Newsletter English

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 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!

Issue no 638 18th January 2013

node ref id: 26873

Top story

  • While other African countries like Kenya, Nigeria and Mauritius have all started rolling out Fibre-To-The-Home and Fibre-To-The-Cabinet, there’s been a strange commercial caution in South Africa. What should have been one of the first counties to get into the game hasn’t been. It’s spent a lot of time looking at the “chicken-and-egg” problem without giving birth. Russell Southwood talks to Malcolm Kirby and Gary Williams of Metronet Fibre Networx about how things might change.

    Metro Fibre Networx’s CEO Malcolm Kirby came out of Dark Fibre Africa that laid the first open access, independent dark fibre fibre network in South Africa:”South Africa does not have a last mile fibre infrastructure. When we were rolling out Dark Fibre Africa’s network, we realised that there would be a massive market place for it.” So Kirby decided to set up his own company to roll out a ubiquitous last

    The existing customers are predominantly service providers. It has almost all ISPs as its customers, the ISP component of mobile operators and Vox Telecom, Neotel and MTN’s business network.

    The network is currently limited to Gauteng province but it is conducting long distance trials with Broadband Infraco using 1 Gig Ethernet. So it’s looking to roll out networks in Durban in February/March this year and then move on to Cape Town. The biggest capacity on the last mile is 1 Gbps but customers can have anything from 2 Mbps upwards:”We’re trying to get customers to take 10 Mbps as standard.”

    So does the roll-out of LTE represent new opportunities? Yes, it does, according to Gary Williams, Head of Pre-Sales Enginerring:”You need to bolster the network to get better coverage. The BTS are contended. Something like every 200 metres in targeted areas, you’re going to have to put a small cell. The biggest challenge then is the cost of the backhaul. Fibre gives you more speed and more reliable connectivity.”

    “We target the access areas and have fibre connecting all the local access links and we can then join up the links within a local area back to an aggregation point. These access rings are then connected to a core ring. It’s backhaul through a network we already have in place. The cell can cover all services – Internet, data and voice – and can go up to 1 Gbps or higher if needed.”

    It’s had good feedback from it’s discussion with a couple of operators and will be running trials soon, using a proof of concept for the small cells:”To sell 4G you need to get the saturation coverage to deliver a good experience.”Since all operators want to take LTE into the same population-dense areas, it makes sense for some of them to share this kind of infrastructure through a service offered by Metronet Fibre Networx.

    It’s keen to emphasis that it will be using the Metro Ethernet Forum 22.1 standard:”It brings a standard specification for a high volume interconnection. It’s Ethernet, both as a technology and a language, and it’s surpassed all other technologies. If everyone is working to the MEF standard, then the time taken to interconnect people is much smaller and therefore we can be quicker to market.”

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

    To understand the burgeoning world of African mobile content platforms, the video clip interviews below summarise some of the main players:

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

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

    Mark Shoebridge, biNu on its 0.5 million mobile phone book readers, 42% of whom are in Nigeria – Who says Africans don’t read?

    Emma Kaye, Bozza on an African mobile platform to make music and films – the platform for local self-generated content

    Chike Maduegbuna on Afrinolly, a new film and music mobile platform – 1.5 million downloads and counting

    Jesse Oguntimehin on the beta phase launch of African mobile music platform Spinlet – available on low-end phones in 2013

    Pierre van der Hoven, Tuluntulu
    on a low cost bandwidth streaming solution for mobile

    Things you need to keep ahead of in 2013:

    When the digital divide becomes the power divide - Jonathan Berman, Fieldstone on Africa's energy deficit and ways to overcome it

    Andrew Dent, Faberdashery on what 3D printing is, how it can change what is made and its uses in developing countries

    Leonard Ah Kun from South Africa’s Cobi Interactive on augmented reality, Leap Motion and Google glasses – creating a large screen out of a small screen

telecoms

  • Senegal has always been the country where competition has a very different meaning. In the Internet sector, Orange-owned Sonatel controls pretty much the whole of the market. There are almost no ISPs or alternative data operators. At a recent event held by Google, there were a number of calls for the Government and regulator to open up the market to competition and innovation.

  • Baidu, the Chinese search engine, is building its international mobile footprint through a partnership with Orange in the Middle East and Africa.

    China's search giant Baidu has partnered with France Telecom-Orange to launch a co-branded browser for low-cost smartphone users across Africa and the Middle East.

    The service compresses data to provide customers with a faster, more data-efficient service, while reducing the traffic on Orange networks at the same time. Launching in English and Arabic, it offers one-click access to web-based apps and internet services like Facebook and Twitter.

    This marks the first time that Baidu has signed an exclusive strategic partnership with a global operator, pointing to the company's efforts to asset itself in the international mobile space. Africa - with upwards of 700m mobile subscribers - looks like a good place to start. The tie-up with Orange - which has 81m customers across 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East - will bring the search provider a considerable regional footprint.

    Baidu adds its name to a growing list of Chinese companies looking to carve out their slice of the African telecoms boom. Manufacturers of low-cost smartphones have led the charge, with the likes of Huawei and ZTE using their emerging market expertise to cash in as customers upgrade from basic mobiles and feature phones.

    Orange is also set to benefit. It hopes that services targeting bottom-end devices will help democratise mobile internet usage across the region, driving its mobile data and content revenues.

    "This is a key message regarding data and the digital revolution: where we are, where we want to be and what services we want to deliver," Arnauld Blondet, director of AMEA at Orange's Technocentre tells This is Africa.

    After years of neglect, Africa's mobile content market is deepening, with mobile operators and search groups - led by Google - racing to create relevant local services. Informa forecasts that annual non-voice end-user service revenues for Africa will hit $26bn by 2016, up from $7bn annually in 2011. Messaging revenues will still contribute 50 percent of non-voice profits in 2016, but that represents a 20 percent drop from 2011. The growth of mobile internet services will play a large role in the growth of data revenue.

    The new browser will be launched in Egypt, where Orange saw demand for Android devices double in the second half of 2012. The group hopes to increase its revenues from Africa and the Middle East to $7bn in 2015, from $4bn in 2011.

  • According to a report by Agence Ecofin, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has announced its intention to clamp down on a growing trend towards ‘piracy’ in the international calls sector.

    As such, the government has inked a deal with French-American company Agilis International to verify the data supplied by the country’s mobile operators. The Agilis observation centre has reported that the DRC receives around 120 million minutes worth of international calls each month, but the companies themselves only report a fraction of that figure – around 20 million minutes.

    Communications minister Tryphon Kin-Kiey Mulumba described the discrepancy as causing ‘a big loss for the state which levies a tax on every minute’.

  • The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has proposed a decrease in telephone interconnection charges to an average 34.92/- from 112/- that telecommunications networks currently use.

    TCRA wants the new rates to be applied from March 1 this year. However, telecom operators want to charge 84/- which is equivalent to 25 per cent reduction arguing that the 69 per cent decrease proposed by TCRA for the first year on interconnection cost model was too high.

    "TCRA should have considered the operation costs incurred by telecommunications companies while reviewing the interconnection charges," Airtel Legal Officer Clara Mramba, told journalists after a telecommunications network stakeholders' meeting in Dar es Salaam .TCRA Director (Zonal Coordination), Victor Nkya, pointed out that the proposal was a result of a study conducted by an independent consultant, the UK-based Price Waterhouse Coopers and that the consultant recommended for the proposed decrease which will eventually reach 26.96/- in 2017.

    "Experience shows that most telecommunication network operators are always reluctant to reduce service costs," he stated. Acting Assistant Director of Telecommunications at the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology, Samson John, said the interconnection cost model was aimed at reducing a burden to consumer in terms of unnecessary cost.

    Vodacom Legal Officer Walarick Nitu, said the proposed drop did not consider the devaluation of the currency suggesting the charges to be reduced to at least 75/- in the first year and to 58/- in the second year before it was decreased further to 26/- in 2017. Mr Allen Alexander, who is an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) expert, advised the government to encourage cellular network companies to get connected to the National ICT Backbone in order to minimize operation cost.

    "Cellular network companies should be connected to the National ICT Backbone in order to avoid the costs of running the transmitters," he said.The telecommunications stakeholders meeting dubbed public inquiry drew participants from the Consumer Consultative Council, the Fair Competition Commission, the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology and the cellular network companies.

internet

  • The government will this year rollout a massive literacy awareness campaign to promote and build citizens' capacity and knowledge in ICT.

    Spearheaded by the Ministry of Youth and ICT, in collaboration with other stakeholders in ICT promotion, the five-year campaign will be launched today in Rulindo district, Northern Province.

    "We realised that despite the registered progress in ICT infrastructure development, there is still need to enable citizens use and exploit what we have been able to develop," said Didier Nkurikiyimfura, the director-general of ICT.

    He said unlike the previous campaigns, this one has various components to focus on, including computer training, enabling citizens to access government online services in line with service provision, and use of telecom services such as mobile money transfer.

    The online services will target education on Internet use with the aim informing citizens on the best way ICT can be used in business management.

    Other ministries involved in this campaign include Local Government and Education.

  • It’s not well at Brodacom. Not at all. Around this time two years ago, information in the market suggested the company was coming on the scene to change the game in Zimbabwe’s internet sector. It didn’t happen. And things seem to just get worse for Zachary Wazara who founded telecoms company. A report in the Daily News today (just the print edition for now unfortunately) says a local bank Kingdom bank has secured an order to acquire Brodacom’s assets over a debt.

    You will remember when Zachary Wazara first came out to announce his new company’s plans back in April 2011, he disclosed that the company had raised about US $25 Million to finance the roll out of its operations. He didn’t disclose then where the money was coming from but, coincidentally, the amount Kingdom is trying to recover from Valley Technologies, according to the report today, is US $20 Million.

    Valley Technologies by the way is the POTRAZ licensed Internet Access Provider. Its operating name is Spiritage Business Solutions, itself part of a larger Spiritage Group, which also includes Mars, Suremed health Insurance, and eTranzact. Brodacom is just the consumer facing name associated with the company’s internet and voice products.

    Rumours that Spiritage Business wasn’t doing well started trickling at the end of 2011. The company had just come out of a clumsy launch of its flagship service, where it mindlessly promised customers “true 4G” speeds. Our sources at the company told us senior executives were leaving (or being fired), delayed salary payments and other such. There were also rumours in the market suggesting the company had made serious mistakes procuring WiMax base stations that ended up sitting in a warehouse because they didn’t meet the technical specs.

    Then it became official the company was in trouble.

    Angry employees that had gone more than a year without salaries were seeking the intervention of courts to attach company assets. The Spiritage Group and its subsidiaries were also reported to be making huge losses. The company was also evicted from its Anchor House city center head office along Jason Moyo Avenue.

    Kindgom Bank, according to the Daily news article, was alarmed when reports suggested Spiritage’s assets were being attached over debts owed to other creditors. This spurred Kingdom to make an urgent High Court application to stop this as, according to them, they own all of Spiritage property (loan security) given the loans they advanced the company.

    Zachary Wazara is a former Econet Wireless Group executive. He joined Econet as Assistant General Manager for Marketing in 1996 and rose to become Managing Director in 2000. Wazara is said to have helped set up Econet in Botswana, Nigeria, Kenya, Burundi, Lesotho and other countries. He left Econet in May 2009 to pursue setting up his own telecoms company – Spiritage.

    We tried getting comment from Wazara on these developments but our calls to his mobile went unanswered. Email sent to him over the past weeks have also not been responded to.

  • Orange has launched Orange Horizons, a new subsidiary established to build the brand and source fresh revenue streams for the Group. South Africa is one of the markets targeted for a range of planned projects, including the launch of online stores, travel solutions and a virtual mobile operator activity.

    The first of these projects has already been launched. This comprises two websites: firstly an e-commerce website, http://store.orange.com/za, has been launched to sell telecoms-related devices and accessories.

    This is combined with a country website, www.orange.com/za, which provides online content specifically tailored for a South African audience including news feeds, sports news and audiovisual content.

    The launch of these services coincides with the start of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations. To increase interest and visibility, the company has launched a competition through which South African residents connecting to www.orange.com/za will be able to win tickets to several matches, including the final.

    The Group plans to launch business ventures in several other countries in 2013 in Europe and Africa, and will also look at opportunities in South America in order to leverage existing content-related assets such as starMedia (a South American Internet portal) for example.

    A range of business projects will be investigated depending on the specific potential within each country.

  • Young people in countries around the world have the opportunity to learn about the link between poverty and human rights thanks to a new digital platform launched by Amnesty International which allows them to take action and share their ideas.

    Users of RespectMyRights.org can embark on two "interactive learning journeys" that provide educational information on the human rights violations that affect people living in poverty, including those facing forced evictions from their homes and communities.

    The site then prompts young people to participate in Amnesty International's worldwide campaigns, as well as to share their thoughts and questions - or propose actions of their own - in a "Scrapbook" section.

    "This project is innovative because the website is simultaneously a tool that allows young people to deepen their knowledge of human rights - and understand their importance in everyone's life - and invites them to take action," said Alberto Emiletti of Amnesty International Italy, which, along with the organization's sections in Slovenia and Poland has pioneered the project.

    "Through this platform, young people can develop a good understanding of how human rights violations deepen poverty. They will be able to understand that these are global issues that can affect the reality they live in."

    RespectMyRights.org is currently available in six languages - English, French, Spanish, Polish, Italian and Slovenian - and an Arabic version is in the works.

    Aimed at those aged from 15 to 22 years old, Amnesty International believes the site will help young people and those who work with young people to facilitate a process of collective learning and promote taking action online.

    In the interactive "Challenge" area of the site, users can discuss and reflect on what they have learned, to deepen their understanding of how human rights violations that affect others also relate to their own lives.

    One current thread prompts young people to imagine they were about to be evicted from their homes and could only take one item with them. In response, users can post their thoughts and photos, as well as join in the conversation with other young people around the world.

    According to Sarah Pyke, Communications Coordinator of Amnesty International's Demand Dignity campaign, "The best thing about respectmyrights.org is the opportunity it gives for young people to start a conversation, with Amnesty International and each other, about human rights - wherever they are in the world.

