africa award Mr Senyo said he now planned a New York launch to further publicise the idea.

    However, he acknowledged one potential problem - Ghana's financial regulator has yet to approve his crowdfunding business model.

    Entrepreneur apps

    This is the third year the Apps4Africa competition has been run. It is open to any innovator living and working on the continent.

    Last year's event was themed around the idea of software to help farmers and other users tackle issues raised by climate change.

    In the latest competition organisers asked applicants for software-based solutions to support entrepreneurs wanting to make the most of business opportunities and create jobs.

    "We now want to scale the ideas past the competition to provide additional mentorship and training as well as financial resources to let the winners become successful," said Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson, speaking on behalf of the Appfrica consultancy which runs the competition.

    Ffene aims to make it simpler for firms to create invoices and professional looking receipts

    The other victors this year are Ffene, a Ugandan firm planning to develop a software package to let companies turn data into professional looking reports via tablets, phones and PCs; and Prowork, a Nigerian company creating software to let workers collaborate on projects via an app, text messages and email.

    Telecoms consultancy Ovum predicts smartphone shipments to Africa are set to rise from 11.1 million handsets in 2011 to 32.7 million devices in 2014.

    These are relatively modest numbers. But the firm says schemes such as Apps4Africa are important to lay the groundwork for wider adoption further down the line.

    "Smartphone penetration in Africa is low - even compared to other developing markets," said the firm's principal analyst Adam Leach.

    "But because there's not the fixed line infrastructure, it's seen that smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices will be the first online experience many people on the continent will use.

    "For now it's not about consumer media consumption such as YouTube and downloading music. It's about helping people run a better business - the equipment must take a pivotal role in their daily life if early adopters are to justify the investment."

More

  • Professor Stanislaus Bernard Lwakabamba assumes the Chair of UbuntuNet Alliance from 15 April 2013

    Lilongwe, Malawi. UbuntuNet Alliance, the regional research and education network for Southern and Eastern Africa announces the appointment of Professor Stanislaus Bernard Lwakabamba as the new Chairperson of the Alliance with effect from 15 April 2013. Professor Lwakabamba will succeed Professor Zimani Kadzamira who stepped down from the position on 12th February 2013, after serving the Alliance with distinction for two 3-year terms.

    Professor Lwakabamba is a distinguished academic who has a long association with the critical role of ICT in the development of education at tertiary and other levels. A mechanical engineer by training, he attained the rank of Professor as long ago as 1981. He has served in a variety of leadership positions including founding Rector of Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST); participant in setting up of the African Network of Scientific and Technological Institutions (ANSTI);outgoing chairperson of the Inter-University Council for East Africa, and is currently Rector of the National University of Rwanda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Global Voices Seeks Part-Time Developer

    Global Voices seeks a part-time web designer and developer to help maintain and redesign our many WordPress and other LAMP-based sites, working closely with our primary developer.

    Ideal candidates should have experience with configuring and coding for WordPress, including the theme and plugin APIs.

    There is no geographic requirement associated with this position. Global Voices is a virtual organization with no offices. Candidates should be self-driven and able to complete tasks with minimal guidance, as well as able to collaborate remotely with the Global Voices team.

    MANDATORY SKILLS

    HTML (XHTML/HTML 5)

    CSS

    PHP

    WordPress configuration and management

    IMPORTANT SKILLS

     

    Design (Photoshop/Illustrator)

    WordPress plugin development

    WordPress theme development

    Linux/Apache/MySQL adminstration

    Fluid/responsive CSS

    Version Control (Git/SVN)

    Mobile and tablet development integration

    We strongly welcome candidates from outside North America and Western Europe, and encourage people currently working on the Global Voices project to apply.

    If you're interested, please send a CV and letter of interest explaining why you'd be a good candidate for the job to: adminjob AT globalvoicesonline DOT org by no later than March 4, 2013.

Issue no 642 15th February 2013

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Top story

  • At the end of 2012, it seemed like every week Balancing Act was being approached by film and video VoD platforms, either in business or promising to start soon. Some like iROKO and AfricaFilms.tv have built their initial success on diaspora audiences, whilst others have begun to attract attract more local audiences. Last week Buni TV announced it had hit 1 million views, most of which have come from Africa. Balancing Act’s broadcast analyst Sylvain Beletre interviewed Marie Lora-Mungai, Founder and CEO, Buni TV and Enrico Chiesa, President of AfricaFilms.tv (AFTV).

    The arrival of LTE will give VoD a new shot in the arm and the number of people streaming content from the large African cities will significantly increase over the next 5 years. The African VoD market is already quite competitive. There are at least 6 major home-grown VoD platforms: AfricaFilms.tv, MeTVAfrica; Wabona; Buni TV; iROKO and DStv Box Office (although largely Hollywood movies). More are promising to enter the market. International brands like iTunes, Deezer and Spotify have begun to arrive and although these are largely music driven, they represent a new level of interest in the continent. Clearly not everyone is going survive even if the market grows quickly.

    So it is a smart strategic move that two of these platforms - Buni TV and AfricaFilms.tv (also called AFTV) -have announced that they had entered into a content acquisition partnership. This partnership represents the first consolidation in this dynamic market.

    “Our objective is to generate extra revenues for African producers. We have observed that there is now a very promising new generation of African film makers, producing fast, pushing up new talents with high standards. 2012 was for example an excellent year for Senegalese filmakers; Africa is big, the diaspora is complex and it is hard to compete in the VoD space both on the sourcing and distribution sides,” says Enrico Chiesa of AfricaFilms.tv

    The deal gives birth to the first African VOD solution to bridge East and West, English and French-speaking Africa. The two platforms will share their catalogues to target both the continental and diaspora audiences, but will continue to operate under their own brands.

    "Our partnership opens an unprecedented monetization avenue for African and Caribbean filmmakers,” according to Chiesa. “By working together, AfricaFilms.tv and Buni TV will be able to distribute their content throughout Africa - from Dakar to Nairobi - and the entire diaspora. It's a "sign once, be seen everywhere" plan, with no middlemen taking their cut.”
    Kenya-based Buni TV, which recorded an impressive debut with 300,000 unique visitors and more than a million views in just a few months, brings to the table its expertise of reaching African viewers through mobile.

    AfricaFilms.tv, out of Dakar, Senegal, focused its efforts so far mainly on diaspora audiences. Historically the first African VOD web-platform (seed-funded by ACP-Cultures+ the ACP Group of states' cultural support program funded by the EU), it boasts a catalogue of about 1,000 premium titles and hours with a robust tracking and anti-fraud encryption system that won high marks from rights owners for its transparency.

    The two African platforms also have a strong presence in Western markets, with Buni TV keeping offices in Los Angeles and AfricaFilms.tv in Paris. The newly formed alliance has extended its reach to New York, London and Barcelona.

    “AfricaFilms.tv and Buni TV share a deep commitment to bringing the best African content to African audiences, wherever they may be and however they may want to consume it,” said Buni TV CEO Marie Lora-Mungai. “Our strengths are very complementary, and may well lead to future synergies in technology and marketing.”Based on traffic, the AFTV billing system pays rights owners their share on a quarterly basis.

    Balancing Act has been tracking changes in the African VoD space
     since 2004. But it has only started to experience significant growth since 2009.

    Above: Balancing Act’s broadcast analyst Sylvain Beletre.

    YouTube is huge in Africa, right up there with Google, Facebook and Yahoo. The table below tells a lot about the excitment for online video service across the continent in spite of the poor bandwidth availability in many countries: YouTube is in the top 4 of the most dynamic countries.

    Countries - Positions of YouTube

    Algeria            2
    Cameroon       4
    Cote d’Ivoire   5
    Egypt             3
    Ghana            4
    Kenya            3
    Nigeria           4
    Senegal          3
    South Africa    3
    Sudan             3
    Uganda           4

    Source: Alexa web site rankings in February 2013.

    According to these figures, Egypt, Algeria and South Africa represent the 3 largest countries for YouTube in Africa, together representing 2.5% of the website’s visitors globally (equivalent to Spain’s share).

    Marie Lora-Mungai and Enrico Chiesa both believe that "Further improvements in access bandwidth (3G/4G/LTE), access prices and affordable mobile devices – smartphones and tablets - will lead to greater numbers of VoD users in Africa."

    "We are seeing a healthy, aggressive competition between Samsung and its competitors across Africa. This should bring mobile device’s prices down pretty soon and increase mobile TV usage. Tablets are in Mauritius for less than USD100; In Senegal Huawei just landed with affordable smartphones and tablets. We are seeing more Africans watching TV and video on their hand-held devices using 3G, Wi-fi and soon 4G/LTE. The other positive factor is the availability of mobile payment across most African countries.” Enrico Chiesa added.

    The majority of cable and telco-based television providers in the West and Asia offer both VOD streaming, including pay-per-view and free content but Africa is an exception: except for Zuku Wananchi, DStv MultiChoice and a few others, the large majority of telecoms operators in Africa have not yet invested in VoD services due to the lack of bandwidth or innovation.

    The impact on local African telecoms operators is clear: in the years to come they will need to re-engineer their data models and invest in infrastructure to get a share of the paid VoD segment. The business model for VoD is hybrid: free video access paid by advertising, paid videos on a one off transaction or on a subscription-basis, or a mix of both.

    The obvious path for telecoms players is to partner with people who know the audiovisual market: the existing VoD platforms and audio-visual content distributors.


     

    Related market report: 

    VoD and Africa - A review of existing VoD services, drivers, challenges and opportunities (Dec. 2013) - new market report from Balancing Act.

    __________________________________________


    Video briefings on this topic:

    In English:
    African audiovisual market: trends in 2012 and strategy in 2013 - by Enrico Chiesa - Africafilms.dv

    In French:
    Marché audio-visuel en Afrique: tendances 2012 et projets d' Africafilms.tv en 2013

    Chike Maduegbuna on Afrinolly, a curated film and music mobile platform that helps mobile users find the films and music videos they want

    Also videos with Africa’s music platforms:

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

    Yoel Kenan, Africori (B2B platform) on the African music market, local talent, killing choruses and mobile digital platform

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

telecoms

  • French president Francois Hollande is said to have asked Vivendi to delay the process of selling its 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom until the war in Mali is over, writes French weekly Charlie Hebdo.

    Maroc Telecom is described a source of information for the French intelligence service in the Sahel, as it controls subsidiaries in Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, and can monitor calls between suspected Jihadists.

    The magazine adds that there are suspicions that one of the bidders, Qatar's Qtel, may have relations with the Jihadists.

     

     

  • It has been confirmed that Mali has finally put pen to paper on the country’s third mobile operator licence, with Agence Ecofin reporting that Alpha Telecom Mali, a joint venture between Monaco Telecom and local holding company Planor Afrique, signed the licence agreement on 12 February 2013.

    With Apollinaire Compaore, the businessman behind Planor Afrique, having represented Alpha Telecom at the signing, he revealed that the new entrant aims to have its network operational ‘as soon as possible’, though he stopped short of giving a definitive launch timeframe.

    It was also confirmed that Alpha Telecom will make a XOF33 billion (USD67.8 million) initial payment for the concession immediately, with the remaining XOF22 billion to be paid within the next three months.

  • MTN Uganda has commissioned its fibre network at the Katuna border, in the Kabale district.
    The fibre system would complement two existing cables between Kabala and Mombasa, which provide Uganda with unique redundancy and a backup structure for secure and reliable connectivity.

    “The extension of the MTN Uganda fibre will act as a catalyst for economic development and will support the Ugandan government to further leverage on the existing regional partnerships in the areas of trade and industry,” said Information Communication Technologies Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.

    MTN CEO Mazen Mroué added that the commissioning of the new fibre system would substantially improve the connectivity between Uganda and its neighbouring countries by connecting the country to an additional submarine cable.

    In 2012, MTN Uganda’s capital expenditure in the country exceeded $80-million, mainly towards the expansion of network infrastructure, the establishment of modern switching and data centres, as well as the rol lout of fibre infrastructure to boost the quality of voice and data services.
    The company also rolled out 600 km of fibre backbone last year, closing the year with over 2 800 km of fibre, providing the capacity for high-speed data connectivity and a wider national coverage of third-generation mobile data services.

    In addition, MTN Uganda had completed the installation of an additional 81 network coverage sites and had also added another batch of capacity sites to enhance the quality of network services across Uganda.

    The company recently announced a plan to deploy a long-term evolution network in Uganda during the coming months, which would enable MTN customers to access the Internet with bandwidth speeds of up to 100 Mb/s.

  • Slovenia-based NIL, together with local partner Neurones Technologies, has conducted a network core migration for Cote d’Ivoire Telecom (CIT) to prepare the telco’s infrastructure for new technologies and an enlarged user base – as well as helping to improve network reliability.

    The project, which ran from September 2012 to January 2013, was implemented in two phases; in the first phase, NIL migrated part of CIT’s core from Cisco 7600 Series routers to new Cisco ASR 9000 Series routers in Abidjan, while the second phase saw NIL migrate the remainder of CI Telecom’s network core, which is located outside of the capital.

  • From 11 December 2012 to 7 January 2013, the Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Posts (ARCEP) conducted an audit of the four mobile operators in the country. It appears from this survey AZUR Gabon has the best network in the country. The company is 75% owned by the group ahead of Bahrain Bintel Airtel Gabon Telecom / Moov Libertis and in terms of voice service in Libreville, Port-Gentil, in the capitals of provinces and in rural areas.

    The audit co-produced by the consulting firm and the PMI Board ARCEP also shows that the degradation of the quality of service is continuous. The first five audits since 2010 to ensure that operators comply with the terms of their well specifications had already pointed out the problem of poor quality of service.

    In March 2012, the four mobile operators in Gabon were sentenced to fines totaling 3.7 billion CFA francs. Despite numerous reminders and penalties imposed on telecom operators by the regulator, things have not really changed.

  • Airtel Zambia’s lack of registration forms has halted the country’s SIM card registration process.
    “The shortage of registration forms at registration points was unacceptable and unfortunate,” said Thomas Malama, Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs at Zambia Information and Communication Technology (ZICTA).

    National regulator ZICTA has expressed dissatisfaction with the delays in the government’s plans of sector regulation, saying they are “turning away scores of customers who wanted to register their SIM cards because it had run out of registration forms”.

    The operator ended 2012 with 4.6 million subscribers, but the regulator is requiring all network providers to ensure all SIM cards in use are registered to an individual.
    “Mobile service providers should assess the number of subscribers they have and provide enough registration forms at every center,” Malama added.

    Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Best Customer Service Provider, the network provider was the first to introduce email, SMS and fax into the country.

  • Etisalat Misr, a subsidiary of UAE’s Etisalat and a major mobile operator in the Egyptian market, signed a strategic partnership agreement with leading global ICT solutions provider Huawei.
    The agreement will introduce new key technologies and business solutions to Etisalat Misr regarding MBB, VAS, B2B, Green Energy, CRM, LTE, FMC etc.. aiming at overcoming the challenges in the Egyptian telecom industry and enhancing customer satisfaction in terms of quality, speed and reliability.

    In pursuit of excellence, Etisalat Misr partnered with Huawei as a key solution provider to cooperatively set the building units and roadmaps of the telecom industry to demonstrate unprecedented customer experience and quality of service to Etisalat Misr customers.

    “We have enjoyed a strong strategic partnership with Etisalat Misr for more than six years. We are very proud to be associated with a company who has not only maintained their leadership in a highly competitive market, but also, through their innovation and corporate social responsibility has become one of the most admired companies in the region. We are looking forward to a long and reciprocally beneficial relationship to provide an enhanced customer experience,” Jason Li, Chief of Joint Regions Committee of Huawei said.

    For his part, Saeed Al Hamli, Etisalat Misr CEO said: “Going to the market with a strategic partner like Huawei is of prime importance for our operations. We are convinced that Etisalat Misr customers will obtain immediate advantages from Huawei innovative and reliable technologies.”

internet

  • Tanzania faced a breakdown in Internet connections for the better part of Thursday afternoon after two submarine cables linking the country to the outside world experienced technical problems.
    In an interview with the 'Daily News' on Thursday, the Acting CEO of the TTCL, Dr Kamugisha Kazaura, said the hitches occurred at Alexandria in Egypt where the cables are connected to others linking the continent to Europe.

    "Our two submarine cables EASSy and Seacom are connected to other cables to Europe, the problem occurred in a stretch of eight kilometres off shore the city of Alexandria. "EASSy was the first to experience the problem at about 1:30pm and it was followed by Seacom an hour later," Dr Kamugisha said in a telephone interview.

    He was, however, optimistic that the problem would have been solved by yesterday evening. And in indeed, internet connection resumed after 6pm. Dr Kamugisha had hinted that if the hitches were not solved by yesterday evening other alternatives would be considered.

    These would include re-routing the cables to South Africa or Asia. In order to safeguard from such occurrences in the future, he said the country is considering renewing a contract with other operators of another submarine cable TEAMS which is linked through the United Arab Emirates.
    While most East African countries were affected by the Internet breakdown, Kenya was least affected as it uses the Teams, according to Dr Kamugisha. With a capacity of 1.2 gigabits per second, the submarine cables are almost 20 times superior to satellite connections which have a capacity of just 50 megabits per second (mbps).

  • A temporary ban on YouTube imposed in Egypt over a video deemed offensive to Islam is a setback for freedom of expression , Amnesty International has said.
    A court in Cairo this weekend ordered a 30-day block on the video-sharing website in the wake of the controversial 'Innocence of Muslims' video, which sparked protests across Muslim countries in September.

    Saturday's court ruling said that "freedom of opinion [should] not attack the beliefs of others".
    "This ruling is a clear assault of freedom of expression and has far-reaching consequences in the country where activists have relied heavily on YouTube to expose human rights abuses in the country," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    "Criticism of religions and beliefs are a vital part of freedom of expression - regardless of how offensive or intolerant the opinion might be."

    Cairo's Administrative Court said there must be a balance between freedom of expression and "the interests and goals of society, and the protection of its values and traditions".
    It added that freedom of opinion should not "provoke the feelings and resentment of believers of other religions, particularly heavenly religions" and that the media should refrain from "defamation" of religious figures.

    The court's reasons for banning YouTube are in direct contradiction with international human rights law, which protects freedom of expression, including the expression of ideas that are offensive.
    "Criticism of religions and other beliefs and ideas is a vital component of the right to freedom of expression," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

    "Such criticism, insult or mockery does not interfere with the individual believer's freedom of religion, however offensive they may find it."

    The court also ordered a ban of other websites showing the film.

    A human rights NGO that opposed the ruling, the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression, is planning to appeal.

    "The technical and financial difficulties of enforcing this decision most likely means that it will be essentially impossible to implement in practice," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

    "Nevertheless, it increases concerns over the imposition of restrictions on freedom of expression on the grounds of defamation of religions."

    The ruling comes against the backdrop of a rise in people being prosecuted on blasphemy charges in Egypt.

    Last month a Cairo court upheld a three-year prison sentence against Alber Saber on charges of "defamation of religion" for publishing videos deemed offensive, including the 'Innocence of Muslims'.

    The Egyptian constitution protects freedom of expression but with limits, including for insulting and defaming religion or individuals.

    The International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a state party, protects expression of ideas even when they are considered offensive or insulting.

  • Algerie Telecom has announced the launch of an SMS service through Gmail, a move that is likely to spur interest in Algeria’s telecommunications sector and fuel excitement amongst users eager to send messages from the email platform.

    The company has confirmed that the service is already in place and will be delivered through the operator’s subsidiary Mobilis.

    Gmail customers can send free SMS’ to other Mobilis subscribers and chat with overseas Gmail contacts at the price of a national SMS for every message.

    The telecommunications service provider said that every time Mobilis customers answer messages on Gmail, they gain five free national SMS’ for on-net numbers, up to a maximum of 50 SMS’.

computing

  • Two schools in the Western Cape have received portable computers and MP3 players designed for blind users, in a R1 million (US$113 million) investment push by the Western Cape Education Department to improve education for blind students.

    The Athlone School for the Blind in Bellville South and the Pioneer School in Worcester received e-braille computers which scan texts and allow blind users to read by mechanically raising braille bumps against a flat service, while the keyboard allows users to type in braille.

    They also convert texts to audio, allowing users to listen to texts through computer-generated speech, while the MP3 players feature a number of keys which enable blind users to navigate the device and listen to texts and music files.

    The Western Cape Education Department has invested the money in order to be able to provide the Athlone School with 10 BrailleNote Apex computers and the Pioneer School with five, as well as providing a number of the Victor Reader Stratus 12M MP3 players for both schools.

    In order to enable the efficient use of the devices, the Education Department has pledged to make electronic versions of the relevant educational and teaching materials available. It will also ensure teachers have the necessary training to enable them to monitor students’ use of the devices and educational progress.

  • Six Mpumalanga schools facing ICT infrastructure challenges have been given a connectivity boost by the Telkom Foundation’s Connecting Schools project.

    Yesterday saw the handover of 303 tablet computers to teachers from the Edward Matyeka Primary School, Nelson Ngubeni Primary School, Nancy Shiba Primary School, Besilindile Primary School, Leornard Ntshutshe Secondary School and DM Motsaosele Secondary School.

    Alongside the hardware handover, Telkom says the project provides Internet connectivity and tablet maintenance for two years. “As part of the sponsorship, Telkom is also providing teacher training to enable the educators to navigate the device and access content with ease.”

  • Global telecommunication services operator Ericsson has launched a new school broadband project in Ethiopia aimed at boosting Internet services for local schools in an effort to increase infrastructure and services for the younger generation.

    It said that it will bring “voice and data communications to the Millennium Village Project (MVP) in Koraro in a remote part of northern Ethiopia as a way of increasing understanding and access to Internet for schools. With access to 3G connectivity more than 4,000 students and their teachers at two schools involved in the Connect To Learn initiative will now have access to modern learning and teaching resources through Ericsson’s cloud-computing platform,” Ericsson said in a statement released on Thursday.

    “In addition, community health workers in the Millennium Villages will be using mobile phones provided by Sony Mobile and broadband access provided by Ericsson to deliver healthcare services to households and collect health information for improved monitoring,” it added.
    Ethiopia’s government has been pushing forward on Internet services and broadband efforts across the country and sees schools as the future of this process.

    The company added that the project includes netbooks and wireless terminals to facilitate access to online educational resources, as well as ICT skills training.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • In a move aimed at boosting the Eritrean telecommunications operator’s economic standing and liquidity, Eritel on Wednesday announced that it had begun to sell off a large number of shares.
    The operator told local Eritrean media that they were making some 4.5 million shares available for sale and that its marketing team had already “drawn an impressive number of shareholders so far.”
    It did not give details as to the cost of the sale or how much income would be earned through the sell off. Nor did Eritel give specifics as to what the money would be used for in the future.

    The company called on “interested nationals residing in the country to make sure that they have attached copies of their national identity cards after making payments through the banks.”
    Eritreans residing abroad “should double-check the equivalence of the foreign currency amounts they debit to the banks with the price of shares they buy, which has been indicated in US dollars.”

    Only Eritrean citizens would be allowed to make a purchase of the telecom operators stocks. The goal, company officials were cited saying, is to give the East African company a little more mobility in the market and boost services for customers.

  • The Treasury is working on new regulations on taxing mobile money transfer services aimed at leveling the playing field for all operators.

    Finance minister Njeru Githae said a 'minimum charge per transaction' will be introduced soon so that those companies offering money services free also get to pay tax like Safaricom.

    Airtel and yuMobile have been offering money services within their platform at no charge and argue they are not liable to pay the 10 per cent tax introduced recently.

    On the other hand, Githae said, Safaricom has decided to absorb the tax for small transactions of less than Sh100 putting it at an 'uncompetitive' position with the rest.

    "The concern is about those offering free services [as] there is always a cost associated with transferring money. So with the minimum charge it is up to the company if it will still want to meet the cost," Githae said yesterday.

    "This will ensure one company will nor be at a disadvantage compared to the others," the minister said on the sidelines of a public-private partnerships workshop in Nairobi.

    The Finance Act 2012 introduced amendments to the Customs and Excise Duty Act which

    introduced a 10 per cent tax on transaction fees for all money transfer services provided by cellular phone providers, banks, money transfer agencies and other financial service providers. Treasury is targeting to collect an estimated Sh4.5 billion from the new tax.

    Safaricom, which has 16 million subscribers on its M-Pesa platform, was the first to transfer the 10 per cent tax on to its customers. This saw all charges for transactions above Sh100 go up.

    The other players have not changed the pricing but insist their free services should not attract any tax. Githae backtracked on earlier directive that the companies should not pass on the cost to consumers.

    "We had expected the companies would absorb the cost, but you know, it is a free market and we do not want to interfere," he said.

  • Amid growing interest in mobile technology and infrastructure in Guinea, mobile services operator MTN Guinea has announced plans to roll out data and payment services in March.

    The company’s CEO Phumzile Joshua Phike has confirmed that the telecom operator will launch mobile data, mobile money transfer capability and payment services next month.

    The announcement was made during an event sponsored by MTN in the country.

    MTN, which introduced Wimax in 2011, will aim to deliver innovative, high quality services and provide customer satisfaction, the company said in a statement.

    The mobile operator started operating in Guinea in 2006 and, according to information on its website, now has 2.5 million subscribers.

    Industry observers in Guinea hope that rolling out new services will increase interest and overall penetration in the country.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Amid ongoing political tension in Egypt and frustration over the recent hikes in Vodafone’s recharge tariffs, Vodafone Egypt has announced a new mobile Internet data bundle for USB modems, tablets and Mifi devices.

    “Vodafone Super 25 offers 1.2GB for EGP 25, Vodafone Super Browser 50 comes with 3GB for EGP 50, Vodafone Super Streamer 100 offers 7GB for EGP 100, Vodafone Super Downloader 150 costs EGP 150 for 10GB, and Vodafone Super 250 Unlimited provides 18GB for EGP 250,” the company said.

    After January’s increase of 15 percent on taxes applicable to users when recharging, Vodafone hopes this will help reduce some of the costs customers will incur when attempting to use mobile Internet on their personal devices.

    “After consuming the bundle limit, the speed is reduced to 64Kbps. Customers can return to the top speed by buying another 1GB for EGP 20. Customers can subscribe over SMS to the new Super bundles and track their usage from a dedicated website,” the company said.

    Analysts tell Bikyanews.com that while this is a welcome addition, it is unlikely to do much in terms of reducing frustration and costs for the average Egyptian using only a modest hand device.

Digital Content

  • Face Technologies, the company contracted to print and issue computerised driving permits, has provided a new solution to eliminate forged driving permits.

    The company has acquired and equipped the traffic police with the latest Samsung Tablets capable of linking to the computerised driving permits database. Using the mobile phone network system, the traffic enforcement personnel can instantly check the validity and authenticity of any driving permit.
    By entering the permit number on the tablet, a connection is made with the database, and then a high resolution coloured picture of the permit is displayed. Nathan Tumushabe, the computerised driving permits project coordinator from the Ministry of Works and Transport said more tablets are being procured and will be given to traffic police to increase enforcement.

    "We expect to drastically reduce the number of forged driving permits in circulation. It is drivers with forged permits that contribute to the rampant road accidents," Tumushabe said.

  • A group of women marched to a house in Mau-Mau, Nyanga, to confront a man they accuse of posting nude pictures of a woman, his girlfriend, on Facebook.

    The woman’s face can be seen clearly in the two pictures. Since last week when the pictures surfaced, many people have been searching her on Facebook to catch a glimpse of the indecent exposure. The photographs have since been removed.

    Asanda Yiyo, a Nyanga resident who participated in the march, said they started marching at 11am on Saturday. There were about 50 of them, with men also participating. Yiyo said the woman was notified about the pictures by her friends after they had seen them on Facebook. “When they phoned the woman’s cellphone, her boyfriend answered.”

    “We marched to her boyfriend’s house, we stood there outside and told him to come out, but he never did. We then marched to the Nyanga police station where we demanded that a van accompany us to the man’s house and arrest him, but we were told that a case had already been opened. We did the march for support and to show the guy that what he did was unacceptable. Had the guy come out when we went to his place, we wouldn’t have done anything because we all agreed that there would be no violence. We probably would have taken him to the police station”, explained Yiyo.

    When GroundUp contacted the woman, the calls went unanswered. But a resident who does not stay far from the her in Nyanga said she still sees her walking the streets and is not letting this situation bring her down.Source: Groundup

  • A popular music video featuring a group of artists taking aim at the president of the Gambia's tightening grip on the West African country is making the rounds among Gambians home and abroad.

    Musicians Xuman, Djily Bagdad, Tiat, and Ombre Zion accuse Gambian President Yahya Jammeh of despotism in the song titled “Against Impunity” published on YouTube, rapping in English and Wolof about the oppressive state of Gambian society under the hardliner's thumb and encouraging Gambians to rise up. The video, which was released in December, has more than 26,000 views.

    Since coming to power in 1996, President Jammeh's poor human rights record has drawn steady criticism. Last year, he oversaw the execution of a number of prisoners in a short period of time, earning condemnation from the international community and human rights groups. He has also been accused of restricting political expression and press freedom, as well as persecuting homosexuals.

    The video opens with one of the musicians, who wears a blue t-shirt that reads “No to violence against journalist”, singing the song's chorus: “We have to handle our own destiny / So it’s the right time to fight against impunity”.

    See the video here:

    JollofNews reported that after its release, the video went viral among Gambians sharing it on social media websites such as Facebook.

  • A wine advisory app aimed at the average wine drinker has recorded more than 20,000 visits to its mobile platform in eight months.

    One of its popular selling points is “sweaty saddles” and other flowery language is allowed on the mobile app, making it easy to understand and quick to use.

    Andy Hadfield, founder of Real Time Wine, began work on the application at the start of 2012 and it was officially launched in July of the same year.

    Speaking to HumanIPO, Hadfield said the initial idea for the application began as a hobby. “Back in 2011 I started tweeting wine reviews as a way to remember the good ones,” said Hadfield.