    "Using the platform, young people can put themselves in the shoes of others like them who've had to make difficult choices, upload messages or images about their own experiences, or express their solidarity with other young people whose rights have been violated. In 2013, we'll be using the platform to engage young people on the issue of their sexual and reproductive rights - what are they, and how they can act to defend them. We can't wait to see what responses we get!"

    Users of RespectMyRights.org can also share their experiences on the site with their contacts on popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

    Amnesty International's Human Rights Education Programme will be launching educational materials in the near future as a further support to young people, teachers, and others who work with youth who are using the RespectMyRights.org site as a learning tool.

    "RespectMyRights is a dynamic, innovative digital tool that engages young people to learn about human rights and share experiences with others in a creative, quick, easy and fun online space, and to prompt action for change," said Sneh Aurora, Manager of Amnesty's International Human Rights Education Programme.

    "This online tool complements the offline materials that Amnesty International is developing, aimed to encourage not only learning and sharing, but also taking action to address human rights violations in the context of poverty."

computing

  • Microsoft has announced that the newest version of its flagship product, MS Windows 8, will also be in Rwanda’s main language, Kinyarwanda.

    Microsoft said in a statement that MS Windows 8 is available in 14 new languages, bringing the total number of languages supported to 109. The US software giant released Window 8 in October last year and has since been working on producing the software in different languages to cover the global market.

    The Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philpert Nsengimana, said the release in Kinyarwanda will go a long way in building information and communication technology literacy in the country.

    It means Rwandans with minimal knowledge of either French or English will be able to use their touch-screen gadgets that support the system without having to worry about language barrier.

    “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 last week when contacted for a comment.

    The minister added that the development would encourage, especially the youth to learn new products.

    The application can support any of the languages with language interface packs as long as it supports one of 12 application certification languages, said Microsoft in the statement.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • French-owned mobile network provider Orange has launched its mobile money service in Uganda in partnership with Post Bank and Pride Microfinance, two of the country’s major financial institutions.

    Orange Uganda CEO Philippe Luxcey said: “Orange Money has already been launched by Orange in several other markets across Africa and has a proven track record for its reliability and high level of security.”

    Commenting on the partnership with Post Bank and Pride Microfinance, he said by launching the service in Uganda in partnership with the two financial institutions Orange will provide the best possible mobile payment service for our customers.

    The company intends to follow other market leaders in providing the service to its customers and enable them to use Orange Money to pay for bills like water and electricity, and also cashless purchasing of goods.

    With the rising cases of mobile money fraud, Orange Money customers will be required to change their passwords after every stipulated period. This is in addition to entering their personal identification numbers (PIN) to access the service.

    “When sending money for the first time, an Orange Money customer will have to dial a number to confirm the transaction,” Luxcey said. “When several transactions are logged within an hour, the customer will receive a message requesting confirmation; failure to confirm will automatically cancel the transactions.”

    The company may be looking at new revenue streams after reports that it continually lost battles to the giants in the Uganda telecommunications sector such as MTN Uganda, which has the largest subscriber base in the country, over 5.6 million, attributed to its low pricing and MTN Mobile Money Transfer system.

  • After months of wrangling, the Ethiopian government has at last approved mobile money in the country and opened the door for banks and micro-finance institutions to provide transaction-based banking online.

    The directive aims to push Ethiopia’s economy forward, which has been largely stagnant since the passing of late President Meles Zenawi in August last year.

    The move has been welcomed by economists, who believe the government’s decision will help spur growth in the East African country.

    “Clients of banks and MFI’s will be able to make deposits and withdrawals through their mobile phones,” the government’s directive said.

    “They can also make payments to businesses or transfer money to clients using their mobile phones.”

    It came after the National Bank of Ethiopia had previously turned down requests from banks in the country to allow mobile money transfers from occurring, but with mobile penetration remaining stagnant through the last quarter of 2012 and fears of an economic downturn in the country, the directive lifts previous limits to mobile banking.

    With an estimated population of 91 million people, Ethiopia is Africa’s second largest nation and many analysts believe it will the next frontier for mobile phone-led financial deepening.

    Ethiopia wants to introduce and bolster its telecom mobile banking sector with the country’s banks in order to make doing business and transferring money easier.

  • Embu West District Security Committee has raised the alarm over theft from MPesa outlets.The committee chairman, acting DC Daniel Obudo said conmen pretending to be Safaricom engineers have swindled M-pesa agents of thousands of shillings.

    He said they trick proprietors into giving them details about their businesses in the guise of upgrading the system then transfer the money to their accounts and withdraw it from other outlets.The conmen ask for the agents' ID number and PIN among other details.

    Two MPesa agents at Kithimu lost Sh55,000 to conmen last Friday. One outlet by the name Soul Mate lost Sh38,000 while Siccinati Investment lost Sh17,000.Obudo said police have launched a manhunt for the culprits.

    He asked the dealers not to give out their particulars to strangers to safeguard their hard-earned money. Obudo advised MPesa agents to exercise caution and report such incidences to the CID. Last February, MPesa operators in Embu lost Sh1 million to fraudsters.

    Some suspects were arrested while computers and other gadgets were impounded. Robbers have targeted the outlets too.  Thieves broke into and stole cash and phones from an MPesa outlet at the Embu bus stage, in what police suspect to be an inside job.

  • Tunde Lemo, deputy governor, Operations, at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has pooh-poohed what appeared to be the global model for mobile money payment system, the Kenya M-Pesa stating that it has only helped in creating a monopolistic bohemia.
    Lemo said in view of the Kenyan experience, Nigeria would not licence mobile operators in the country despite public demand for the telcos to be so licenced.

     The CBN deputy governor said: “We cannot licence telcos to operator mobile money because they lack the capacity to do so. What we are doing in Nigeria is to licence mobile money operators and then ask them to go and discuss with the telco who will provide them (licenced operators) with the technological platform for their business.”

     He noted that licencing telcos as mobile money operators would bring untold hardships to consumers as the mobile operators could hold the economy to ransom.

     “It is like this, they (telcos) have the technology to drive the mobile money business. What will happen if they are licenced is that they would make it extremely difficult for the other operators using their platforms optimally because they would seen as competing operators.”

    Lemo said the Kenyan experience was not a good model for Nigeria. “I am sure if the Kenyan central bank had to do it again, they would do it differently because what Mpesa has done is to create one big monopoly for the country. A single operator controls 90 per cent of that country’s mobile money payment, is not really good enough for any economy.”

    Despite the CBN deputy governor’s misgivings, Mpesa continue to draw global accolades as an African success from which the entire world draw lessons on mobile money payment.

  • The Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement System (GIPSS) is to introduce an Internet-powered payment system that will link some local financial service providers with their counterparts in Nigeria and Francophone West African countries.

    The move is to help ease the challenges associated with inter-country trading between the countries involved.

    Once introduced, traders will be spared the ordeal of carrying cash and, or converting it for the purposes of trading in Francophone countries.

    The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GHIPSS, Mr Archie Hesse, said traders would only carry with them the needed point of sale (POS) devices to withdraw  cash and make the needed payments.

    According to him, the products, which are expected in the first quarter of 2013, are two of three services to be launched by GHIPSS this year.

    Mr Hesse said his outfit would also add a service that would allow local shoppers the opportunity of paying for products and services through special POS devices to be introduced in that year.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • South Africa's FNB Connect says it will offer its ADSL customers free Wikipedia data browsing between 19:00 hrs and 23:00 hrs in a bid to assist pupils. This follows a plea from Grade 11 learners at Sinenjongo High School, Joe Slovo Park in Cape Town, to South African network operators, asking them to provide free mobile access to the research website.

    According to the Internet Access in South Africa 2012 report from research house World Wide Worx, international bandwidth coming to South Africa is set to double in 2013, and South Africa's internet population is on track to reach 10 million users by the end of the year.

  • Samsung South Africa has announced that it has partnered with Garmin Southern Africa to offer the Garmin Navigon navigation app for free on all Samsung Galaxy Note II devices. Users with existing devices can download the app from the Samsung Apps store immediately. Samsung also announced that the Navigon app would be ready loaded on new Galaxy Note 2 devices in future. Once the app is installed, users need to download all the available local maps through their Wi-Fi connection to get a complete navigation service on the go. This download only needs to be done once, Samsung said.

Digital Content

  • Mobile phone technology is frequently heralded as a solution to many health challenges facing the developing world, but two systematic reviews have found that evidence to back such claims is still largely non-existent.

    There is a lack of rigorous studies in low- and middle-income settings — where experts agree that mobile health (mHealth) initiatives have tremendous potential — according to the reviews, led by Caroline Free from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom, and published in PLoS Medicine today (15 January).

    Most existing evidence on success of mHealth schemes is of poor quality and comes from trials performed in the developed world, they say.

    For example, just three out 75 trials that aimed to assess whether mobile technology interventions for healthcare consumers could change health behavior or improve disease management were conducted in developing countries.

    And none of the 42 trials of interventions designed to support communication among healthcare providers or between health services and patients were done in the developing world.

    Mobile phones are thought to be able, among other things, to help manage disease; facilitate drug adherence in tuberculosis patients; speed up diagnosis of HIV and malaria; monitor outbreaks of polio; take and transfer medical images to doctors; and provide an advice hotline for rural health workers.

    Previous studies have found mobile phone text messaging to improve adherence to HIV treatment in Kenya, as well as their failure to do so in Cameroon.

    But the new reviews found that for disease management, the only two mHealth applications with sufficient evidence of benefit are ones related to adherence to antiretroviral therapy and smoking cessation.

    And while certain interventions designed to support healthcare providers modestly improved aspects of clinical diagnosis and management, others were less successful.

    For example, the use of mobile technology–based photographs for diagnosis sometimes resulted in incorrect diagnoses, compared with face-to-face treatment. And text message-based appointment reminders were better than no reminders, but were no better than reminders sent by traditional routes such as telephone or mail.

    "Our systematic review shows there is good evidence that text messaging interventions can increase adherence to anti-retroviral medication and can increase smoking cessation," Free, a senior lecturer in epidemiology, said in a press release.

    "The effects of mobile phone based interventions appear promising in some other areas, but further high quality trials are required to establish their effects."

    The reviews call for additional rigorous tests of mobile health interventions, especially in low- and middle-income settings where the control group of 'standard care' might be very different from the standard care available in high-income countries.

  • A new information platform for farmers could boost food productivity and improve sales in the agricultural sector where at least three out of four Ugandans depend for a living.

    According to Mercy Corps, the financiers behind the $3m AgriFin Mobile project in Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Uganda, smallholder farmers would raise their productivity as much as their commercial counterparts once they have the same access to information.

    The three-year pilot project hopes to "bundle" all the necessary agricultural production and financial information on SMS based platforms to empower rural-based small farmers. In Uganda's case, the platform is known as Agrilife. It is powered by Kenya's mobile applications developer, Mobipay.

    "Access to mobile phone networks is growing dramatically in rural areas of developing countries. We want to use the phone as a powerful channel of communication to access vital and up-to-date market and financial services information," says Leesa Shrader, the senior director of Financial Innovations at Mercy Corps.

    Given the reluctance among financial institutions to lend to the agriculture sector, this information platform could go a long way in reducing the risk involved in agricultural financing. Stephen Musoke, the AgriFin Mobile programme coordinator in Uganda, says Agrilife will provide financing institutions with such vital information as farmers' financial and supply chain data and their production capabilities.

    "This is just the first step. Now we need to get the farmers and other relationships onboard, including the input dealers. We need to gain access to their production relationships to make the farmer the boss," he says.

    In Uganda, the programme focuses on farmers growing matooke, maize and beans in the western, central and northern regions. Maize was chosen because it offers a strong backbone to Uganda's food security and is popular in the regional markets of South Sudan, DR Congo, Central African Republic (CAR) and Kenya. Beans are on the list because at least three out of four farmers grow beans.

    Matooke made the cut because of its strong domestic value to Uganda. While the rest of Africa consumes just about 21kg of matooke per capita per year, Uganda consumes 191kg per capita per year - the highest in the world, according to International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

    Other research also noted significant declines in matooke production by over 78% between 1996 and 2006. Agrilife hopes to revive the production figures.

    Mercy Corps says their research indicates that 50% of farmers attained at least primary education. And 90% of these own or have access to a mobile phone and thus should be able to send and retrieve mobile phone messages. It is not yet clear whether the text messages will be sent translated into various local languages.

  • Sick of Monday morning traffic? Or, for that matter, gridlock any other day? Thanks to CivRoute, a project initiated by four tech-savvy Ivorians, driving has become a more efficient, less stressful experience. That's crucial for this country with limited roads, but a rising number of cars and subsequent congestion.

    "I was once stuck in major gridlock when driving a sick friend to the hospital," recalls Cyriac Gbogou, a 32-year-old blogger and social entrepreneur. "It then occurred to me that, had I been informed in advance, I could have avoided the traffic jam. Fortunately, we managed to get to the hospital in time to save my friend's life."

    Gbogou is one of the pioneers of CivRoute, a website born from the frustration of being constantly stuck in Abidjan's traffic jams. When he came up with the idea of using information technology and social media to deal with this everyday problem, he decided to work with friends.

    Lucky for him, his friends-turned-colleagues were no strangers to technology. Israël Yoroba, 30, is a journalist and blogger. Twenty-year-old Maryana Lym is responsible for updating CivRoute's content. Manassé Dehe, a 26-year-old web developer, sorts the data and takes care of geo-localization and authentication issues before positing information to the project's website and in related networks.

    Summarizing how it works, Gbogou explains: "CivRoute relies on crowdsourcing. We get the people to participate in the project. Teamwork is at the heart of this project." Via SMS, email, Facebook and Twitter, hundreds of contributors, often anonymous, send road updates to the CivRoute server.

    Christiane Apo, a switchboard operator at a local firm, is one such contributor. "I often SMS road updates to CivRoute for other road users to freely benefit from, since I also use the same services at no cost," she explains.

    Paul Kouamé, who delivers freshly baked bread across the city, is proof that up-to-date traffic information benefits business. "National road agencies scarcely inform commuters about ongoing road works, which considerably slows down traffic," he says. "One has to visit the CivRoute website to find out. Therefore, it is very useful because one can use the information to calculate an alternate route and make the delivery on time."

    Souleymane Bakayoko, a 31-year-old taxi driver in Abidjan, agrees. "Because the information is updated in real time, it gives the driver peace of mind and takes away the stress connected to wasting time," he says. Bakayoko adds that he regularly checks traffic updates before driving off in search of clients.

    Room for improvement

    Léandre Sié, a 29-year-old bookkeeper at an Abidjan restaurant, is among some who point to CivRoute's limitations. But her criticism is constructive.

    "If CivRoute had an integrated voice-guiding function, drivers would focus more on the road and would not have to constantly look at their phone or tablet screens," she says.

    Despite their small means, the CivRoute quartet dreams big. They plan to integrate dynamic options into the project and soon broadcast traffic updates via radio stations around the capital. Before they can do that, however, they need to secure serious investors.

  • Google has announced that YouTube will broadcast the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) opening ceremony and highlights through a dedicated channel.

    The announcement was made on the Google Africa Twitter account, which also provided a link to the channel.

    “Africa Cup of Nations! Live stream opening ceremony this Sat & game highlights throughout on YouTube,” the tweet read.

    The broadcasting of the competition has been a source of contention in several countries, with no solution yet agreed over who will screen the competition in Nigeria after a meeting between the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON) and the pan-African LC2, who hold the rights, reached deadlock.

    It was only at the start of this month that broadcasting rights were agreed in host nation South Africa, with the South African Broadcasting Corporation signing a R65 million (US$7.5 million) deal after protracted negotiations.

    AFCON begins this Saturday, January 19, in Johannesburg, with hosts South Africa playing Cape Verde. It concludes with the final on February 10.

  • 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 kicks 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.

    FootballZone is one of the 3 winners of last year ZOL Jumpstart Challenge, a tech startup competition held annually for Zimbabwean startups by Jumpstart.

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!

  • Cameroon’s MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) Set’Mobile has appointed a new CEO to run the company’s operations. Herve Perrin was announced as the new CEO, succeeding Charles Gueret.

Issue no 638 18th January 2013

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Top story

  • While other African countries like Kenya, Nigeria and Mauritius have all started rolling out Fibre-To-The-Home and Fibre-To-The-Cabinet, there’s been a strange commercial caution in South Africa. What should have been one of the first counties to get into the game hasn’t been. It’s spent a lot of time looking at the “chicken-and-egg” problem without giving birth. Russell Southwood talks to Malcolm Kirby and Gary Williams of Metronet Fibre Networx about how things might change.

    Metro Fibre Networx’s CEO Malcolm Kirby came out of Dark Fibre Africa that laid the first open access, independent dark fibre fibre network in South Africa:”South Africa does not have a last mile fibre infrastructure. When we were rolling out Dark Fibre Africa’s network, we realised that there would be a massive market place for it.” So Kirby decided to set up his own company to roll out a ubiquitous last

    The existing customers are predominantly service providers. It has almost all ISPs as its customers, the ISP component of mobile operators and Vox Telecom, Neotel and MTN’s business network.

    The network is currently limited to Gauteng province but it is conducting long distance trials with Broadband Infraco using 1 Gig Ethernet. So it’s looking to roll out networks in Durban in February/March this year and then move on to Cape Town. The biggest capacity on the last mile is 1 Gbps but customers can have anything from 2 Mbps upwards:”We’re trying to get customers to take 10 Mbps as standard.”

    So does the roll-out of LTE represent new opportunities? Yes, it does, according to Gary Williams, Head of Pre-Sales Enginerring:”You need to bolster the network to get better coverage. The BTS are contended. Something like every 200 metres in targeted areas, you’re going to have to put a small cell. The biggest challenge then is the cost of the backhaul. Fibre gives you more speed and more reliable connectivity.”

    “We target the access areas and have fibre connecting all the local access links and we can then join up the links within a local area back to an aggregation point. These access rings are then connected to a core ring. It’s backhaul through a network we already have in place. The cell can cover all services – Internet, data and voice – and can go up to 1 Gbps or higher if needed.”

    It’s had good feedback from it’s discussion with a couple of operators and will be running trials soon, using a proof of concept for the small cells:”To sell 4G you need to get the saturation coverage to deliver a good experience.”Since all operators want to take LTE into the same population-dense areas, it makes sense for some of them to share this kind of infrastructure through a service offered by Metronet Fibre Networx.

    It’s keen to emphasis that it will be using the Metro Ethernet Forum 22.1 standard:”It brings a standard specification for a high volume interconnection. It’s Ethernet, both as a technology and a language, and it’s surpassed all other technologies. If everyone is working to the MEF standard, then the time taken to interconnect people is much smaller and therefore we can be quicker to market.”

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

    To understand the burgeoning world of African mobile content platforms, the video clip interviews below summarise some of the main players:

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

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

    Mark Shoebridge, biNu on its 0.5 million mobile phone book readers, 42% of whom are in Nigeria – Who says Africans don’t read?

    Emma Kaye, Bozza on an African mobile platform to make music and films – the platform for local self-generated content

    Chike Maduegbuna on Afrinolly, a new film and music mobile platform – 1.5 million downloads and counting

    Jesse Oguntimehin on the beta phase launch of African mobile music platform Spinlet – available on low-end phones in 2013

    Pierre van der Hoven, Tuluntulu
    on a low cost bandwidth streaming solution for mobile

    Things you need to keep ahead of in 2013:

    When the digital divide becomes the power divide - Jonathan Berman, Fieldstone on Africa's energy deficit and ways to overcome it

    Andrew Dent, Faberdashery on what 3D printing is, how it can change what is made and its uses in developing countries

    Leonard Ah Kun from South Africa’s Cobi Interactive on augmented reality, Leap Motion and Google glasses – creating a large screen out of a small screen

telecoms

  • Senegal has always been the country where competition has a very different meaning. In the Internet sector, Orange-owned Sonatel controls pretty much the whole of the market. There are almost no ISPs or alternative data operators. At a recent event held by Google, there were a number of calls for the Government and regulator to open up the market to competition and innovation.

  • Baidu, the Chinese search engine, is building its international mobile footprint through a partnership with Orange in the Middle East and Africa.

    China's search giant Baidu has partnered with France Telecom-Orange to launch a co-branded browser for low-cost smartphone users across Africa and the Middle East.

    The service compresses data to provide customers with a faster, more data-efficient service, while reducing the traffic on Orange networks at the same time. Launching in English and Arabic, it offers one-click access to web-based apps and internet services like Facebook and Twitter.

    This marks the first time that Baidu has signed an exclusive strategic partnership with a global operator, pointing to the company's efforts to asset itself in the international mobile space. Africa - with upwards of 700m mobile subscribers - looks like a good place to start. The tie-up with Orange - which has 81m customers across 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East - will bring the search provider a considerable regional footprint.

    Baidu adds its name to a growing list of Chinese companies looking to carve out their slice of the African telecoms boom. Manufacturers of low-cost smartphones have led the charge, with the likes of Huawei and ZTE using their emerging market expertise to cash in as customers upgrade from basic mobiles and feature phones.

    Orange is also set to benefit. It hopes that services targeting bottom-end devices will help democratise mobile internet usage across the region, driving its mobile data and content revenues.

    "This is a key message regarding data and the digital revolution: where we are, where we want to be and what services we want to deliver," Arnauld Blondet, director of AMEA at Orange's Technocentre tells This is Africa.

    After years of neglect, Africa's mobile content market is deepening, with mobile operators and search groups - led by Google - racing to create relevant local services. Informa forecasts that annual non-voice end-user service revenues for Africa will hit $26bn by 2016, up from $7bn annually in 2011. Messaging revenues will still contribute 50 percent of non-voice profits in 2016, but that represents a 20 percent drop from 2011. The growth of mobile internet services will play a large role in the growth of data revenue.

    The new browser will be launched in Egypt, where Orange saw demand for Android devices double in the second half of 2012. The group hopes to increase its revenues from Africa and the Middle East to $7bn in 2015, from $4bn in 2011.

  • According to a report by Agence Ecofin, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has announced its intention to clamp down on a growing trend towards ‘piracy’ in the international calls sector.

    As such, the government has inked a deal with French-American company Agilis International to verify the data supplied by the country’s mobile operators. The Agilis observation centre has reported that the DRC receives around 120 million minutes worth of international calls each month, but the companies themselves only report a fraction of that figure – around 20 million minutes.

    Communications minister Tryphon Kin-Kiey Mulumba described the discrepancy as causing ‘a big loss for the state which levies a tax on every minute’.

  • The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has proposed a decrease in telephone interconnection charges to an average 34.92/- from 112/- that telecommunications networks currently use.

    TCRA wants the new rates to be applied from March 1 this year. However, telecom operators want to charge 84/- which is equivalent to 25 per cent reduction arguing that the 69 per cent decrease proposed by TCRA for the first year on interconnection cost model was too high.

    "TCRA should have considered the operation costs incurred by telecommunications companies while reviewing the interconnection charges," Airtel Legal Officer Clara Mramba, told journalists after a telecommunications network stakeholders' meeting in Dar es Salaam .TCRA Director (Zonal Coordination), Victor Nkya, pointed out that the proposal was a result of a study conducted by an independent consultant, the UK-based Price Waterhouse Coopers and that the consultant recommended for the proposed decrease which will eventually reach 26.96/- in 2017.

    "Experience shows that most telecommunication network operators are always reluctant to reduce service costs," he stated. Acting Assistant Director of Telecommunications at the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology, Samson John, said the interconnection cost model was aimed at reducing a burden to consumer in terms of unnecessary cost.

    Vodacom Legal Officer Walarick Nitu, said the proposed drop did not consider the devaluation of the currency suggesting the charges to be reduced to at least 75/- in the first year and to 58/- in the second year before it was decreased further to 26/- in 2017. Mr Allen Alexander, who is an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) expert, advised the government to encourage cellular network companies to get connected to the National ICT Backbone in order to minimize operation cost.

    "Cellular network companies should be connected to the National ICT Backbone in order to avoid the costs of running the transmitters," he said.The telecommunications stakeholders meeting dubbed public inquiry drew participants from the Consumer Consultative Council, the Fair Competition Commission, the Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology and the cellular network companies.

internet

  • The government will this year rollout a massive literacy awareness campaign to promote and build citizens' capacity and knowledge in ICT.

    Spearheaded by the Ministry of Youth and ICT, in collaboration with other stakeholders in ICT promotion, the five-year campaign will be launched today in Rulindo district, Northern Province.

    "We realised that despite the registered progress in ICT infrastructure development, there is still need to enable citizens use and exploit what we have been able to develop," said Didier Nkurikiyimfura, the director-general of ICT.

    He said unlike the previous campaigns, this one has various components to focus on, including computer training, enabling citizens to access government online services in line with service provision, and use of telecom services such as mobile money transfer.

    The online services will target education on Internet use with the aim informing citizens on the best way ICT can be used in business management.

    Other ministries involved in this campaign include Local Government and Education.

  • It’s not well at Brodacom. Not at all. Around this time two years ago, information in the market suggested the company was coming on the scene to change the game in Zimbabwe’s internet sector. It didn’t happen. And things seem to just get worse for Zachary Wazara who founded telecoms company. A report in the Daily News today (just the print edition for now unfortunately) says a local bank Kingdom bank has secured an order to acquire Brodacom’s assets over a debt.

    You will remember when Zachary Wazara first came out to announce his new company’s plans back in April 2011, he disclosed that the company had raised about US $25 Million to finance the roll out of its operations. He didn’t disclose then where the money was coming from but, coincidentally, the amount Kingdom is trying to recover from Valley Technologies, according to the report today, is US $20 Million.

    Valley Technologies by the way is the POTRAZ licensed Internet Access Provider. Its operating name is Spiritage Business Solutions, itself part of a larger Spiritage Group, which also includes Mars, Suremed health Insurance, and eTranzact. Brodacom is just the consumer facing name associated with the company’s internet and voice products.

    Rumours that Spiritage Business wasn’t doing well started trickling at the end of 2011. The company had just come out of a clumsy launch of its flagship service, where it mindlessly promised customers “true 4G” speeds. Our sources at the company told us senior executives were leaving (or being fired), delayed salary payments and other such. There were also rumours in the market suggesting the company had made serious mistakes procuring WiMax base stations that ended up sitting in a warehouse because they didn’t meet the technical specs.

    Then it became official the company was in trouble.

    Angry employees that had gone more than a year without salaries were seeking the intervention of courts to attach company assets. The Spiritage Group and its subsidiaries were also reported to be making huge losses. The company was also evicted from its Anchor House city center head office along Jason Moyo Avenue.

    Kindgom Bank, according to the Daily news article, was alarmed when reports suggested Spiritage’s assets were being attached over debts owed to other creditors. This spurred Kingdom to make an urgent High Court application to stop this as, according to them, they own all of Spiritage property (loan security) given the loans they advanced the company.

    Zachary Wazara is a former Econet Wireless Group executive. He joined Econet as Assistant General Manager for Marketing in 1996 and rose to become Managing Director in 2000. Wazara is said to have helped set up Econet in Botswana, Nigeria, Kenya, Burundi, Lesotho and other countries. He left Econet in May 2009 to pursue setting up his own telecoms company – Spiritage.

    We tried getting comment from Wazara on these developments but our calls to his mobile went unanswered. Email sent to him over the past weeks have also not been responded to.

  • Orange has launched Orange Horizons, a new subsidiary established to build the brand and source fresh revenue streams for the Group. South Africa is one of the markets targeted for a range of planned projects, including the launch of online stores, travel solutions and a virtual mobile operator activity.

    The first of these projects has already been launched. This comprises two websites: firstly an e-commerce website, http://store.orange.com/za, has been launched to sell telecoms-related devices and accessories.

    This is combined with a country website, www.orange.com/za, which provides online content specifically tailored for a South African audience including news feeds, sports news and audiovisual content.

    The launch of these services coincides with the start of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations. To increase interest and visibility, the company has launched a competition through which South African residents connecting to www.orange.com/za will be able to win tickets to several matches, including the final.

    The Group plans to launch business ventures in several other countries in 2013 in Europe and Africa, and will also look at opportunities in South America in order to leverage existing content-related assets such as starMedia (a South American Internet portal) for example.

    A range of business projects will be investigated depending on the specific potential within each country.