    “You drink an awesome wine at a restaurant or at a friend’s house or at a dinner party and you wake up the next day asking ‘that was an awesome wine, what the hell was it called?’”

    The wine review tweet stream then turned into a blog and within around a month it had seven writers and “hundreds of consumer reviews” on the blog.

    The name was inspired by the real time experience of the app since Hadfield found that it is difficult for South Africans to choose a wine.

    “The majority of South African wine drinkers don’t research their wine,” said Hadfield and added that South Africans will simply visit a supermarket  to buy a red wine to go with a steak meal, but have no idea of which wine to choose.

    Then, upon discovering that it is an “awesome” wine from the supermarket the consumer is able to share the experience through a rating of the one on the app, thus it is a real time experience.

    Other problems facing South African wine consumers is the “daunting” retail experience, including “the wall of wine”, Hadfield’s term for the large range of wine brands stocked on shelves.
    “The problem is we want that kind of range from supermarkets... but the range makes it harder to make a decision,” he explained.

    Another problem involves traditional media, which often makes use of “snobby” words or terms.
    “Traditional wine media in this country is very much aimed at the top 20 percent of the market, what I call the wine snobs - the people that really know their stuff and you can see the culture, the style of the language, the highfalutin snobby words they use... which means no one is talking to the bottom 80 percent. We’re talking to that bottom 80 percent,” said Hadfield.

    Furthermore, these “highfalutin” words are banned from the application. Examples include the above mentioned “sweaty saddle”, which could sound foul to 80 percent of the market. Others include gush and lanolin, which is a yellow substance “akin to wax that is secreted from wooly animals”. The app is programmed to automatically reject these words.

    Hadfield said the wine producing community has received the application very well, especially with the launch of the application’s counterpart “Super Fan Club”, because it presents an opportunity for winemakers and marketers to connect directly with their end users.

    Since its launch, Real Time Wine has recorded 23,685 visits, approximately 3,000 unique visitors per month 6,500 application downloads, 2,100 registered reviewers, approximately 9,000 ratings, an average of 28 user generated reviews per day, 1,637 likes on Facebook and 2,182 Twitter followers.

  • Moroccan operator Meditel has released a locally-developed app called Meditel et Moi, available for Android and iOS smartphones, to allow customers to manage their Meditel account and optimise the use of their service. Users can follow the state of their consumption, pay mobile and internet bills, find the closest top-up vendor, and add call credit to their account or family members'. More functions will be added, such as the possibility to pick different services.

More

  • Mobile Web East Africa 2013
    19th - 21st February 2013
    Venue: Southern Sun Mayfair Nairobi, Kenya

    Taking the monetisation and content creation dialogue to the next level
    Mobile Web East Africa, the East African edition of the most progressive and interactive mobile focused events in Sub-Saharan Africa, is primed to once again be the leading mobile focused conference in the region this year.
    Website: http://www.mobileeastafrica.com
    Email: comms@allamber.co.uk
    Tel: +44 1376 521 170

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

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

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

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

Issue no 642 15th February 2013

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Top story

  • At the end of 2012, it seemed like every week Balancing Act was being approached by film and video VoD platforms, either in business or promising to start soon. Some like iROKO and AfricaFilms.tv have built their initial success on diaspora audiences, whilst others have begun to attract attract more local audiences. Last week Buni TV announced it had hit 1 million views, most of which have come from Africa. Balancing Act’s broadcast analyst Sylvain Beletre interviewed Marie Lora-Mungai, Founder and CEO, Buni TV and Enrico Chiesa, President of AfricaFilms.tv (AFTV).

    The arrival of LTE will give VoD a new shot in the arm and the number of people streaming content from the large African cities will significantly increase over the next 5 years. The African VoD market is already quite competitive. There are at least 6 major home-grown VoD platforms: AfricaFilms.tv, MeTVAfrica; Wabona; Buni TV; iROKO and DStv Box Office (although largely Hollywood movies). More are promising to enter the market. International brands like iTunes, Deezer and Spotify have begun to arrive and although these are largely music driven, they represent a new level of interest in the continent. Clearly not everyone is going survive even if the market grows quickly.

    So it is a smart strategic move that two of these platforms - Buni TV and AfricaFilms.tv (also called AFTV) -have announced that they had entered into a content acquisition partnership. This partnership represents the first consolidation in this dynamic market.

    “Our objective is to generate extra revenues for African producers. We have observed that there is now a very promising new generation of African film makers, producing fast, pushing up new talents with high standards. 2012 was for example an excellent year for Senegalese filmakers; Africa is big, the diaspora is complex and it is hard to compete in the VoD space both on the sourcing and distribution sides,” says Enrico Chiesa of AfricaFilms.tv

    The deal gives birth to the first African VOD solution to bridge East and West, English and French-speaking Africa. The two platforms will share their catalogues to target both the continental and diaspora audiences, but will continue to operate under their own brands.

    "Our partnership opens an unprecedented monetization avenue for African and Caribbean filmmakers,” according to Chiesa. “By working together, AfricaFilms.tv and Buni TV will be able to distribute their content throughout Africa - from Dakar to Nairobi - and the entire diaspora. It's a "sign once, be seen everywhere" plan, with no middlemen taking their cut.”
    Kenya-based Buni TV, which recorded an impressive debut with 300,000 unique visitors and more than a million views in just a few months, brings to the table its expertise of reaching African viewers through mobile.

    AfricaFilms.tv, out of Dakar, Senegal, focused its efforts so far mainly on diaspora audiences. Historically the first African VOD web-platform (seed-funded by ACP-Cultures+ the ACP Group of states' cultural support program funded by the EU), it boasts a catalogue of about 1,000 premium titles and hours with a robust tracking and anti-fraud encryption system that won high marks from rights owners for its transparency.

    The two African platforms also have a strong presence in Western markets, with Buni TV keeping offices in Los Angeles and AfricaFilms.tv in Paris. The newly formed alliance has extended its reach to New York, London and Barcelona.

    “AfricaFilms.tv and Buni TV share a deep commitment to bringing the best African content to African audiences, wherever they may be and however they may want to consume it,” said Buni TV CEO Marie Lora-Mungai. “Our strengths are very complementary, and may well lead to future synergies in technology and marketing.”Based on traffic, the AFTV billing system pays rights owners their share on a quarterly basis.

    Balancing Act has been tracking changes in the African VoD space
     since 2004. But it has only started to experience significant growth since 2009.

    Above: Balancing Act’s broadcast analyst Sylvain Beletre.

    YouTube is huge in Africa, right up there with Google, Facebook and Yahoo. The table below tells a lot about the excitment for online video service across the continent in spite of the poor bandwidth availability in many countries: YouTube is in the top 4 of the most dynamic countries.

    Countries - Positions of YouTube

    Algeria            2
    Cameroon       4
    Cote d’Ivoire   5
    Egypt             3
    Ghana            4
    Kenya            3
    Nigeria           4
    Senegal          3
    South Africa    3
    Sudan             3
    Uganda           4

    Source: Alexa web site rankings in February 2013.

    According to these figures, Egypt, Algeria and South Africa represent the 3 largest countries for YouTube in Africa, together representing 2.5% of the website’s visitors globally (equivalent to Spain’s share).

    Marie Lora-Mungai and Enrico Chiesa both believe that "Further improvements in access bandwidth (3G/4G/LTE), access prices and affordable mobile devices – smartphones and tablets - will lead to greater numbers of VoD users in Africa."

    "We are seeing a healthy, aggressive competition between Samsung and its competitors across Africa. This should bring mobile device’s prices down pretty soon and increase mobile TV usage. Tablets are in Mauritius for less than USD100; In Senegal Huawei just landed with affordable smartphones and tablets. We are seeing more Africans watching TV and video on their hand-held devices using 3G, Wi-fi and soon 4G/LTE. The other positive factor is the availability of mobile payment across most African countries.” Enrico Chiesa added.

    The majority of cable and telco-based television providers in the West and Asia offer both VOD streaming, including pay-per-view and free content but Africa is an exception: except for Zuku Wananchi, DStv MultiChoice and a few others, the large majority of telecoms operators in Africa have not yet invested in VoD services due to the lack of bandwidth or innovation.

    The impact on local African telecoms operators is clear: in the years to come they will need to re-engineer their data models and invest in infrastructure to get a share of the paid VoD segment. The business model for VoD is hybrid: free video access paid by advertising, paid videos on a one off transaction or on a subscription-basis, or a mix of both.

    The obvious path for telecoms players is to partner with people who know the audiovisual market: the existing VoD platforms and audio-visual content distributors.


     

    Related market report: 

    VoD and Africa - A review of existing VoD services, drivers, challenges and opportunities (Dec. 2013) - new market report from Balancing Act.

    __________________________________________


    Video briefings on this topic:

    In English:
    African audiovisual market: trends in 2012 and strategy in 2013 - by Enrico Chiesa - Africafilms.dv

    In French:
    Marché audio-visuel en Afrique: tendances 2012 et projets d' Africafilms.tv en 2013

    Chike Maduegbuna on Afrinolly, a curated film and music mobile platform that helps mobile users find the films and music videos they want

    Also videos with Africa’s music platforms:

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

    Yoel Kenan, Africori (B2B platform) on the African music market, local talent, killing choruses and mobile digital platform

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

telecoms

  • French president Francois Hollande is said to have asked Vivendi to delay the process of selling its 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom until the war in Mali is over, writes French weekly Charlie Hebdo.

    Maroc Telecom is described a source of information for the French intelligence service in the Sahel, as it controls subsidiaries in Mali, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, and can monitor calls between suspected Jihadists.

    The magazine adds that there are suspicions that one of the bidders, Qatar's Qtel, may have relations with the Jihadists.

     

     

  • It has been confirmed that Mali has finally put pen to paper on the country’s third mobile operator licence, with Agence Ecofin reporting that Alpha Telecom Mali, a joint venture between Monaco Telecom and local holding company Planor Afrique, signed the licence agreement on 12 February 2013.

    With Apollinaire Compaore, the businessman behind Planor Afrique, having represented Alpha Telecom at the signing, he revealed that the new entrant aims to have its network operational ‘as soon as possible’, though he stopped short of giving a definitive launch timeframe.

    It was also confirmed that Alpha Telecom will make a XOF33 billion (USD67.8 million) initial payment for the concession immediately, with the remaining XOF22 billion to be paid within the next three months.

  • MTN Uganda has commissioned its fibre network at the Katuna border, in the Kabale district.
    The fibre system would complement two existing cables between Kabala and Mombasa, which provide Uganda with unique redundancy and a backup structure for secure and reliable connectivity.

    “The extension of the MTN Uganda fibre will act as a catalyst for economic development and will support the Ugandan government to further leverage on the existing regional partnerships in the areas of trade and industry,” said Information Communication Technologies Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.

    MTN CEO Mazen Mroué added that the commissioning of the new fibre system would substantially improve the connectivity between Uganda and its neighbouring countries by connecting the country to an additional submarine cable.

    In 2012, MTN Uganda’s capital expenditure in the country exceeded $80-million, mainly towards the expansion of network infrastructure, the establishment of modern switching and data centres, as well as the rol lout of fibre infrastructure to boost the quality of voice and data services.
    The company also rolled out 600 km of fibre backbone last year, closing the year with over 2 800 km of fibre, providing the capacity for high-speed data connectivity and a wider national coverage of third-generation mobile data services.

    In addition, MTN Uganda had completed the installation of an additional 81 network coverage sites and had also added another batch of capacity sites to enhance the quality of network services across Uganda.

    The company recently announced a plan to deploy a long-term evolution network in Uganda during the coming months, which would enable MTN customers to access the Internet with bandwidth speeds of up to 100 Mb/s.

  • Slovenia-based NIL, together with local partner Neurones Technologies, has conducted a network core migration for Cote d’Ivoire Telecom (CIT) to prepare the telco’s infrastructure for new technologies and an enlarged user base – as well as helping to improve network reliability.

    The project, which ran from September 2012 to January 2013, was implemented in two phases; in the first phase, NIL migrated part of CIT’s core from Cisco 7600 Series routers to new Cisco ASR 9000 Series routers in Abidjan, while the second phase saw NIL migrate the remainder of CI Telecom’s network core, which is located outside of the capital.

  • From 11 December 2012 to 7 January 2013, the Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications and Posts (ARCEP) conducted an audit of the four mobile operators in the country. It appears from this survey AZUR Gabon has the best network in the country. The company is 75% owned by the group ahead of Bahrain Bintel Airtel Gabon Telecom / Moov Libertis and in terms of voice service in Libreville, Port-Gentil, in the capitals of provinces and in rural areas.

    The audit co-produced by the consulting firm and the PMI Board ARCEP also shows that the degradation of the quality of service is continuous. The first five audits since 2010 to ensure that operators comply with the terms of their well specifications had already pointed out the problem of poor quality of service.

    In March 2012, the four mobile operators in Gabon were sentenced to fines totaling 3.7 billion CFA francs. Despite numerous reminders and penalties imposed on telecom operators by the regulator, things have not really changed.

  • Airtel Zambia’s lack of registration forms has halted the country’s SIM card registration process.
    “The shortage of registration forms at registration points was unacceptable and unfortunate,” said Thomas Malama, Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs at Zambia Information and Communication Technology (ZICTA).

    National regulator ZICTA has expressed dissatisfaction with the delays in the government’s plans of sector regulation, saying they are “turning away scores of customers who wanted to register their SIM cards because it had run out of registration forms”.

    The operator ended 2012 with 4.6 million subscribers, but the regulator is requiring all network providers to ensure all SIM cards in use are registered to an individual.
    “Mobile service providers should assess the number of subscribers they have and provide enough registration forms at every center,” Malama added.

    Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Best Customer Service Provider, the network provider was the first to introduce email, SMS and fax into the country.

  • Etisalat Misr, a subsidiary of UAE’s Etisalat and a major mobile operator in the Egyptian market, signed a strategic partnership agreement with leading global ICT solutions provider Huawei.
    The agreement will introduce new key technologies and business solutions to Etisalat Misr regarding MBB, VAS, B2B, Green Energy, CRM, LTE, FMC etc.. aiming at overcoming the challenges in the Egyptian telecom industry and enhancing customer satisfaction in terms of quality, speed and reliability.

    In pursuit of excellence, Etisalat Misr partnered with Huawei as a key solution provider to cooperatively set the building units and roadmaps of the telecom industry to demonstrate unprecedented customer experience and quality of service to Etisalat Misr customers.

    “We have enjoyed a strong strategic partnership with Etisalat Misr for more than six years. We are very proud to be associated with a company who has not only maintained their leadership in a highly competitive market, but also, through their innovation and corporate social responsibility has become one of the most admired companies in the region. We are looking forward to a long and reciprocally beneficial relationship to provide an enhanced customer experience,” Jason Li, Chief of Joint Regions Committee of Huawei said.

    For his part, Saeed Al Hamli, Etisalat Misr CEO said: “Going to the market with a strategic partner like Huawei is of prime importance for our operations. We are convinced that Etisalat Misr customers will obtain immediate advantages from Huawei innovative and reliable technologies.”

internet

  • Tanzania faced a breakdown in Internet connections for the better part of Thursday afternoon after two submarine cables linking the country to the outside world experienced technical problems.
    In an interview with the 'Daily News' on Thursday, the Acting CEO of the TTCL, Dr Kamugisha Kazaura, said the hitches occurred at Alexandria in Egypt where the cables are connected to others linking the continent to Europe.

    "Our two submarine cables EASSy and Seacom are connected to other cables to Europe, the problem occurred in a stretch of eight kilometres off shore the city of Alexandria. "EASSy was the first to experience the problem at about 1:30pm and it was followed by Seacom an hour later," Dr Kamugisha said in a telephone interview.

    He was, however, optimistic that the problem would have been solved by yesterday evening. And in indeed, internet connection resumed after 6pm. Dr Kamugisha had hinted that if the hitches were not solved by yesterday evening other alternatives would be considered.

    These would include re-routing the cables to South Africa or Asia. In order to safeguard from such occurrences in the future, he said the country is considering renewing a contract with other operators of another submarine cable TEAMS which is linked through the United Arab Emirates.
    While most East African countries were affected by the Internet breakdown, Kenya was least affected as it uses the Teams, according to Dr Kamugisha. With a capacity of 1.2 gigabits per second, the submarine cables are almost 20 times superior to satellite connections which have a capacity of just 50 megabits per second (mbps).

  • A temporary ban on YouTube imposed in Egypt over a video deemed offensive to Islam is a setback for freedom of expression , Amnesty International has said.
    A court in Cairo this weekend ordered a 30-day block on the video-sharing website in the wake of the controversial 'Innocence of Muslims' video, which sparked protests across Muslim countries in September.

    Saturday's court ruling said that "freedom of opinion [should] not attack the beliefs of others".
    "This ruling is a clear assault of freedom of expression and has far-reaching consequences in the country where activists have relied heavily on YouTube to expose human rights abuses in the country," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    "Criticism of religions and beliefs are a vital part of freedom of expression - regardless of how offensive or intolerant the opinion might be."

    Cairo's Administrative Court said there must be a balance between freedom of expression and "the interests and goals of society, and the protection of its values and traditions".
    It added that freedom of opinion should not "provoke the feelings and resentment of believers of other religions, particularly heavenly religions" and that the media should refrain from "defamation" of religious figures.

    The court's reasons for banning YouTube are in direct contradiction with international human rights law, which protects freedom of expression, including the expression of ideas that are offensive.
    "Criticism of religions and other beliefs and ideas is a vital component of the right to freedom of expression," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

    "Such criticism, insult or mockery does not interfere with the individual believer's freedom of religion, however offensive they may find it."

    The court also ordered a ban of other websites showing the film.

    A human rights NGO that opposed the ruling, the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression, is planning to appeal.

    "The technical and financial difficulties of enforcing this decision most likely means that it will be essentially impossible to implement in practice," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

    "Nevertheless, it increases concerns over the imposition of restrictions on freedom of expression on the grounds of defamation of religions."

    The ruling comes against the backdrop of a rise in people being prosecuted on blasphemy charges in Egypt.

    Last month a Cairo court upheld a three-year prison sentence against Alber Saber on charges of "defamation of religion" for publishing videos deemed offensive, including the 'Innocence of Muslims'.

    The Egyptian constitution protects freedom of expression but with limits, including for insulting and defaming religion or individuals.

    The International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a state party, protects expression of ideas even when they are considered offensive or insulting.

  • Algerie Telecom has announced the launch of an SMS service through Gmail, a move that is likely to spur interest in Algeria’s telecommunications sector and fuel excitement amongst users eager to send messages from the email platform.

    The company has confirmed that the service is already in place and will be delivered through the operator’s subsidiary Mobilis.

    Gmail customers can send free SMS’ to other Mobilis subscribers and chat with overseas Gmail contacts at the price of a national SMS for every message.

    The telecommunications service provider said that every time Mobilis customers answer messages on Gmail, they gain five free national SMS’ for on-net numbers, up to a maximum of 50 SMS’.

computing

  • Two schools in the Western Cape have received portable computers and MP3 players designed for blind users, in a R1 million (US$113 million) investment push by the Western Cape Education Department to improve education for blind students.

    The Athlone School for the Blind in Bellville South and the Pioneer School in Worcester received e-braille computers which scan texts and allow blind users to read by mechanically raising braille bumps against a flat service, while the keyboard allows users to type in braille.

    They also convert texts to audio, allowing users to listen to texts through computer-generated speech, while the MP3 players feature a number of keys which enable blind users to navigate the device and listen to texts and music files.

    The Western Cape Education Department has invested the money in order to be able to provide the Athlone School with 10 BrailleNote Apex computers and the Pioneer School with five, as well as providing a number of the Victor Reader Stratus 12M MP3 players for both schools.

    In order to enable the efficient use of the devices, the Education Department has pledged to make electronic versions of the relevant educational and teaching materials available. It will also ensure teachers have the necessary training to enable them to monitor students’ use of the devices and educational progress.

  • Six Mpumalanga schools facing ICT infrastructure challenges have been given a connectivity boost by the Telkom Foundation’s Connecting Schools project.

    Yesterday saw the handover of 303 tablet computers to teachers from the Edward Matyeka Primary School, Nelson Ngubeni Primary School, Nancy Shiba Primary School, Besilindile Primary School, Leornard Ntshutshe Secondary School and DM Motsaosele Secondary School.

    Alongside the hardware handover, Telkom says the project provides Internet connectivity and tablet maintenance for two years. “As part of the sponsorship, Telkom is also providing teacher training to enable the educators to navigate the device and access content with ease.”

  • Global telecommunication services operator Ericsson has launched a new school broadband project in Ethiopia aimed at boosting Internet services for local schools in an effort to increase infrastructure and services for the younger generation.

    It said that it will bring “voice and data communications to the Millennium Village Project (MVP) in Koraro in a remote part of northern Ethiopia as a way of increasing understanding and access to Internet for schools. With access to 3G connectivity more than 4,000 students and their teachers at two schools involved in the Connect To Learn initiative will now have access to modern learning and teaching resources through Ericsson’s cloud-computing platform,” Ericsson said in a statement released on Thursday.

    “In addition, community health workers in the Millennium Villages will be using mobile phones provided by Sony Mobile and broadband access provided by Ericsson to deliver healthcare services to households and collect health information for improved monitoring,” it added.
    Ethiopia’s government has been pushing forward on Internet services and broadband efforts across the country and sees schools as the future of this process.

    The company added that the project includes netbooks and wireless terminals to facilitate access to online educational resources, as well as ICT skills training.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • In a move aimed at boosting the Eritrean telecommunications operator’s economic standing and liquidity, Eritel on Wednesday announced that it had begun to sell off a large number of shares.
    The operator told local Eritrean media that they were making some 4.5 million shares available for sale and that its marketing team had already “drawn an impressive number of shareholders so far.”
    It did not give details as to the cost of the sale or how much income would be earned through the sell off. Nor did Eritel give specifics as to what the money would be used for in the future.

    The company called on “interested nationals residing in the country to make sure that they have attached copies of their national identity cards after making payments through the banks.”
    Eritreans residing abroad “should double-check the equivalence of the foreign currency amounts they debit to the banks with the price of shares they buy, which has been indicated in US dollars.”

    Only Eritrean citizens would be allowed to make a purchase of the telecom operators stocks. The goal, company officials were cited saying, is to give the East African company a little more mobility in the market and boost services for customers.

  • The Treasury is working on new regulations on taxing mobile money transfer services aimed at leveling the playing field for all operators.

    Finance minister Njeru Githae said a 'minimum charge per transaction' will be introduced soon so that those companies offering money services free also get to pay tax like Safaricom.

    Airtel and yuMobile have been offering money services within their platform at no charge and argue they are not liable to pay the 10 per cent tax introduced recently.

    On the other hand, Githae said, Safaricom has decided to absorb the tax for small transactions of less than Sh100 putting it at an 'uncompetitive' position with the rest.

    "The concern is about those offering free services [as] there is always a cost associated with transferring money. So with the minimum charge it is up to the company if it will still want to meet the cost," Githae said yesterday.

    "This will ensure one company will nor be at a disadvantage compared to the others," the minister said on the sidelines of a public-private partnerships workshop in Nairobi.

    The Finance Act 2012 introduced amendments to the Customs and Excise Duty Act which

    introduced a 10 per cent tax on transaction fees for all money transfer services provided by cellular phone providers, banks, money transfer agencies and other financial service providers. Treasury is targeting to collect an estimated Sh4.5 billion from the new tax.

    Safaricom, which has 16 million subscribers on its M-Pesa platform, was the first to transfer the 10 per cent tax on to its customers. This saw all charges for transactions above Sh100 go up.

    The other players have not changed the pricing but insist their free services should not attract any tax. Githae backtracked on earlier directive that the companies should not pass on the cost to consumers.

    "We had expected the companies would absorb the cost, but you know, it is a free market and we do not want to interfere," he said.

  • Amid growing interest in mobile technology and infrastructure in Guinea, mobile services operator MTN Guinea has announced plans to roll out data and payment services in March.

    The company’s CEO Phumzile Joshua Phike has confirmed that the telecom operator will launch mobile data, mobile money transfer capability and payment services next month.

    The announcement was made during an event sponsored by MTN in the country.

    MTN, which introduced Wimax in 2011, will aim to deliver innovative, high quality services and provide customer satisfaction, the company said in a statement.

    The mobile operator started operating in Guinea in 2006 and, according to information on its website, now has 2.5 million subscribers.

    Industry observers in Guinea hope that rolling out new services will increase interest and overall penetration in the country.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Amid ongoing political tension in Egypt and frustration over the recent hikes in Vodafone’s recharge tariffs, Vodafone Egypt has announced a new mobile Internet data bundle for USB modems, tablets and Mifi devices.

    “Vodafone Super 25 offers 1.2GB for EGP 25, Vodafone Super Browser 50 comes with 3GB for EGP 50, Vodafone Super Streamer 100 offers 7GB for EGP 100, Vodafone Super Downloader 150 costs EGP 150 for 10GB, and Vodafone Super 250 Unlimited provides 18GB for EGP 250,” the company said.

    After January’s increase of 15 percent on taxes applicable to users when recharging, Vodafone hopes this will help reduce some of the costs customers will incur when attempting to use mobile Internet on their personal devices.

    “After consuming the bundle limit, the speed is reduced to 64Kbps. Customers can return to the top speed by buying another 1GB for EGP 20. Customers can subscribe over SMS to the new Super bundles and track their usage from a dedicated website,” the company said.

    Analysts tell Bikyanews.com that while this is a welcome addition, it is unlikely to do much in terms of reducing frustration and costs for the average Egyptian using only a modest hand device.

Digital Content

  • Face Technologies, the company contracted to print and issue computerised driving permits, has provided a new solution to eliminate forged driving permits.

    The company has acquired and equipped the traffic police with the latest Samsung Tablets capable of linking to the computerised driving permits database. Using the mobile phone network system, the traffic enforcement personnel can instantly check the validity and authenticity of any driving permit.
    By entering the permit number on the tablet, a connection is made with the database, and then a high resolution coloured picture of the permit is displayed. Nathan Tumushabe, the computerised driving permits project coordinator from the Ministry of Works and Transport said more tablets are being procured and will be given to traffic police to increase enforcement.

    "We expect to drastically reduce the number of forged driving permits in circulation. It is drivers with forged permits that contribute to the rampant road accidents," Tumushabe said.

  • A group of women marched to a house in Mau-Mau, Nyanga, to confront a man they accuse of posting nude pictures of a woman, his girlfriend, on Facebook.

    The woman’s face can be seen clearly in the two pictures. Since last week when the pictures surfaced, many people have been searching her on Facebook to catch a glimpse of the indecent exposure. The photographs have since been removed.

    Asanda Yiyo, a Nyanga resident who participated in the march, said they started marching at 11am on Saturday. There were about 50 of them, with men also participating. Yiyo said the woman was notified about the pictures by her friends after they had seen them on Facebook. “When they phoned the woman’s cellphone, her boyfriend answered.”

    “We marched to her boyfriend’s house, we stood there outside and told him to come out, but he never did. We then marched to the Nyanga police station where we demanded that a van accompany us to the man’s house and arrest him, but we were told that a case had already been opened. We did the march for support and to show the guy that what he did was unacceptable. Had the guy come out when we went to his place, we wouldn’t have done anything because we all agreed that there would be no violence. We probably would have taken him to the police station”, explained Yiyo.

    When GroundUp contacted the woman, the calls went unanswered. But a resident who does not stay far from the her in Nyanga said she still sees her walking the streets and is not letting this situation bring her down.Source: Groundup

  • A popular music video featuring a group of artists taking aim at the president of the Gambia's tightening grip on the West African country is making the rounds among Gambians home and abroad.

    Musicians Xuman, Djily Bagdad, Tiat, and Ombre Zion accuse Gambian President Yahya Jammeh of despotism in the song titled “Against Impunity” published on YouTube, rapping in English and Wolof about the oppressive state of Gambian society under the hardliner's thumb and encouraging Gambians to rise up. The video, which was released in December, has more than 26,000 views.

    Since coming to power in 1996, President Jammeh's poor human rights record has drawn steady criticism. Last year, he oversaw the execution of a number of prisoners in a short period of time, earning condemnation from the international community and human rights groups. He has also been accused of restricting political expression and press freedom, as well as persecuting homosexuals.

    The video opens with one of the musicians, who wears a blue t-shirt that reads “No to violence against journalist”, singing the song's chorus: “We have to handle our own destiny / So it’s the right time to fight against impunity”.

    See the video here:

    JollofNews reported that after its release, the video went viral among Gambians sharing it on social media websites such as Facebook.

  • A wine advisory app aimed at the average wine drinker has recorded more than 20,000 visits to its mobile platform in eight months.

    One of its popular selling points is “sweaty saddles” and other flowery language is allowed on the mobile app, making it easy to understand and quick to use.

    Andy Hadfield, founder of Real Time Wine, began work on the application at the start of 2012 and it was officially launched in July of the same year.

    Speaking to HumanIPO, Hadfield said the initial idea for the application began as a hobby. “Back in 2011 I started tweeting wine reviews as a way to remember the good ones,” said Hadfield.

    “You drink an awesome wine at a restaurant or at a friend’s house or at a dinner party and you wake up the next day asking ‘that was an awesome wine, what the hell was it called?’”

    The wine review tweet stream then turned into a blog and within around a month it had seven writers and “hundreds of consumer reviews” on the blog.

    The name was inspired by the real time experience of the app since Hadfield found that it is difficult for South Africans to choose a wine.

    “The majority of South African wine drinkers don’t research their wine,” said Hadfield and added that South Africans will simply visit a supermarket  to buy a red wine to go with a steak meal, but have no idea of which wine to choose.

    Then, upon discovering that it is an “awesome” wine from the supermarket the consumer is able to share the experience through a rating of the one on the app, thus it is a real time experience.