  • Young people in countries around the world have the opportunity to learn about the link between poverty and human rights thanks to a new digital platform launched by Amnesty International which allows them to take action and share their ideas.

    Users of RespectMyRights.org can embark on two "interactive learning journeys" that provide educational information on the human rights violations that affect people living in poverty, including those facing forced evictions from their homes and communities.

    The site then prompts young people to participate in Amnesty International's worldwide campaigns, as well as to share their thoughts and questions - or propose actions of their own - in a "Scrapbook" section.

    "This project is innovative because the website is simultaneously a tool that allows young people to deepen their knowledge of human rights - and understand their importance in everyone's life - and invites them to take action," said Alberto Emiletti of Amnesty International Italy, which, along with the organization's sections in Slovenia and Poland has pioneered the project.

    "Through this platform, young people can develop a good understanding of how human rights violations deepen poverty. They will be able to understand that these are global issues that can affect the reality they live in."

    RespectMyRights.org is currently available in six languages - English, French, Spanish, Polish, Italian and Slovenian - and an Arabic version is in the works.

    Aimed at those aged from 15 to 22 years old, Amnesty International believes the site will help young people and those who work with young people to facilitate a process of collective learning and promote taking action online.

    In the interactive "Challenge" area of the site, users can discuss and reflect on what they have learned, to deepen their understanding of how human rights violations that affect others also relate to their own lives.

    One current thread prompts young people to imagine they were about to be evicted from their homes and could only take one item with them. In response, users can post their thoughts and photos, as well as join in the conversation with other young people around the world.

    According to Sarah Pyke, Communications Coordinator of Amnesty International's Demand Dignity campaign, "The best thing about respectmyrights.org is the opportunity it gives for young people to start a conversation, with Amnesty International and each other, about human rights - wherever they are in the world.

    "Using the platform, young people can put themselves in the shoes of others like them who've had to make difficult choices, upload messages or images about their own experiences, or express their solidarity with other young people whose rights have been violated. In 2013, we'll be using the platform to engage young people on the issue of their sexual and reproductive rights - what are they, and how they can act to defend them. We can't wait to see what responses we get!"

    Users of RespectMyRights.org can also share their experiences on the site with their contacts on popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

    Amnesty International's Human Rights Education Programme will be launching educational materials in the near future as a further support to young people, teachers, and others who work with youth who are using the RespectMyRights.org site as a learning tool.

    "RespectMyRights is a dynamic, innovative digital tool that engages young people to learn about human rights and share experiences with others in a creative, quick, easy and fun online space, and to prompt action for change," said Sneh Aurora, Manager of Amnesty's International Human Rights Education Programme.

    "This online tool complements the offline materials that Amnesty International is developing, aimed to encourage not only learning and sharing, but also taking action to address human rights violations in the context of poverty."

computing

  • Microsoft has announced that the newest version of its flagship product, MS Windows 8, will also be in Rwanda’s main language, Kinyarwanda.

    Microsoft said in a statement that MS Windows 8 is available in 14 new languages, bringing the total number of languages supported to 109. The US software giant released Window 8 in October last year and has since been working on producing the software in different languages to cover the global market.

    The Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philpert Nsengimana, said the release in Kinyarwanda will go a long way in building information and communication technology literacy in the country.

    It means Rwandans with minimal knowledge of either French or English will be able to use their touch-screen gadgets that support the system without having to worry about language barrier.

    “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 last week when contacted for a comment.

    The minister added that the development would encourage, especially the youth to learn new products.

    The application can support any of the languages with language interface packs as long as it supports one of 12 application certification languages, said Microsoft in the statement.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • French-owned mobile network provider Orange has launched its mobile money service in Uganda in partnership with Post Bank and Pride Microfinance, two of the country’s major financial institutions.

    Orange Uganda CEO Philippe Luxcey said: “Orange Money has already been launched by Orange in several other markets across Africa and has a proven track record for its reliability and high level of security.”

    Commenting on the partnership with Post Bank and Pride Microfinance, he said by launching the service in Uganda in partnership with the two financial institutions Orange will provide the best possible mobile payment service for our customers.

    The company intends to follow other market leaders in providing the service to its customers and enable them to use Orange Money to pay for bills like water and electricity, and also cashless purchasing of goods.

    With the rising cases of mobile money fraud, Orange Money customers will be required to change their passwords after every stipulated period. This is in addition to entering their personal identification numbers (PIN) to access the service.

    “When sending money for the first time, an Orange Money customer will have to dial a number to confirm the transaction,” Luxcey said. “When several transactions are logged within an hour, the customer will receive a message requesting confirmation; failure to confirm will automatically cancel the transactions.”

    The company may be looking at new revenue streams after reports that it continually lost battles to the giants in the Uganda telecommunications sector such as MTN Uganda, which has the largest subscriber base in the country, over 5.6 million, attributed to its low pricing and MTN Mobile Money Transfer system.

  • After months of wrangling, the Ethiopian government has at last approved mobile money in the country and opened the door for banks and micro-finance institutions to provide transaction-based banking online.

    The directive aims to push Ethiopia’s economy forward, which has been largely stagnant since the passing of late President Meles Zenawi in August last year.

    The move has been welcomed by economists, who believe the government’s decision will help spur growth in the East African country.

    “Clients of banks and MFI’s will be able to make deposits and withdrawals through their mobile phones,” the government’s directive said.

    “They can also make payments to businesses or transfer money to clients using their mobile phones.”

    It came after the National Bank of Ethiopia had previously turned down requests from banks in the country to allow mobile money transfers from occurring, but with mobile penetration remaining stagnant through the last quarter of 2012 and fears of an economic downturn in the country, the directive lifts previous limits to mobile banking.

    With an estimated population of 91 million people, Ethiopia is Africa’s second largest nation and many analysts believe it will the next frontier for mobile phone-led financial deepening.

    Ethiopia wants to introduce and bolster its telecom mobile banking sector with the country’s banks in order to make doing business and transferring money easier.

  • Embu West District Security Committee has raised the alarm over theft from MPesa outlets.The committee chairman, acting DC Daniel Obudo said conmen pretending to be Safaricom engineers have swindled M-pesa agents of thousands of shillings.

    He said they trick proprietors into giving them details about their businesses in the guise of upgrading the system then transfer the money to their accounts and withdraw it from other outlets.The conmen ask for the agents' ID number and PIN among other details.

    Two MPesa agents at Kithimu lost Sh55,000 to conmen last Friday. One outlet by the name Soul Mate lost Sh38,000 while Siccinati Investment lost Sh17,000.Obudo said police have launched a manhunt for the culprits.

    He asked the dealers not to give out their particulars to strangers to safeguard their hard-earned money. Obudo advised MPesa agents to exercise caution and report such incidences to the CID. Last February, MPesa operators in Embu lost Sh1 million to fraudsters.

    Some suspects were arrested while computers and other gadgets were impounded. Robbers have targeted the outlets too.  Thieves broke into and stole cash and phones from an MPesa outlet at the Embu bus stage, in what police suspect to be an inside job.

  • Tunde Lemo, deputy governor, Operations, at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has pooh-poohed what appeared to be the global model for mobile money payment system, the Kenya M-Pesa stating that it has only helped in creating a monopolistic bohemia.
    Lemo said in view of the Kenyan experience, Nigeria would not licence mobile operators in the country despite public demand for the telcos to be so licenced.

     The CBN deputy governor said: “We cannot licence telcos to operator mobile money because they lack the capacity to do so. What we are doing in Nigeria is to licence mobile money operators and then ask them to go and discuss with the telco who will provide them (licenced operators) with the technological platform for their business.”

     He noted that licencing telcos as mobile money operators would bring untold hardships to consumers as the mobile operators could hold the economy to ransom.

     “It is like this, they (telcos) have the technology to drive the mobile money business. What will happen if they are licenced is that they would make it extremely difficult for the other operators using their platforms optimally because they would seen as competing operators.”

    Lemo said the Kenyan experience was not a good model for Nigeria. “I am sure if the Kenyan central bank had to do it again, they would do it differently because what Mpesa has done is to create one big monopoly for the country. A single operator controls 90 per cent of that country’s mobile money payment, is not really good enough for any economy.”

    Despite the CBN deputy governor’s misgivings, Mpesa continue to draw global accolades as an African success from which the entire world draw lessons on mobile money payment.

  • The Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement System (GIPSS) is to introduce an Internet-powered payment system that will link some local financial service providers with their counterparts in Nigeria and Francophone West African countries.

    The move is to help ease the challenges associated with inter-country trading between the countries involved.

    Once introduced, traders will be spared the ordeal of carrying cash and, or converting it for the purposes of trading in Francophone countries.

    The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GHIPSS, Mr Archie Hesse, said traders would only carry with them the needed point of sale (POS) devices to withdraw  cash and make the needed payments.

    According to him, the products, which are expected in the first quarter of 2013, are two of three services to be launched by GHIPSS this year.

    Mr Hesse said his outfit would also add a service that would allow local shoppers the opportunity of paying for products and services through special POS devices to be introduced in that year.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • South Africa's FNB Connect says it will offer its ADSL customers free Wikipedia data browsing between 19:00 hrs and 23:00 hrs in a bid to assist pupils. This follows a plea from Grade 11 learners at Sinenjongo High School, Joe Slovo Park in Cape Town, to South African network operators, asking them to provide free mobile access to the research website.

    According to the Internet Access in South Africa 2012 report from research house World Wide Worx, international bandwidth coming to South Africa is set to double in 2013, and South Africa's internet population is on track to reach 10 million users by the end of the year.

  • Samsung South Africa has announced that it has partnered with Garmin Southern Africa to offer the Garmin Navigon navigation app for free on all Samsung Galaxy Note II devices. Users with existing devices can download the app from the Samsung Apps store immediately. Samsung also announced that the Navigon app would be ready loaded on new Galaxy Note 2 devices in future. Once the app is installed, users need to download all the available local maps through their Wi-Fi connection to get a complete navigation service on the go. This download only needs to be done once, Samsung said.

Digital Content

  • Mobile phone technology is frequently heralded as a solution to many health challenges facing the developing world, but two systematic reviews have found that evidence to back such claims is still largely non-existent.

    There is a lack of rigorous studies in low- and middle-income settings — where experts agree that mobile health (mHealth) initiatives have tremendous potential — according to the reviews, led by Caroline Free from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom, and published in PLoS Medicine today (15 January).

    Most existing evidence on success of mHealth schemes is of poor quality and comes from trials performed in the developed world, they say.

    For example, just three out 75 trials that aimed to assess whether mobile technology interventions for healthcare consumers could change health behavior or improve disease management were conducted in developing countries.

    And none of the 42 trials of interventions designed to support communication among healthcare providers or between health services and patients were done in the developing world.

    Mobile phones are thought to be able, among other things, to help manage disease; facilitate drug adherence in tuberculosis patients; speed up diagnosis of HIV and malaria; monitor outbreaks of polio; take and transfer medical images to doctors; and provide an advice hotline for rural health workers.

    Previous studies have found mobile phone text messaging to improve adherence to HIV treatment in Kenya, as well as their failure to do so in Cameroon.

    But the new reviews found that for disease management, the only two mHealth applications with sufficient evidence of benefit are ones related to adherence to antiretroviral therapy and smoking cessation.

    And while certain interventions designed to support healthcare providers modestly improved aspects of clinical diagnosis and management, others were less successful.

    For example, the use of mobile technology–based photographs for diagnosis sometimes resulted in incorrect diagnoses, compared with face-to-face treatment. And text message-based appointment reminders were better than no reminders, but were no better than reminders sent by traditional routes such as telephone or mail.

    "Our systematic review shows there is good evidence that text messaging interventions can increase adherence to anti-retroviral medication and can increase smoking cessation," Free, a senior lecturer in epidemiology, said in a press release.

    "The effects of mobile phone based interventions appear promising in some other areas, but further high quality trials are required to establish their effects."

    The reviews call for additional rigorous tests of mobile health interventions, especially in low- and middle-income settings where the control group of 'standard care' might be very different from the standard care available in high-income countries.

  • A new information platform for farmers could boost food productivity and improve sales in the agricultural sector where at least three out of four Ugandans depend for a living.

    According to Mercy Corps, the financiers behind the $3m AgriFin Mobile project in Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Uganda, smallholder farmers would raise their productivity as much as their commercial counterparts once they have the same access to information.

    The three-year pilot project hopes to "bundle" all the necessary agricultural production and financial information on SMS based platforms to empower rural-based small farmers. In Uganda's case, the platform is known as Agrilife. It is powered by Kenya's mobile applications developer, Mobipay.

    "Access to mobile phone networks is growing dramatically in rural areas of developing countries. We want to use the phone as a powerful channel of communication to access vital and up-to-date market and financial services information," says Leesa Shrader, the senior director of Financial Innovations at Mercy Corps.

    Given the reluctance among financial institutions to lend to the agriculture sector, this information platform could go a long way in reducing the risk involved in agricultural financing. Stephen Musoke, the AgriFin Mobile programme coordinator in Uganda, says Agrilife will provide financing institutions with such vital information as farmers' financial and supply chain data and their production capabilities.

    "This is just the first step. Now we need to get the farmers and other relationships onboard, including the input dealers. We need to gain access to their production relationships to make the farmer the boss," he says.

    In Uganda, the programme focuses on farmers growing matooke, maize and beans in the western, central and northern regions. Maize was chosen because it offers a strong backbone to Uganda's food security and is popular in the regional markets of South Sudan, DR Congo, Central African Republic (CAR) and Kenya. Beans are on the list because at least three out of four farmers grow beans.

    Matooke made the cut because of its strong domestic value to Uganda. While the rest of Africa consumes just about 21kg of matooke per capita per year, Uganda consumes 191kg per capita per year - the highest in the world, according to International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

    Other research also noted significant declines in matooke production by over 78% between 1996 and 2006. Agrilife hopes to revive the production figures.

    Mercy Corps says their research indicates that 50% of farmers attained at least primary education. And 90% of these own or have access to a mobile phone and thus should be able to send and retrieve mobile phone messages. It is not yet clear whether the text messages will be sent translated into various local languages.

  • Sick of Monday morning traffic? Or, for that matter, gridlock any other day? Thanks to CivRoute, a project initiated by four tech-savvy Ivorians, driving has become a more efficient, less stressful experience. That's crucial for this country with limited roads, but a rising number of cars and subsequent congestion.

    "I was once stuck in major gridlock when driving a sick friend to the hospital," recalls Cyriac Gbogou, a 32-year-old blogger and social entrepreneur. "It then occurred to me that, had I been informed in advance, I could have avoided the traffic jam. Fortunately, we managed to get to the hospital in time to save my friend's life."

    Gbogou is one of the pioneers of CivRoute, a website born from the frustration of being constantly stuck in Abidjan's traffic jams. When he came up with the idea of using information technology and social media to deal with this everyday problem, he decided to work with friends.

    Lucky for him, his friends-turned-colleagues were no strangers to technology. Israël Yoroba, 30, is a journalist and blogger. Twenty-year-old Maryana Lym is responsible for updating CivRoute's content. Manassé Dehe, a 26-year-old web developer, sorts the data and takes care of geo-localization and authentication issues before positing information to the project's website and in related networks.

    Summarizing how it works, Gbogou explains: "CivRoute relies on crowdsourcing. We get the people to participate in the project. Teamwork is at the heart of this project." Via SMS, email, Facebook and Twitter, hundreds of contributors, often anonymous, send road updates to the CivRoute server.

    Christiane Apo, a switchboard operator at a local firm, is one such contributor. "I often SMS road updates to CivRoute for other road users to freely benefit from, since I also use the same services at no cost," she explains.

    Paul Kouamé, who delivers freshly baked bread across the city, is proof that up-to-date traffic information benefits business. "National road agencies scarcely inform commuters about ongoing road works, which considerably slows down traffic," he says. "One has to visit the CivRoute website to find out. Therefore, it is very useful because one can use the information to calculate an alternate route and make the delivery on time."

    Souleymane Bakayoko, a 31-year-old taxi driver in Abidjan, agrees. "Because the information is updated in real time, it gives the driver peace of mind and takes away the stress connected to wasting time," he says. Bakayoko adds that he regularly checks traffic updates before driving off in search of clients.

    Room for improvement

    Léandre Sié, a 29-year-old bookkeeper at an Abidjan restaurant, is among some who point to CivRoute's limitations. But her criticism is constructive.

    "If CivRoute had an integrated voice-guiding function, drivers would focus more on the road and would not have to constantly look at their phone or tablet screens," she says.

    Despite their small means, the CivRoute quartet dreams big. They plan to integrate dynamic options into the project and soon broadcast traffic updates via radio stations around the capital. Before they can do that, however, they need to secure serious investors.

  • Google has announced that YouTube will broadcast the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) opening ceremony and highlights through a dedicated channel.

    The announcement was made on the Google Africa Twitter account, which also provided a link to the channel.

    “Africa Cup of Nations! Live stream opening ceremony this Sat & game highlights throughout on YouTube,” the tweet read.

    The broadcasting of the competition has been a source of contention in several countries, with no solution yet agreed over who will screen the competition in Nigeria after a meeting between the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON) and the pan-African LC2, who hold the rights, reached deadlock.

    It was only at the start of this month that broadcasting rights were agreed in host nation South Africa, with the South African Broadcasting Corporation signing a R65 million (US$7.5 million) deal after protracted negotiations.

    AFCON begins this Saturday, January 19, in Johannesburg, with hosts South Africa playing Cape Verde. It concludes with the final on February 10.

  • 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 kicks 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.

    FootballZone is one of the 3 winners of last year ZOL Jumpstart Challenge, a tech startup competition held annually for Zimbabwean startups by Jumpstart.

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!

  • Cameroon’s MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) Set’Mobile has appointed a new CEO to run the company’s operations. Herve Perrin was announced as the new CEO, succeeding Charles Gueret.

Issue no 637 11th January 2013

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Top story

  • It’s the morning of 1 January, 2018 and Africa is waking up to the New Year. All across the continent, Africans are thinking about what’s changed for them over the past year and what they’d like to see in the coming year. Russell Southwood engages in a piece of imaginative speculation about the different kind of Africa that might emerge.

    Christmas and the turn of the year are the time when everyone in the tech sector makes predictions. This gadget or app will succeed and this or that trend will become popular: we’re not immune to this ourselves. However, isolated tech trend spotting somehow fails to capture a bigger picture.

    What follows is a fictional attempt to try and imagine some of the changes that will happen over the next five years and the how these will inter-relate with technology. Some people live technology but most of us live our lives and technology contributes to them.

    Nairobi: Gitonga looks out the grimy office window in his incubator space at the slow-moving traffic before leaping from his chair and executing a triumphal dance. He’s just got off the phone from a US company who’ve accepted his software concept and want to sign contracts shortly. There are the details but there are always the details.

    He twitches his phone into life and by habit checks the daily headlines and stories. There’s an election coming soon and the most popular candidate is from what’s being dubbed the digital generation. His age? 45, not the usual geriatric dinosaur. His wife complains there’s no women candidates who have a chance but give it time, he says to her, things are changing.

    There’s another headline about a Chinese hi-tech firm opening its first research facility in the slowly emerging Konza Techno City. He wonders at the constant arguments and allegations of corruption that have beset its construction. He’s pleased that the local city councillors finally seem to understand that they now have a problem with the city centre where is incubator space is based. One Green-tinged Councillor is talking of planting trees along the main avenues and forcing owners to maintain their property frontages but it needs more than that.

    He has a meeting across town and wonders to himself whether it would make better sense to take the train or the car. The train still doesn’t have enough stops so he had to complete the journey on foot, something that would please his wife who often comments on his growing waistline. Gym time always seems to drop off the schedule.

    The city’s changed so much in the last five years, it’s hard to keep track of it. All the Chinese built roads have improved the flow of traffic but the number of cars seems to grow relentlessly. The old tenement buildings across the city are slowly being torn down and being replaced with tenements that have slightly larger rooms. But the tenants are already sub-dividing them to generate themselves some more income.

    The slums like Kibera have become cities in themselves: there’s a local politician from Kibera who has grown his own small media empire with a radio station and a mobile newspaper. A local developer is sell kit-built shacks that are somewhat more robust than those you might build yourself and they’ve got a built-in wi-fi receiver.

    David takes the train and although it’s late, he uses the time to scan his content device. He’s always slightly amazed to realize how full it’s become and flicks the screen to pull up the journey’s soundtrack. He reads a local thriller writer whose central character Kimunya is a policeman of ambiguous moral compass who manages to solve high-profile murders, whilst avoiding the political wrath of his boss. He’ll leave watching the Kenyan movie he started until his return journey.

    Soldiers keep getting on the train as there is a training camp at the end of the line. His brother is in the army far away in Task Force Elephant on a confidential assignment somewhere in the badlands. He runs a local counter-terrorism task force for an un-named country, having got his spurs when the war in Somalia wound down.

    His wife has started work two hours ago as an administrator in a large health clinic. She knows that although the electricity supply has improved over the last several years that unless she gets all the appointments in place before 11am, there’s likely to be a power surge that will knock out all their computers. Luckily, they have a back-up with a local data centre but re-instating the system will take several precious hours from their technician.

    These days the clinic seems to be getting more and more crowded and with more people getting jobs, more and more of them are buying “mobile pocket” health insurance. They’re not polite as in the old days: everybody wants more and they want it now. She worries for her two children who they’ve got in secondary school. She checks in with her maid by video-phone (which doubles as a security check) to ensure that she’ll be there when the boys get back.

    Every evening she settles them down to the virtual tutor and the edutainment games that help them understand their school homework and projects . It seems so unfair not to let them watch the TV but you have to draw a line somewhere…One of them’s so bright and hardworking but the other one is a day-dreamer and keeps talking about dressing Zepp-style. If only she could make sense of what he talked about: you can’t blame the Internet for everything.

    Meanwhile in Lagos: Abi knows that she’s not going to make her first meeting of the day. As a fashion designer, she was trying to meet the wife of a rich client who wanted to see her latest collection and might order. But she’s not worried because using a brilliant local app called “I’m on my way”, they agreed they will meet at a different time. Why’s she late? Partly because her boyfriend took so long getting out of the house (who said women use the bathroom longest?) and partly because one of the bridges is closed for an accident.

    It’s hard to know whether an accident is euphemism for another bomb. Ever since the peace agreement with Boko Haram that was signed two years ago, endless splinter groups have been trying to get everyone’s attention. But bombs were really only the half of it. There seems to be a bitter hate campaign being waged on SMS against Christians in the north that occasionally ends in murder.

    Abi marvels constantly at her ability to get anything done in this city. It has improved enormously but something always seems to be going wrong. Despite this stop-start progress, she’s amazed that she can now send her designs across town to be made up. She has a runway collection where individual items are put together in 72 hours and a retail collection that sells well in the country’s 100+ malls. But if she didn’t have online sales she doesn’t where she’d be.

    Her boyfriend works in the Future City department of Lagos State Government and as far as she can make out, he seems like a high paid “step-and-fetch-it” for his boss who’s rarely “on seat”. Her boyfriend’s ambitious but she worries whether he’s sincere.

    The boss is driving the Future City Lagos programme, which includes an expanding Media City and a financial quarter on VI designed by internationally famous African architect. The less fancy end of all this activity is a network of rather grubby incubator units on the mainland to help young people start businesses. Oh, and five new markets to help try and coral street traders off the main routes of the city.

    One of her girlfriends is pressing her to go and see the latest Nollywood movie by a director who’s been asked to Hollywood to direct a Nigerian Western. Things Nigerian are becoming so fashionable globally: it makes sense if you look at all those skinny white boys who seem to have less and less work than they used to. She keeps dreaming that one day some big fashion house will ring but she knows it’s only a dream.

    Meanwhile her boyfriend Tunde in the Future City department has a different problem. An international investor is visiting and looking at putting in a large data centre. He’s been courting him for a long time and has been showing him around the more forgiving parts of VI and the near mainland, But you have to let them off the leash sometime. The man was flying to Abuja to see the Government and you only have to turn your head and some lowly employee of the regional airline asked him for “dash” in order for him to get on the plane in time. Now he’s complaining…

    Lagos is like the fly. If it stopped to think about how it was flying, it wouldn’t. So Tunde has to try and make the best hand he can of the erratic power, the endless jams that the light railway has made little impact on and the endless complaining. Things getting better, only seems to make people want more. Only the other day, three stockbroker friends of his with nice apartments in Lekki were asking when proper roads were going to be built to the doorsteps of their complexes. Whatever next?

    What do you think the future will look like in five years time in your country? What will change most? What role will technology play in those changes? Send your ideas, responses and reactions to: info@balancingact-africa.com

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

    To understand the burgeoning world of African mobile content platforms, the video clip interviews below summarise some of the main players:

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

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

    Mark Shoebridge, biNu on its 0.5 million mobile phone book readers, 42% of whom are in Nigeria – Who says Africans don’t read?

    Emma Kaye, Bozza on an African mobile platform to make music and films – the platform for local self-generated content

    Chike Maduegbuna on Afrinolly, a new film and music mobile platform – 1.5 million downloads and counting

    Jesse Oguntimehin on the beta phase launch of African mobile music platform Spinlet – available on low-end phones in 2013

    Pierre van der Hoven, Tuluntulu
    on a low cost bandwidth streaming solution for mobile

    Things you need to keep ahead of in 2013:

    When the digital divide becomes the power divide - Jonathan Berman, Fieldstone on Africa's energy deficit and ways to overcome it

    Andrew Dent, Faberdashery on what 3D printing is, how it can change what is made and its uses in developing countries

    Leonard Ah Kun from South Africa’s Cobi Interactive on augmented reality, Leap Motion and Google glasses – creating a large screen out of a small screen

telecoms

  • With local management having recently resumed control of Ethio Telecom after the conclusion of a management contract with France Telecom-Orange (FT-Orange), details of the telco’s new network management strategy have emerged.

    Local news portal Addis Fortune reports that the country’s monopoly telecoms provider is to divide the country into eleven infrastructure zones with a view to better managing its network in each area. With the move also expected to help simplify the procedure for procuring new equipment, such plans come amid continued complaints by subscribers of quality issues regarding the network.

    It is understood that these ‘circles’ will be created using a number of different parameters, including demography, customer base and geographical location, with the new system expected to allow only one vendor within each circle. Such a plan, Ethio Telecom has suggested, will allow it to ensure better operational management, while enabling it to improve maintenance times when there are network issues.

    Further, these new zoning plans are also expected to assist the government with regard to the division of work between Chinese vendors ZTE and Huawei, both of which are negotiating with the state regarding plans to bolster Ethio Telecom’s infrastructure. Ethio Telecom has proposed a two-year project aimed at expanding the network, with a view to doubling the number of mobile users in the country by 2014/15.

    Bruno Duthoit, CEO of Ethio Telecom, has admitted that there are issues regarding network quality that need resolving, noting that increased subscriber numbers and traffic were the main reasons for the problems. It was noted that the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) had conducted a performance evaluation just prior to the end of FT-Orange’s management contract, in which it was awarded a score of 83%. In the evaluation it reportedly scored well in service coverage and penetration, but less impressively in service quality, which had yet to reach a satisfactory level. Mr Duthoit has pledged to fix such issues within the next six months.

    In separate but related news, it has also been reported by the Addis Fortune that the government may introduce a bill which will force building developers and owners to allow Ethio Telecom to install wireless network antennas on their roofs. The development comes amid claims that the increased number of high-rise buildings in the capital are partly responsible for quality issues with the telco’s mobile infrastructure, with Abdurahim Ahmed, head of public relations department at Ethio Telecom, cited as saying: ‘The current telecom poles erected on the ground are almost becoming useless … Some are completely blocked by the buildings.’ It is understood the telco has identified some 217 locations in the capital where such problems exist, with building in 82 locations said to be the cause of serious infrastructure issues.

  • A smartphone and tablet said to be the first designed by an African company have been launched. The products, designed by Congolese entrepreneur Verone Mankou, are manufactured in China.

    His company VMK's devices run Google's Android software. They will retail at $170 (£105) for the smartphone and $300 (£185) for the tablet."Only Africans can know what Africa needs," said Mr Mankou at the Tech4Africa conference in Johannesburg. "Apple is huge in the US, Samsung is huge in Asia, and we want VMK to be huge in Africa."