    Other problems facing South African wine consumers is the “daunting” retail experience, including “the wall of wine”, Hadfield’s term for the large range of wine brands stocked on shelves.
    “The problem is we want that kind of range from supermarkets... but the range makes it harder to make a decision,” he explained.

    Another problem involves traditional media, which often makes use of “snobby” words or terms.
    “Traditional wine media in this country is very much aimed at the top 20 percent of the market, what I call the wine snobs - the people that really know their stuff and you can see the culture, the style of the language, the highfalutin snobby words they use... which means no one is talking to the bottom 80 percent. We’re talking to that bottom 80 percent,” said Hadfield.

    Furthermore, these “highfalutin” words are banned from the application. Examples include the above mentioned “sweaty saddle”, which could sound foul to 80 percent of the market. Others include gush and lanolin, which is a yellow substance “akin to wax that is secreted from wooly animals”. The app is programmed to automatically reject these words.

    Hadfield said the wine producing community has received the application very well, especially with the launch of the application’s counterpart “Super Fan Club”, because it presents an opportunity for winemakers and marketers to connect directly with their end users.

    Since its launch, Real Time Wine has recorded 23,685 visits, approximately 3,000 unique visitors per month 6,500 application downloads, 2,100 registered reviewers, approximately 9,000 ratings, an average of 28 user generated reviews per day, 1,637 likes on Facebook and 2,182 Twitter followers.

  • Moroccan operator Meditel has released a locally-developed app called Meditel et Moi, available for Android and iOS smartphones, to allow customers to manage their Meditel account and optimise the use of their service. Users can follow the state of their consumption, pay mobile and internet bills, find the closest top-up vendor, and add call credit to their account or family members'. More functions will be added, such as the possibility to pick different services.

More

  • Mobile Web East Africa 2013
    19th - 21st February 2013
    Venue: Southern Sun Mayfair Nairobi, Kenya

    Taking the monetisation and content creation dialogue to the next level
    Mobile Web East Africa, the East African edition of the most progressive and interactive mobile focused events in Sub-Saharan Africa, is primed to once again be the leading mobile focused conference in the region this year.
    Website: http://www.mobileeastafrica.com
    Email: comms@allamber.co.uk
    Tel: +44 1376 521 170

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

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

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

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

Issue no 641 8th February 2013

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  • Time was when the best content you could get in Africa was SMS services bought in from Europe or the USA. Now with the spread of smartphones and feature phones, there’s a much wider diet available including an increasing amount of local content. Russell Southwood attended the WSA Mobile Content 2.0 Awards in Abu Dhabi and reflects on what the winners say about the delivery of content in Africa and the challenges ahead.

    The WSA Mobile Awards are a global initiative that awards local apps that have global relevance. It looks both for commercially interesting apps as well as those that are socially relevant. The event combines a series of pitch sessions for shortlisted entrants and a thoughtful conference. The whole thing is capped with an awards ceremony for the winners.

    Many of these eco-system encouraging events in Africa are full of apps that have been developed that are nice ideas but nearly always lack users: I’ll look at why after you’ve seen the winners. However, these are all apps that have significant user bases either on iOS or Android, or both. Often they are highly successful in one country and eminently “exportable” or they are already making an international impact.

    The entrants combined a number of apps that are a “bit like” other things and some that were genuine originals. The mobile apps winners by category were as follows:
     
    m-Tourism and Culture: Harpoen
     
    An Indonesian app that allows you to put digital graffiti on photos and places that leaves a trail of images, messages and memories.
    See video clip interview with the co-founders:
     
    m-Entertainment and Lifestyle: Dermandar’s DMD Panorama
    A Lebanese company with a 360 degree panorama app that is used largely in the USA and Europe but not in the Middle East. The founders value success on an international stage and the app is well used.
    See video clip interview with one of the co-founders:
     
    m-Media and News: News 360
    A Russian and US-based company that has created a successful news aggregation app that gets you information you need. It sounds like lots of other news aggregation sites but its look and selections have made me fall out of love with Digg.
     
    See video clip interview with another of the nominees, Hans Eriksson, CEO, Bambuser, whose live broadcast app from your mobile is widely used in Egypt and Syria by citizen journalist. It has over 600 users in Syria:

    m-Environment and Health: Prognosis – Your Diagnosis
     
    A Sri Lankan app put together by two doctors who were frustrated by all the rote learning they had to do as medical students and wanted to experience the excitement of diagnosis in order to learn through doing. Luckily the smartphone app allows medical students to try their hand without needing to kill real life patients if they get things wrong.
    See video clip interview with one of the founders, Dr Kosala Liyange:
     
    Another nominee in the same category was Professor Giuseppe Riva, Positive Technology whose app is designed to tackle office-related stress. It’s the first app I’ve heard of undergoing a clinical trial:
     
    m-Learning and Education: Project Noah
     
    The founder Yasser Ansari wants to create a whole new generation of nature nerds using its digital butterfly net. You photograph a species and if you don’t recognize it, the community will help you identify it. Its users have already identified a new species.
    See video clip with the founder:
     
    m-Government: Roadroid
     
    This mobile app uses the motion sensor in your phone to measure the bumpiness of the road. The Asian Development Bank has used it in south east Asian countries to assess the state of the road networks and individual users can use it to find the smoothest route.
    See a video clip with the founder Norwegian Lars Forslof:
     
    m-Business and Commerce: i-Butterfly
     
    An augmented reality app that encourages you to find digital butterflies that are in different locations and capture them with your phone. The more butterflies you capture, the more rewards you get.
     
    For an explanation of augmented reality, see a video clip interview with mobile analyst Tomi Ahonen, who claims it will be the 8th mass media:
     
    m-Inclusion and Empowerement: Hand Talk
     
    Hand Talk is an app for mobile devices that receives data and translates it to Libras, the sign language of the deaf communities of urban Brazil.
     
    There is an interview with another of the nominees, Jonas Deister, Wheelmap.org which proves a mapping of physical access in Germany for wheelchair and stroller users :
     
    All of these apps are essentially designed for smart devices; whether pads, phones or TVs. So this is where Africa bumps its head against the first major challenge. If you imagine phone handset use as a pyramid, then the sharp end of that pyramid at the top will be the 3-5% who use smartphones. There will then be approximately 20-30% who use feature phones that have internet access.

    The majority who make up the rest will have basic phones: Voice and SMS…….errrr, sometimes a torch. So the majority of people will only be able to receive either voice services (through things like IVR or Freedom Fone) or something in 160 characters as a text SMS.

    (And this doesn’t include factoring in illiteracy and functional illiteracy, the inability to understand and do certain tasks. The survey data that is available shows that those who are unwilling to use SMS is a larger percentage than those who are completely illiterate.)

    I stood with Professor Rich Ling, University of Copenhagen during a conference break who showed me research data from a range of countries – both developing and developed – and the pattern was clear. For most developed countries, the smart phone is dominant but for many developing countries it is only a small but growing part of the market.

    Now obviously over the next 5 years the pattern will change but unless someone produces a smartphone at US$50 or a feature phone at the same price with smartphone like capabilities, the market will remain significantly fragmented. Let’s say we project 20-30% smartphones and 30-40% feature phones (as the new smartphone owners hand them on to relatives, drivers and maids), with the balance remaining as basic phones. For Africa, the biggest growth will be in feature phones.

    In some markets this kind of split would produce sufficient numbers for an apps ecosystem if we leave aside issues of equity of access for the moment. But there is another factor that lead to greater fragmentation. In likely order of success, there will be potentially four smartphone operating systems in Africa: Android, Nokia, Blackberry and iOS. At present, there are around 3,000 different feature phones, all of which have potentially different requirements in terms of OS operation and content.

    But the challenge is still greater if you consider the law of circles. Draw a circle that represents all phone subscribers in a country and then draw another smaller circle to approximate scale all those who use either smart phones or feature phones. Now if you produce content and services, only a percentage (let’s say optimistically 10%) will use that service so the last circle is the proportion of users in the right category who will actually end up using the service.

    You might say the app will be used across countries thus increasing its potential market but this ups the capital and operating cost entry barrier. And this says nothing of how the app market operates where developers have to have a credit card account in order to sign up to an OS developer programme and to be paid for sales. You might say but the app will succeed in the international market but that’s a tough one and robs the developer of his or her best advantage, knowledge of the local market.

    So there’s the problem….All those lovely apps above and all those lovely ones that haven’t yet been thought of may not have a market after the processes we have described above. The resolution of this market blockage has significant consequences for mobile operators: you can’t really increase your data sales if the market does not work to its maximum capacity. Those app stores that you have tentatively opened may turn into nothing more than distressed online real estate.

    A possible solution to cracking the market barriers described has perhaps three different elements:

    1. Everyone a smartphone: Phones have always been about aspiration. In Africa, they have almost replaced the car as the material symbol that says most about you.  So why not use this aspiration and sell the smartphone as the device that can change a person’s life and explain why (information, news, jobs, opportunities, dates, etc)? But to really change the market, there has either to be a smartphone or featurephone with smartphone capabilities at around the US$50 mark. It will have slightly less functionality but be able to do approximately 75% of what the high-end smartphone does. Its services may operate from the cloud rather than directly on the device.

    2. Get an interface layer that copes with multiple operating systems: Social network platform biNu has 4 million users globally, of which 1 million are in Africa. Once you’ve downloaded the app, it presents a smart phone like screen that allows you to use different apps including all the usual international stuff (Facebook, Twitter, etc). The services and content is optimized for low bandwidth and is served from the cloud. For the content or service app developer, this means it can deliver direct to a range of feature phones without having to worry how the app will work on them. So for example, it has (in partnership with World Reader) half a million people who read books on their mobile using biNu, 42% of whom are in Nigeria:

    3. Getting the touch interface right: Badr Ward, CEO, Ertiqa (an Arab software company – see video clip below) presented figures from a survey that showed that 10% of those up to 1 year had used a touch device; 39% between the ages of 2-4 and 52% aged 5-8. Even before there is formal education, these children work out how the device works and find something pleasurable on it. I can attest to this phenomenon as at my daughter’s wedding late last year the children in the formal wedding photographs were kept distracted by playing a video clip over and over again. This means that even those with low functional literacy can start to access video (delivered over LTE) for pleasure and to learn.

    Nothing ever solves everything but until African operators and the content ecosystem developers start to think more strategically, the global opportunity these kinds of apps offer may be stillborn,
     
    Things you need to hear from the WSA Mobile Awards 2013:

    There were many other interesting participants in the conference and the selection of video interviews below captures some of them:
     
    Touch pad edutainment software for children: Badr Ward, CEO of educational software company Ertiqa started out by doing local versioning of international education products but wanted to do something more culturally aware of Arab culture. Falling in love with a princess? Celebrating Christmas? Showing pigs? No, these things don’t fit. So he launched a series of edutainment products for young children under the name of Lamsa (which means Touch) for all touch devices:
     
    Gesture recognition and motion control: Niall Austin, OmniMotion Technology from Ireland works with gesture recognition and motion control. He’s produced software that allows you to control what happens on any device with a camera through gesture. His work so far has included games to encourage an interest in exercise and sport and work to help stroke victims recover. But it can also be used for display advertising and second screen TV:
     
    Online social activism: The Egyptian Arab Spring has resulted in one of the most interesting flowerings of online and mobile activism. The ambition of Ebba Eltamami’s organization HarassMap.org is to make sexual harassment socially unacceptable. 86% of Egyptian women say they have been sexually harassed and 50% say it has happened on a daily basis. The organization combines online mapping of incidents with face-to-face volunteer work:
     
    Holding politicians to account: Abbas Adel Ibrahim works during the day as a software engineer but by night is a social entrepreneur. He decided to launch a website called Morsi Meter to check the achievements of the Egyptian President in his first 100 days against his election promises. It is clearly influential as the President Office is now sending through information:

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

telecoms

  • On Monday 4th Febrary, the government officially launched nationwide registration of SIM cards, an exercise expected to last six months.

    The event that saw telecom staff members, clad in their respective company uniforms emblazoned with messages calling for subscribers to register their SIM cards, started with an awareness campaign march from City centre roundabout to Kigali Serena Hotel for formal launch.

    The deadline for the mobile phone subscribers to register their SIM cards is set July 31, according to the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (Rura), the implementing organ of the campaign.

    Speaking at the event, François Regis Gatarayiha, the director-general of Rura, said SIM cards that will not have been registered by deadline will be deactivated and will only be restored once they have been registered.

    He stated that people can register as many SIM cards as they want under their names as long as they use them and the registration is free of charge.

    During the exercise, all new and existing mobile phone numbers will have to be registered to be activated on a network.

    Presently, telecom operators' registering agents are deployed across the country to assist in the SIM card registration.

    Rwanda was the only remaining member of the East African Community that had not implemented the process of SIM card registration. The registration is part of the regional exercise under the East Africa Communications Organisation (EACO).

  • Zamtel has sued Sable Transport for damaging its optic fibre cable along Katima Mulilo Road, causing loss of revenue amounting to over USD62, 000.

    Zamtel said Sable Transport was conducting road works in the capital Lusaka’s Garden Compound and in the process damaged its underground optic fibre cables.

    “On June 2012, Sable Transport was performing construction works and through its employees or agents caused damage to Zamtel underground cables,” reads part of the claim.

    Zamtel said the damage resulted in service outage on Zamtel networks for two months and that the company had to restore service at a cost of over USD60,000.

    “The damage resulted in service outage for two months on the Zamtel network and the company experienced revenue loss,” the claim reads.

    The company is now claiming substantial damages and loss of revenue from Sable Transport.

  • The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe says it will spend at least USD24 million to construct 43 new base stations in rural areas around the country.

    It said it had completed a financial and technical assessment construction of base stations in poorly serviced areas throughout the country under the second phase of the Universal Services Fund was waiting for the tender to be awarded. The tenders for the design and installation of the base stations opened in August last year.

    “The tender has not yet been approved. The tender was supposed to be closed in October but it was closed in November because bidders requested for more time,” said Potraz deputy director-general Alfred Marisa.

    “On our part, we did the financial and technical assessment and at the moment we are just waiting for the tender to be awarded then we can proceed.”

    Telecommunications companies contribute two percent of their annual revenue into the USF to improve communication systems in rural areas.

  • Telecoms Tower2Kenya plans to roll out a US$500mn 4G network, despite key players continuing to question the timing and viability of the project

    In late November 2012, the government launched a search for a financial consultant to help formulate a public-private partnership to roll out high-speed connectivity on the 4G platform.

    The consultant will undertake a detailed financial evaluation of the partnership between the government, institutional investors, mobile operators and equipment vendors. Mobile operators, however, have questioned the viability of the 4G network, arguing that even the performance of the 3G has been poor.

    Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom, observed, “We launched the 3G a while back and the uptake has been poor. What makes us think subscribers are going for 4G? We should concentrate on driving the uptake of the 3G.”

    Other service providers such as Airtel Kenya and Telkom Orange have also raised similar concerns, highlighting the low uptake of the already rolled out 3G.

    Information and Communications Permanent Secretary, Dr Bitange Ndemo, has affirmed that the government is determined to have the network working by March 2013 during the national elections.

  • Vivendi-backed Maroc Telecom is considering buying a mobile licence in Cote d'Ivoire owned but never used by Warid Telecom, Jeune Afrique reports. The Cote d'Ivoire mobile market is dominated by MTN and Orange. Warid's Cote d'Ivoire concession, in which a prince of Abu Dhabi holds a majority share, reportedly never got off the ground because of disagreements between the venture's Ivoirian and Pakistani members. Warid Telecom sacked all staff and shut its doors in July 2011, after having invested around XOF 40 billion. Jeune Afrique speculates that this may be a way for Maroc Telecom to add value prior to a possible stake sale by Vivendi.

    Meanwhile, the landscape of the Ivorian mobile sector has changed noticeably since Warid first secured a mobile concession in the country, with a further three cellcos commencing commercial operations, namely: Comium (May 2007), Oricel (now GreenN, December 2008) and Aircom (January 2012). The last-named firm became the sixth main player in an already-crowded wireless market last year, improbably resurfacing twelve years after first obtaining a mobile licence. The company belatedly claimed that it had achieved ‘all administrative requirements’. As at end-September 2012 the Ivorian mobile market was dominated by the well-established likes of MTN (34.9%), Orange (33.3%) and Moov (20.7%).

  • Ethiopian telecommunications services operator, Ethio Telecom, has announced that plans for a two-year expansion project on its network are well underway.

    Ethio Telecom, has announced that plans for a two-year expansion project on its network are well underway. (Image: Google/behance.net)According to a company statement, ZTE and Huawei are currently in discussion with Ethio Telecom regarding the project and forms part of a broader objective to bolster services in the country.

    “Under the project, the operator plans to restructure the country into 11 telecommunication infrastructure zones, from the 16 previously, limiting the number of vendors in each zone to just one,” the companies reported.

    “The zones will be based on demography, customer base and geographic location. Addis Ababa will occupy just one circle, meaning that either ZTE or Huawei will act as the sole vendor there,” said Ethio Telecom.

    If agreed, it should help continue to see boosting in the country’s telecom services. And with more and more Ethiopians entering the market, infrastructure is becoming a much needed push.

internet

  • A deal that will go a long way in helping Uganda generate, manage, project and control its own online local content and image to the world has been signed.

    The Airtel Uganda and Uganda Goes Online (UGO) partnership signed on Tuesday at the Kampala Serena Hotel is unique in that it allows Airtel Uganda customers free access to the UGO portal, while UGO provides a one stop centre for anything Ugandan.  Customers log onto the UGO portal free using their Internet enabled devices and access free 100% local Ugandan content.

    In the deal, Airtel will provide free access for one year through the UGO portal. Announcing the launch, Airtel managing director V.G Somasekhar said there are many positives about Uganda, including its very warm people, tourism and an entrepreneurial spirit that needs to be projected from within and not allowed to be controlled from outside. “Ugandans are good people who will keep a smile after a hard day and they work hard,” said V.G. Somasekhar.

    Somasekhar emphasised that the time is ripe to clean up the bad image of the country that has consistently been controlled by Western media stereotypes. Taking the positives of the country online is a powerful opportunity, especially because of the growing online community.

    The significance of data, especially mobile Internet has grown to the extent that making calls today is the fifth most used function. There are 3.2 million Ugandans with access to Internet, a figure ICT minister Ruhakana Rugunda said should shoot up because of initiatives such as Airtel’s that provide free access.

    Rugunda commended the telecom for empowering Ugandans to embrace and enjoy the different aspects of Ugandan content. He said the initiative should not only sell tourism wealth, but also expound on local markets, talents and culture. “It is indeed a timely venture because Uganda has a rich heritage and knowledge base that should be recognised, recorded and shared for the benefit of people both in Uganda and throughout the world,” said Rugunda.

    Somasekhar said Airtel has invested $135m in two years and one of the inroads has been building 356 sites with 3G coverage. UGO managing director Boaz Shani said his firm has been promoting local content for the last one year and has been pushing local corporates to get their content shared with the world.

  • Students from the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in Dubai visited Kenya to connect a wireless internet network at an academic institute in a village.

    Six final-year students studying Network Engineering at the women’s campus of HCT-Dubai were provided an opportunity to put their skills into practice and to test out concepts that they had learned in college in a real environment. The initiative was meant to help the students grasp professional development skills in a team environment as well as enable them to interact with people from different nationalities.

    The college donated 20 laptops and 10 wireless devices to the academic institute and the students updated six computers with new software programmes. The main project centered on connecting a wireless internet network within an institute in one of the poorer villages in Kenya. The institute did not have the ability to execute this network on its own.

    “I gained a great deal from travelling outside the country, it has many positives mostly due to the quality of education that we received in college, as we can now rely on ourselves and face difficult challenges in a multicultural environment and try to solve and overcome it in a real environment; we got a chance to be honorable ambassadors for our beloved country” said Rawda Al Balochi, one of the students who took part in the initiative.

  • A South African entrepreneur is providing residents from some of the country’s most impoverished areas with an opportunity to access the internet and learn about computers.

    Luvuyo Rani's Silulo Ulutho Internet Café, which started out as a small business in Khayelitsha on the Cape Flats, is changing the lives of students and adults who would otherwise have no opportunity to become computer literate.

    Since 2004, when Rani first opened the business with his brother and a friend, the demand for Silulo Ulutho's services has grown so much that he's opened 18 stores in Khayelitsha and five in the Eastern Cape - in Queenstown, Butterworth, Mthatha and East London.

    Through these centres at least 10,000 students have been educated, right up to advanced computer literacy programmes.

    It all started eight years ago when Rani, who worked as a teacher in Khayelitsha for five years, started selling refurbished computers out of the boot of his car in the Western Cape township.

    "At the time when I was teaching, the Department of Education was just starting to introduce Outcomes Based Education, and teachers needed computers," he says. But soon after selling the computers, Rani found out that the teachers weren't using them at all. "They were gathering dust and this bothered me," he says. "The teachers had no skills to use them, and they didn't have access to the internet."

    This is what sparked his idea to start a business that would give people in Khayelitsha access to the internet and teach them how to use computers as well as how to access the information stored on the web. Within a year of starting up, he won best entrepreneur in the Western Cape. "And then it all grew very, very fast," he recalls.

    Initially, his main goal was to use the facility as a computer skills training venue for teachers, but soon the business started to meet a major need for computer services in Khayelitsha.

    "People needed help. They could operate Facebook, but didn't have the skills to type out their own CVs. People couldn't differentiate between a fax and e-mail," he says.

    The absence of computer skills, or the technology and facilities to learn, is a dilemma for many people living in townships and remote areas in South Africa.

    "If you don't have computer skills, you are at a disadvantage in the job market," says Rani.

    To add to this predicament, people often have to travel long distances to an internet café to distribute their CVs when searching for jobs.

    "People have to do this at great expense and it takes a lot of time."

    The Silulo Internet Café caters for both needs, and Rani has ensured that the pricing of his services are within reach of the majority of South Africans.

    "What is central to my business model is affordability," he says. "Our prices are low." He believes that companies operating in emerging market economies should adjust their business models and profit expectations. "It is essential for entrepreneurs in these markets to be socially minded and not only profit-driven."

    For just R6 (70 US cents), Rani's customers can access the internet for one hour, whereas some internet cafes in the Eastern Cape charge as much as R30 ($3.38) an hour, R10 ($1.12) to send a fax and R3 (34 cents) for a photocopy. "This is simply unaffordable for most people," he says. "Even if you just have R2 (23 cents), you can go onto the internet for 15 minutes," he says.

    Silulo Ulutho operates in the Western and Eastern Cape, but in the future Rani would like to grow the business in other provinces, possibly through a franchise business model. "But the core must always remain that the business must benefit the community," he says. "I am passionate about this."

    In addition to internet café services, computer sales are still a core part of the business. Silulo offers IT support to assist customers with network connections, computer repairs, and maintenance, and software installation.

    As part of its computer sales division, Rani has entered into a partnership with mobile provider Vodacom. Customers who buy computers from Silulo can access prepaid internet services using a 3G connection from Vodacom, the dongle for which is part of the deal.

  • "This is the greatest achievement I can say for this school. [The students] are finding it a great favour that they should be the first school in Africa to have this kind of a project. It is very exciting. They wonder how they got there."

    Beatrice Nderango is the headmistress of Gakawa Secondary School, which lies about 10km from Nanyuki, a market town in Kenya's rift valley, not far from the Mount Kenya national park.

    The school is situated in a village that has no phone line and no electricity. The people that live here are mostly subsistence farmers. "We don't really have a cash crop, but the farmers do a bit of farming," says Mrs Nderango. "They grow potatoes, a little bit of maize, but we don't do well in maize because of the wild animals. They invade the farms."

    Although Kenya has fibre optic broadband thanks to the Seacom cable, most of rural Kenya is not connected and until now getting online would mean travelling to town.

    But all of this is changing, thanks to technology that uses the unused parts of the wireless spectrum that is set aside for television broadcasters - the white spaces.
    The colour of television

    The project is part of the 4Afrika Initiative, an investment programme being announced by technology giant Microsoft, that also includes a new Windows Phone 8 smartphone for the region and investment in help for small businesses on the continent, and in education and internships.
    Putting up the base stations The base stations work in the same way as mobile phone masts, and will create massive wifi hotspots

    For the white spaces project, the company is working with a Kenyan ISP, Indigo Telecom, and the Kenyan government.

    The ISP is installing wireless 'base stations' - or masts - that are solar-powered, to get round the lack of mains electricity.

    The base stations act as a link to the nearest main cable connection to the internet, without the expense of extending the fibre-optic network.
    solar panels The solar panels will power the bases stations - and also charge computer equipment The signal supplied is much more powerful than normal wifi.

    "What we are calling TV white space, that is just a different set of frequencies. It is between 400 megahertz and about 800 megahertz, and those radio frequencies will just go further," says white spaces expert Professor Robert Stewart of Strathclyde University.

    "They can go through walls, they will kind of bend around hills, they will give you much better connectivity. And of course, that's why the TV guys chose that in the first place."

    Local schools, a healthcare clinic, a government agriculture office and a library have been connected in the first part of the pilot. Ms Nderango says internet will benefit teachers and students alike. "Students will now be introduced to e-learning, they will be able to carry out the assignments, they'll be able to do a lot of research," she says. "To add to that, there is the exposure to the rest of the world." And she believes the wider community will benefit as well.
    "It will change lives, because on the internet you can access information about skills.

    "The farmers for example will improve their skills, and learn entrepreneurship."
    Business networking

    Microsoft's Fernando de Sousa says getting rural areas online is a crucial part of making them economically viable.

    "There is... a commercial responsibility that both private and public sector have across Africa to bring technology and bring access that can then drive economic growth, economic development and sustain employability, especially outside of the metropolitan areas," he says.

    "It is going to significantly increase the ability for innovation and the great ideas that Africans have to actually reach markets and become available for use by consumers... I think that there is a fantastic opportunity for Africa to showcase its own capabilities in the world because of the increased access."
    Clinic The local healthcare clinic will be part of the network, opening up access to telemedicine resources

    The next step is to open the network more generally to the business community in the area.

    "The commercial viability of actually deploying white spaces on a broad spectrum across the communities, is something that is very important... because a. it can't be a subsidised service; and b. it is not a private government or community network," says Mr de Sousa.

    "It really needs to be a commercially viable network. Bringing small businesses online and enabling them to use the technology is very, very important."

    This is not the first time that TV white spaces have been used in this way - in the UK pilots are underway on the Isle of Bute in Scotland and in Cambridge.

    In the United States, Wilmington, North Carolina, has a white spaces project in place, and the Air.U partnership hopes to connect rural college campuses. There are several test beds around the world.

    More is planned. In Africa, Google is sponsoring a project in South Africa that will connect 10 schools in the Western Cape for six months, that will launch soon.

    There are obstacles: in many countries this part of the spectrum is licensed, and the way it is used is changing as television services move to digital. National and international regulators are looking at how to allocate space, to avoid having competing services trying to use the same space.

    For now, and probably in the long term, TV white space networks will be complementary to fibre-optic broadband rather than a replacement. But Strathclyde University's Prof Stewart, one of the men behind the pilot on the Isle of Bute, thinks that for remote rural areas it may be the most cost-effective option.

    "If we find that rural communities in developing or developed countries can access this without significant expense, then it will make a difference," he says.

    "It is not going to solve all the problems. It is not for everyone. But it will solve problems for some folks."

  • South Sudan, one of the world's least developed countries, aims to lay a fibre-optic network this year to link the capital Juba with submarine cables in east Africa to cut the high cost of using the Internet.

    South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011, six years after a peace accord that ended decades of civil war that left the country's infrastructure in ruins. It has no landline phone lines and only 300 km (186 miles) of roads.

    South Sudan is one of the most expensive countries in Africa for Internet use. The average retail price of Internet bandwidth via satellite is currently around $4,000 per megabit (MB), according to a source familiar with the industry.

    The government wants to cut that cost by reducing reliance on satellite bandwidth, said Juma Stephen, undersecretary at the telecommunication and postal services ministry.

    "We are targeting this year, within this year, that we will be connected to the submarine cable," Stephen told Reuters. "Construction of fibre-optic cables will more than halve Internet prices and make it twice as fast."

    Stephen gave no details about the average cost of bandwidth but said all South Sudan's Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use satellite-based V-Sat, WiFi and WiMAX technology.

    South Sudan, which has 15 ISPs, is now doing a feasibility study on whether to connect with marine cables in Djibouti in the Red Sea or Kenya's Indian Ocean port of Mombasa, he said.

    Three undersea fibre-optic networks serve east Africa's Internet traffic: The East African Marine Systems (TEAMS), the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and SEACOM.

    The country has four main mobile operators offering Internet: South Africa's MTN, Kuwait's Zain, Vivacell and Gemtel.

    The country also hopes to launch its Internet domain ".SS" this year to help the government set up its own email system, Stephen said.

    The government has also started to set up postal services with post offices open in South Sudan's five main cities. "At the moment parcels are coming in but we still can't send parcels," Stephen said.

    South Sudan, which depends on Sudanese airlines to deliver mail via Khartoum, is also in talks with neighbours Kenya and Ethiopia to send mail abroad by air.

    South Sudan lost most state revenue when it shut down its oil production in a row with Sudan over pipeline fees a year ago. Both agreed in September to resume exports via Sudan but have yet to agree on how to secure their disputed border first.

  • Gilat Satcom has announced that it has entered into a joint venture with Microlink to enhance affordable high-speed fiber and satellite connectivity services throughout Zambia.

    Microlink provides affordable broadband communication solutions to individuals and enterprises throughout Zambia. The ISP offers reliable connectivity to large corporates, small-medium enterprises (SMEs), Internet cafes, WiFi hotspots and other locations. The new joint venture extends high-capacity, fiber-based Internet access throughout the country.

    “We are very excited about this opportunity,” said John Taylor, CEO of Microlink. “It provides Microlink not only with the renowned international expertise and technical support of Gilat Satcom, but also gives the JV the ability to provide global data solutions on an MPLS platform that can extend a Zambian MPLS network to any location in the world.”

    As a shareholder in WIOCC, the carrier’s carrier bringing fiber cable to land-locked countries in Africa, Gilat Satcom is able to offer a full suite of fiber connectivity solutions in addition to its highly regarded C-band and Ku-band, pan-African satellite links. The company can offer attractive pricing on the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), the highest capacity system serving sub-Saharan Africa with 5 terabit-per-second capacity and nine landing points. The joint venture has already acquired STM1 capacity on EASSy to serve Microlink’s current subscribers as well as the new subscribers of the JV.

  • K-NET broadband packagesK-NET has announced the launch of a new range of superfast broadband internet service packages available to business customers across 16 West and Central African countries

    The company, which already offers a range of service packages to meet the requirements of businesses and consumers, has now added brand new services.

    A range of new packages are available which aim to deliver reliable and high-performance business-grade internet services, with prices leading in at US$30 per month and download speeds starting from 1Mbps.

    K-NET also offers premium packages, which are designed to meet the connectivity needs of the most demanding users, with download speeds of 8Mbps and peak-time download volumes of up to 100GB per month.

    The new broadband internet services have been rolled out in Nigeria, DRC, Ghana, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Benin, Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Togo, Central African Republic, Congo, Liberia, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

  • According to a report by Emploitic.com, an Algerian job website, job posts rose from 20 percent in 2009 to 40 percent in 2010. In 2011, it rose to 60 percent and to 66 percent in 2012.

    Louai Djaffer, co-founder and CEO of Emploitic.com, said: “These past two years, Internet tends increasingly to emerge as the main recruiting tool. The evolution of the penetration of the Internet, its adoption by businesses and individuals and use changes, suggest a significant acceleration of the adoption of e-recruitment for all types of businesses and candidates at all levels.”

    By October last year, the percentage of Internet users compared to the total population increased to 14 percent from 0.49 percent in 2000, according to the World Bank. The number is expected to rise to five million people this year.

    Emploitic recorded nearly 15,000 job ads on media outlets including print and Web. The site has been visited by more than eight million visitors and currently has a total page views of 50 million.

    “The number of applications sent through the site exceeds 800,000 in response to the 7831 broadcast employment opportunities. The assessment also noted that more and more Algerians living abroad to connect Emploitic seeking employment opportunities in Algeria,” Emploitic said.

computing

  • The Botswana Government is in the process of computerising all allocated plots.

    Boteti South MP  Lebonaamang Mokalake told kgotla meetings in his constituency that this would enable the ministry to better manage land use through an administrative programme called Land Administrative Procedures Capacity and System.

    Mokalake, also Minister of Lands and Housing, said the programme was being piloted in 12 villages across the country and would soon be rolled out to other areas.

    The minister regretted problems relating to land use, among them double allocations, illegal land use and failure to pay rates and lease agreement fees. These, he said, were rampant at villages in the vicinity of cities.

  • One of Kenya's leading universities, the University of Nairobi, has adopted an open access policy to research articles and other academic materials produced by its staff.

    By placing all scholarly articles in an online 'digital repository', the university aims to increase the visibility of its research output and enhance collaboration with researchers in other parts of the world. The university adopted its open access policy in December.

    Rosemary Otando, a senior librarian at the university, says there is a vast amount of the data and knowledge waiting to be discovered, but this is only possible when research literature is not constrained by access barriers.

    "The university attracts funds worth tens of millions of US dollars for research, but the findings have, in the past, only been accessed by a privileged few since most of them are published in costly peer-reviewed journals and the high internet subscription fees mean that users in developing countries cannot access the information they need to rise to the challenges of development," Otando tells SciDev.Net.

    The open access policy, she adds, is intended to ensure that research and other relevant work reaches many and has a direct impact on policies and practices in Kenya, Africa and worldwide.

    It is also designed to increase citations, reduce the knowledge divide, maximise the visibility of the university's academic output and ensure its preservation.

    As part of the initiative, the university encourages its academic staff to publish their work in peer-reviewed open access journals.

    "Since the cost barrier has been eliminated, everybody is free to access the resources. Therefore open access will ensure that relevant research findings can be used to help those in need says Otando.

    Materials that can be added to the online depository include journal articles, research data, books, audio and video files, theses, presentations, images and conference proceedings.

    Nerisa Kamar, assistant librarian at the Nairobi-based UN-HABITAT, the UN agency for human settlements, thinks the initiative will "promote the relevancy and enhance the dissemination of in-house publications and resources, enable the sharing of data and help to reduce research duplication and the resulting waste of resources".

    According to Kamar, the open access policy will also market the institution's research programmes, assist in reducing plagiarism and act as a quality assurance tool to help the university meet the international standards on what should be available on the OA database and the goal of becoming a world-class university.

  • ICT AfricaSoarsoft Africa has announced that MSExchange.org has chosen ENow’s Mailscape as the winner in the Exchange Service Administration software category of the MSExchange.org Readers’ Choice Awards

    The Mailscape solution aims to provide IT support employees a way to monitor servers in real time.

    “Soarsoft Africa proudly distributes ENow Software into Southern Africa and this award further reinforces our commitment to introducing and supporting proven, innovative and internationally recognised solutions into the local market,” said George Amoils, director at Soarsoft Africa.

    ENow’s Mailscape Exchange Server product has a dashboard with red, yellow and green lights indicating the health of each monitored server. It also provides mobile device reporting for iPads, iPhones, Androids, Blackberries and other mobile products.

    Soarsoft Africa CTO Deniel Lambrakis said, “Mailscape is a must have tool for any organisation and many of our customers purchased this for their migrations from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2010.”

    “The monitoring and reporting capabilities available out of the box are extensive and simple to deploy and use.”

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Banks have lobbied the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to act against Econet Wireless' reluctance to open up its mobile banking gateway to allow them to transfer money from clients' bank accounts straight to the beneficiary mobile number.

    The Herald Business understands that the call from banks comes as the financial institutions fear losing a significant chunk of their market to the rapidly growing mobile money transfer platform, especially Econet Wireless' EcoCash service.

    The banks' reservations arise from the fact that Econet Wireless has not opened up its platform to allow banks to initiate bank transfers from the bank accounts of the mobile phone operator's subscribers straight to the number of a beneficiary.

    It is against this background that BAZ called for a level playing field in the banking sector, before they agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding on interest rates, bank charges and other contentious issues regarding the banking sector. The MoU to guide bank charges, interest and lending rates could be signed by the first quarter of 2013.

    Only CBZ Bank, TN Bank and FBC Bank currently have access to the giant mobile phone operator's mobile banking gateway, as Econet seems to take a cautious approach to partnering all the banks.

    BAZ immediate past president John Mushayavanhu said banks did not have a similar problem with other mobile phone operators (NetOne and Telecel), regarding the transfer of money straight from the operators' customers' bank accounts.

    "Banks want Econet to open its gateway so that banks can initiate transactions straight from the bank accounts of the customers to a given mobile number. Other operators have opened their gateways, but Econet has not," said Mr Mushayavanhu.

    He said since Econet was the biggest mobile phone operator with more than eight million subscribers, it would become easier to move money between people while Econet also capitalised on the text messages as its clients transact.

    Efforts to get a comment from Econet were fruitless by the time of going to print. But it appears the firm is protecting its own mobile money transfer business, EcoCash, which has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception.

    Yet aside from losing a significant chunk of their money transfer business, the banks have also lost out to the function of acting as safe storage service provider for small amounts of money, which can be kept in an EcoCash e-wallet.

    While acknowledging the immense benefits mobile money transfer has had on the economy, in terms of access to financial products, Dr Gono said the facility was merely for payment or delivery channels, and not a deposit holding facility.

    "We advise that mobile money transfer services are merely a payment system or delivery channel which does not amount to deposit-taking. Accordingly, mobile money transfers should operate on a credit push principle where all e-money value is backed by pre-funded balances which are held in banking institutions," he said.

    In light of current developments, the need to align with international best practice and to comply with the National Payment Systems Act, the RBZ will issue out payment systems oversight guideline by 30 June 2013, e-money and electronic payments guideline by end of September 2013 and, agency banking guideline to be finalised by 31 December 2013.

  • Stephane Richard, the chief executive officer of France Telecom-Orange, has called on the government of Senegal to improve economic rules in the country where they concern taxation of the telecommunications market, warning that placing an additional financial burden on the industry will only hamper investment.

    Richard and Alione Ndiaye, managing director of national PTO Sonatel, met with the Senegalese prime minister Abdoul Mbaye to discuss their concerns. According to Agence Ecofin, Mbaye explained that the recent decision to eliminate a telecoms surtax and the setting of corporate taxation at ‘a reasonable rate’, were designed as incentives to major investment. Further, Senegal’s president Macky Sall is on record as saying that that his administration is actively looking at ways to remove barriers to the deployment of internet services across the entire country.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Telecommunications companies in Nigeria have complied with the directive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) concerning the cost of SMS across the various networks.

    On Tuesday, various companies officially switched to the new tariff plan of 4 naira per SMS for all off-net text messages from 10 naira per SMS.

    The new plan represents a 60 percent reduction in cost and was introduced in January by the regulatory body of the nation’s communications sector.

    It only covers SMSs sent to networks operating in Nigeria, with messages sent to foreign networks still costing.

    The NCC’s Director of Legal and Regulatory Services Josephine Amuwa said the commission is not yet setting a price cap for text messages sent to international lines.

    She added the commission reached the current price after extensive consultations with representatives of the various telecoms companies.

    “Having evaluated and analysed SMS traffic information provided by the operators, the commission noted that there was a general recognition that the cost of SMS is too high, especially in view of the interconnection rate of N1.02 for SMS as determined by the commission in 2009,” she said.

    She insisted that the NCC would monitor compliance by the operators, and noted that failure to comply with the determination would be penalised.

    Some subscribers who spoke with ThisDay on the cost reduction hailed the NCC for its directive, as well as the operators for complying.

    “This is a good development in the telecoms sector and we need more of it,” Azuka Philip, a Globacom subscriber, said.

  • Mobile Phone AfricaComviva Technologies has announced that it has joined forces with mobile security and services provider AdaptiveMobile to provide a network-based web and message content filtering solution

    The new partnership is set to help network operators control monitoring and advanced security techniques to protect their system, subscribers and business customers against the increasing threat of mobile spamming in Africa.

Digital Content

  • Security officials at Kenya Wildlife Service hope system will help national parks reduce poaching by up to 90%

    Kenya's wildlife agency is installing an alarm system that alerts rangers to possible poachings by text message, following the shooting of an entire family of 11 elephants.

    Security officials at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) hope that the system, connected to fences around parks and wildlife sanctuaries, will help reduce poaching by up to 90%.

    When an animal interferes with the fence or a person tries to tear down the fence, the alarm produces a very loud sound which is relayed to the security switchboard as an SMS message and shows the location. Reinforcement is then sent to the affected area.

    But Patrick Omondi, head of the species department at KWS, said that putting the alarm system in all parks is impossible since the costs would be huge and some are not wholly fenced in.

    "Some parks are very big and the idea would only work in conservancies which have a much smaller land area," he said.

    Tsavo national park, where the recent killings took place, is about the size of Belgium. Paul Udoto, communications officer at KWS, said that conflict between local people and wildlife has previously been the main issue at the park rather than poaching, and has historically been dealt with by solar-powered electric fences.

    Omondi added that technology will be a key tool in future efforts to curb poaching.

    "For example, Kenya adopted a DNA-profiling technology from South Africa called the rhinoceros DNA index. In case a rhino horn is intercepted in any part of the world, KWS can profile the root of the horn," Omondi said. In December, Google gave conservation group WWF $5m to use drones to track poaching of rhinos and elephants.

    Last year, more than 1,000 rhinos and more than 1,000 elephants were lost to poaching in Africa, driven in large part by demand from south-east Asia.

    Kenya alone lost more than 360 elephants, according to government figures, and on Thursday figures from the South African government showed the country had suffered a record 668 rhino deaths from poaching, up by almost 50% on 2011's figures.

  • Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group has opened a new Twitter account in English, less than two weeks after its previous account was suspended. A senior al-Shabab official told the BBC that the new account was genuine.

    Al-Shabab's previous English-language account was suspended after it used it to announce it would kill a French hostage and then said it had done so. Twitter's rules say that threats of violence are banned but it refused to comment on the suspension.

    One of the message on the new account reads: "For what it's worth, shooting the messenger and suppressing the truth by silencing your opponents isn't quite the way to win the war of ideas."

    While the main Twitter account, which used to publish in several languages, had been blocked, a separate feed in Arabic continued to operate.

    The new al-Shabab account has 280 followers, compared to the previous account which had more than 20,000 followers.

    It was closed on 25 January, about a week after it announced the killing of a French spy, Denis Allex, it was holding hostage.

    Mr Allex, who was kidnapped in Somalia in July 2009, was killed in retaliation for a failed French operation to free him.

    Analysts say the US has wanted al-Shabab banned from Twitter for some time, but lacked the legal means to enforce its will.

    Al-Shabab has been forced out of Somali's main towns over the past 18 months but it still controls many rural parts of southern and central Somalia.

    For more than 20 years Somalia has seen clan-based warlords, rival politicians and Islamist militants battling for control of the country.

  • Hamada Saber is the name of an Egyptian man, who was seen in a video which went viral and was even featured on CNN, while he was being beaten and stripped of his clothes by police forces. The incident brought about a wave of shock and disbelief and shook the nation in disgust. Interestingly, many people on social media started contrasting what happened to this man and the nation’s reaction to it with the extreme sexual harassment and rape Egyptian women are subjected to.

    The video can be viewed here:

    On Twitter, Ghada Elsayeh wrote [ar]:

        بس الفرق بين حمادة إل اتسحل والبنات ال اتحرشو بهم واغتصابهم كبير لأن الناس تعاطفت مع حمادة الجبان ولم تهتم بالبنات الشجعان! محتاج علاج نفسي!

        @Ghadaelsayeh: The difference between Hamada who was beaten and the girls who were sexually harassed and raped is great because people sympathized with Hamada the coward while they didn’t pay attention
        to the brave girls! [They] need psychological treatment.

    The reason Saber was called a coward by some is his initial statement to the media that he had been stripped of his clothes by the protesters, not the security forces. Reactions were divided when it came to this testimony: although some called him a coward, others felt the man might have been under threat to deny the truth, like journalist Rasha Azb, who tweeted:

        اوعوا تلوموا علي حمادة صابر .اوعوا تلوموا علي واحد قضي ليلة من الذل والخوف واحنا نايمين في بيوتنا.اوسخ حاجة انك تيجي ع الضحية..ارحموا الضعيف

        @RashaPress: Don’t blame Hamada Saber, don’t blame someone who spent a night of humiliation and fear while we were sleeping in our homes. The worst thing you can do is to blame the victim… have mercy on the weak!

    Another interesting contrast made is that between Sabry’s generation (he is a middle-aged man) and the generation of his daughter. The latter had spoken out against what her father initially said, calling his statements ‘lies’. The blog The Arabist mentioned her saying:

        In the most surreal part of this sad episode, Hamada Saber and his daughter Randa ended up arguing about what happened to him on a major satellite TV talk show, with Hamada accusing Randa of having taken money from satellite channels to lie about him.

    Ahmed Talaat added:

        لسه الناس مش قادرة تصدق أن فيه فرق بين جيل حمادة و جيل بنته ! جيل حمادة لسه بيخاف من أمين الشرطة ! جيل بنته مابيخافش من رئيس الجمهورية ..

        @AhmadTal3t: People are still not able to believe that there is a difference between Hamada’s generation and that of his daughter! Hamada's generation is still afraid of a police officer! The generation of his daughter is not afraid of the president of the republic..

    Later on, Saber, after hearing the reactions of his own family and the Egyptian people to his initial statements, decided to change his testimony. He apologized for blaming the protesters, claiming security forces were the ones who beat him and stripped him of his clothes. He also stressed that he hadn’t received any money to make the statements he initially made.

  • Leading online retailer, Konga has emerged as Nigeria’s most liked e-commerce site on Facebook with over 100,000 fans since launching in June 2012.

    It is not surprising that the company which has been known for its fast delivery and good customer service achieved this milestone in such a short period of time while other e-commerce sites trail behind.

    From the positive feedback on the Internet and particularly, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, about the company’s e-commerce services, one could tell that Konga is giving consumers what they want, how they want it, and when they want it.

    Meanwhile, Konga’s major competitor, Jumia Nigeria which reached 50,000 likes on Facebook in December 2012, after six months of launching, currently has over 78,000 likes on the most popular social network.

  • Twitter has launched advertising services in North Africa while launching similar services in the Middle East.

    This follows user subscriptions tripling in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The increased uptake of Twitter in the region is thought to have been motivated by widespread usage of the network during the Arab Spring protests in 2011.

    Shailesh Rao, Twitter Vice-President for International Operations, said: “The two are interconnected – the rapid growth of our user base with the timing of why we want to help brands connect with that audience.”

    Already Twitter has managed to secure some big advertising accounts, with Pepsi and Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) amongst the confirmed clients.

    Only four percent of the total advertising spend in MENA region is accounted for by digital advertising, but Twitter bosses still believe a tech-savvy population and rising Internet penetration in the region points to significant potential for growth.

    The micro-blogging platform will launch advertising in Egypt, along with some Middle Eastern countries, through Egypt’s Connect Ads, a subsidiary of Cairo-listed Orascom Telecom Media and Technology.

    Mohamed El Mehairy, Connect Ads’ Managing Director, said: “Social media advertising is totally different because it relies on what people say. It’s about two-way, not one-way, communication.”

More

  • Number Portability Forum 2013
    11-12 February 2013-01-11 Dubai, UAE

    At Tavess' Number Portability Forum 2013, As the only event in the region dedicated to Number Portability, find out what it takes to successfully implement Number Portability, sustain the momentum after launch through continued management, and further leverage the opportunities created by Number Portability to reap significant benefits.
    The programme will provide best practice case studies for all the different Number Portability stages from planning and implementation to launch and post-launch optimization and management. This event is a 'must attend' for regulators, new entrants as well as incumbent operators.
    For more information please click here:

    Mobile Web East Africa 2013
    19th - 21st February 2013
    Venue: Southern Sun Mayfair Nairobi, Kenya

    Taking the monetisation and content creation dialogue to the next level
    Mobile Web East Africa, the East African edition of the most progressive and interactive mobile focused events in Sub-Saharan Africa, is primed to once again be the leading mobile focused conference in the region this year.
    Website: http://www.mobileeastafrica.com
    Email: comms@allamber.co.uk
    Tel: +44 1376 521 170

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

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

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

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

     

  • Google Africa opens Science Fair entries

    Google Africa has announced the launch of the third Google Science Fair for teenagers, with Google+ Hangout events newly added for 2013’s competition.

     “Visit the website here to get started now—your idea might not only change Africa, it might just change the world,” Google Africa said.

    As the annual competition opens its online gates for entries until April 30, 2013 (11:59 PM Pacific Daylight Time (PDT)), the opportunity offers extra prizes and weekly Google+ Hangout sessions for maximised engagement with participants and the public.


    Tech Demo Africa 2013 open for registration

    Registrations for demonstrations at Tech Demo Africa scheduled for May this year are now open, encouraging business leaders, service providers, key government bodies, venture capitals (VCs) and developers to showcase their tech solutions.

    The event, organised by technology news site IT News Africa, is in its second year.

    “Tech Demo Africa is the place to conduct technology business,” IT News Africa said.

    Networking opportunities with more than 200 attendees, 30 exhibitors and reporters and demonstrations, exhibitions and discussion groups with three course meal functions will be available from May 14 to 15 at the Hyatt Regency in Johannesburg. 

    Showcase areas and guided industry meetings are promising occasions of enhanced engagement to discuss the latest technology solutions and build relationships within the information technology (IT) business sphere.

    Among others, the South African-based world leading computer company Lenovo will offer showcasing highlights at this year’s event.

    More exhibitors will be announced via press releases, according to Vardis Banga at IT News Africa.
    For more information please visit the website here:

Issue no 641 8th February 2013

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Top story

  • Time was when the best content you could get in Africa was SMS services bought in from Europe or the USA. Now with the spread of smartphones and feature phones, there’s a much wider diet available including an increasing amount of local content. Russell Southwood attended the WSA Mobile Content 2.0 Awards in Abu Dhabi and reflects on what the winners say about the delivery of content in Africa and the challenges ahead.

    The WSA Mobile Awards are a global initiative that awards local apps that have global relevance. It looks both for commercially interesting apps as well as those that are socially relevant. The event combines a series of pitch sessions for shortlisted entrants and a thoughtful conference. The whole thing is capped with an awards ceremony for the winners.

    Many of these eco-system encouraging events in Africa are full of apps that have been developed that are nice ideas but nearly always lack users: I’ll look at why after you’ve seen the winners. However, these are all apps that have significant user bases either on iOS or Android, or both. Often they are highly successful in one country and eminently “exportable” or they are already making an international impact.

    The entrants combined a number of apps that are a “bit like” other things and some that were genuine originals. The mobile apps winners by category were as follows:
     
    m-Tourism and Culture: Harpoen
     
    An Indonesian app that allows you to put digital graffiti on photos and places that leaves a trail of images, messages and memories.
    See video clip interview with the co-founders:
     
    m-Entertainment and Lifestyle: Dermandar’s DMD Panorama
    A Lebanese company with a 360 degree panorama app that is used largely in the USA and Europe but not in the Middle East. The founders value success on an international stage and the app is well used.
    See video clip interview with one of the co-founders:
     
    m-Media and News: News 360
    A Russian and US-based company that has created a successful news aggregation app that gets you information you need. It sounds like lots of other news aggregation sites but its look and selections have made me fall out of love with Digg.
     
    See video clip interview with another of the nominees, Hans Eriksson, CEO, Bambuser, whose live broadcast app from your mobile is widely used in Egypt and Syria by citizen journalist. It has over 600 users in Syria:

    m-Environment and Health: Prognosis – Your Diagnosis
     
    A Sri Lankan app put together by two doctors who were frustrated by all the rote learning they had to do as medical students and wanted to experience the excitement of diagnosis in order to learn through doing. Luckily the smartphone app allows medical students to try their hand without needing to kill real life patients if they get things wrong.
    See video clip interview with one of the founders, Dr Kosala Liyange:
     
    Another nominee in the same category was Professor Giuseppe Riva, Positive Technology whose app is designed to tackle office-related stress. It’s the first app I’ve heard of undergoing a clinical trial:
     
    m-Learning and Education: Project Noah
     
    The founder Yasser Ansari wants to create a whole new generation of nature nerds using its digital butterfly net. You photograph a species and if you don’t recognize it, the community will help you identify it. Its users have already identified a new species.
    See video clip with the founder:
     
    m-Government: Roadroid
     
    This mobile app uses the motion sensor in your phone to measure the bumpiness of the road. The Asian Development Bank has used it in south east Asian countries to assess the state of the road networks and individual users can use it to find the smoothest route.
    See a video clip with the founder Norwegian Lars Forslof:
     
    m-Business and Commerce: i-Butterfly
     
    An augmented reality app that encourages you to find digital butterflies that are in different locations and capture them with your phone. The more butterflies you capture, the more rewards you get.
     
    For an explanation of augmented reality, see a video clip interview with mobile analyst Tomi Ahonen, who claims it will be the 8th mass media:
     
    m-Inclusion and Empowerement: Hand Talk
     
    Hand Talk is an app for mobile devices that receives data and translates it to Libras, the sign language of the deaf communities of urban Brazil.
     
    There is an interview with another of the nominees, Jonas Deister, Wheelmap.org which proves a mapping of physical access in Germany for wheelchair and stroller users :
     
    All of these apps are essentially designed for smart devices; whether pads, phones or TVs. So this is where Africa bumps its head against the first major challenge. If you imagine phone handset use as a pyramid, then the sharp end of that pyramid at the top will be the 3-5% who use smartphones. There will then be approximately 20-30% who use feature phones that have internet access.

    The majority who make up the rest will have basic phones: Voice and SMS…….errrr, sometimes a torch. So the majority of people will only be able to receive either voice services (through things like IVR or Freedom Fone) or something in 160 characters as a text SMS.

    (And this doesn’t include factoring in illiteracy and functional illiteracy, the inability to understand and do certain tasks. The survey data that is available shows that those who are unwilling to use SMS is a larger percentage than those who are completely illiterate.)

    I stood with Professor Rich Ling, University of Copenhagen during a conference break who showed me research data from a range of countries – both developing and developed – and the pattern was clear. For most developed countries, the smart phone is dominant but for many developing countries it is only a small but growing part of the market.

    Now obviously over the next 5 years the pattern will change but unless someone produces a smartphone at US$50 or a feature phone at the same price with smartphone like capabilities, the market will remain significantly fragmented. Let’s say we project 20-30% smartphones and 30-40% feature phones (as the new smartphone owners hand them on to relatives, drivers and maids), with the balance remaining as basic phones. For Africa, the biggest growth will be in feature phones.

    In some markets this kind of split would produce sufficient numbers for an apps ecosystem if we leave aside issues of equity of access for the moment. But there is another factor that lead to greater fragmentation. In likely order of success, there will be potentially four smartphone operating systems in Africa: Android, Nokia, Blackberry and iOS. At present, there are around 3,000 different feature phones, all of which have potentially different requirements in terms of OS operation and content.

    But the challenge is still greater if you consider the law of circles. Draw a circle that represents all phone subscribers in a country and then draw another smaller circle to approximate scale all those who use either smart phones or feature phones. Now if you produce content and services, only a percentage (let’s say optimistically 10%) will use that service so the last circle is the proportion of users in the right category who will actually end up using the service.

    You might say the app will be used across countries thus increasing its potential market but this ups the capital and operating cost entry barrier. And this says nothing of how the app market operates where developers have to have a credit card account in order to sign up to an OS developer programme and to be paid for sales. You might say but the app will succeed in the international market but that’s a tough one and robs the developer of his or her best advantage, knowledge of the local market.

    So there’s the problem….All those lovely apps above and all those lovely ones that haven’t yet been thought of may not have a market after the processes we have described above. The resolution of this market blockage has significant consequences for mobile operators: you can’t really increase your data sales if the market does not work to its maximum capacity. Those app stores that you have tentatively opened may turn into nothing more than distressed online real estate.

    A possible solution to cracking the market barriers described has perhaps three different elements:

    1. Everyone a smartphone: Phones have always been about aspiration. In Africa, they have almost replaced the car as the material symbol that says most about you.  So why not use this aspiration and sell the smartphone as the device that can change a person’s life and explain why (information, news, jobs, opportunities, dates, etc)? But to really change the market, there has either to be a smartphone or featurephone with smartphone capabilities at around the US$50 mark. It will have slightly less functionality but be able to do approximately 75% of what the high-end smartphone does. Its services may operate from the cloud rather than directly on the device.

    2. Get an interface layer that copes with multiple operating systems: Social network platform biNu has 4 million users globally, of which 1 million are in Africa. Once you’ve downloaded the app, it presents a smart phone like screen that allows you to use different apps including all the usual international stuff (Facebook, Twitter, etc). The services and content is optimized for low bandwidth and is served from the cloud. For the content or service app developer, this means it can deliver direct to a range of feature phones without having to worry how the app will work on them. So for example, it has (in partnership with World Reader) half a million people who read books on their mobile using biNu, 42% of whom are in Nigeria:

    3. Getting the touch interface right: Badr Ward, CEO, Ertiqa (an Arab software company – see video clip below) presented figures from a survey that showed that 10% of those up to 1 year had used a touch device; 39% between the ages of 2-4 and 52% aged 5-8. Even before there is formal education, these children work out how the device works and find something pleasurable on it. I can attest to this phenomenon as at my daughter’s wedding late last year the children in the formal wedding photographs were kept distracted by playing a video clip over and over again. This means that even those with low functional literacy can start to access video (delivered over LTE) for pleasure and to learn.

    Nothing ever solves everything but until African operators and the content ecosystem developers start to think more strategically, the global opportunity these kinds of apps offer may be stillborn,
     
    Things you need to hear from the WSA Mobile Awards 2013:

    There were many other interesting participants in the conference and the selection of video interviews below captures some of them:
     
    Touch pad edutainment software for children: Badr Ward, CEO of educational software company Ertiqa started out by doing local versioning of international education products but wanted to do something more culturally aware of Arab culture. Falling in love with a princess? Celebrating Christmas? Showing pigs? No, these things don’t fit. So he launched a series of edutainment products for young children under the name of Lamsa (which means Touch) for all touch devices:
     
    Gesture recognition and motion control: Niall Austin, OmniMotion Technology from Ireland works with gesture recognition and motion control. He’s produced software that allows you to control what happens on any device with a camera through gesture. His work so far has included games to encourage an interest in exercise and sport and work to help stroke victims recover. But it can also be used for display advertising and second screen TV:
     
    Online social activism: The Egyptian Arab Spring has resulted in one of the most interesting flowerings of online and mobile activism. The ambition of Ebba Eltamami’s organization HarassMap.org is to make sexual harassment socially unacceptable. 86% of Egyptian women say they have been sexually harassed and 50% say it has happened on a daily basis. The organization combines online mapping of incidents with face-to-face volunteer work:
     
    Holding politicians to account: Abbas Adel Ibrahim works during the day as a software engineer but by night is a social entrepreneur. He decided to launch a website called Morsi Meter to check the achievements of the Egyptian President in his first 100 days against his election promises. It is clearly influential as the President Office is now sending through information:

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

telecoms

  • On Monday 4th Febrary, the government officially launched nationwide registration of SIM cards, an exercise expected to last six months.

    The event that saw telecom staff members, clad in their respective company uniforms emblazoned with messages calling for subscribers to register their SIM cards, started with an awareness campaign march from City centre roundabout to Kigali Serena Hotel for formal launch.