    Technology blog Smartplanet reports that the tablet offers wi-fi connectivity and four gigabytes of internal storage. Its name, Way-C, means "the light of the stars" in the local Lingala language.

    The smartphone has rear and forward facing cameras and a 3.5in (8.9cm) screen.

    There are plans to sell the devices across 10 other West African countries as well as Belgium, France and India. Mankou said he hoped to launch a cheaper tablet for students next year. The devices will come up against several already well-established and popular brands. Most notably, Blackberry-maker Research in Motion (RIM) has a significant presence on the continent, despite flagging sales in the western market.

    Popular too are handsets from Nokia which is working closely with Facebook to grow African's interest in both mobile communication and social networking.

    However, there is an increasing desire among African communities to support home-grown products, spurred on by fledgling technology scenes in various cities across the region.

    Attempts to be seen as African have caused some firms to be accused of dishonesty. Companies were highly criticised after they were deemed to be marketing products that were made offshore but simply branded locally.

    VMK insisted that while the product was manufactured in China for cost reasons, the design and engineering was entirely African.

    A page on the company's website stressed that statement, saying: "We are somewhat offended by the disregard of those who persist in denying the authentication of our products, despite evidence.

    "Most of those critics are either Afro-pessimistic (who argue that 'nothing good can come from Africa'), or just (future) competitors."

    The company added that unlike previous "African" smartphones and tablets, there were no products matching the VMK devices in other countries under different branding.

  • More than five companies are considering bidding for Zambia’s fourth mobile network operator licence with the country’s communication, transport, works and supply minister, Chris Yaluma, cited as saying: ‘I can disclose that my ministry has received bids from over five telecom operators who have expressed interest in setting up a business in Zambia. Among them is Vodacom of South Africa.’ The identities of the other would-be bidders were not disclosed.

    Yaluma meanwhile has confirmed that no decision has been made regarding the award of the concession, and has noted that other parties can still register their interest. However, before it can issue a new concession the Zambian government still needs to carry out a number of legal actions with a view to revoking existing regulations that block the introduction of a fourth mobile operator. Nonetheless, the minister has said that, once such matters have been resolved, the country could see the award of the licence and launch of a new cellco before the end of 2013.

  • State prosecutors here are on the verge of reaching a conclusion for the sale of the Atlantic Wireless Incorporated or Libercell GSM for its indebtedness to the government of Liberia in the tune of US$734,963.20, pending outcome of discussions expected to be held with Tax Court Judge Eva Mappy Morgan at the end of this week at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.

    In a phone interview Tuesday with this paper, Finance Ministry's Counselor Powell Duan said, "We are intending to sell Libercell [for] $1m because of default.

    The Tax Court gave the[company] 15 days to pay the debt, but Libercell failed; so the only option is to sell the company. " Cllr Powell however said the decision will be made based on what comes out of the discussion with Judge Mappy.

    Earlier in December 2012, the Supreme Court of Liberia mandated Tax Court Judge Eva Mappy Morgan to resume jurisdiction over Libercell GSM tax arrears trial, about three months after the high court placed stay order on the Tax Court's decision to close down the company for failure to pay by stipulation US$1,469,926.40 tax owed the government.

    But acting upon the Supreme Court's mandate on Wednesday, December 5, 2012, Tax Court Judge Morgan ordered Libercell GSM to pay a total of US$734,963.20 along with clerk fees from the day of the ruling to 22 December, 2012.

    The judgement showing lower amount indicates that the company might have made initial payment as per the six stipulations put at US$187,740.80 each from 30 June through 30 November, 2012 prior to the ruling on December 5.

    The lower court closed down Libercell GSM on Monday, July 30 last year on grounds that the company failed to comply with payment stipulations reached before the Tax Court despite repeated warnings.

    Immediately after it was shut down, the company petitioned the Supreme Court of Liberia for a writ of certiorari (for the higher court to review the decision of a lower court), prompting the high court to stay the Tax Court's closure order and returned the company's operations to normal, pending the outcome of the review.

    However, in a mandate issued to the Tax Court dated November 30, 2012, Associate Justice presiding in chambers Phillip A.Z. Banks ordered that the lower court should resume jurisdiction over the case and proceed as per the directive of "his predecessor to the effect that only the clerk's fees are imposed on the petitioner" [Libercell].

    The Associate Justice further mandated that the trial court ensure payment as per the stipulation of the parties which was endorsed by the court. Atlantic Wireless Incorporated or Libercell GSM, is one of the oldest GSM companies in Liberia, but has largely confined its services to selective members of the business community, mainly Lebanese and Indian merchants, ignoring ordinary Liberians.

  • A Nigerian opposition party has condemned a government scheme to give 10 million mobile phones for free to farmers. All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) General Secretary Tijani Tumsa said the plan was a "mischievous vote-catching exercise" for the 2015 elections.

    Last week, the agriculture minister said the phones would help farmers "drive an agriculture revolution". Akinwumi Adesina said their purchase would be financed through a tax. He denied reports that the government had already set aside $400m (£249m) to buy the phones.

    Tumsa told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme the scheme was a ploy by the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) to "connect" with voters in rural areas in the build-up to elections. He said he doubted the plan would boost the farming sector.

    "You are just creating business for the telecom companies. You are not impacting on agricultural production in Nigeria, unless the purpose is to have more phone coverage," Mr Tumsa added.

    Defending the scheme, Adesina said Nigeria had the highest number of mobile phones in Africa - an estimated 110 million - but many Nigerians in rural areas did not have them. "Our goal is to empower every farmer. No farmer will be left behind," Mr Adesina said in a statement.

    "We will reach them in their local languages and use mobile phones to trigger an information revolution which will drive an agricultural revolution." He said five million of the 10 million phones would be given to women. A government agency, the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), would help finance the scheme through a tax, he said.

    "We intend to work with existing mobile operators in Nigeria through a public-private partnership," Adesina said. "Agriculture today is more knowledge-intensive and we will modernize the sector, and get younger entrepreneurs into the sector, and we will arm them with modern information systems."

  • Chip giant Intel is intending to plunge deeper into low-end smartphone manufacturing, with HumanIPO learning that it is set to launch a low-cost phone in Kenya in the coming weeks.

    The smartphone brand, yet to be announced, is expected to resemble to one the company launched in India late last year known as Xolo -- Intel’s first smartphone operating on Android platform and with an atom-based processor.

    VentureBeat early this week reported from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that Intel is ready to go into mobile manufacturing. Already, the chip-maker has entered into the mobile phone market by launching a smartphone platform known as Lexington that can handle full high-definition video encoding and decoding.

    Lexington also features dual-SIM card capability and a wireless display technology transfer video from the phone to the big screen television. Intel also hopes to push into tablet processor manufacturing, currently a huge hit in the IT space.

    The company is yet to make the launch of the low-cost smartphone in Kenya official and is said to be keeping it a “secret affair”.

  • Communication service company, Mainone cable has hinted on building a high standard Data centre in Nigeria which could accommodate 600 racks by the end of 2013. The data center which is expected to be fully operational by 2014 will host data from telecoms operators and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who till now have been hosting their data from outside the country.

    According to MainOne CEO, Funke Opeke, “the Data Centre will boost infrastructure in the country.” She added that the data centre would have full capacity to host large and small volume of sensitive data from small and big organisations.

    MainOne’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Babatunde Dada, collaborated that the data centre would be a physical data centre that would serve Nigerians in a very special way.

    Meanwhile, Opeke, one of the top female voices in African tech, advocated that there is need for a data center to be built in Nigeria as data centre established in Nigeria, would have enough bandwidth to host large volumes of sensitive data from various organisations.

    “Those organisations that are hosting their data outside the country should begin to make adequate arrangement to re-route their data to Nigeria and get them securely hosted in our planned new data centre for Nigeria,” Opeke said.

  • Authored by managers at ethio telecom, the federal government may soon write a bill that will force developers of buildings to avail rooftops for the erection of wireless network antennas, says a report in Addis Fortune.

    If legislated, the bill will also compel the state owned telecom monopoly to pay building owners for the service they provide; a source with knowledge to the plan, told Fortune.

    This comes following severe complaints from mobile users of repeated call interruptions, frequent drops and poor quality of sound during conversation. ethio telecom has 20.3 million subscribers of mobile telephony, with nearly 65pc living in the capital, according to data released on December 30, 2012. Experts at ethio telecom blame high-rise buildings in Addis Abeba for the obstruction of network. Hailemariam Desalegn, prime minister, told MPs in October, 2012, during his first address, after appointed premier, that high-rise buildings are causing network problem.

    "The current telecom poles erected on the ground are almost becoming useless," Abdurahim Ahmed, head of public relations department, told Fortune. "Some are completely blocked by the buildings."

    ethio telecom has identified around 217 locations in the capital where such problems are highly visible. Of these, buildings in 82 locations are identified to have caused serious problem, including structures in Piazza, Bole, La Gare and Addis Ketema areas.

  • Safaricom Limited has suspended an additional 400, 000 unregistered lines in the 2nd phase of the deactivation exercise. This brings to 1.2 million the total number of lines disconnected so far in the exercise to comply with a government directive requiring the mandatory registration of all SIM cards operating within the country. Safaricom has in the last 9 days alone registered more than half a million lines making 87% of its subscriber base compliant.

    Company CEO Bob Collymore said, "We invested over Kshs 100 million in publicity and awareness about SIM registration. This has contributed to our network having the highest percentage of compliant subscriber base."

    Safaricom is conducting the de-activation exercise in phase to allow for the manual entry of data from subscribers and to also process the backlog from last minute registrations. The firm has advised affected subscribers to visit Safaricom shops and authorised dealer outlets to start the process of reinstatement.

internet

  • With 49 e-service portals under seven Ministries now functional, the Ethiopian government is making progress in its e-government strategy.

    Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Debretsion G.Michael, says (ICT) is an essential tool for electronic government of nations across the globe. He says the Ethiopian government is progressively working towards full IT-enabled government service delivery.

    New online services provided by the government allow citizens to request public services by filling out electronic forms and attach scanned versions of all necessary supporting documents from anywhere, at any time.

    They can also track the status of their requests using unique service request tracking numbers; arrange appointments with the service providing government organizations when physical presence is required; get periodic notifications through email and SMS; and provide their feedback for future improvements.

  • The Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) & Meninx Technologies Data Centre (MXT) announced a public-private partnership which aims at:

    - The strengthening and the active participation in IPv6 deployment in Tunisia. In fact, ATI as the Internet exchange point of Tunisia (TunIXP) and Meninx Technologies, as a designer and operator of First Private Data Centre, will work to ensure better IPv6 addressing of the Tunisian websites to be hosted in the new Meninx Data Center located in Enfidha.

    - The adhesion of MXT - identified by “AS 37504” assigned by Afrinic (www.afrinic.net) - as a new member of the Tunisian internet exchange platform – TunIXP-  of the ATI

    - The hosting in Meninx Data Centre of a secondary copy of the Tunisian DNS to improve the provision of applications and websites secure hosting in Tunisia with guaranteed performance and high availability.
     
    The ATI and Meninx Data Centre aim, through this partnership, at making Tunisia a crossroads of trade between operators, and all stakeholders in Cloud information and communication technologies in general.

  • The Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement System (GIPSS) is to introduce an Internet-powered payment system that will link some local financial service providers with their counterparts in Nigeria and Francophone West African countries.

    The move is to help ease the challenges associated with inter-country trading between the countries involved. Once introduced, traders will be spared the ordeal of carrying cash and, or converting it for the purposes of trading in Francophone countries.

    The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GHIPSS, Archie Hesse, said traders would only carry with them the needed point of sale (POS) devices to withdraw  cash and make the needed payments.

    According to him, the products, which are expected in the first quarter of 2013, are two of three services to be launched by GHIPSS this year. Hesse said his organisation would also add a service that would allow local shoppers the opportunity of paying for products and services through special POS devices to be introduced in that year.

    “The whole idea is to make cashless transactions very appealing to people,” Mr Hesse said in an interview with the Graphic.

    GHIPSS, a subsidiary of the Bank of Ghana, has since its inception in 2007 introduced several products and services aimed at making cashless transactions more appealing to all.

    Its flagship product, the ezwich smart card, is currently gaining ground in the country, especially among students and informal sector employees.

    GHIPSS also recently launched the GH-Link, a national interbank switching and processing system that interconnects the switches of some financial service providers to third party institutions.

    The GH-Link provides banks and other financial institutions a common platform which enables them to perform a number of interbank transactions in the most effective and efficient manner. Currently, 14 banks are on the platform and their ATMS are retrofitted to work on the platform, making it possible for their individual customers to withdraw cash from each other’s ATMs.

    Such a service was aimed at lessening the burden of cash withdrawal by the banking public, especially behind the counter transactions, while reducing people’s reliance on cash.

computing

  • Funding for Katine's computer centre runs out in a year, and it's down to local residents to come up with a sustainable plan It's lunchtime, and teenagers, some in school uniform, are huddled around a large boardroom-style table with ageing laptops in Amref's office in Katine.

    Some of the youngsters seem to be fascinated by the gadgets. Others are moving the mouse around, clicking to open a Word document, and watching in awe as a press of a finger on a keyboard forms familiar marks on the screen. Under the eye of an intern trainer, others point excitedly at webpages, their whispers barely audible against the din from the diesel generator outside.

    This is the Katine community media resource centre, one of the legacies of the four-year Katine Community Partnerships Project. When I worked here two years ago, we had five desktop computers, a couple of which were chronically unreliable. The initial idea was to use the resource centre and the internet to increase interaction between the community, Guardian readers and the rest of the world. But computer literacy proved a big challenge. My colleague, Joseph Malinga, a community reporter on the project, and I had to teach people how to use keyboards and mouses.

    Under a partnership with the technology charity U-Touch, things did seem to improve, with five laptops added. Amref, now implementing a two-year exit strategy from the project, employed a full-time trainer, Andrew Serekedde, who taught 137 people basic computer literacy. The group here consists mostly of students from the neighbouring Katine primary and secondary schools, who are quickly learning that away from the chalkboards and tattered books, the future is computerised.