    The deadline for the mobile phone subscribers to register their SIM cards is set July 31, according to the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (Rura), the implementing organ of the campaign.

    Speaking at the event, François Regis Gatarayiha, the director-general of Rura, said SIM cards that will not have been registered by deadline will be deactivated and will only be restored once they have been registered.

    He stated that people can register as many SIM cards as they want under their names as long as they use them and the registration is free of charge.

    During the exercise, all new and existing mobile phone numbers will have to be registered to be activated on a network.

    Presently, telecom operators' registering agents are deployed across the country to assist in the SIM card registration.

    Rwanda was the only remaining member of the East African Community that had not implemented the process of SIM card registration. The registration is part of the regional exercise under the East Africa Communications Organisation (EACO).

  • Zamtel has sued Sable Transport for damaging its optic fibre cable along Katima Mulilo Road, causing loss of revenue amounting to over USD62, 000.

    Zamtel said Sable Transport was conducting road works in the capital Lusaka’s Garden Compound and in the process damaged its underground optic fibre cables.

    “On June 2012, Sable Transport was performing construction works and through its employees or agents caused damage to Zamtel underground cables,” reads part of the claim.

    Zamtel said the damage resulted in service outage on Zamtel networks for two months and that the company had to restore service at a cost of over USD60,000.

    “The damage resulted in service outage for two months on the Zamtel network and the company experienced revenue loss,” the claim reads.

    The company is now claiming substantial damages and loss of revenue from Sable Transport.

  • The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe says it will spend at least USD24 million to construct 43 new base stations in rural areas around the country.

    It said it had completed a financial and technical assessment construction of base stations in poorly serviced areas throughout the country under the second phase of the Universal Services Fund was waiting for the tender to be awarded. The tenders for the design and installation of the base stations opened in August last year.

    “The tender has not yet been approved. The tender was supposed to be closed in October but it was closed in November because bidders requested for more time,” said Potraz deputy director-general Alfred Marisa.

    “On our part, we did the financial and technical assessment and at the moment we are just waiting for the tender to be awarded then we can proceed.”

    Telecommunications companies contribute two percent of their annual revenue into the USF to improve communication systems in rural areas.

  • Telecoms Tower2Kenya plans to roll out a US$500mn 4G network, despite key players continuing to question the timing and viability of the project

    In late November 2012, the government launched a search for a financial consultant to help formulate a public-private partnership to roll out high-speed connectivity on the 4G platform.

    The consultant will undertake a detailed financial evaluation of the partnership between the government, institutional investors, mobile operators and equipment vendors. Mobile operators, however, have questioned the viability of the 4G network, arguing that even the performance of the 3G has been poor.

    Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom, observed, “We launched the 3G a while back and the uptake has been poor. What makes us think subscribers are going for 4G? We should concentrate on driving the uptake of the 3G.”

    Other service providers such as Airtel Kenya and Telkom Orange have also raised similar concerns, highlighting the low uptake of the already rolled out 3G.

    Information and Communications Permanent Secretary, Dr Bitange Ndemo, has affirmed that the government is determined to have the network working by March 2013 during the national elections.

  • Vivendi-backed Maroc Telecom is considering buying a mobile licence in Cote d'Ivoire owned but never used by Warid Telecom, Jeune Afrique reports. The Cote d'Ivoire mobile market is dominated by MTN and Orange. Warid's Cote d'Ivoire concession, in which a prince of Abu Dhabi holds a majority share, reportedly never got off the ground because of disagreements between the venture's Ivoirian and Pakistani members. Warid Telecom sacked all staff and shut its doors in July 2011, after having invested around XOF 40 billion. Jeune Afrique speculates that this may be a way for Maroc Telecom to add value prior to a possible stake sale by Vivendi.

    Meanwhile, the landscape of the Ivorian mobile sector has changed noticeably since Warid first secured a mobile concession in the country, with a further three cellcos commencing commercial operations, namely: Comium (May 2007), Oricel (now GreenN, December 2008) and Aircom (January 2012). The last-named firm became the sixth main player in an already-crowded wireless market last year, improbably resurfacing twelve years after first obtaining a mobile licence. The company belatedly claimed that it had achieved ‘all administrative requirements’. As at end-September 2012 the Ivorian mobile market was dominated by the well-established likes of MTN (34.9%), Orange (33.3%) and Moov (20.7%).

  • Ethiopian telecommunications services operator, Ethio Telecom, has announced that plans for a two-year expansion project on its network are well underway.

    Ethio Telecom, has announced that plans for a two-year expansion project on its network are well underway. (Image: Google/behance.net)According to a company statement, ZTE and Huawei are currently in discussion with Ethio Telecom regarding the project and forms part of a broader objective to bolster services in the country.

    “Under the project, the operator plans to restructure the country into 11 telecommunication infrastructure zones, from the 16 previously, limiting the number of vendors in each zone to just one,” the companies reported.

    “The zones will be based on demography, customer base and geographic location. Addis Ababa will occupy just one circle, meaning that either ZTE or Huawei will act as the sole vendor there,” said Ethio Telecom.

    If agreed, it should help continue to see boosting in the country’s telecom services. And with more and more Ethiopians entering the market, infrastructure is becoming a much needed push.

internet

  • A deal that will go a long way in helping Uganda generate, manage, project and control its own online local content and image to the world has been signed.

    The Airtel Uganda and Uganda Goes Online (UGO) partnership signed on Tuesday at the Kampala Serena Hotel is unique in that it allows Airtel Uganda customers free access to the UGO portal, while UGO provides a one stop centre for anything Ugandan.  Customers log onto the UGO portal free using their Internet enabled devices and access free 100% local Ugandan content.

    In the deal, Airtel will provide free access for one year through the UGO portal. Announcing the launch, Airtel managing director V.G Somasekhar said there are many positives about Uganda, including its very warm people, tourism and an entrepreneurial spirit that needs to be projected from within and not allowed to be controlled from outside. “Ugandans are good people who will keep a smile after a hard day and they work hard,” said V.G. Somasekhar.

    Somasekhar emphasised that the time is ripe to clean up the bad image of the country that has consistently been controlled by Western media stereotypes. Taking the positives of the country online is a powerful opportunity, especially because of the growing online community.

    The significance of data, especially mobile Internet has grown to the extent that making calls today is the fifth most used function. There are 3.2 million Ugandans with access to Internet, a figure ICT minister Ruhakana Rugunda said should shoot up because of initiatives such as Airtel’s that provide free access.

    Rugunda commended the telecom for empowering Ugandans to embrace and enjoy the different aspects of Ugandan content. He said the initiative should not only sell tourism wealth, but also expound on local markets, talents and culture. “It is indeed a timely venture because Uganda has a rich heritage and knowledge base that should be recognised, recorded and shared for the benefit of people both in Uganda and throughout the world,” said Rugunda.

    Somasekhar said Airtel has invested $135m in two years and one of the inroads has been building 356 sites with 3G coverage. UGO managing director Boaz Shani said his firm has been promoting local content for the last one year and has been pushing local corporates to get their content shared with the world.

  • Students from the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in Dubai visited Kenya to connect a wireless internet network at an academic institute in a village.

    Six final-year students studying Network Engineering at the women’s campus of HCT-Dubai were provided an opportunity to put their skills into practice and to test out concepts that they had learned in college in a real environment. The initiative was meant to help the students grasp professional development skills in a team environment as well as enable them to interact with people from different nationalities.

    The college donated 20 laptops and 10 wireless devices to the academic institute and the students updated six computers with new software programmes. The main project centered on connecting a wireless internet network within an institute in one of the poorer villages in Kenya. The institute did not have the ability to execute this network on its own.

    “I gained a great deal from travelling outside the country, it has many positives mostly due to the quality of education that we received in college, as we can now rely on ourselves and face difficult challenges in a multicultural environment and try to solve and overcome it in a real environment; we got a chance to be honorable ambassadors for our beloved country” said Rawda Al Balochi, one of the students who took part in the initiative.

  • A South African entrepreneur is providing residents from some of the country’s most impoverished areas with an opportunity to access the internet and learn about computers.

    Luvuyo Rani's Silulo Ulutho Internet Café, which started out as a small business in Khayelitsha on the Cape Flats, is changing the lives of students and adults who would otherwise have no opportunity to become computer literate.

    Since 2004, when Rani first opened the business with his brother and a friend, the demand for Silulo Ulutho's services has grown so much that he's opened 18 stores in Khayelitsha and five in the Eastern Cape - in Queenstown, Butterworth, Mthatha and East London.

    Through these centres at least 10,000 students have been educated, right up to advanced computer literacy programmes.

    It all started eight years ago when Rani, who worked as a teacher in Khayelitsha for five years, started selling refurbished computers out of the boot of his car in the Western Cape township.

    "At the time when I was teaching, the Department of Education was just starting to introduce Outcomes Based Education, and teachers needed computers," he says. But soon after selling the computers, Rani found out that the teachers weren't using them at all. "They were gathering dust and this bothered me," he says. "The teachers had no skills to use them, and they didn't have access to the internet."

    This is what sparked his idea to start a business that would give people in Khayelitsha access to the internet and teach them how to use computers as well as how to access the information stored on the web. Within a year of starting up, he won best entrepreneur in the Western Cape. "And then it all grew very, very fast," he recalls.

    Initially, his main goal was to use the facility as a computer skills training venue for teachers, but soon the business started to meet a major need for computer services in Khayelitsha.

    "People needed help. They could operate Facebook, but didn't have the skills to type out their own CVs. People couldn't differentiate between a fax and e-mail," he says.

    The absence of computer skills, or the technology and facilities to learn, is a dilemma for many people living in townships and remote areas in South Africa.

    "If you don't have computer skills, you are at a disadvantage in the job market," says Rani.

    To add to this predicament, people often have to travel long distances to an internet café to distribute their CVs when searching for jobs.

    "People have to do this at great expense and it takes a lot of time."

    The Silulo Internet Café caters for both needs, and Rani has ensured that the pricing of his services are within reach of the majority of South Africans.

    "What is central to my business model is affordability," he says. "Our prices are low." He believes that companies operating in emerging market economies should adjust their business models and profit expectations. "It is essential for entrepreneurs in these markets to be socially minded and not only profit-driven."

    For just R6 (70 US cents), Rani's customers can access the internet for one hour, whereas some internet cafes in the Eastern Cape charge as much as R30 ($3.38) an hour, R10 ($1.12) to send a fax and R3 (34 cents) for a photocopy. "This is simply unaffordable for most people," he says. "Even if you just have R2 (23 cents), you can go onto the internet for 15 minutes," he says.

    Silulo Ulutho operates in the Western and Eastern Cape, but in the future Rani would like to grow the business in other provinces, possibly through a franchise business model. "But the core must always remain that the business must benefit the community," he says. "I am passionate about this."

    In addition to internet café services, computer sales are still a core part of the business. Silulo offers IT support to assist customers with network connections, computer repairs, and maintenance, and software installation.

    As part of its computer sales division, Rani has entered into a partnership with mobile provider Vodacom. Customers who buy computers from Silulo can access prepaid internet services using a 3G connection from Vodacom, the dongle for which is part of the deal.

  • "This is the greatest achievement I can say for this school. [The students] are finding it a great favour that they should be the first school in Africa to have this kind of a project. It is very exciting. They wonder how they got there."

    Beatrice Nderango is the headmistress of Gakawa Secondary School, which lies about 10km from Nanyuki, a market town in Kenya's rift valley, not far from the Mount Kenya national park.

    The school is situated in a village that has no phone line and no electricity. The people that live here are mostly subsistence farmers. "We don't really have a cash crop, but the farmers do a bit of farming," says Mrs Nderango. "They grow potatoes, a little bit of maize, but we don't do well in maize because of the wild animals. They invade the farms."

    Although Kenya has fibre optic broadband thanks to the Seacom cable, most of rural Kenya is not connected and until now getting online would mean travelling to town.

    But all of this is changing, thanks to technology that uses the unused parts of the wireless spectrum that is set aside for television broadcasters - the white spaces.
    The colour of television

    The project is part of the 4Afrika Initiative, an investment programme being announced by technology giant Microsoft, that also includes a new Windows Phone 8 smartphone for the region and investment in help for small businesses on the continent, and in education and internships.
    Putting up the base stations The base stations work in the same way as mobile phone masts, and will create massive wifi hotspots

    For the white spaces project, the company is working with a Kenyan ISP, Indigo Telecom, and the Kenyan government.

    The ISP is installing wireless 'base stations' - or masts - that are solar-powered, to get round the lack of mains electricity.

    The base stations act as a link to the nearest main cable connection to the internet, without the expense of extending the fibre-optic network.
    solar panels The solar panels will power the bases stations - and also charge computer equipment The signal supplied is much more powerful than normal wifi.

    "What we are calling TV white space, that is just a different set of frequencies. It is between 400 megahertz and about 800 megahertz, and those radio frequencies will just go further," says white spaces expert Professor Robert Stewart of Strathclyde University.

    "They can go through walls, they will kind of bend around hills, they will give you much better connectivity. And of course, that's why the TV guys chose that in the first place."

    Local schools, a healthcare clinic, a government agriculture office and a library have been connected in the first part of the pilot. Ms Nderango says internet will benefit teachers and students alike. "Students will now be introduced to e-learning, they will be able to carry out the assignments, they'll be able to do a lot of research," she says. "To add to that, there is the exposure to the rest of the world." And she believes the wider community will benefit as well.
    "It will change lives, because on the internet you can access information about skills.

    "The farmers for example will improve their skills, and learn entrepreneurship."
    Business networking

    Microsoft's Fernando de Sousa says getting rural areas online is a crucial part of making them economically viable.

    "There is... a commercial responsibility that both private and public sector have across Africa to bring technology and bring access that can then drive economic growth, economic development and sustain employability, especially outside of the metropolitan areas," he says.

    "It is going to significantly increase the ability for innovation and the great ideas that Africans have to actually reach markets and become available for use by consumers... I think that there is a fantastic opportunity for Africa to showcase its own capabilities in the world because of the increased access."
    Clinic The local healthcare clinic will be part of the network, opening up access to telemedicine resources

    The next step is to open the network more generally to the business community in the area.

    "The commercial viability of actually deploying white spaces on a broad spectrum across the communities, is something that is very important... because a. it can't be a subsidised service; and b. it is not a private government or community network," says Mr de Sousa.

    "It really needs to be a commercially viable network. Bringing small businesses online and enabling them to use the technology is very, very important."

    This is not the first time that TV white spaces have been used in this way - in the UK pilots are underway on the Isle of Bute in Scotland and in Cambridge.

    In the United States, Wilmington, North Carolina, has a white spaces project in place, and the Air.U partnership hopes to connect rural college campuses. There are several test beds around the world.

    More is planned. In Africa, Google is sponsoring a project in South Africa that will connect 10 schools in the Western Cape for six months, that will launch soon.

    There are obstacles: in many countries this part of the spectrum is licensed, and the way it is used is changing as television services move to digital. National and international regulators are looking at how to allocate space, to avoid having competing services trying to use the same space.

    For now, and probably in the long term, TV white space networks will be complementary to fibre-optic broadband rather than a replacement. But Strathclyde University's Prof Stewart, one of the men behind the pilot on the Isle of Bute, thinks that for remote rural areas it may be the most cost-effective option.

    "If we find that rural communities in developing or developed countries can access this without significant expense, then it will make a difference," he says.

    "It is not going to solve all the problems. It is not for everyone. But it will solve problems for some folks."

  • South Sudan, one of the world's least developed countries, aims to lay a fibre-optic network this year to link the capital Juba with submarine cables in east Africa to cut the high cost of using the Internet.

    South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011, six years after a peace accord that ended decades of civil war that left the country's infrastructure in ruins. It has no landline phone lines and only 300 km (186 miles) of roads.

    South Sudan is one of the most expensive countries in Africa for Internet use. The average retail price of Internet bandwidth via satellite is currently around $4,000 per megabit (MB), according to a source familiar with the industry.

    The government wants to cut that cost by reducing reliance on satellite bandwidth, said Juma Stephen, undersecretary at the telecommunication and postal services ministry.

    "We are targeting this year, within this year, that we will be connected to the submarine cable," Stephen told Reuters. "Construction of fibre-optic cables will more than halve Internet prices and make it twice as fast."

    Stephen gave no details about the average cost of bandwidth but said all South Sudan's Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use satellite-based V-Sat, WiFi and WiMAX technology.

    South Sudan, which has 15 ISPs, is now doing a feasibility study on whether to connect with marine cables in Djibouti in the Red Sea or Kenya's Indian Ocean port of Mombasa, he said.

    Three undersea fibre-optic networks serve east Africa's Internet traffic: The East African Marine Systems (TEAMS), the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and SEACOM.

    The country has four main mobile operators offering Internet: South Africa's MTN, Kuwait's Zain, Vivacell and Gemtel.

    The country also hopes to launch its Internet domain ".SS" this year to help the government set up its own email system, Stephen said.

    The government has also started to set up postal services with post offices open in South Sudan's five main cities. "At the moment parcels are coming in but we still can't send parcels," Stephen said.

    South Sudan, which depends on Sudanese airlines to deliver mail via Khartoum, is also in talks with neighbours Kenya and Ethiopia to send mail abroad by air.

    South Sudan lost most state revenue when it shut down its oil production in a row with Sudan over pipeline fees a year ago. Both agreed in September to resume exports via Sudan but have yet to agree on how to secure their disputed border first.

  • Gilat Satcom has announced that it has entered into a joint venture with Microlink to enhance affordable high-speed fiber and satellite connectivity services throughout Zambia.

    Microlink provides affordable broadband communication solutions to individuals and enterprises throughout Zambia. The ISP offers reliable connectivity to large corporates, small-medium enterprises (SMEs), Internet cafes, WiFi hotspots and other locations. The new joint venture extends high-capacity, fiber-based Internet access throughout the country.

    “We are very excited about this opportunity,” said John Taylor, CEO of Microlink. “It provides Microlink not only with the renowned international expertise and technical support of Gilat Satcom, but also gives the JV the ability to provide global data solutions on an MPLS platform that can extend a Zambian MPLS network to any location in the world.”

    As a shareholder in WIOCC, the carrier’s carrier bringing fiber cable to land-locked countries in Africa, Gilat Satcom is able to offer a full suite of fiber connectivity solutions in addition to its highly regarded C-band and Ku-band, pan-African satellite links. The company can offer attractive pricing on the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), the highest capacity system serving sub-Saharan Africa with 5 terabit-per-second capacity and nine landing points. The joint venture has already acquired STM1 capacity on EASSy to serve Microlink’s current subscribers as well as the new subscribers of the JV.

  • K-NET broadband packagesK-NET has announced the launch of a new range of superfast broadband internet service packages available to business customers across 16 West and Central African countries

    The company, which already offers a range of service packages to meet the requirements of businesses and consumers, has now added brand new services.

    A range of new packages are available which aim to deliver reliable and high-performance business-grade internet services, with prices leading in at US$30 per month and download speeds starting from 1Mbps.

    K-NET also offers premium packages, which are designed to meet the connectivity needs of the most demanding users, with download speeds of 8Mbps and peak-time download volumes of up to 100GB per month.

    The new broadband internet services have been rolled out in Nigeria, DRC, Ghana, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Benin, Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Togo, Central African Republic, Congo, Liberia, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

  • According to a report by Emploitic.com, an Algerian job website, job posts rose from 20 percent in 2009 to 40 percent in 2010. In 2011, it rose to 60 percent and to 66 percent in 2012.

    Louai Djaffer, co-founder and CEO of Emploitic.com, said: “These past two years, Internet tends increasingly to emerge as the main recruiting tool. The evolution of the penetration of the Internet, its adoption by businesses and individuals and use changes, suggest a significant acceleration of the adoption of e-recruitment for all types of businesses and candidates at all levels.”

    By October last year, the percentage of Internet users compared to the total population increased to 14 percent from 0.49 percent in 2000, according to the World Bank. The number is expected to rise to five million people this year.

    Emploitic recorded nearly 15,000 job ads on media outlets including print and Web. The site has been visited by more than eight million visitors and currently has a total page views of 50 million.

    “The number of applications sent through the site exceeds 800,000 in response to the 7831 broadcast employment opportunities. The assessment also noted that more and more Algerians living abroad to connect Emploitic seeking employment opportunities in Algeria,” Emploitic said.

computing

  • The Botswana Government is in the process of computerising all allocated plots.

    Boteti South MP  Lebonaamang Mokalake told kgotla meetings in his constituency that this would enable the ministry to better manage land use through an administrative programme called Land Administrative Procedures Capacity and System.

    Mokalake, also Minister of Lands and Housing, said the programme was being piloted in 12 villages across the country and would soon be rolled out to other areas.

    The minister regretted problems relating to land use, among them double allocations, illegal land use and failure to pay rates and lease agreement fees. These, he said, were rampant at villages in the vicinity of cities.

  • One of Kenya's leading universities, the University of Nairobi, has adopted an open access policy to research articles and other academic materials produced by its staff.

    By placing all scholarly articles in an online 'digital repository', the university aims to increase the visibility of its research output and enhance collaboration with researchers in other parts of the world. The university adopted its open access policy in December.

    Rosemary Otando, a senior librarian at the university, says there is a vast amount of the data and knowledge waiting to be discovered, but this is only possible when research literature is not constrained by access barriers.

    "The university attracts funds worth tens of millions of US dollars for research, but the findings have, in the past, only been accessed by a privileged few since most of them are published in costly peer-reviewed journals and the high internet subscription fees mean that users in developing countries cannot access the information they need to rise to the challenges of development," Otando tells SciDev.Net.

    The open access policy, she adds, is intended to ensure that research and other relevant work reaches many and has a direct impact on policies and practices in Kenya, Africa and worldwide.

    It is also designed to increase citations, reduce the knowledge divide, maximise the visibility of the university's academic output and ensure its preservation.

    As part of the initiative, the university encourages its academic staff to publish their work in peer-reviewed open access journals.

    "Since the cost barrier has been eliminated, everybody is free to access the resources. Therefore open access will ensure that relevant research findings can be used to help those in need says Otando.

    Materials that can be added to the online depository include journal articles, research data, books, audio and video files, theses, presentations, images and conference proceedings.

    Nerisa Kamar, assistant librarian at the Nairobi-based UN-HABITAT, the UN agency for human settlements, thinks the initiative will "promote the relevancy and enhance the dissemination of in-house publications and resources, enable the sharing of data and help to reduce research duplication and the resulting waste of resources".

    According to Kamar, the open access policy will also market the institution's research programmes, assist in reducing plagiarism and act as a quality assurance tool to help the university meet the international standards on what should be available on the OA database and the goal of becoming a world-class university.

  • ICT AfricaSoarsoft Africa has announced that MSExchange.org has chosen ENow’s Mailscape as the winner in the Exchange Service Administration software category of the MSExchange.org Readers’ Choice Awards

    The Mailscape solution aims to provide IT support employees a way to monitor servers in real time.

    “Soarsoft Africa proudly distributes ENow Software into Southern Africa and this award further reinforces our commitment to introducing and supporting proven, innovative and internationally recognised solutions into the local market,” said George Amoils, director at Soarsoft Africa.

    ENow’s Mailscape Exchange Server product has a dashboard with red, yellow and green lights indicating the health of each monitored server. It also provides mobile device reporting for iPads, iPhones, Androids, Blackberries and other mobile products.

    Soarsoft Africa CTO Deniel Lambrakis said, “Mailscape is a must have tool for any organisation and many of our customers purchased this for their migrations from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2010.”

    “The monitoring and reporting capabilities available out of the box are extensive and simple to deploy and use.”

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Banks have lobbied the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to act against Econet Wireless' reluctance to open up its mobile banking gateway to allow them to transfer money from clients' bank accounts straight to the beneficiary mobile number.

    The Herald Business understands that the call from banks comes as the financial institutions fear losing a significant chunk of their market to the rapidly growing mobile money transfer platform, especially Econet Wireless' EcoCash service.

    The banks' reservations arise from the fact that Econet Wireless has not opened up its platform to allow banks to initiate bank transfers from the bank accounts of the mobile phone operator's subscribers straight to the number of a beneficiary.

    It is against this background that BAZ called for a level playing field in the banking sector, before they agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding on interest rates, bank charges and other contentious issues regarding the banking sector. The MoU to guide bank charges, interest and lending rates could be signed by the first quarter of 2013.

    Only CBZ Bank, TN Bank and FBC Bank currently have access to the giant mobile phone operator's mobile banking gateway, as Econet seems to take a cautious approach to partnering all the banks.

    BAZ immediate past president John Mushayavanhu said banks did not have a similar problem with other mobile phone operators (NetOne and Telecel), regarding the transfer of money straight from the operators' customers' bank accounts.

    "Banks want Econet to open its gateway so that banks can initiate transactions straight from the bank accounts of the customers to a given mobile number. Other operators have opened their gateways, but Econet has not," said Mr Mushayavanhu.

    He said since Econet was the biggest mobile phone operator with more than eight million subscribers, it would become easier to move money between people while Econet also capitalised on the text messages as its clients transact.

    Efforts to get a comment from Econet were fruitless by the time of going to print. But it appears the firm is protecting its own mobile money transfer business, EcoCash, which has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception.

    Yet aside from losing a significant chunk of their money transfer business, the banks have also lost out to the function of acting as safe storage service provider for small amounts of money, which can be kept in an EcoCash e-wallet.

    While acknowledging the immense benefits mobile money transfer has had on the economy, in terms of access to financial products, Dr Gono said the facility was merely for payment or delivery channels, and not a deposit holding facility.

    "We advise that mobile money transfer services are merely a payment system or delivery channel which does not amount to deposit-taking. Accordingly, mobile money transfers should operate on a credit push principle where all e-money value is backed by pre-funded balances which are held in banking institutions," he said.

    In light of current developments, the need to align with international best practice and to comply with the National Payment Systems Act, the RBZ will issue out payment systems oversight guideline by 30 June 2013, e-money and electronic payments guideline by end of September 2013 and, agency banking guideline to be finalised by 31 December 2013.

  • Stephane Richard, the chief executive officer of France Telecom-Orange, has called on the government of Senegal to improve economic rules in the country where they concern taxation of the telecommunications market, warning that placing an additional financial burden on the industry will only hamper investment.

    Richard and Alione Ndiaye, managing director of national PTO Sonatel, met with the Senegalese prime minister Abdoul Mbaye to discuss their concerns. According to Agence Ecofin, Mbaye explained that the recent decision to eliminate a telecoms surtax and the setting of corporate taxation at ‘a reasonable rate’, were designed as incentives to major investment. Further, Senegal’s president Macky Sall is on record as saying that that his administration is actively looking at ways to remove barriers to the deployment of internet services across the entire country.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Telecommunications companies in Nigeria have complied with the directive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) concerning the cost of SMS across the various networks.

    On Tuesday, various companies officially switched to the new tariff plan of 4 naira per SMS for all off-net text messages from 10 naira per SMS.

    The new plan represents a 60 percent reduction in cost and was introduced in January by the regulatory body of the nation’s communications sector.

    It only covers SMSs sent to networks operating in Nigeria, with messages sent to foreign networks still costing.

    The NCC’s Director of Legal and Regulatory Services Josephine Amuwa said the commission is not yet setting a price cap for text messages sent to international lines.

    She added the commission reached the current price after extensive consultations with representatives of the various telecoms companies.

    “Having evaluated and analysed SMS traffic information provided by the operators, the commission noted that there was a general recognition that the cost of SMS is too high, especially in view of the interconnection rate of N1.02 for SMS as determined by the commission in 2009,” she said.

    She insisted that the NCC would monitor compliance by the operators, and noted that failure to comply with the determination would be penalised.

    Some subscribers who spoke with ThisDay on the cost reduction hailed the NCC for its directive, as well as the operators for complying.

    “This is a good development in the telecoms sector and we need more of it,” Azuka Philip, a Globacom subscriber, said.

  • Mobile Phone AfricaComviva Technologies has announced that it has joined forces with mobile security and services provider AdaptiveMobile to provide a network-based web and message content filtering solution

    The new partnership is set to help network operators control monitoring and advanced security techniques to protect their system, subscribers and business customers against the increasing threat of mobile spamming in Africa.

Digital Content

  • Security officials at Kenya Wildlife Service hope system will help national parks reduce poaching by up to 90%

    Kenya's wildlife agency is installing an alarm system that alerts rangers to possible poachings by text message, following the shooting of an entire family of 11 elephants.

    Security officials at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) hope that the system, connected to fences around parks and wildlife sanctuaries, will help reduce poaching by up to 90%.

    When an animal interferes with the fence or a person tries to tear down the fence, the alarm produces a very loud sound which is relayed to the security switchboard as an SMS message and shows the location. Reinforcement is then sent to the affected area.

    But Patrick Omondi, head of the species department at KWS, said that putting the alarm system in all parks is impossible since the costs would be huge and some are not wholly fenced in.

    "Some parks are very big and the idea would only work in conservancies which have a much smaller land area," he said.

    Tsavo national park, where the recent killings took place, is about the size of Belgium. Paul Udoto, communications officer at KWS, said that conflict between local people and wildlife has previously been the main issue at the park rather than poaching, and has historically been dealt with by solar-powered electric fences.

    Omondi added that technology will be a key tool in future efforts to curb poaching.

    "For example, Kenya adopted a DNA-profiling technology from South Africa called the rhinoceros DNA index. In case a rhino horn is intercepted in any part of the world, KWS can profile the root of the horn," Omondi said. In December, Google gave conservation group WWF $5m to use drones to track poaching of rhinos and elephants.

    Last year, more than 1,000 rhinos and more than 1,000 elephants were lost to poaching in Africa, driven in large part by demand from south-east Asia.

    Kenya alone lost more than 360 elephants, according to government figures, and on Thursday figures from the South African government showed the country had suffered a record 668 rhino deaths from poaching, up by almost 50% on 2011's figures.

  • Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group has opened a new Twitter account in English, less than two weeks after its previous account was suspended. A senior al-Shabab official told the BBC that the new account was genuine.

    Al-Shabab's previous English-language account was suspended after it used it to announce it would kill a French hostage and then said it had done so. Twitter's rules say that threats of violence are banned but it refused to comment on the suspension.

    One of the message on the new account reads: "For what it's worth, shooting the messenger and suppressing the truth by silencing your opponents isn't quite the way to win the war of ideas."

    While the main Twitter account, which used to publish in several languages, had been blocked, a separate feed in Arabic continued to operate.

    The new al-Shabab account has 280 followers, compared to the previous account which had more than 20,000 followers.

    It was closed on 25 January, about a week after it announced the killing of a French spy, Denis Allex, it was holding hostage.

    Mr Allex, who was kidnapped in Somalia in July 2009, was killed in retaliation for a failed French operation to free him.

    Analysts say the US has wanted al-Shabab banned from Twitter for some time, but lacked the legal means to enforce its will.

    Al-Shabab has been forced out of Somali's main towns over the past 18 months but it still controls many rural parts of southern and central Somalia.

    For more than 20 years Somalia has seen clan-based warlords, rival politicians and Islamist militants battling for control of the country.

  • Hamada Saber is the name of an Egyptian man, who was seen in a video which went viral and was even featured on CNN, while he was being beaten and stripped of his clothes by police forces. The incident brought about a wave of shock and disbelief and shook the nation in disgust. Interestingly, many people on social media started contrasting what happened to this man and the nation’s reaction to it with the extreme sexual harassment and rape Egyptian women are subjected to.

    The video can be viewed here:

    On Twitter, Ghada Elsayeh wrote [ar]:

        بس الفرق بين حمادة إل اتسحل والبنات ال اتحرشو بهم واغتصابهم كبير لأن الناس تعاطفت مع حمادة الجبان ولم تهتم بالبنات الشجعان! محتاج علاج نفسي!

        @Ghadaelsayeh: The difference between Hamada who was beaten and the girls who were sexually harassed and raped is great because people sympathized with Hamada the coward while they didn’t pay attention
        to the brave girls! [They] need psychological treatment.

    The reason Saber was called a coward by some is his initial statement to the media that he had been stripped of his clothes by the protesters, not the security forces. Reactions were divided when it came to this testimony: although some called him a coward, others felt the man might have been under threat to deny the truth, like journalist Rasha Azb, who tweeted:

        اوعوا تلوموا علي حمادة صابر .اوعوا تلوموا علي واحد قضي ليلة من الذل والخوف واحنا نايمين في بيوتنا.اوسخ حاجة انك تيجي ع الضحية..ارحموا الضعيف

        @RashaPress: Don’t blame Hamada Saber, don’t blame someone who spent a night of humiliation and fear while we were sleeping in our homes. The worst thing you can do is to blame the victim… have mercy on the weak!

    Another interesting contrast made is that between Sabry’s generation (he is a middle-aged man) and the generation of his daughter. The latter had spoken out against what her father initially said, calling his statements ‘lies’. The blog The Arabist mentioned her saying:

        In the most surreal part of this sad episode, Hamada Saber and his daughter Randa ended up arguing about what happened to him on a major satellite TV talk show, with Hamada accusing Randa of having taken money from satellite channels to lie about him.

    Ahmed Talaat added:

        لسه الناس مش قادرة تصدق أن فيه فرق بين جيل حمادة و جيل بنته ! جيل حمادة لسه بيخاف من أمين الشرطة ! جيل بنته مابيخافش من رئيس الجمهورية ..

        @AhmadTal3t: People are still not able to believe that there is a difference between Hamada’s generation and that of his daughter! Hamada's generation is still afraid of a police officer! The generation of his daughter is not afraid of the president of the republic..

    Later on, Saber, after hearing the reactions of his own family and the Egyptian people to his initial statements, decided to change his testimony. He apologized for blaming the protesters, claiming security forces were the ones who beat him and stripped him of his clothes. He also stressed that he hadn’t received any money to make the statements he initially made.

  • Leading online retailer, Konga has emerged as Nigeria’s most liked e-commerce site on Facebook with over 100,000 fans since launching in June 2012.

    It is not surprising that the company which has been known for its fast delivery and good customer service achieved this milestone in such a short period of time while other e-commerce sites trail behind.

    From the positive feedback on the Internet and particularly, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, about the company’s e-commerce services, one could tell that Konga is giving consumers what they want, how they want it, and when they want it.

    Meanwhile, Konga’s major competitor, Jumia Nigeria which reached 50,000 likes on Facebook in December 2012, after six months of launching, currently has over 78,000 likes on the most popular social network.

  • Twitter has launched advertising services in North Africa while launching similar services in the Middle East.

    This follows user subscriptions tripling in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The increased uptake of Twitter in the region is thought to have been motivated by widespread usage of the network during the Arab Spring protests in 2011.

    Shailesh Rao, Twitter Vice-President for International Operations, said: “The two are interconnected – the rapid growth of our user base with the timing of why we want to help brands connect with that audience.”

    Already Twitter has managed to secure some big advertising accounts, with Pepsi and Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) amongst the confirmed clients.

    Only four percent of the total advertising spend in MENA region is accounted for by digital advertising, but Twitter bosses still believe a tech-savvy population and rising Internet penetration in the region points to significant potential for growth.

    The micro-blogging platform will launch advertising in Egypt, along with some Middle Eastern countries, through Egypt’s Connect Ads, a subsidiary of Cairo-listed Orascom Telecom Media and Technology.

    Mohamed El Mehairy, Connect Ads’ Managing Director, said: “Social media advertising is totally different because it relies on what people say. It’s about two-way, not one-way, communication.”

More

  • Number Portability Forum 2013
    11-12 February 2013-01-11 Dubai, UAE

    At Tavess' Number Portability Forum 2013, As the only event in the region dedicated to Number Portability, find out what it takes to successfully implement Number Portability, sustain the momentum after launch through continued management, and further leverage the opportunities created by Number Portability to reap significant benefits.
    The programme will provide best practice case studies for all the different Number Portability stages from planning and implementation to launch and post-launch optimization and management. This event is a 'must attend' for regulators, new entrants as well as incumbent operators.
    For more information please click here:

    Mobile Web East Africa 2013
    19th - 21st February 2013
    Venue: Southern Sun Mayfair Nairobi, Kenya

    Taking the monetisation and content creation dialogue to the next level
    Mobile Web East Africa, the East African edition of the most progressive and interactive mobile focused events in Sub-Saharan Africa, is primed to once again be the leading mobile focused conference in the region this year.
    Website: http://www.mobileeastafrica.com
    Email: comms@allamber.co.uk
    Tel: +44 1376 521 170

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

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

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

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

     

  • Google Africa opens Science Fair entries

    Google Africa has announced the launch of the third Google Science Fair for teenagers, with Google+ Hangout events newly added for 2013’s competition.

     “Visit the website here to get started now—your idea might not only change Africa, it might just change the world,” Google Africa said.

    As the annual competition opens its online gates for entries until April 30, 2013 (11:59 PM Pacific Daylight Time (PDT)), the opportunity offers extra prizes and weekly Google+ Hangout sessions for maximised engagement with participants and the public.


    Tech Demo Africa 2013 open for registration

    Registrations for demonstrations at Tech Demo Africa scheduled for May this year are now open, encouraging business leaders, service providers, key government bodies, venture capitals (VCs) and developers to showcase their tech solutions.

    The event, organised by technology news site IT News Africa, is in its second year.

    “Tech Demo Africa is the place to conduct technology business,” IT News Africa said.

    Networking opportunities with more than 200 attendees, 30 exhibitors and reporters and demonstrations, exhibitions and discussion groups with three course meal functions will be available from May 14 to 15 at the Hyatt Regency in Johannesburg. 

    Showcase areas and guided industry meetings are promising occasions of enhanced engagement to discuss the latest technology solutions and build relationships within the information technology (IT) business sphere.

    Among others, the South African-based world leading computer company Lenovo will offer showcasing highlights at this year’s event.

    More exhibitors will be announced via press releases, according to Vardis Banga at IT News Africa.
    For more information please visit the website here:

Issue no 640 1st February 2013

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Top story

  • No-one can tell you how long it’s going to be but at some point all services – voice in particular – will be data. This poses enormous challenges to existing operator business models. African markets are seen as somehow trailing rather than leading this shift. So operators comfort themselves that they only have to hold the line and things will go on more or less as usual. Russell Southwood argues that this change will be on them faster than they think and they ought to work out what they will do about it.

    The new business model envisages a world in which everything travels via IP (or some improved protocol). In this world, there will be two broad types of operators: those who provide data delivery and those who run services using data delivery.

    Each of these categories may contain many sub-categories but the shift to data can best be understood by looking at these two headline categories. So at the user level, there will no longer be minutes, only a data package or allowance that the user has bought.

    The challenge here is obviously the discrepancy between the value contained in what are charged for minutes and SMS messages and their data equivalent. Sending a friend a message via Facebook or What’s App is “free” except the cost of the data. This might be difficult to calculate but is a relatively insignificant cost.  An SMS message charge is a great deal more expensive although again the underlying cost is relatively insignificant.

    The same is true for voice minutes. An international minute to a popular destination now sells wholesale for fractions of a US cent but sells for tens of cents to the end user. Skype minutes are either free on a peer-to-peer basis or significantly cheaper when you break out into the phone system.

    With the growth of Wi-Fi coverage, how long will it be before there is a phone that simply chooses the Wi-Fi data source rather than routing over the voice network? This will then leave the mobile operators with the road and any other form of “on-the-go” use.

    The challenge for operators is that the amount of data being used is going up rapidly. This month Sprint has reported that Android users were using an average of 1GB a month and rising. In order to carry this data, the operators have to convert narrow band voice networks into high-performance data networks using largely IP. This capital investment has to be made at a time when data prices are falling.

    Telecoms.com Intelligence Industry Survey 2013, revealed that more than two-thirds of telecoms professionals (67.5 per cent) believe that the move to LTE will change the relative standings of equipment suppliers as the network shifts to IP. New market entrants will seek to drive down the cost of equipment, service and maintenance and will be met by operators with open arms.

    In this new world, operators will have to cease their lamentations about being a “dumb pipe” and start working out a business model for supplying data at high volumes to users at an affordable price. What everybody will want is a high performance data network that can handle new, heavy-data-use applications like video without the operator acting as traffic cop between different data flows.

    There will a number of value-added services for this kind of data delivery including things like data centre hosting and back up but the main business will be high volume delivery of data.

    There has much talk of tablets replacing PCs and on the continent people trot out the phrase that it’s a mobile continent. Deloitte has worked out that the average number of words a tablet user types is 500 in one go and it must be considerably less for mobile users. So unless we start using fewer words, nothing is replacing something: we will simply use more devices in more form factors to do different things.

    For users, it’s only partly about the device and increasingly about the browser or interface. iOS and Android offer a rich pattern of apps that have content and services, whereas Blackberry’s OS does not. This may change in the years to come but users now are getting used to looking at packages of content and uses rather voice and SMS bundles. These are the current browser wars that are more important in many ways than handset market share.

    The shift in power in company terms is from the old incumbents – the mobile operators – to those providing “Over-The-Top” (OTT) services using the Internet or data. These are the companies we all know more or less wherever we are in the world, except maybe in China and North Korea: Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft (Skype), Twitter and Apple.

    I can hear the sceptics rumbling in the front row: but what on earth does this have to do with Africa? I’d like to describe this reaction as “not in my village” syndrome. I remember clearly being at a conference where a highly educated African got up and said:”This broadband thing. It won’t happen in my village.”

    Some 4 years later we are slowly but surely seeing a considerable number of broadband users. Although I’m sure they are not yet in his village, they will be before too long. The issue here is not that it needs huge predictive powers to see what’s going to happen. The direction of travel and the destination is quite clear, only the speed of travel remains the issue.

    Among the key African 16-25 year old age group, the speed of travel is accelerating as they get access to new faster tools that allow them to view and read more of what they want. The arrival of Facebook as one of several social media networks operating at scale in Africa has taken a little over two years, although the process is not yet complete. In five years time, this key demographic will not have become any less techno-savvy and below them there will be another 16-25 year cohort that is even more techno savvy than they are. Age will remorselessly reshape the assumptions we make about the market.

    Many talk about LTE as if it was somehow well over the horizon for most operators in Africa, muttering darkly about when affordable handsets will be available. They have forgotten the speed of the cycle of change with 3G. New, faster phones will drive demand that will speed up the arrival of cheaper phones and modems. On the latter, LTE can easily deliver into a Wi-Fi cloud.

    So what are things that these users will want? High at the top of the list are video (music, film, sport); video calling; and network gaming. But also lower bandwidth services like books to read and the equivalent of iTunes for Africa. This will not simply be the international versions of all these things. As elsewhere local or regional variants will spring up and Africa is no different with platforms like Eskimi, MXit, 2Go and biNu.

    So if this is the sort of thing African users will want, what does the operator do about it? And here, there’s a fork in the road. All these changes imply some kind of relationship with content and services. With their largely under-powered VAS departments, mobile operators don’t seem to grasp that this is something that is well beyond their understanding. Much of the existing SMS content comes from the same underlying providers. Being able to say what does well on your network is not the same as being able to choose good content and services for the future: following elsewhere is not leading.

    Therefore, operators need to think in the medium term about a world in which others provide content and services. The outrageous deals in terms of revenue splits on SMS may stay in place for the short term but will be steadily replaced by “over-the-top” services using the Internet. SMS will remain a part of Africa’s landscape for longer than elsewhere so why not set up a separate SMS content company with an existing VAS operator?

    The next fork in the road is the attitude to data pricing. Currently users are largely encouraged to buy data allowances. These are an immense improvement over what went before but still reflect the mentality of “selling shortage”. The user finds it hard to guess (despite a certain amount of advice from the better operators) how long their allowance will last. Therefore their use of data is cramped by this invisible barrier. All operators now have access to large amounts of international data and need to sell it so their network need to have the ability to deliver it as quickly as possible.

    Operators need to shift to a position where packages reflect a desire to see the user make maximum use of the service rather than ration themselves. Access to video will be the test case for this because the point of having an LTE service for the user is that it can do these kinds of things. (See Ije Nwokorie, Wolff Olins on early lessons from helping launch EE's LTE service in the UK:)

    The new African operator will be the one that can provide reliable up-time (against all the challenges) at a price that users will be able to afford. This means that legacy voice operators will either buy into this kind of network (like an MVNO) or need to build their own data networks. However, the market dynamic is against too many networks being built: you need high volumes of data traffic to create the kind of high volume, low price packages that are required.

    The new African data operator will work with a combination of international and local brands. A typical day for a Manager might include talking to his Skype account manager about the roll-out of a new video voice mail message service and to someone like iROKO about helping optimize their video delivery. The business will be data sales and anything that makes data use easier.

    Obviously this new type of African data operator will find fertile ground in more liberal markets like Nigeria and Kenya. The regulatory restrictions in countries that protect both the old incumbent (the former or still state owned telco) and the new incumbents (the larger mobile operators) will make this a much slower process. But this is not different from the situation now where countries like Kenya and Ghana are at the front of the liberalization train, whilst places like Ethiopia and Djibouti are in the guards van that got disconnected somewhere back down the line.

    In terms of content and services, there will be three different types of players: the international brands identified above; regional players who have something (eg Nollywood content) that can travel across the continent; and highly local players operating in one or two country markets. The latter may be vernacular language players using say Swahili or Hausa to offer something culturally very targeted.

    The business model for these kinds of companies will fall into two categories: advertising supported or transaction based. It is hard to imagine a world in which advertising will support online activity in Africa. Wherever expenditure is tracked, it falls well below the 5% threshold. However, SMS campaigns are not included in these figures.

    Nevertheless, in a growing number of countries, the main print companies, newspapers, are looking at a position where the number of online readers in their country exceed even the rather exaggerated numbers of readers per copy they feed their advertisers. Unlike India, where print newspapers are currently undergoing something of an expansion (reaching out to different social classes), Africa’s newspapers seem hemmed in by high print and distribution costs. So they will have to find ways of making sense of online very soon. (See Tobias Osmund, AP on how Sweden's Aftonbladet newspaper has made a success of going online:)

    The second of these two potential business models – transaction based – again brings us back to the current incumbents, the mobile operators. They will continue to hold on to the SMS-based payment systems but lose fairly quickly the Internet-based payment systems unless they behave differently.

    Instead of saying that everything has to be controlled by us, they need to be building long-term relationships with companies for whom SMS-based and online payment is a huge money saver. As with data, the transaction charges need to be low and the use high volume and work on the basis that they will encourage everyone to use these systems. As with the SMS split, they need either to allow a far greater proportion of the revenue to go back to the company using the transaction process or see this business go out to independent gateway companies.

    The big question is whether the kind of online shopping culture will take off, driving these kinds of transaction-based businesses. The early results from Lagos look interesting but it’s too early to say. Nevertheless, I can’t believe that there aren’t young single males out there who want to order a pizza or whatever local equivalent delivered to their door. Also, the current retail offer in most African cities (whether shops or markets) makes it difficult to find certain things or know whether they are in stock before you’ve spent half an hour tracking across the city. This provides fertile ground for online retail and habits change over time.

    In my judgment, the essential of these changes will be in place in under five years for Africa’s more developed markets. Five years is within a single business planning cycle so you ought to start preparing yourself now.

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

    Preparing for the new business model:

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

    Simbarashe Mabasha, Wabona.com on this new South African VOD platform

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

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

    Mark Shoebridge, biNu on its 0.5 million mobile phone book readers, 42% of whom are in Nigeria

    Pierre van der Hoven, Tuluntulu
    on a low cost bandwidth streaming solution for mobile

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

    Danny Day, QCF Design educational games, advergames and Desktop Dungeons

    Sipho Ngwenya, Afroes:
    Games an interesting way to reach younger audiences

telecoms

  • This Friday will mark the handing over of Altech’s East Africa’s investment to Zimbabwe's Liquid Telecom, their new owner. This will mark the end to Altech’s troubled investment in Kenya Data Networks(KDN) and SwiftGlobal, with the company maintaining a minority stake in the two firms.

    Altech entered the East African market in 2008 by purchasing a 51 percent stake of KDN at US $85 million (between KSh. 5.1 billion and KSh. 5.6 billion then). The company had been started by Kai Wulff and Naushad Merali through the latter's Sameer Group with a capital of US $5 million in 2004. At the point of sale, Kai was holding 4 percent of shares and Sameer 96 percent. Kai had been approached by Merali while at the African Safari club, where he oversaw the company’s IT operations.

    While Meralli was looking to start an ISP, Kai had suggested that KDN instead be an infrastructure company. The company then started laying fibre optic cable throughout the country, subcontracting Soliton Telmec for the job. This was long before the arrival of the first undersea cable connection to Kenya in 2009, when other companies began looking at national fiber optic backbones. The company was to be the anchor tenant of the SEACOM cable, being the first private company to shape the future of undersea cables in East Africa.

    In 2005, Kai had tried unsuccessful lobbying the Government of Kenya to split state parastatal, Telkom Kenya into three with the aim of buying the parastatal's countrywide infrastructure.

    By the time Altech made an entry into KDN, the company was way ahead of its time. In 2009, KDN made Ksh. 4 billion for Altech up from Ksh. 3.2 billion in 2008.  Trouble however, started brewing soon for the new owner.

    In March 2010, Kai Wulff parted ways with KDN and Altech, stating,” I exited from Altech since they shifted the business model and it was not compatible to my beliefs.” Preceding his departure was that of KDN’s General Manager then, David Owino and the CTO Bhavesh Mistry and other key management, who were replaced with foreign professionals.

    Altech then replaced Wulff with South African, Rikus Matthyser.

    In 2011, KDN found itself in court twice, sued by Soliton Telmec for non-payment of a KSh. 1 billion debt and by Essar YU for threatening to disconnect YU over a KSh. 80 million debt.

    The same year saw the quality of service at KDN literally taking a cut. Clients were faced by numerous cable cuts the company claimed on vandalism. This also later saw the re-structuring of the company, with KDN offloading its consumer units to Swift Global. The restructuring also arose after numerous clients (ISPs) hinted that KDN was taking on their customers.

    The restructuring at KDN was meant to see the firm become a data carrier. It did not matter what their clients were buying, or what they wanted, they all had to adopt to KDN’s new direction and purchase data and related services from the company. Safaricom, who was KDN’s largest client, relying on the company for supply of dark fibre throughout the country got a memo, they had to start buying data, rather than unlit fibre, from KDN.

    Having had enough of cuts and being forced to purchase products they didn’t want, Safaricom decided to source new suppliers. The company moved its business to Jamii Telecom Limited, it’s other supplier, and Frontier Optical Networks(FON), a firm that was just launching.  Safaricom is said to have accounted for 60 percent of KDN’s business.

    As for the remaining employees, the waves got bigger. A number of employees soon found themselves retrenched without prior notice. Some say the management refused to honor their salaries. In addition, an annual bonus allocation that had been shared by all employees under Kai’s reign was also withdrawn.

    KDN’s Research and Development department that was working on new products also disappeared, with the management bringing in highly paid experts to head the research and development roles. The number of experts at the firm grew so much that KDN had to address the issue in the press.

    Despite all the challenges, KDN was able to successfully launch the group’s four floor data centre. This however, had been an initiative that had been started by Kai Wulff.

    In November 2011, Rikkus was replaced by Shahab Mekshi, who was brought in from his role as Cisco’s GM for East Africa. His focus included improving KDN’s quality of service, together with assuring clients and employees.

    Though things did calm down at KDN in 2012, the company still remains a shadow of its glorious past. Liquid Telecom have their work cut out. The onus is on them to make KDN a passionate company among its employees, clients and shareholders.

  •  

     

    Ethio Telecom has announced that it will begin recycling prepaid SIM cards that have been inactive for six months. The telco says the prepaid mobile SIM lifecycle will be 6 months.

    By mid February, any prepaid SIMs that have been inactive for 6 months will be put under a one way block, in which the SIM can receive incoming calls and SMSes, but not make any calls or send SMSes.

    The number will then be blocked. After a one month ‘quarantine period’, the number will be recycled and ready for resale.

  • Sadheesh Kumar, a Kigali-based Asian businessman and Christian Kamanzi, a university student, were the latest winners of exotic cows in the ongoing Airtel Birahebuje promotion.

    “I am surprised with this win. I don’t even know how one accumulates points to win. I load about Rwf5,000 worth of airtime every week, and when I checked my airtime balance this morning (yesterday), I discovered that I had accumulated 494 points,” said a jolly Kumar, one of the people who won a cow each. To participate in the promotion, an Airtel subscriber loads any amount of airtime and accumulates points that later enables them to win prizes like mobile phones, laptops, Nakumatt shopping vouchers worth Rwf20,000, exotic cows  A house will be the grand prize.

    “We realised that many people in Rwanda don’t have income-generating projects, so we give them cows and other prizes to help them improve their livelihoods and skills. We hope that by the end of the promotion, many Rwandans will have started implementing their development goals,” said Alex Mugisha, the Airtel Head of Customer Services. He was speaking at the prize-giving ceremony in Remera sector in Kigali yesterday.

    Evarien Hakizimana, who won a laptop, said it would improve his computer and communication skills.

    The promotion ends in March and is one of the ways the telecom company hopes to boost subscriber numbers from an estimated 400,000 users.

  • Telecom Namibia, the new owner of Leo, plans to invest more than N$400 million in an infrastructure network as part of its strategy to compete "heads-on" with MTC and secure between 35% and 40% of the local mobile telecommunications market.

    The company awarded a US$46-million contract to China's ZTE Corporation, a leading telecommunications equipment and network solutions provider globally, Telecom Namibia managing director and Leo chairman Frans Ndoroma said last week.

    Rebranding Leo is also part of Telecom Namibia's plan to resuscitate the struggling mobile operator. Hopefully it will be third time lucky for the company which started as Cell One in 2007 and was rebranded as Leo two years later.

  • The Parliamentary Committee on Transport, Works, Supply and Communications has urged the Zambia Information Communication and Technology Authority (ZICTA) to speed up installation of telecommunication towers in rural areas to improve communication.

    ZICTA is this year set to install 144 telecommunication towers in 118 chiefdoms which have poor network signals.

    This will cost about KR240 million (K240 billion) under the Universal Access and Service project.

    Committee chairperson Kapembwa Simbao said the authority should consider extending installation of telecommunication towers to needy and outlying areas.

    He was speaking in Lusaka on Tuesday when ZICTA director general Margaret Mudenda and her senior staff appeared before the committee at Parliament buildings.

    "I think ZICTA should prioritise setting up of more towers in rural constituencies where people have challenges to access network. People need more telecommunication towers," he said.

    Simbao, who is MMD Senga Hill Member of Parliament (MP), said ZICTA's move to increase Information and Communication Technology (ICT) devices like computers in schools was essential. He said, however, that the authority should target schools in remote areas to enable children appreciate the use of ICTs.

    Kamfinsa MP Moses Chishimba said people in constituencies like his faced difficulties in the use of mobile phones. "We need telecommunication towers as a matter of urgency. Imagine, people have to climb trees or anthills to access network in some parts of my constituency," he said.

    Moomba MP Vitalis Mooya said ZICTA should play an active role in ensuring that people were effectively sensitised on the registration of SIM cards.

    ZICTA projects manager Bwalya Mwango told the committee that the authority would this year set up 144 telecommunication towers under universal access and service project in 118 chiefdoms.

    On the sim card registration exercise, ZICTA Head of Information and Consumer Protection, Katwamba Mwansa said in Africa, the exercise started in Mauritius and Senegal in 2006.

    As of October last year, 48 of 54 countries in Africa including Zambia had started the exercise. Mwansa said the authority was impressed with the increased turnout of Zambians registering their sim cards and other devices with sim card requirements. Ms Mudenda, in her presentation, said the authority had not set the deadline for sim card registration because it wanted to first compile statistics before it could do that.

internet

  • Ghanaian telecom giant K-NET last week launched a range of broadband Internet service packages expected to offer businesses and consumers across 16 West and Central African countries “unrivalled levels of performance and value for money”.

    K-NET’s new entry-level connect packages are expected to offer business-grade Internet services at $30 per month, with download speeds of 1Mbps. The company said its top-of-the-range premium packages are designed to meet the connectivity needs of the most demanding Internet users, with download speeds of 8Mbps and peak-time download volumes of up to 100GB per month.

    Aside from Ghana, the countries it targets with its broadband Internet service packagesinclude Nigeria, DRC, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Benin, Rwanda, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Togo, Central African Republic, Congo, Liberia, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea.

    Renowned for its triple-play voice, data and video services across sub-Saharan Africa, K-NET delivers Internet services with a service availability of 99.7 percent throughout the Sub-Saharan Africa. It also provides local sales and after-sales support.

    “All the packages offer unlimited download volumes during off-peak hours. No matter which service package is selected,” K-NET said.

    Headquartered in Ghanaian capital Accra, K-NET supplies major multinational and national corporations with wide area network (WAN) services and large and small enterprises and consumers with broadband Internet access.

    The company is also a major provider of digital TV and radio broadcast services in West Africa. K-NET's platform for digital TV delivers H.264/MPEG4 content through the DVB digital standard across its territory.

  • Women in Technology in Nigeria is busy opening doors for women. The non-for-profit NGO provides a diverse mix of resources to empower Nigerian women, youth, and children. Offerings include hosted events, webinars, articles, training, networking, career fairs, and contests.

    Recently, WITIN is supporting an international mobile app challenge that encourages teams of secondary school girls to develop mobile apps, conduct market research, write business plans, and create a funding pitch. Nigerian teams will compete and a national winner will then travel to California to compete globally on May 1st, 2013. Such a challenge is inspiring for any country, yet alone Nigeria, and we look forward to sharing news of the success.

    Another current initiative aims to target 10,000 marginalized women for empowerment via ICT by the end of 2013. The hope is that with support, women can create online presences for their businesses. WITIN also supports International Girl in ICT Day and has participated in numerous ITU and Google events.

    Don’t forget, International Girls in ICT Day is April 25th, 2013. At least six African countries participated last year and hopefully more will take part in 2013!

    Be sure to follow @mywitin on Twitter

  • Google, in conjunction with Storyful have launched a YouTube channel for the upcoming Kenyan Elections. The move was announced Thursday afternoon in a Google Hangout that featured Kenyan Media, Ory Okolloh - Google Policy and Government Relations Manager for Sub-Sahara Africa, content creators behind the Ghana Elections YouTube channel and Storyful offices in Dublin.

    Located at the URL YouTube.co.ke/elections , the channel will accept user created content from all over Kenya revolving around the elections. Storyful will curate and verify the content on the platform. In certain circumstances, content creators who may be endangered if their identity is revealed will have their identities hidden.

    The launch of the channel comes after the conclusion of elections in Ghana, which also had their own YouTube channel. Ory commented that most video content revolving around the Kenyan elections was being generated by local media houses, while conversations were being led by politicians. She encouraged Kenyans to get their friends on mobile cameras and share their views and opinions.

    In contrast, the Google elections saw quite an amount of user generated video content. The Ghanaian diaspora was the main consumer of the content, with the highest views coming from the United States of America.

    Likewise, it is expected that the Kenyan diaspora will be closely following the Kenyan elections online.

  • Vodacom Tanzania is conducting trials on Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology which will enable the firm's customers to enjoy ultra-fast internet speed.

    Speaking at a ceremony to launch the trials in Dar es Salaam, Vodacom's Managing Director Rene Meza, said the LTE would make the country at par with the rest of the world in terms of technology.

    He said the move has been possible following the firm's connection to National Broadband ICT Backbone. "LTE will enable Vodacom customers to enjoy superior internet speed," Meza said. He said the superior internet speed will enhance delivery of services in various sectors including commerce, health, agriculture and education.