    "I like it here very much; right now I am simply going to do some reading on the internet," says an excited Christopher Egonu, who is in the middle of his O-level exams. When he finishes his papers in three weeks' time, he hopes to spend a lot more time in the resource centre – to improve his computer skills.

    But what will happen to the centre in a year's time, when Amref is expected to finally pack its bags and leave the sub-county, is being debated. How will the computers be maintained? Who will hire and pay a trainer? Who will buy fuel to run a generator to power the computers?

    Amref and the sub-county authorities have taken steps to transfer ownership of the centre to the community. In August, a seven-member management committee was appointed to run its affairs. Led by John Ogalo, who made films for the Guardian's Katine website, the committee works with the sub-county's community development officer and the sub-county chief. It will be responsible for managing the centre and hiring staff.

    But officials here know this voluntary committee will need an incentive package to work sustainably. Yet the local authorities say they do not have a budget for even small tokens of appreciation.

    Moses Eroju, the elected chairman of Katine sub-county council, admits that the spirit of voluntarism is on the wane. He says one member of the committee has already resigned, citing personal reasons. The hope, he says, is that the centre will somehow raise the money to be able to offer committee members some token compensation.

    For Ogalo, the only option is to find ways of generating revenue. Ideas being considered include charging a nominal fee for computer lessons, or providing paid-for services such as a photocopying, video-conferencing and video-recording.

    "The resource centre has a very bright future; we only have to come up with sustainability strategies," Ogalo says.

    Ogalo's most pressing need is to find someone to train the community members who are increasingly embracing the resource centre. Serekedde's contract has not ended, and Amref's relationship with U-Touch appears to have soured. Because the centre has no budget for staff, two former students have returned as intern trainers. One is a diploma-holding social worker, the other a student hoping to go to university soon. They regularly volunteer at the centre. They receive no food or transport allowance, even though one lives 13km away.

    "Even our own parents are asking how long we are going to work without any form of motivation, but we are waiting with hope that the sub-county authorities will make some adjustment," says Simon Erau, 24, one of the intern trainers.
    Powerless

    The centre will remain up and running for another year through Amref funding. But it's expensive: it costs just under $100 in fuel to run the generator for a week, and about $600 for the internet every month. Without Amref, and with the sub-county providing money, Ogalo's management committee will have to work out how to meet these costs, as well as other expenses, such as the repair and maintenance of the computers.

    "It is all in the hands of the committee," says Erau. "If the committee plans, they may utilise the centre well; if they do not plan, it will fail."

    The local council chairman, Eroju, says that during last year's elections, President Yoweri Museveni promised to extend the electricity mains line through the Katine and Atirir trading centres. That would bring electricity within 100 metres of the resource centre, and although bills would still have to be paid, they would be much lower than those to run a generator.

  • The Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) is optimistic that the web-based application it is using for processing the national examinations will produce the desired results.

    The Malepa application, used for capturing candidates' registration details, examining personnel details, and payment details for various activities, started operating for the first time during the 2012 national examinations.

    The new system will see all the three levels of examinations being processed locally as all along the bulk of the BGCSE was processed by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) with BEC only capturing entry details and forwarding them to CIE for processing.

    BEC executive secretary Dr Serara Moahi due to the introduction of the new system, there has been some challenges such as the delay in the release of the 2012 PSLE results, adding that it would be the case with JCE and BGCSE results.

    She said the new system would ultimately help reduce turnaround times, streamline registration and reduced costs on postage, delivery and transport for private candidates and BEC.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Vodacom’s M-Pesa service continues to spread its wings across various sectors in the country, with the latest development being education.

    "From today, students, parents and guardians in Kipawa Vocational Education and Training Authority (VETA) in Dar es Salaam will be able to pay school fees through the service, after Vodacom entered into an M-Pesa agreement with the college, said Vodacom Head of M-Commerce, Mr Jackson Kiswaga.

    He said that VETA Kipawa is among several schools and universities that will be able to use M-Pesa to pay school fees in the country, adding that the institution is the first to start using the service.

    "We are proud of this partnership. We believe that this is yet another technological development and will go a long way in changing our lives. We also aim to reach all VETA institutions across the country," he said.

  • Zimbabwe’s largest mobile phone operator, Econet, has moved to acquire the entire shareholding in TN Bank through a share swap deal.

    The mobile operator has integrated its mobile money transfer service, EcoCash, to the bank and companies that have signed agreements to take EcoCash payments instead of cash redeem at the financial institution. The largest financial institution in the country, CBZ Holdings, is also integrated into the EcoCash system and plans are afoot to get most of the banks in the country on the platform.

    Also, about 50% of EcoCash’s 1.8 million subscribers transact through the bank, which Econet acquired as part of a strategy to grow the subscriber base of the mobile money transfer service.

    Econet already holds 45% of TN Bank, which is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, and wants to acquire the remaining shares through the share swap of one Econet ordinary share for every 28,79 bank shares.

    Alternatively, TN Bank shareholders can get US15,91c for each TN Bank ordinary share held. The price is about half the listing price of US32,08c in June last year.

    The minority shareholders, with a combined 30,46 percent shareholding, have indicated they would accept the offer.

    TN Bank founder Tawanda Nyambirayi said he had already accepted Econet’soffer of shares, which will make him a minority shareholder in the telecoms company which he served as chairman from 2003 until his resignation last December.

    “The transaction has no material effect on the earnings per share and net interests value of TN Bank Limited,” said Econet in a circular to shareholders.

    “EWZ will pay for the TN shares using Econet Wireless Zimbabwe shares in its treasury stock and there will be no issue of new shares. The transaction will have no material effect on the earnings per share and net assets of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe.”

    Econet said apart from approvals from the shareholders, it had made an application to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to approve the company holding of up to 100 percent of TN Bank.

    TN Bank will also delist from the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, where Econet is also listed.

  • Proposals for a tax on new mobile voice connections could net the Egyptian government around EGP750 million (USD115 million) per year, the Egypt Independent notes, citing executive director of the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA), Amr Badawy.

    With the taxes currently being discussed with a view to generating public support for such a move, Badawy noted that he expects around 30 million new mobile accesses will be connected in the first year following the implementation of the tax, with this figure in part a result of fixed line incumbent Telecom Egypt looking set to gain its own mobile voice concession.

    Alongside the new mobile tax, the report also notes that there are plans to increase the percentage of profits that mobile operators are required to pay to the state; it is understood that under the proposals cellcos will be required to pay an extra 3% of their profits to the government, increasing the total from 15% to 18%.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Vodafone customers and Facebook enthusiasts have a reason to smile, as Ghana’s most respected Telco, Vodafone Ghana, is offering free browsing on Facebook for existing customers on their Streamer internet bundle.

    Unlike any other offer in Ghana, Vodafone’s free Facebook browsing gives internet users full access to Facebook to upload and download pictures, chat and share information at no extra cost.

    “Every single second of the day, millions of people are connecting on Facebook; that is why we are empowering our customers and every Ghanaian to stay connected to the people that matter to them most, without worrying about costs. We believe this offer will undoubtedly excite our mobile internet users, especially the youth, who spend a considerable amount of time interacting with their friends.’ noted Tara Squire, Head of Consumer marketing at Vodafone Ghana.

    Vodafone customers can access information on the Streamer internet bundle and other unmatched Vodafone mobile internet bundles by dialing *700# from their handset.

Digital Content

  • Mobile phone text messaging does not considerably enhance HIV/AIDS patients' adherence to treatment, a study conducted in Cameroon reveals. The study, which was published in PLoS ONE last month (6 December), found that the use of weekly motivational text messages did little to increase the number of patients sticking to antiretroviral treatment (ART).

    "Our study did not find a significant effect from motivational SMS texts on improving adherence to antiretroviral treatment over a six-month period," says lead author of the study Lawrence Mbuagbaw, researcher at the Yaoundé Central Hospital's Centre for the Development of Best Practices in Health and at Canada's McMaster University.

    The findings undermine the case for using mobile phones to help improve healthcare in resource-stricken settings. They also contradict the conclusions of similar studies, such as in South Africa and the Kenyan WelTel trial that endorsed text message reminders as ART adherence boosters.

    The trial sought to establish the effectiveness of using mobile phones to improve adherence to ART treatment, which can be undermined by stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and the cost of treatment in resource-constrained Cameroon.

    In November and December 2010, the researchers enrolled 200 participants for the study from Cameroon's largest HIV/AIDS accredited treatment centre, which is in the capital, Yaoundé. Participants had to be 21 or older and have been receiving ART for at least one month.

    They were randomly split into two groups. Those in the intervention group received weekly motivational texts reminding them to take their medication as well as their usual care, including occasional home visits and ART counselling. Control group subjects were not sent the text message reminders.

    Adherence was measured using a visual analogue scale - an instrument that measures a characteristic or attitude across a spectrum from none to extreme and can be used in questionnaires- the number of missed doses and pharmacy prescription refill data.

    Most study participants did not adhere to treatment and even those who got message reminders did not have considerably higher adherence rates.

    Cameroon's Ministry of Public Health says the country had a HIV prevalence rate of 4.3 per cent in 2011 according to a health demographic survey conducted annually and down from 5.5 percent in 2004

    "We're providing antiretroviral drugs to 120,000 patients and intend on increasing coverage to 150,000 next year. Such trials help us determine how to best boost treatment reliability," says public health minister Andre Mama Fouda.

  • The country's litany of technology issues might not be featured directly on most of Kenya's presidential candidates' promises but tech will indeed play a big role in the upcoming 2013 elections.

    Technology might not be a major issue in the country compared to other major challenges but Google use it to help Kenyans track elections' information through a hub. It employed the use of Fusion Tables among other Application Programming Interface (APIs) to ensure transparency and easy access of this information.

    Speaking during the launch of the Kenya Elections Hub at the Sarova Stanley Hotel in Nairobi, Ory Okolloh, Google's Policy Manager for Africa said that the organization's role is to organize elections information and not to provide an opinion.

    The hub provides voters, journalists and campaigns an easy track of news, trends information related to the elections. With so many constitutional changes including new boundaries, new elective seats, and a new voter registration, it is more important than ever to help keep Kenyans informed about the elective process.

    She mentioned that Google has previously engaged in such undertaking for Ghana and Senegal and the intention is to empower voters so that they are not simply watching from afar, but participating in, engaging with and shaping the political process in a democratic way, through platforms like YouTube, Google Maps and Google+.

    "For instance, we had an experience in Ghana where candidates were captured on YouTube promising what they are going to deliver to the people when elected", says Okolloh. The hub will display how Kenyan politicians are using social media platforms during the election period.

    The Internet is playing increasingly an important role in transforming the way citizens participate and engage in the elections across Africa. Now its Kenya's turn, and expectations are high both for a peaceful transition and a deepening of democracy under the new constitution. Voters are already turning to the internet for information: according to Google Zeitgeist, the IEBC (Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission) was the top trending search in Kenya in 2012, and all the major candidates have a strong presence across the various social media outlets.

  • As Kenyans gear up for the presidential elections in less than 90 days, technology is proving to be a friend and foe to the many politicians embroiled in political musical chairs by changing alliances faster than ordinary Kenyans can comprehend.

    It started with establishing a presence online for the presidential contenders. Indeed many were caught flat footed when statistics available on Social Bakers website revealed that Kenya has more than 2 million registered users on Facebook alone. Many Kenyans are now using the internet for entertainment as well as for alternative news and information.

    The race thus began and many presidential contenders started opening Facebook and Twitter accounts, with no strategy or understanding of how to effectively use new media.

    The Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in collaboration with the Registrar of Political parties published lists of party members registered in each political party on the IEBC website complete with a page where Kenyans could query the database of registered members for each political party.

    It has now emerged that many political parties stole National Identification details of unsuspecting Kenyans and went ahead to register them as their party members. This was in a bid for them to meet the mandatory number of registered members per county before the given deadline.

    News of this fraud broke on Twitter on Thursday 3 January, 2013 when Larry Madowo, a journalist working with one of Kenya’s leading media houses Nation Media Group tweeted that he had been illegally registered as a party member. Larry, a victim of this fraud by The National Alliance Party (TNA) whose presidential candidate is the son of Kenya’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta confronted Uhuru Kenyatta on Twitter seeking an explanation.

  • A year ago plans to connect Rwandan hospitals through telemedicine - the use of telecommunication and information technologies to provide distant clinical healthcare - were announced.

    According to the plan, district hospitals across the country would start using the technology to treat patients without doctors necessarily meeting them physically. The technology, which helps improve access to medical services that would otherwise not be available especially in rural areas, was expected to link the health facilities across the country, with the national referral hospitals.

    A study, a copy of which was availed to The New Times last year, was conducted in Butare between October 31 and November 14, 2011 and focused on technical and organisational feasibility of the project.

    Following the study, which proved that the project can be practicable, a pilot study was set to be conducted for a period of three months starting on February 1, 2012 after which it was set to be extended to other district hospitals.

    But almost 12 months after the project was announced, it is yet to start operating.

    The project, Dr Richard Gakuba, the coordinator of E-Health in the Ministry of Health, says was delayed by the lack of the required infrastructure to support it.

    "The fibre-optic network was not working properly in some districts," Dr Gakuba told The New Times in an interview.

    High-speed broadband network is needed for a stable internet connection which is necessary for the project to take place.

    But, Gakuba then hastened to add that now that the issue of internet seems to be resolved after the fibre-optic network became operational in some parts of the country, the project is set to start 'soon' in some district hospitals.

    "We have installed all required infrastructure in some hospitals and they are inter- connected," he stated.

    According to Gakuba, the first hospitals to benefit from the project will be district hospitals offering practical training to students pursuing medical studies at higher learning institutions.

    However, this would be possible only if all the hospitals are connected to the national fibre-optic network.

    So far, only 22 hospitals-which is about a half of all district hospitals across the country- have access to the high-speed internet connectivity, Gakuba said.

  • Following a successful pilot project in December 2012, students at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) will be able to access academic and financial information on their mobile devices through ITS Mobiles' new app. It will be the first institution to go live on the application in South Africa.

    The app provides students with access to their university data from a variety of mobile platforms, including tablets, smartphones and other cellphones. It gives 24/7 on demand access to available academic, financial and residential information to students, including exam timetable information, exam results, registration information, admission status, financial statements and financial aid information.