    "Vodacom's LTE trial will allow for a smooth handover between 2G, 3G, 3.75 G. In other words, LTE users will have access to seamless communication services as they move through various parts of the country," said the company's managing director.

    Meza noted that smart phones in the market that are LTE enabled include the iPhone 5, Samsung S3, Nokia Lumia 800 and Samsung Galaxy 2. He said his company was in discussions with the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) on the allocation of spectrum that would allow for LTE to be commercially deployed.

    According to the experience from advanced markets such as Germany and Korea, the 800 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum bands allow for wider coverage and cost efficient deployment of LTE as well as wide device availability. "Current spectrum for LTE has been fully allocated to licences but Tanzania is yet to enjoy fast super internet speed countrywide.

    We are therefore hopeful that the government will be able to provide us guidance on the way forward," he said. Meza pointed out that the LTE is such a technology which will contribute to the development of the country's information and communications technology (ICT) industry and provide ultra-fast internet speed.

computing

  • The Moroccan government has announced that it has launched a new ICT digital court project for all its judicial system at the court of cassation in Rabat. The move will see improved court proceedings and the government hopes it will speed up trials and court sessions.

    The Moroccan government has launched a new ICT digital court project to enhance legal processes and procedures.  The Ministry of Justice said that “the pilot will be extended to all of the chambers of the court in the next five years.”

    It added that the experiment “covers areas such as electronic legal document archives, management systems, remote forensic evaluations and online case files shared in real time through in-court notebook computers.”

    The court’s strategic plan for 2013-2017 also refers to “digital courts using new technologies to facilitate procedures, unify judicial interpretations and increase the quality of decisions.”

    According to the ministry, citizens will now be allowed to file complaints electronically and “…case management will be improved through online communications between the court and users.”

    The digital court project will set up an integrated training system, with incentives to learn how to use the new technologies to improve court personnel productivity.

  • Imagine being in a foreign country, sitting on a tour bus, and having the possibility of borrowing a tablet computer to get online and call home to tell your family about your trip, or being able to charge your mobile phone while an expert tour guide shows you around.

    That is the kind of technological feat that won Shaheed Ebrahim, owner of the Escape to the Cape tour company, the 2011/2012 Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year award in South Africa.

    Last year, about 4.5 million tourists visited Cape Town, so there is fierce competition to attract customers from this growing market.

    "There are hundreds of tour operators out in Cape Town but the difference is that we've taken technology that's available and put it onto our tours, thereby enhancing the tours," he told the BBC's series African Dream.

    "What's the technology I'm talking about? Wi-fi on a moving vehicle, so somebody could be taking a photo, say of Table Mountain, and as you drive into the next spot, they could be Facebooking it and Tweeting it, and emailing it to anybody," he explained.

    He added that his company also provides customised telephony applications on board. "With Skype they could call whichever country they want to. We've got applications for the US clients so they can call a landline or a mobile number in the US from the complimentary iPads that we have on the vehicle."

    Escape to the Cape has also thought about something which can be a real nightmare for tourists in many parts of the world - finding the right adaptors for their electric equipment.

    "Every seat virtually has got a facility to charge any device - whether it's a cell phone, whether it's an iPod or iPad, whatever device that they have, and in all about 12 gadgets could be charged simultaneously," the entrepreneur said.

    Besides the communication technology, there is also a fridge on board for the clients to use, and he offers them complimentary water or a taste of some of the world-famous Western Cape wines.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Teraco Data Environments, South Africa’s first vendor neutral data environment has successfully achieved the Level 1 Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) certification for its co-location data centres throughout South Africa. Chief Executive Officer, Lex Van Wyk says that, “with this accreditation, and the largest aggregation of connectivity in Africa, Teraco is now the ideal space for electronic payment processing businesses to locate their data systems.”

    With credit card fraud on the increase and with the ever-growing shift towards card transactions, security has become a critical focus. PCI DSS is a set of comprehensive standards developed to increase payment data security and is endorsed by the major payment card brands.  “This certification now ensures that our clients’ can focus on their business knowing their data infrastructure and applications are hosted in a PCI compliant environment,  our clients can trust us with their sensitive payment card information,” says Van Wyk.

    Data security and compliance are key business drivers for online retailers and other organisations that process payment card transactions. Companies handling or accepting payment cards are globally required to meet the PCI DSS certification and failure to do so can prove costly, resulting in large fines if a data breach takes place as a result of not being compliant.

    Andrew Henwood, Director of Operations at Foregenix said: “Our work in forensics and a casual review of the latest data breach headlines confirms that compromises of customer sensitive data are on the rise. In light of the escalating data security threat and POPI in South Africa, businesses are encouraged to utilise services of a PCI DSS compliant hosting provider such as Teraco. Working with a compliant hosting provider can significantly assist merchants in their own PCI DSS compliance validation efforts as well as to alleviate their risk.”

    To achieve the industry-recognised standard for payment-card security, Teraco took part in an extensive evaluation and assessment process. A comprehensive examination of its procedures, policies, technical systems and technology infrastructure was evaluated via leading third party Qualified Security Assessor (QSA), Foregenix.

  • Pursuant to amendments to the Customs & Excise Duty Act gazetted on 1st February 2012, leading integrated communications service provider Safaricom has effected an upward review of its M-Pesa tariffs which will take effect on Friday the 8th of February. Tariffs for transactions worth more than Kshs 101 will go up by 10% with charges for transactions under Kshs.100 remaining unchanged.

    The amendments are contained in the Finance Act of 2012, which introduces a 10% excise duty tax on transaction fees for all money transfer services provided by cellular phone providers, banks, money transfer agencies and other financial service providers. The Act contains a raft of tax measures by Treasury aimed at raising revenues for the government to fund growing financial obligations.

    Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore said, “Our M-PESA tariff structure is guided by our understanding that we need to sustain the robustness and availability of this money transfer services across the country. It also ensures that we continuously invest in our platform and extensive distribution network.”

    He went on to say, “As Kenya’s largest taxpayer, we appreciate the need to support government as it seeks to reach its financial obligations. However, we maintain our position that a tax on mobile money is at that this time premature and is likely to have a negative impact on the country’s financial deepening agenda by creating an unnecessary barrier for wananchi who are most in need of basic financial services.”

  • The University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) is launching a certification course for young African diaspora entrepreneurs, aimed at honing their abilities to build business links with Africa.

    The specialist school announced the event – to be entitled “Young African Diaspora Entrepreneurs – Exploiting Your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)” – inviting registration by young businesspeople of the African diaspora in the UK who are looking to capitalise on their unique link between the UK and the African continent.

    The event – which will take place on February 2 – will see expert industry players and successful entrepreneurs hold presentations and workshops aimed at maximising the potential of attendees, and assist in building successful inter-continental businesses.

    Topics to be covered include potential sources of funding, concise business planning techniques, weighing the opportunities and downfalls of social enterprise, to name but a few.  The event will also provide plenty of networking time to build connections.

    Participants will be awarded with a certificate marking successful completion of the course.

  • Airtel Ghana has held the first training session for 350 Mobile Money agents and given them a wide range of skills to make them efficient Airtel Money agents.

    The training session constituted that first phase of the company’s Agent Rationalization Project, designed to prune Airtel Money agent network to ensure that a core team of well trained agents with high interest and capability are deployed across the country to provide services to the increasing number of Airtel Money customers in Ghana.

    It was also to enable the agents earn increasing profits from their partnership with Airtel Money.

    The 350 agents were given skills in customer service, finance and office management, bill payment, customer registration process (know your customer), sending Airtel money and others relevant to their work.

    Acting Head of Airtel Money in Ghana, Yaw Akosa Antwi was quoted in a statement as saying “we noticed that there was a need to strengthen our agent network to enable us to meet the high and justifiable demands of our numerous customers.”

    He said Airtel gathered feedback on the need for the training through its rigorous customer service processes, and decided to streamline its numbers while ensuring that the pruned number of agents were also equipped with cash and e-value for their teaming customers.

    Antwi added that customers of Airtel Money can now visit the strategically located agents for cash in, cash out, bills payments and top ups.

    “Additionally our Airtel Shops, franchise shops and selected post offices will also continue to offer Airtel Money services across the country,” he said.

    Corporate Relations Manager of Airtel Ghana, Kwame Gyan said Airtel Money continues to be the leading mobile commerce product on the market, adding that “winning the MobileWorld Mobile Money Service of the year last year affirmed our lead and stature in the market.”

    He said the company had since done a lot more to consolidate the product and provide the convenience its customers deserved.

    Gyan said “whereas others are testing certain products such as linking customers’ wallets to their banks, Airtel Money customers in at least seven banks already experience the service and we are working on getting a lot more banks on the platform”.

  • Econet Wireless Zimbabwe is working on setting up a payment system for small value shares bought on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange using its mobile phone- based money transfer facility, EcoCash.

    The system is designed to make it possible for small investors to buy and sell shares using EcoCash.

    Confirming the development, Econet Wireless Services chief executive Mr Darlington Mandivenga said the system was especially meant to help small investors wishing to participate on the local bourse."I can confirm that we are working on a project to enable people to buy and sell shares using EcoCash.
    "It is mostly directed at small investors who buy shares for less than US$5 000 at a time, to as little as US$50," he said.

    Mandivenga added that Econet Wireless mobile phone-based shares payment system would be an electronic trading platform which will also make share trading much more transparent. The move by Econet Wireless is expected to go a long way towards getting ordinary Zimbabweans interested in owning shares in companies listed on the stock exchange.

    The current system at the stock exchange tends to favour large institutional investors as well as foreign investors who are cash rich. Stockbrokers find it difficult and expensive to deal with the needs of small investors looking for small volumes of shares, such as those for, say, US$100.

    The system Econet Wireless has in mind will allow brokers to address this market without increasing their costs. Econet Wireless has been pushing the use of EcoCash in many areas of economic activity, including public transport, retail trading, school fees payments and utility bills.

    Many of its subscribers now buy their airtime using EcoCash instead of buying from vendors on the streets. Mandivenga did not say when the platform would be ready, but confirmed that discussions with brokers and the securities authorities would start once the system is up and running.

    He said Econet would not set up a brokerage firm to deal with its new service. "We are just providing a payment solution, which we expect the brokers and public to use. They will all make money from it," he said.

    The EcoCash system now has more than 1,7 million subscribers with huge potential to grow considering Econet Wireless now has more than eight million clients using the Econet mobile phone network.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Nigeria's telecoms regulator, the NCC has lowered the price cap for text messages sent to other networks by 60 percent. The new maximum rate has been set at N4.00 per SMS with effect from next week.

    The regulator said that it had notified the network operators of the change earlier this month before making it public.

    The NCC's Director, Legal and Regulatory Services, Ms. Josephine Amuwa said that "Having evaluated and analysed SMS traffic information provided by the operators, the commission noted that there was a general recognition that the cost of SMS is too high, especially in view of the interconnection rate of N1.02 (One Naira, Two Kobo Only) for SMS as determined by the Commission in 2009,"

    The rate set by the regulator is also below that proposed by the mobile networks, who had wanted to be at least N4.00 per SMS.

    The regulator did however agree not to set a price cap on text messages sent to international networks.

  • Kenyan operator Safaricom says the government's recent amendments to the Customs and Excise Duty Act, gazetted on 01 February, has effected an upward review of its M-Pesa tariffs, which will take effect on 08 February. Tariffs for transactions worth more than KES 101 will go up by 10 percent, with charges for transactions under KES 100 remaining unchanged. The amendments are contained in the Finance Act of 2012, which introduces a 10 percent excise duty on transaction fees for all money transfer services provided by mobile phone providers, banks, money transfer agencies and other financial service providers.

  • Dar es Salaam. The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has reduced call interconnection rates by 69 per cent – this will translate into a reduction to Sh34.92 from the previous Sh113.

    The reduction of rates means that customers will no longer need to own several SIM cards or carry two handsets as they strive to cut cross-network call costs.

    With high interconnection rates, it is only four per cent of Tanzanians who use off net calls, according to TCRA director general, Prof John Nkoma, as majority prefer on-net calls (calling within the network) as they avoid exorbitant charges associated with calling a different network.

    Prof Nkoma told journalists and representatives from telecommunication firms in Dar es Salaam yesterday, that all telecommunication companies would be supposed to consent to the new interconnection rates by March 31, this year, even though the rates will start being applied as early as March 1, this year.

    “Taking into account that telecommunication sector is very competitive in the market, we gave them freedom to make decision on the amount they would like to interconnect, but they failed. This made the authority to consult PricewaterhouseCoopers

    “We intervene where we see market failure, especially when telecom companies fail to reach agreement on the interconnection rates,” said Prof Nkoma

    From March 1, 2013, Prof Nkoma said interconnection rates from one network to another will be Sh34.92, January 1, 2014 (Sh32.40), January 1, 2015 (Sh30.58), January 1, 2016 (Sh28.57) and January 1, 2017 (Sh26.96).

    “These are directive interconnection rates, telecommunication companies are free to lower it even to zero, and, TCRA will be ready to make some reviews where necessary and upon justified reasons of doing so,” said Prof Nkoma.

Digital Content

  • Following the launch of an airline mobi-site with a booking functionality last October; South African low cost airlines, Mango, has become the first domestic carrier to offer an App on the Apple platform.

    The app enables users to book, pay, change flights, receive updated airline communication and participate in promotions among other functions.

    The airline plans to make the app  available across other mobile platforms during the next couple of months.

    According to Mango CEO, Nico Bezuidenhout, the company decided to add mobile platforms to its already extensive distribution channel bouquet to make air travel more accessible to South Africans.

    He added that “The response to the launch of our mobisite last year indicated the growing need for mobile accessibility. With the high penetration of mobile technology in South Africa, increased bandwidth and proliferation of ancillary devices such as tablets, we anticipate access by a new market segment of approximately four million new customers.”

    Mango reportedly has the widest distribution and payment network in South Africa domestic aviation industry.

    Since the launch of its mobisite; about 30,000 flight queries has been logged in via the platform. Currently usage via Apple platforms dominates device types used, ranking at 60 percent of enquiry volume, the company said.

  • Kenya's National Police Service Commission on Wednesday (January 30th) deployed a new mobile phone application that will allow people to report crimes by text message, Kenya's Daily Nation reported.

    Citizens can send text messages to report hate speech and other offences as the March 4th general election approaches, said commission chairman Johnston Kavuludi. Gender-based violence, corruption and traffic violations can also be reported using the new system.

    Messages sent to 0727-414475 will be directed to a central database linked to the police headquarters, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission. The commission is working to secure the number 999999 for use with all mobile providers, Kavuludi said.

  • Google is set to localise its content to fit the desires and needs of the Ugandan public. Through its latest search feature, Google Knowledge graphs, Google intends to give the web a more personal touch, depending on a person's habits.
    "The perfect search engine should understand exactly what you mean and give you back exactly what you want," said Google's country manager Ham Namakajjo.

    He described Google Knowledge graphs as the search engine that can personally relate to Ugandans. Namakajjo adds that the feature has pulled together a huge collection of information from internet users so as to better understand their needs.

    "The graph aims to understand people's search queries and provide some added information in a box on the right hand side of the search results page," he said.

    Namakajjo said they are looking at more interesting applications. "In the future, we want to offer a computer that works just like the one in Star Trek; it should be smart enough to tell you: 'You're going to London tomorrow, the weather is rainy, bring an umbrella or here's an article about your favourite football player that you didn't know about.'"

  • As technology continues to play a major role in Africa’s healthcare system, mobile and web-based health communication platform, FolUp, was officially launched in South Africa to provide patients with a secure platform on which they can actively participate in their health management process.

    The innovative social online healthcare tool allows physicians and patients to collaborate and actively participate in improving care and patient satisfaction. The platform also allows patients to anonymously build networks, or ‘circles of care’, to find support and engage with patients with similar conditions.

    The platform work as part of a web ecosystem, allowing patients to connect with existing forums, medical apps and software that will interface with a myriad of medical apps, peripheral devices and self-help tools in the mobile health (mhealth) market.

    Co-founder and director of FolUp South Africa, Simon Spurr, said, “Managing complex diseases is a difficult undertaking for health professionals and patients alike.”

    He added that “Clinicians’ time for patients is often limited, which can leave them feeling isolated. Through improved patient monitoring and doctor feedback, this platform provides an overview of the entire health patient experience and has the ability to increase patients’ control over their diseases, levels of emotional well-being and accelerate patient healing.”

    Spurr explained that “Patient feedback is extremely valuable and technology is the best medium to assist doctors in gathering this information to gain deeper insight and improve symptom monitoring, diagnosis, treatment and overall patient care.”

    Through patients’ dashboards, doctors will have access to information, insights and trends collated patient entries, diaries, games and blogs.

    He believes that “This new type of communication between doctors and patients will also optimise consultations through providing insight into new symptoms, side effects, mood disorders and quality of life issues.”

    Spurr concluded that “With more than 20 million South Africans living with a chronic disease, which account for 70% of all deaths, this technology has the potential to fundamentally alter the economics of patient care.”

  • Swazi MTN has launched Tawk2me, which allows social network members to engage with and talk to clients, staff, supporters, the media and others. MTN Product and Innovative Manager Nomathamsanqa Shabalala said Tawk2me would also allow companies and individuals to advertise themselves, as mobile phones are emerging as an effective way to advertise. Under the service, messages can be sent via any mobile phone, in the sender's own voice, adding emotion and character. The messages are delivered immediately to nominated groups such as family, friends, clients, supporters or sport club members.

    Shabalala said the new product would be used by business owners for communicating to customers and staff, clubs and organisations for staying in touch with their members, celebrities for connecting with their fans, religious leaders for contacting their congregations and schools for keeping parents up to date.

  • Buying a property is something that most consumers will only go through a few times in their lives. As a result, would-be homeowners have come to grudgingly accept the arduous nature of the property transfer process, taking comfort in the fact that it needn’t be undertaken regularly.

    For years, this lengthy and admin-intensive process has come to be seen by many as a necessary evil, with a dearth of available options meaning that consumers have simply had to accept the long waiting times and reams of paperwork associated with it.

    Yet a new breed of customer is slowly beginning to emerge, one that knows their rights and expects better service delivery. The rise of connectivity in South Africa has also led to the growth of a more informed and expectant audience, one that is no longer as willing to accept the status quo.

    With a view to addressing a lack of customer-centric processes in the property industry, Korbitec, a leader in property software development for the past 35 years, recently launched GhostConvey 2012. This comprehensive conveyancing package, trusted by 80% of the South African Attorney market, now includes online collaboration tools that have been designed to streamline the property transfer process, mitigating the need for excess paperwork, and reducing lengthy waiting times.

    This revolutionary new package allows the various role players involved in the property transfer process to interact and share information easily, using the online-based platform both to reduce hassle and to improve turnaround times.

    “We believe that the take-up of GhostConvey 2012 marks a vital first step in creating more efficient systems and processes within the industry,” explains Dawie Verryne, CEO of Korbitec. “With approximately 16 different stakeholders involved in the execution of a single property transfer, all of whom are scattered across various industries and professions, the logistics and timings involved have created a real headache for consumers in the past. This software has been designed to bring these various stakeholders together, allowing for easier collaboration and heightened efficiency.”

    GhostConvey 2012 has been designed so as to easily integrate with existing systems, reducing the need for additional training and expense. As a result, all parties to a specific transaction, including estate agents, attorneys and banks, can now easily access a secure central database via their existing frameworks, and stay updated on the progress of a transfer.

    Whilst this will help to ease the administrative hassle for the various stakeholders involved, the ultimate benefit will be derived by the customer, who will be able to enjoy increased transparency and feedback, as well as greatly expedited service.

     “The electronic processes involved in GhostConvey 2012 will be of huge benefit to the customer, and we expect turnaround times, currently in the region of 80 days, to be reduced by approximately 25%,” says Verryne. “Buyers can also now enjoy increased transparency, and will be able to login to check on the status of their transfer at any time, establishing how and where any bottlenecks might have emerged.”

    The GhostConvey 2012 system, which relies on electronic security controls, has also been designed to minimise the risk of fraudulent transactions, which sometimes take place as a result of recaptured paperwork.

    Thus far, the system has already been rolled out to over 2 500 of the country’s top conveyancing firms, with numerous others set to follow suit.

    “Every month we are coming closer to a fully paperless, electronic conveyancing system,” says Verryne. “With a number of other technology providers now looking into providing similar products, it is up to the country’s top service providers to adopt such a form of technology, or risk being left behind.”

More

  • Young African Diaspora Entrepreneurs - Exploiting your USP
    2 February 2013 Time: 9:30 AM -5.00 PM
    Venue: SOAS, Russell Square, London, WC1H 0XG

    An essential guide for Young African Diaspora Entrepreneurs who are interested in developing their own businesses, linking their UK connections and insights into the exciting opportunities across Africa.This one day certificated course at SOAS, University of London, will include presentations and workshops from successful, expert and inspirational speakers to help maximise potential and turn business dreams into reality. Certificated Training Course Tickets: £25 including lunch and refreshments Speakers include: Marie Lyse Numuhoza (LiveUnLtd), Perez Ochieng (Sacoma), Junior Ogunyemi (author/entrepreneur), Mark Jones (HABA), Stephan Eyeson (Bright Ideas Trust), Steven Wylding (Ethical corporations), Representative from AFFORD (Africa Foundation for Development).  To register now click here:

    Number Portability Forum 2013
    11-12 February 2013-01-11 Dubai, UAE

    At Tavess' Number Portability Forum 2013, As the only event in the region dedicated to Number Portability, find out what it takes to successfully implement Number Portability, sustain the momentum after launch through continued management, and further leverage the opportunities created by Number Portability to reap significant benefits.
    The programme will provide best practice case studies for all the different Number Portability stages from planning and implementation to launch and post-launch optimization and management. This event is a 'must attend' for regulators, new entrants as well as incumbent operators.
    For more information please click here:

    Mobile Web East Africa 2013
    19th - 21st February 2013
    Venue: Southern Sun Mayfair Nairobi, Kenya

    Taking the monetisation and content creation dialogue to the next level
    Mobile Web East Africa, the East African edition of the most progressive and interactive mobile focused events in Sub-Saharan Africa, is primed to once again be the leading mobile focused conference in the region this year.
    Website: http://www.mobileeastafrica.com
    Email: comms@allamber.co.uk
    Tel: +44 1376 521 170

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

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

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

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

     

  • Digital Creative Lead

    Dotsavvy Limited (Dotsavvy) is a 10 year old award-winning Digital Agency with big ideas based in Nairobi, Kenya. We specialize in digital marketing meaning we do stuff like build corporate web sites, landing pages, social media apps, mobile apps, mobile marketing, content development & marketing as well as anything else we think we can do well enough. You can find out more about Dotsavvy from our web site here:
    Purpose of the position:
    From conceptualizing original digital work, creatively designing interactive applications to fully integrated digital marketing campaigns. The ideal candidate must have a true understanding of digital creative for all devices. Must understand the intricacies of navigating work through a Digital Agency in a team environment.
    One of the main roles of this position is to lead by creating technically sound creative concepts and designs. This individual must have their hands on the pulse of digital landscape in order to create engaging and relevant creative work, in web, social, and mobile.

     We are looking for the following qualities in a candidate:

    Flexible leadership - providing firm guidance and mentoring while allowing organic creative growth and evolution is key. The right leader will quickly earn the teams trust by fairly (yet firmly) representing their creative ideas, making the tough decisions, and facing the difficult tasks of supporting digital concepts within larger integrated digital marketing solutions.

    Being able to foster team focus is also worth noting. The candidate will have to collaborate with other team members on a regular basis, either as a collaborator or as the creative lead. The candidate should have experience managing in-house and remote creatives.

     

    Requirements:

        4+ years of proven digital design experience in a Digital Agency or comparable setting
        Bachelor degree in Graphic Design, interactive design, multimedia, marketing, fine arts, advertising or related discipline
        A strong sense of visual style with exceptional graphic design skills specific to digital, while working within the framework of client restrictions and guidelines
        Strategic, big-picture thinking
        Superior attention to detail is a must
        Expert knowledge of digital marketing, web, mobile, social design for creating user-focused designs
        Ability to execute on design projects - from concept through to production, and launch
        Expert knowledge and usage of design software including Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Flash
        Expert knowledge of technical languages such as PHP, ASP, DHTML, Java Script, JQuery, HTML5 and Action Script 2.0 or higher
        Excellent communication and presentation skills
        Coach, and mentor junior designers
        Maintain high standards for execution and attention to detail in all aspects of interactive design
        Must be relentless in work ethic and passionate to do the best work possible on each and every project
        Must engage the culture of the agency through creativity and knowledge sharing

    What we need from you:

        Provable, quantifiable expertise as a Digital Creative Lead (work samples and/ or project descriptions)
        Provable experience working as a Digital Creative Lead (work history)
        Salary expectations.

    If you think that you are that special talent we may be looking for, kindly send us your CV on jobs@dotsavvyafrica.com by the 13th February 2013

Issue no 639 25th January 2013

node ref id: 26961

Top story

  • Along with video, the next wave of uses in Africa will be network gaming. Except for South Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa has not really had this kind of competitive gaming culture. But as the bandwidth increases and its price drops, it has begun to arrive and it seems to have started in Uganda. Russell Southwood talks to inveterate gamer Kyle Spencer about what’s happening.

    Kyle Spencer works for a local health services company but but outside of his day job he enjoys multi-player computer games competitively against other players. It has taken him a while but the self-organising enthusiasm of these kinds of gamers has now begun to kick in. A crucial step was finding some spare capacity on a server on which the games could be run.

    The two most popular games are Call of Duty 4 and Minecraft, with the former the most popular of the two. Call of Duty was developed in 2007 by Infinity Ward and published by Activision. It takes place in the year 2011, where a radical leader has executed the president of an unnamed country in the Middle East, and an ultranationalist movement starts a civil war in Russia. The conflicts are seen from the perspectives of a U.S. Force Reconnaissance Marine and a British SAS commando, and are set in various locations, such as the United Kingdom, the Middle East, Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. The multiplayer portion of the game features various game modes, and contains a leveling system that allows the player to unlock additional weapons, weapon attachments, and camouflage schemes as they advance.

    By contrast, Minecraft is according to its publishers:”a game about breaking and placing blocks. At first, people built structures to protect against nocturnal monsters, but as the game grew players worked together to create wonderful, imaginative things. It can also be about adventuring with friends or watching the sun rise over a blocky ocean. It’s pretty. Brave players battle terrible things in The Nether, which is more scary than pretty. You can also visit a land of mushrooms if it sounds more like your cup of tea”.

    According to Spencer, there’s been 600 players since the end of August but this overstates the number as players change names so it’s more likely to be between 250-300 people. They have spent in total 100 days playing and have had 130,000 kills.

    They have a closed group on Facebook to exchange information but they’re moving to promote themselves outside this small group by doing things like putting up posters at the University.

    So who are these people? “We’ve had a couple of physical meet-ups, in particular an event sponsored by Smile Telecom, who have introduced 4G. 40-50 people played for an hour straight.” The event lasted for over 8 hours and the entire audience stayed for the entire time. They are 99% Ugandans with 2-3 foreigners like Kyle Spencer and mostly males. But at the Smile Telecom event there were a few women. It’s also strange but because the server is listed as providing the games, it’s had players from as far afield as Libya and Costa Rica.

    The arrival of multi-player gaming puts the spotlight back on the continuing shortcomings of the network. A group from Rwanda wanted to take on the Ugandan players in a competitive event but although they did it, there were obstacles:”It’s not got a huge requirement for bandwidth. It only requires around 64 kbps per player. The biggest issue is latency. This is OK if the players connections go via the local IX (internet exchange point).”

    The Rwandans didn’t have their own server so they were accommodated on the Ugandan one. However, most of the connections then go via London and you get 400-500 milliseconds latency:”We need a regional link if we’re going to have these kinds of competitions.”

    What was the Smile LTE bandwidth service like?:”The connection is really quite good. The trouble is that the upper limit (10 GB) with their largest package is something you can use up in less than an hour. For the test, they gave “all-you-can-eat” but they’ve introduced these limits and as a result, the user has dropped off quite sharply. It’s the right service but the wrong pricing. They have to go much larger (in bandwidth terms) and cheaper.”

    Outside of these two countries, there’s a Land Party short for Local Area Network (the name given to a multi-player gaming event) taking place at Nairobi’s iHub in the near future. Also South Africa has a gaming group that has sponsored events where people win prizes:”We approached a local mobile company for sponsorship but they couldn’t grasp the concept. They kept asking where was mobile involved? We need to represent a community large enough so that they can’t say no.” There’s been a couple of sponsored console game events, one by Mountain Dew and another company sponsored one based on FIFA.

    Spencer’s keen to see whether they can do a localization for Call of Duty 4, providing local maps and terrain, in other words 3D representations of Kampala. It sounds a bit brutal but in the week the French have gone into Northern Mali, gaming perhaps captures a part of this new reality.

    So what’s the next game they’ll be playing after Call of Duty 4? “It’s difficult because you need something with a large user base. So far nothing’s really jumped out as the next step. There's high-end games like Crysis 2 but they require expensive high-end hardware."

    Click here  to visit the website.

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

    Things to Watch for in 2013:

    The Impact of a growing African Computer Games culture:
    Danny Day, QCF Design educational games, advergames and Desktop Dungeons

    Live streaming of events: David Pickard, Glyndebourne on live streaming opera performances in cinemas and online

    3D Printing: Nokia has released 3D printing plans for Lumia cases. Andrew Dent on what 3D printing is and how it can change what is made

    Stopping burning the diesel at base stations: Jonathan Berman, Fieldstone on Africa's energy deficit and ways to overcome it

    The impact of the Innovation Hub movement:
    Wole Odetayo on the "we"nnovation Hub, a Wi-Fi content player and the impact of Jobberman

    The Changing Ways in which people follow the English Premier League
    – mobiles and tablets: Alistair Hill on a major global mobile survey of English Premier League followers and viewers

telecoms

  • Maroc Telecom will invest 10 billion Moroccan dirhams ($1.2 billion) to upgrade the country’s broadband network, Morocco’s biggest telecoms company said on Wednesday.

    Maroc, which is 53 percent owned by French conglomerate Vivendi SA and 30 percent owned by the Moroccan government, said it would invest this money between 2013 and 2015 financial years.

    The company will also invest 4 billion dirhams ($477 million) in other African countries where it has operations. These countries include Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Gabon and Mali over the same period.

    Maroc Telecom had already invested 25 billion dirhams ($3 billion) in Morocco, it said in a statement to the French securities exchange.

    The company made this announcement at the time when Etisalat, the United Arab Emirates’ largest telecommunications operator, said it is interested in buying Vivendi’s 53 percent stake in Morocco’s Maroc Telecom.

    Reuters on Thursday reported that the former monopoly had submitted a “preliminary expression of interest” for the stake, valued at around $5.8 billion at the current market price, citing a statement to the Abu Dhabi bourse.

    French conglomerate Vivendi is exploring selling several assets as part of an on-going strategic review intended to pay down debt, boost a flagging share price and reduce the group’s exposure to capital-intensive telecom businesses.

    Maroc Telecom, in which Vivendi first bought a stake in 2001, offers fixed-line, mobile and internet services in the kingdom, and is also one of Africa’s main telecom operators.

    Qatar Telecom QTEL.QA, the state-owned operator, has hired J.P. Morgan Chase to advise it on a potential bid for the stake, sources told Reuters.

    South Korea’s KT Corp is also said to be considering a bid for the unit, which Vivendi hopes will fetch 5.5 billion euros ($7.31 billion), two people familiar with the matter said last month.

    Should Etisalat succeed in buying the Maroc Telecom stake it would mark a return to foreign acquisitions for the former monopoly, which spent about $12.6 billion between 2004 and 2009 buying companies, licences and other investments abroad.

    These investments have done little to reduce Etisalat’s reliance on its domestic market, which provided about 74 percent of revenue in 2011 and more than 90 percent of net profits, despite being home to less than 10 percent of the company’s subscribers.

  • According to a report by TMT Finance, a number of major international telecoms players have expressed an interest in landing one of two available contracts for the management of state-owned Libyan mobile operators Libyana and Almadar Aljaded (Al Madar Telecomm Company). The tender, which is due to expire on 3 February, has so far piqued the interest of France Telecom-Orange (FT-Orange), Etisalat of the UAE, Digicel Group of Jamaica, the UK’s Vodafone Group, Vimpelcom of Russia, Qtel of Qatar and India’s Bharti Airtel.

    According to an anonymous source with knowledge of the tender process, FT-Orange’s Sofrecom unit – a consultancy firm which claims to have worked with ‘over 200 major players in over 100 countries’ – is the clear front-runner, and has pre-existing ties to Libyana. The source added: ‘Vodafone is also a likely contender, having recently secured an agreement with Al Madar. It is certainly an interesting market, so it is not surprising that it is attracting a fair bit of attention’. However, the source cast doubts over the imminent deadline, saying: ‘I am not convinced that the process will complete [on time] as there has been some negative speculation about the intentions of certain parts of the government’.

    Speculation is also rife that Tripoli is planning to re-introduce plans to auction off a third mobile licence. In July 2010 it was confirmed that Etisalat and Turkcell of Turkey had both been overlooked for a new LYD1 billion (USD825 million) concession. The Gaddafi regime branded bids by the international duo ‘unsuitable’, without offering any further explanation.

  • Bloomberg News writes that the government of Tanzania is considering slashing the rates that mobile network operators charge each other for terminating calls on each others’ networks by up to 69% from March 2013, in an effort to drive competition. Innocent Mungy, a spokesman for the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), is quoted as saying that under the proposal, the mobile interconnection rate could be cut to TZS34.92 (USD0.022) a minute, from the current TZS112.00. He added that the TCRA has also acquiesced to a request from domestic operators to start charging fees in the local currency, the shilling, rather than in USD dollars, as has been the case until now.

    ‘We are doing this to encourage competition in the sector, and to ensure calling is affordable to consumers,’ the TCRA official said. ‘We held consultations with stakeholders including consumers and telecom operators on the matter yesterday and the board will have to make a decision in a week or so but before the end of this month. The rates however have to go down.’

  • Nigeria's agriculture minister on Monday responded to a barrage of criticism about the planned distribution of cell phones to the country's poorest farmers.

    Opposition politicians attacked the idea, and news articles and editorials criticized it as ill conceived. Yesterday, for example, the widely read Punch newspaper, said farmers need fertilizer and other goods, not phones. The paper quoted a farmers' association member saying the funds government approves for agriculture are "hijacked" before reaching farmers.

    That's precisely the point of the new initiative, say agriculture ministry officials. The scheme replaces a government-controlled programme that purchased fertilizer and seeds with one that supplies farmers through the private sector, using vouchers distributed via mobile phones.

    At a press conference on Monday at State House, Agriculture Minister Akinwumi Adesina, a prominent agricultural economist who joined the cabinet a year-and-a-half ago, said that government procurement and distribution of fertilizer "led to massive leakages" and had been subsidizing corruption, not farmers. "A new system had to be found that would address the corruption by reaching legitimate farmers directly," he said.

    Part of an ambitious strategy to transform agriculture, the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) initiative has registered 4.2 million farmers and 200 agricultural dealers, according to ministry records. The scheme uses farmers' cell phones as electronic wallets – distributing vouchers amounting to a 50 percent subsidy for purchase of fertilizer.

internet

  • There could be WiMax coverage across the whole country by August this year, according to ZTE, who are working on the project with Libya Telecom and Technology (LTT).

    Malik Shaban, the deputy CEO of ZTE in Libya, told Libya Herald last week, that work was now beginning on the second phase of enhancing the existing WiMax network. Using equipment which has been here since before the revolution, more than 300 new transmission towers will now be installed at strategic positions across the country.

    Chinese telecoms firm ZTE returned to the country in September to repair services damaged during the revolution. It has since resumed most of its pre-revolution contracts, one of which was Phase Two of the country’s WiMax network.

    However, the area the new towers were originally planned to cover has now been extended. “The government has pushed for extra coverage, to cover the whole country,” Shaban said, adding: “The government is now focusing on rural areas in the south.”

    The new towers are expected to have a big impact for the population, of which only between 4.5 and 5.5 percent currently have internet access. “Internet for all is our target,” said Shaban, speaking to Libya Herald at Libya’s seventh annual telecommunication and information technology exhibition at the Tripoli International Fairground.

    Libya was the first North African country to deploy WiMax, in 2009. The wireless internet system has, however, been criticised as an outmoded technology that becomes easily congested when too many people try to use it at any one time.

    ZTE appeared confident that the 300 additional towers it is installing will overcome this problem. “When we have expanded the coverage and capacity,” Shaban said, “there will be no congestion.”

    At present, the country has only 346 towers in 18 separate locations, according to LTT. These are massively overloaded supplying connectivity to 80 percent of Libya’s internet users. LTT’s Managing Director, Saad Ksheer, told Libya Herald that it is planning a total of 588 new WiMax towers and that, once these have been installed, it will start replacing the old towers with more up-to-date technology.

  • Rwanda’s Ministry of Youth and ICT (MYICT) together the Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC), the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC), the Rwanda Education Board (REB), Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the Private Sector Federation (PSF) together with other partners, have launched a “National ICT Literacy and Awareness Campaign”.

    The official launch was staged in Rulindo District, where thousands of local residents attended and several companies demonstrated their online and SMS-based services.

    The Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, told Rulindo residents: “The use of ICT should not only be left to the educated, but should also be used by every Rwandan, including farmers, as it will keep them updated in terms of businesses or market prices for their products as well as getting information about government programmes.”

    Minister Nsengimana added that “During this 6 month campaign, 200,000 Rwandans will get the opportunity to learn how to use ICT in their everyday life.”

    Youth and ICT Minister also urge schools across to avail computers so that local residents can learn how to use them.

    The Government of Rwanda has invested heavily in Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Since inception of the first national ICT strategy and plan in 2000, Rwanda has registered a number of milestones that has significantly transformed the way Rwandan business and society uses technology.

    The purpose of this campaign is to drive the awareness and usage of ICT services, content and applications, to increase the ICT Literacy, educate and train the masses and businesses on the potential of ICT to drive competitiveness, efficiency, transparency as well as civic participation.

  • Google will decline requests for user information from totalitarian governments in Africa that seek to crack down on online communication.

    "We get these requests all the time," said Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, speaking to reporters in Nairobi this week. "It is different in countries where we have servers and staff because they can be arrested and harassed. We are careful where we open offices and put our servers."

    The number of Internet users in Africa has grown, backed by investments in telecoms infrastructure and the entry of multinational companies like Google. This has led to new challenges for governments interested in controlling information.

    Schmidt spoke at a media briefing in Nairobi during a stop-over from his tour of North Korea. He was asked how Google would deal with requests totalitarian governments that want to censor online communication and requests from countries such as Kenya, which is fairly democratic, that seek to tame online hate speech.

    "In general, I would say more speech as opposed to censorship. Google is highly opposed to hate speech and it's a different answer in a one-party system like China where we don't have an independent judiciary, but it's different here because Kenya has independent judiciary," he said.

    The Ministry of Information and Communication in Kenya has been engaging citizens about awareness of hate speech and the legal implications of it ahead of the March 4 general elections.

    "We don't want to cramp people's freedom of Speech, but at the same time there is a very thin line between freedom of speech and hate speech," said Bitange Ndemo, the permanent secretary in the Ministry. "Last week we evaluated the social media content and found statements that constituted opinions as well as hate speech. [With] any statement we say we must weigh the consequences, we must take responsibility.

    Schmidt met with government officials, gave a lecture at Strathmore University, visited the mLab incubation center iHub, and a Maasai village in the outskirts of Nairobi, where Jared Cohen, head of Google Ideas spent part of his research time. Cohen was part of the visiting Google team.

    Apart from the impressive rate of technology growth, Schmidt said Africa still faces infrastructure challenges for Internet access, part of which Google is helping solve with its Google proxy cache initiative, which has increased connectivity in Africa.

  • South Sudan, one of the world's least developed countries, aims to lay a fibre-optic network this year to link the capital Juba with submarine cables in east Africa to cut the high cost of using the Internet, a senior official said on Tuesday.

    South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011, six years after a peace accord that ended decades of civil war that left the country's infrastructure in ruins. It has no landline phone lines and only 300 km (186 miles) of roads.

    South Sudan is one of the most expensive countries in Africa for Internet use. The average retail price of Internet bandwidth via satellite is currently around $4,000 per megabit (MB), according to a source familiar with the industry.

    The government wants to cut that cost by reducing reliance on satellite bandwidth, said Juma Stephen, undersecretary at the telecommunication and postal services ministry.

    "We are targeting this year, within this year, that we will be connected to the submarine cable," Stephen told Reuters. "Construction of fibre-optic cables will more than halve Internet prices and make it twice as fast."

    Stephen gave no details about the average cost of bandwidth but said all South Sudan's Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use satellite-based V-Sat, WiFi and WiMAX technology.

    South Sudan, which has 15 ISPs, is now doing a feasibility study on whether to connect with marine cables in Djibouti in the Red Sea or Kenya's Indian Ocean port of Mombasa, he said.

    Three undersea fibre-optic networks serve east Africa's Internet traffic: The East African Marine Systems (TEAMS), the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and SEACOM.

    The country has four main mobile operators offering Internet: South Africa's MTN, Kuwait's Zain, Vivacell and Gemtel.

    The country also hopes to launch its Internet domain ".SS" this year to help the government set up its own email system, Stephen said.

    The government has also started to set up postal services with post offices open in South Sudan's five main cities. "At the moment parcels are coming in but we still can't send parcels," Stephen said.

    South Sudan, which depends on Sudanese airlines to deliver mail via Khartoum, is also in talks with neighbours Kenya and Ethiopia to send mail abroad by air.

    South Sudan lost most state revenue when it shut down its oil production in a row with Sudan over pipeline fees a year ago. Both agreed in September to resume exports via Sudan but have yet to agree on how to secure their disputed border first.

computing

  • Kenya's president has launched a $14.5bn (£9.1bn) project to build a new city intended to be an IT business hub and dubbed "Africa's Silicon Savannah". It will take 20 years to build Konza Technology City about 60km (37 miles) from the capital, Nairobi.

    It is hoped that more than 20,000 IT jobs will be created in Konza by 2015, and more than 200,000 jobs by 2030.

    Despite Kenya's usually divisive politics, the project has the backing of all political parties.

    Konza is part of the government's ambitious Vision 2030 initiative to improve much-neglected infrastructure over the next 18 years.

    Correspondents say the government also wants to take advantage of the growing number of software developers in the East African nation.

    "It is expected to spur massive trade and investment as well as create thousands of employment opportunities for young Kenyans in the ICT [information communications technology] sector," President Mwai Kibaki said at the ceremony to launch the construction, adding it would be a "game-changer" for the country's development.

    He called on domestic and foreign investors to take advantage of Konza's "tremendous opportunities".

    The 5,000-acre (2,011-hectare) site was a ranch to the south-east of Nairobi on the way to the port city of Mombasa.

    When the plan was announced after the last elections property prices in the area soared, reporters say.

    According to the Konza information website, the city wants to attract business process outsourcing, software development, data centres, disaster recovery centres, call centres and light assembly manufacturing industries.

    A university campus focused on research and technology as well as hotels, residential areas, schools and hospitals will also be built.

    The government has appointed the Konza Technopolis Development Authority to oversee the building of the IT hub, which will be built in four phases - starting with the technology centres first.

  • At least 3,200 teachers who, last year, completed a one-year ICT training course conducted by Rwanda Education Board (REB) will, this academic year be deployed to various schools countrywide.

    The teachers will have the responsibility to train other teachers from their respective schools, a strategy the government has designed to promote and build teachers capacity to effectively teach computer skills or ICT.

    Dr. Evode Mukama, the Head of ICT in Education department at REB, told The New Times on Tuesday that REB will assign 120 teachers in every district.

    "Since February, last year, we have been training these teachers and we now want them to contribute to the ICT development in education through empowering fellow teachers who are expected to teach ICT skills in the schools identified," Mukama said.

    According to the official, the initiative will bring teachers in all secondary schools at the same stand as far as computer literacy is concerned; and that this will automatically create a standard computer education or teaching and learning across the country.

  • The Somali Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced plans to organise and modernise its archives, which escaped numerous attempts of being looted or destroyed over the past two decades.

    Sheikh Ahmed Nur, director of the ministry's administrative and finance department, said the ministry is planning to assess the entirety of its confidential documents, including treaties and agreements that are related to industrial, military, scientific and technological co-operation.

    "The Somali Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation is looking into reviving diplomatic relations with the international community in a manner that differs from the previous transitional governments that successively governed the country after the collapse of the central military government 22 years ago," Nur told Sabahi.

    "Our national archives can offer us information and guidance on previous agreements and Somalia's outstanding debt, not to mention Somali foreign bank accounts and fortunes, which include commercial complexes and embassy and consulate buildings," he said. "This will offer very important information for decision-makers at the ministry as well as researchers and scholars in several fields, especially international relations."

    Nur said the re-organisation of the archives would coincide with a large restructuring of the ministry, including a modernisation project to equip its offices with computers, internet access, surveillance cameras, identification scanners for the ministry's employees, education materials on languages and diplomatic studies, and power generators.

    Retired diplomat Abubakar Adow, an adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the new project would help the ministry as it prepares to restructure its staff in Somalia and at diplomatic missions abroad.

    "We have a genuine opportunity," he told Sabahi. "[With financial help from] friendly governments and development agencies, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation can have a comprehensive archive based on the latest international standards and benchmarks, thereby guaranteeing the preservation of documents from damage or loss."

    Adow said the ministry seeks to create a central archives department to organise and digitise historical papers and to hire and train staff to manage the records.

    Policeman Abdi Mohamed Samatar, who is in charge of the unit that guards the ministry, said that he and two other soldiers have worked since the 1980s to protect the archives.

    "Militias would fire at us using their machine guns," he told Sabahi. "During such an incident in April 1995, I was shot and had to stay at Medina Hospital, which is close to the ministry, for 25 days before I could leave."

    Samatar's small unit also clashed several times with tribal militias trying to take over the ministry building to turn it into apartments or commercial shops. "We have been very cautious about such deals that are not in the public interest," he said.

    Samatar said the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) took over the building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2006 and tried to burn the archives and partition the ministry buildings. Activists thwarted the mission, however, by convincing the ICU that the archives offered a historical record for future generations.

  • Microsoft has released its latest version of Windows to include the Rwandan language of Kinyarwanda. The operating system now supports 109 languages.

    After the release of MS Windows 8 in October, Microsoft has been producing the software in various languages to appeal to and cover the international market.

    Jean Philpert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT believes the availability of MS Windows 8 in Kinyarwanda will do much for the improvement of information and communications technology literacy.

    “It will help us in taking ICT to the common man. ICT has to be owned by every Rwandan and not be seen as a preserve by some,” he told The New Times and added that the initiative will especially encourage the youth to learn new products.

    Microsoft said any of the languages featured can be supported by the application through language interface packs provided it supports one of the 12 application certification languages.

  • When Taha Jiwaji saw that his parents couldn’t afford to market their computer company to customers in Tanzania using the traditional methods of TV, radio and magazine adverts, the inspiration for his startup was born. Bongo Live is a mobile marketing service that helps businesses streamline their communications with their existing customers, as well as target new customers. The company specialises in group messaging, SMS services and custom applications.

    In an interview with How we made it in Africa, Jiwaji talks about how the company was started and the challenges he faces in growing the business.

    How have you financed your startup?

    We haven’t got any funding; it’s just personal savings and family. We pitched to a bunch of venture capital firms and angels and they all say the same thing: either your model is wrong or your team isn’t right. Or the market isn’t great or you don’t have enough traction. So we have heard it all but we have just kept at it and hopefully we will prove them wrong.

    Who is your competition at the moment?

    Locally, when we started there was no one, but now there is at least – I’d say – five to 10 other companies that are on the bandwagon, basically because [our business] is working and they see a potential. There are a lot of copycats coming out…

    Was being a first-mover in the Tanzanian market part of the attraction for you?

    Yes and the market is definitely still virgin in that everything is open. There are so many problems yet to be solved that [in] anything you take up, you could potentially be the first one to solve that problem. So that is part of the attraction of doing business here, that you get to be one of the first ones to do this kind of tech venture.

    What has been some of the most important steps you have taken to grow Bongo Live since it started in 2010?

    I think the first step I would say is that it is very important to start. If we had not taken a step to actually start, this would never have happened. So that was definitely the most critical step. The first year was definitely very difficult. Most of the first year I was alone and running the entire business myself with some help here and there. It was difficult to get customers, cash flow is always an issue, but we kept at it and we kept growing. In early 2012 we got a couple of big customers, which was a turning point and I also hired a couple of people. I just took the step saying that I need to hire some people full-time so that I can devote time to really growing the business and concentrating on the bigger picture.

    Describe some of the challenges of bringing more people into the business.

    It is absolutely necessary. It is very scary at first. You have to give away a lot of your trade secrets, such as trusting our code [with] someone else… Yes there are laws but they aren’t really going to protect you very much. So whatever you put on paper doesn’t really mean anything at the end of the day. It is very difficult to find the right people. There was one person who started who was a great candidate, all of the check-boxes ticked, and she disappeared after four days, without a trace. It was very upsetting at that point because it takes a lot of time and effort to really train and actually recruit that person, and they just disappeared. But that was a very interesting experience.

    What risks does your business face?

    One of the things that constantly worries me is not being innovative enough. How do we keep building new things to sustain our growth and to meet the needs of our customers? The nature of technology is that it gets easier and easier for people to copy you. So the only way to overcome that is to keep your customers happy and growing and to be constantly innovating so that [the competition] can just never keep up and you are always a step ahead. So that is definitely one of the risks that we face and I would say any technology business faces.

    And I guess money, in terms of cash flow and funding, and talent [too]. I think those are some of the major risks. Not finding the right people at the right time at an affordable price – there is definitely a shortage of talent. Though I think we have been fortunate this last year so hopefully it will continue.

    I read that you want to expand into other markets. Which ones?

    I think definitely the neighbouring countries. Malawi, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo, definitely Ethiopia, are countries we would like to expand to. We are just at the point where we want to become sustainable locally and have a very solid product, before venturing out into a new market because each market is completely new. It’s not like the US where you move from one state to another where everything is the same, although just moving location slightly. The languages are different. The ways of doing business are different. You need a local network. You know, all of that took time to build here, and you will have to repeat that cycle to any new country that you go to. So that is really something you need to think about before taking the step. Or you work with a local agent. Those are things you really have to hash out before you take that step.

    What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs in Tanzania?

    I think in Tanzania, the important thing is to start. The market is still open and there are a billion problems to solve, especially with technology, and there are very few [tech] people here. The time is now to be the pioneer and grab the opportunity. So the important thing is to take the step and to start and then don’t give up because it takes time, it really takes time for businesses to mature and for you to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • France Telecom-Orange (FT-Orange) has belatedly confirmed that it has acquired the 11% stake in Telkom Kenya (Orange) held by Dubai-based private equity firm Alcazar Capital. Business Daily Africa reports that FT-Orange has also taken steps to replace Alcazar’s CEO Charbel Jaoude, on the Telkom board.

    The amount paid to Alcazar has not been disclosed, but it is believed that the transaction took place in mid-2012. Previously, in November last year the French telco converted its Telkom Kenya debt into equity, cutting the government’s stake in the firm by nine percentage points, in the process. As a result of the two agreements the French firm now has a controlling 60% stake in Telkom.

  • Orange and MFS Africa today announced the addition of Mali to the growing portfolio of countries able to receive international remittances via Orange Money Transfer International (OMTI). Orange Money customers in Mali can now receive international remittances directly to their Orange Money accounts.

    MFS Africa is the technology provider and operational partner for the service.

  • Interswitch, a Nigerian integrated payment and transaction processing company, has introduced Safetoken, which triggers One-Time-Passwords (OTP) when customers are performing payment transactions on the internet using their cards. The system generates a 6-8 digit One-Time-Password (OTP) whenever a transaction, meeting some criteria set by the issuer of the card, is initiated via the Interswitch Web Payment Platform, Webpay.

    The Safetoken solution is in compliance with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) policy on the mandatory tokens for some web payments.

    The OTP is an additional level of authentication of customers when using their cards over the internet. It provides added security for the cardholder and protects customers against unauthorized usage of their card on the internet.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Dar es Salaam. Clients with Vodacom Tanzania can now enjoy faster data speed following the company’s investment in its 3G networks and connection to the National Information Communication Technology Broadband Backbone (NICTBB).

    According to firm’s managing director Rene Meza Vodacom connected its northern optic fibre ring, that is, Dar es Salaam-Arusha-Dodoma to the NICTBB in November.

    Vodacom customers in these areas now enjoy seamless communication as well as improved speed in data services on Vodacom’s 3G network. Vodacom has invested over Sh800 million in the NITCBB project, said Meza.

    “The move has been well adopted with our subscribers in Morogoro, Tanga, Moshi, Arusha, Babati, Singida, Dodoma and Iringa subscribing to our various Internet bundles such as SupaCheka by the day,” he said.

    The company also offers its corporate clients who have a presence in various regions a chance to have easier access to their branches and subsidiaries through Wimax service.“Wimax is one of the technologies which we deploy in the market to enable Internet and data connection to our corporate clients,” said Meza.

  • AIRTEL Tanzania on Wednesday announced that it has reduced tariffs to 10 cents a second after the first two minutes of the call. "We have lowered our call rates by 70 per cent to continue to offer innovative, flexible and affordable value that meet the growing demands and needs of all our customers," Airtel Managing Director, Mr Sam Elangalloor said.

Digital Content

  • Benin has launched a project that will collect and disseminate food market prices by SMS.

    Aiming to revolutionise the market information system, the project will see market information collected, analysed and shared on around 30 food products from 50 representative markets nationwide.

    Dr Touré Yacoubou, DC Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, received the laptops and mobile phones, external hard drives and internet connection keys necessary to start the project this week.

  • Newly launched utd. by content today announced its further global expansion through a recent deal with WB Cape Media*, a company spearheading the secure distribution of digital media throughout Africa.

    The two companies have already worked together on tent-pole films for Warner Bros. and other Hollywood majors across cinemas in South Africa. This deal paves the way for ongoing high profile titles to be serviced and delivered directly in territory for many years to come.
    Under the terms of the deal, utd. by content will leverage its relationships with major content owners and film distributors to offer local digital cinema distribution and related services for South Africa and the rest of the African continent.
    WB Cape Media will deliver the service in territory and work with the local distributors and/or regional studio offices to prepare titles efficiently for it’s theatrical release. The company is the first of its kind in this market managing this type of workflow.

    The deal helps to further streamline the distribution chain for cinemas in South Africa, and is in line with utd. by content’s strategy of working with experienced, local “on the ground” partners to expand in key markets.

  • The National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) is turning to mobile phone users to grow its membership and increase collections from the informal sector.

    The healthcare provider is implementing a system that allows new members to register via their handsets and visit the organisation’s offices for card collection only.

    The new software will also allow members to pay monthly contributions through all four mobile money transfer services.

    NHIF has invited developers to bid for the Mobile Revenue Collection Payments and Registration Platform. The tender closes on February 12.

    “Anybody with access to a mobile phone will be able to register themselves in simple steps as opposed to them having to personally visit our branches and fill out forms,” said Ms Bella Omino, the head of communications at NHIF.

    The 2012 Economic Survey indicates that as of December 2011 NHIF’s membership stood at 3.2 million with 700,000 (21.7 per cent) coming from the informal sector.

    The fund, which has 3.4 million members, collected Sh6.7 billion during the same period.

  • Footballzone Afcon AppLocal Football updates startup, FootballZone, has announced the launch of its Afcon 2013 mobile app that went live in the Nokia Ovi Store last week. According to FootballZone cofounder, Godwin Chiparaushe, soccer fans in Africa will now be able to follow the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations on their phones via the app.

    The app, which can be installed on al Nokia feature phones and smartphones provides live text commentary for all matches, group standings, fixtures, match results, full team profiles and detailed tournament statistics for the tournament.

    Africa’s biggest soccer showcase, the Africa Cup of Nations kicked off on  Saturday 19 January in South Africa.  According to FootballZone, the live commentary feature will be quite useful as fans will be able to follow matches on the go wherever they are. This they say is useful as many of the group matches start at 1700hrs when people are traveling home from work.

  • Following the natural disaster that struck the North American eastern coast and the Caribbean recently, Intersec, a leading provider of VAS software for telecoms operators reaffirms its engagement in the development of next-generation alerting technologies to alert populations in danger and reduce civilian casualties.

    Today, European nations recognise the potential of mobile telecom infrastructure in such situations when it comes to communicating in a timely manner with a large number of individuals in danger. With this in mind, Intersec develops solutions combining Mass-Scale Location Intelligence in real-time with high-performance Geolocated Communication capabilities.

     These solutions arm not only operators but also governments and emergency services with the ability to collect mobile network location data from the entire subscriber base to rapidly identify population movement and behaviors. Through advanced geofencing capabilities, the solutions enable the identification of citizens entering, remaining or leaving a predefined dangerous area for most efficient real-time communication targeting.

    Complementary Instant Geolocated Communication capability allows alerting millions of individuals in seconds via Cell Broadcast technology or ubiquitous SMS, both messaging channels powered by Intersec’s market-awarded and leading performance delivery platform, reaching effectively citizens’ 2G, 3G and 4G mobile handsets.

     As a member of the European Emergency Number Association (EENA), Intersec is working with emergency services and public authorities on ways of improving emergency response and Public Warning Systems. EENA is a Brussels-based NGO with the aim of promoting the establishment of an efficient system for alerting citizens about imminent or developing emergencies. Its members include over 700 emergency service representatives from 43 European countries.

     Gary Machado, Executive Director of EENA commented; “In emergency situations it is important that Governments and Public Authorities have the necessary infrastructure to communicate effectively and efficiently with the affected population, which traditionally had been through legacy Public Broadcasting Systems. With the development of new technology, mobile alerting solutions are one of the logical next steps in communicating effectively with a large number of people expeditiously.”

     Yann Chevalier, CEO at Intersec said; “Considering penetration rates of mobile handsets, it seems quite natural to use the technology to help operators provide real-time location and messaging solutions for emergency services personnel. We are working with EENA on ways to use mobile technology to create a more effective eco-system to be used in situations of national emergency like Hurricane Sandy that has been in the headlines recently.”

More

  • National Enterprise Conference
    January 26, 2013
    University of Lagos, Yaba.

    Themed 'Our generation needs to get to work', several of the speakers
    have been recognised by The Future Awards for their outstanding efforts in their respective fields. The event will also feature seasoned veterans and mentors including chairman of Channels Television John Momoh; chief executive of Inspire Africa Mo Abudu; cinema icons Joke Silva and Tunde Kelani; music icon Shina Peters; executive director with Nestlé Iquo Ukoh and group managing director, Folorunsho Alakija.
    To register, call 07080168443, 07034951947 or email info@thefuturenigeria.com.
    For more information please visit our website here:

    Number Portability Forum 2013
    11-12 February 2013-01-11 Dubai, UAE

    At Tavess' Number Portability Forum 2013, As the only event in the region dedicated to Number Portability, find out what it takes to successfully implement Number Portability, sustain the momentum after launch through continued management, and further leverage the opportunities created by Number Portability to reap significant benefits.
    The programme will provide best practice case studies for all the different Number Portability stages from planning and implementation to launch and post-launch optimization and management. This event is a 'must attend' for regulators, new entrants as well as incumbent operators.
    For more information please click here:

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

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

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

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