    "The application was thoroughly tested by a team of seven TUT staff members from the enrolment and residence department, assessment management department, student debtors department and financial aid department who will be making use of the system extensively," says Jeanette Moloya from TUT. "These divisions are all happy that the system is now ready to go live to the wider student community."

    "Most students have access to these technologies and ITS Mobile makes use of mediums of communication that will appeal to students. It is also much faster than the postal system, making it an efficient and reliable way for students to access their information. We are looking forward to a successful university wide launch and experiencing the benefits of the application as time goes on."

    "ITS has partnered with two well-known companies with specific expertise in the area of mobile applications in order to bring this offering to market quickly," says ITS's MD, Derick Jordaan. CampusEAI Consortium has developed the ITS Mobile apps that smartphone and tablet users, including Android, Apple and Blackberry users, will be able to download in order to access their student data remotely. CampusEAI has developed similar applications for the tertiary sector internationally. Listed company FoneWorx is supplying the mobi technology enabling non-smartphone users access to their student data.

    This fits well with TUT's BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) strategy, whereby both students and staff are encouraged to use their own mobile devices to conduct research, online learning, access information and browse internet through using the university's ICT infrastructure such as wi-fi access across the university's network and through broadband access provided by the university. This will significantly contribute to its success in meeting its corporate strategic objectives.

    "We are very excited to be part of this project. It aims to make life easier for all our students. With this technological application we hope to reduce and finally eliminate the long queues for enquiries at the university," concludes deputy vice chancellor Isaac Tlhabadira.

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!

    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:

Issue no 637 11th January 2013

node ref id: 26817

Top story

  • It’s the morning of 1 January, 2018 and Africa is waking up to the New Year. All across the continent, Africans are thinking about what’s changed for them over the past year and what they’d like to see in the coming year. Russell Southwood engages in a piece of imaginative speculation about the different kind of Africa that might emerge.

    Christmas and the turn of the year are the time when everyone in the tech sector makes predictions. This gadget or app will succeed and this or that trend will become popular: we’re not immune to this ourselves. However, isolated tech trend spotting somehow fails to capture a bigger picture.

    What follows is a fictional attempt to try and imagine some of the changes that will happen over the next five years and the how these will inter-relate with technology. Some people live technology but most of us live our lives and technology contributes to them.

    Nairobi: Gitonga looks out the grimy office window in his incubator space at the slow-moving traffic before leaping from his chair and executing a triumphal dance. He’s just got off the phone from a US company who’ve accepted his software concept and want to sign contracts shortly. There are the details but there are always the details.

    He twitches his phone into life and by habit checks the daily headlines and stories. There’s an election coming soon and the most popular candidate is from what’s being dubbed the digital generation. His age? 45, not the usual geriatric dinosaur. His wife complains there’s no women candidates who have a chance but give it time, he says to her, things are changing.

    There’s another headline about a Chinese hi-tech firm opening its first research facility in the slowly emerging Konza Techno City. He wonders at the constant arguments and allegations of corruption that have beset its construction. He’s pleased that the local city councillors finally seem to understand that they now have a problem with the city centre where is incubator space is based. One Green-tinged Councillor is talking of planting trees along the main avenues and forcing owners to maintain their property frontages but it needs more than that.

    He has a meeting across town and wonders to himself whether it would make better sense to take the train or the car. The train still doesn’t have enough stops so he had to complete the journey on foot, something that would please his wife who often comments on his growing waistline. Gym time always seems to drop off the schedule.

    The city’s changed so much in the last five years, it’s hard to keep track of it. All the Chinese built roads have improved the flow of traffic but the number of cars seems to grow relentlessly. The old tenement buildings across the city are slowly being torn down and being replaced with tenements that have slightly larger rooms. But the tenants are already sub-dividing them to generate themselves some more income.

    The slums like Kibera have become cities in themselves: there’s a local politician from Kibera who has grown his own small media empire with a radio station and a mobile newspaper. A local developer is sell kit-built shacks that are somewhat more robust than those you might build yourself and they’ve got a built-in wi-fi receiver.

    David takes the train and although it’s late, he uses the time to scan his content device. He’s always slightly amazed to realize how full it’s become and flicks the screen to pull up the journey’s soundtrack. He reads a local thriller writer whose central character Kimunya is a policeman of ambiguous moral compass who manages to solve high-profile murders, whilst avoiding the political wrath of his boss. He’ll leave watching the Kenyan movie he started until his return journey.

    Soldiers keep getting on the train as there is a training camp at the end of the line. His brother is in the army far away in Task Force Elephant on a confidential assignment somewhere in the badlands. He runs a local counter-terrorism task force for an un-named country, having got his spurs when the war in Somalia wound down.

    His wife has started work two hours ago as an administrator in a large health clinic. She knows that although the electricity supply has improved over the last several years that unless she gets all the appointments in place before 11am, there’s likely to be a power surge that will knock out all their computers. Luckily, they have a back-up with a local data centre but re-instating the system will take several precious hours from their technician.

    These days the clinic seems to be getting more and more crowded and with more people getting jobs, more and more of them are buying “mobile pocket” health insurance. They’re not polite as in the old days: everybody wants more and they want it now. She worries for her two children who they’ve got in secondary school. She checks in with her maid by video-phone (which doubles as a security check) to ensure that she’ll be there when the boys get back.

    Every evening she settles them down to the virtual tutor and the edutainment games that help them understand their school homework and projects . It seems so unfair not to let them watch the TV but you have to draw a line somewhere…One of them’s so bright and hardworking but the other one is a day-dreamer and keeps talking about dressing Zepp-style. If only she could make sense of what he talked about: you can’t blame the Internet for everything.

    Meanwhile in Lagos: Abi knows that she’s not going to make her first meeting of the day. As a fashion designer, she was trying to meet the wife of a rich client who wanted to see her latest collection and might order. But she’s not worried because using a brilliant local app called “I’m on my way”, they agreed they will meet at a different time. Why’s she late? Partly because her boyfriend took so long getting out of the house (who said women use the bathroom longest?) and partly because one of the bridges is closed for an accident.

    It’s hard to know whether an accident is euphemism for another bomb. Ever since the peace agreement with Boko Haram that was signed two years ago, endless splinter groups have been trying to get everyone’s attention. But bombs were really only the half of it. There seems to be a bitter hate campaign being waged on SMS against Christians in the north that occasionally ends in murder.

    Abi marvels constantly at her ability to get anything done in this city. It has improved enormously but something always seems to be going wrong. Despite this stop-start progress, she’s amazed that she can now send her designs across town to be made up. She has a runway collection where individual items are put together in 72 hours and a retail collection that sells well in the country’s 100+ malls. But if she didn’t have online sales she doesn’t where she’d be.

    Her boyfriend works in the Future City department of Lagos State Government and as far as she can make out, he seems like a high paid “step-and-fetch-it” for his boss who’s rarely “on seat”. Her boyfriend’s ambitious but she worries whether he’s sincere.

    The boss is driving the Future City Lagos programme, which includes an expanding Media City and a financial quarter on VI designed by internationally famous African architect. The less fancy end of all this activity is a network of rather grubby incubator units on the mainland to help young people start businesses. Oh, and five new markets to help try and coral street traders off the main routes of the city.

    One of her girlfriends is pressing her to go and see the latest Nollywood movie by a director who’s been asked to Hollywood to direct a Nigerian Western. Things Nigerian are becoming so fashionable globally: it makes sense if you look at all those skinny white boys who seem to have less and less work than they used to. She keeps dreaming that one day some big fashion house will ring but she knows it’s only a dream.

    Meanwhile her boyfriend Tunde in the Future City department has a different problem. An international investor is visiting and looking at putting in a large data centre. He’s been courting him for a long time and has been showing him around the more forgiving parts of VI and the near mainland, But you have to let them off the leash sometime. The man was flying to Abuja to see the Government and you only have to turn your head and some lowly employee of the regional airline asked him for “dash” in order for him to get on the plane in time. Now he’s complaining…

    Lagos is like the fly. If it stopped to think about how it was flying, it wouldn’t. So Tunde has to try and make the best hand he can of the erratic power, the endless jams that the light railway has made little impact on and the endless complaining. Things getting better, only seems to make people want more. Only the other day, three stockbroker friends of his with nice apartments in Lekki were asking when proper roads were going to be built to the doorsteps of their complexes. Whatever next?

    What do you think the future will look like in five years time in your country? What will change most? What role will technology play in those changes? Send your ideas, responses and reactions to: info@balancingact-africa.com

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

    To understand the burgeoning world of African mobile content platforms, the video clip interviews below summarise some of the main players:

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

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

    Mark Shoebridge, biNu on its 0.5 million mobile phone book readers, 42% of whom are in Nigeria – Who says Africans don’t read?

    Emma Kaye, Bozza on an African mobile platform to make music and films – the platform for local self-generated content

    Chike Maduegbuna on Afrinolly, a new film and music mobile platform – 1.5 million downloads and counting

    Jesse Oguntimehin on the beta phase launch of African mobile music platform Spinlet – available on low-end phones in 2013

    Pierre van der Hoven, Tuluntulu
    on a low cost bandwidth streaming solution for mobile

    Things you need to keep ahead of in 2013:

    When the digital divide becomes the power divide - Jonathan Berman, Fieldstone on Africa's energy deficit and ways to overcome it

    Andrew Dent, Faberdashery on what 3D printing is, how it can change what is made and its uses in developing countries

    Leonard Ah Kun from South Africa’s Cobi Interactive on augmented reality, Leap Motion and Google glasses – creating a large screen out of a small screen

telecoms

  • With local management having recently resumed control of Ethio Telecom after the conclusion of a management contract with France Telecom-Orange (FT-Orange), details of the telco’s new network management strategy have emerged.

    Local news portal Addis Fortune reports that the country’s monopoly telecoms provider is to divide the country into eleven infrastructure zones with a view to better managing its network in each area. With the move also expected to help simplify the procedure for procuring new equipment, such plans come amid continued complaints by subscribers of quality issues regarding the network.

    It is understood that these ‘circles’ will be created using a number of different parameters, including demography, customer base and geographical location, with the new system expected to allow only one vendor within each circle. Such a plan, Ethio Telecom has suggested, will allow it to ensure better operational management, while enabling it to improve maintenance times when there are network issues.

    Further, these new zoning plans are also expected to assist the government with regard to the division of work between Chinese vendors ZTE and Huawei, both of which are negotiating with the state regarding plans to bolster Ethio Telecom’s infrastructure. Ethio Telecom has proposed a two-year project aimed at expanding the network, with a view to doubling the number of mobile users in the country by 2014/15.

    Bruno Duthoit, CEO of Ethio Telecom, has admitted that there are issues regarding network quality that need resolving, noting that increased subscriber numbers and traffic were the main reasons for the problems. It was noted that the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) had conducted a performance evaluation just prior to the end of FT-Orange’s management contract, in which it was awarded a score of 83%. In the evaluation it reportedly scored well in service coverage and penetration, but less impressively in service quality, which had yet to reach a satisfactory level. Mr Duthoit has pledged to fix such issues within the next six months.

    In separate but related news, it has also been reported by the Addis Fortune that the government may introduce a bill which will force building developers and owners to allow Ethio Telecom to install wireless network antennas on their roofs. The development comes amid claims that the increased number of high-rise buildings in the capital are partly responsible for quality issues with the telco’s mobile infrastructure, with Abdurahim Ahmed, head of public relations department at Ethio Telecom, cited as saying: ‘The current telecom poles erected on the ground are almost becoming useless … Some are completely blocked by the buildings.’ It is understood the telco has identified some 217 locations in the capital where such problems exist, with building in 82 locations said to be the cause of serious infrastructure issues.

  • A smartphone and tablet said to be the first designed by an African company have been launched. The products, designed by Congolese entrepreneur Verone Mankou, are manufactured in China.

    His company VMK's devices run Google's Android software. They will retail at $170 (£105) for the smartphone and $300 (£185) for the tablet."Only Africans can know what Africa needs," said Mr Mankou at the Tech4Africa conference in Johannesburg. "Apple is huge in the US, Samsung is huge in Asia, and we want VMK to be huge in Africa."

    Technology blog Smartplanet reports that the tablet offers wi-fi connectivity and four gigabytes of internal storage. Its name, Way-C, means "the light of the stars" in the local Lingala language.

    The smartphone has rear and forward facing cameras and a 3.5in (8.9cm) screen.

    There are plans to sell the devices across 10 other West African countries as well as Belgium, France and India. Mankou said he hoped to launch a cheaper tablet for students next year. The devices will come up against several already well-established and popular brands. Most notably, Blackberry-maker Research in Motion (RIM) has a significant presence on the continent, despite flagging sales in the western market.

    Popular too are handsets from Nokia which is working closely with Facebook to grow African's interest in both mobile communication and social networking.

    However, there is an increasing desire among African communities to support home-grown products, spurred on by fledgling technology scenes in various cities across the region.

    Attempts to be seen as African have caused some firms to be accused of dishonesty. Companies were highly criticised after they were deemed to be marketing products that were made offshore but simply branded locally.

    VMK insisted that while the product was manufactured in China for cost reasons, the design and engineering was entirely African.

    A page on the company's website stressed that statement, saying: "We are somewhat offended by the disregard of those who persist in denying the authentication of our products, despite evidence.

    "Most of those critics are either Afro-pessimistic (who argue that 'nothing good can come from Africa'), or just (future) competitors."

    The company added that unlike previous "African" smartphones and tablets, there were no products matching the VMK devices in other countries under different branding.

  • More than five companies are considering bidding for Zambia’s fourth mobile network operator licence with the country’s communication, transport, works and supply minister, Chris Yaluma, cited as saying: ‘I can disclose that my ministry has received bids from over five telecom operators who have expressed interest in setting up a business in Zambia. Among them is Vodacom of South Africa.’ The identities of the other would-be bidders were not disclosed.

    Yaluma meanwhile has confirmed that no decision has been made regarding the award of the concession, and has noted that other parties can still register their interest. However, before it can issue a new concession the Zambian government still needs to carry out a number of legal actions with a view to revoking existing regulations that block the introduction of a fourth mobile operator. Nonetheless, the minister has said that, once such matters have been resolved, the country could see the award of the licence and launch of a new cellco before the end of 2013.

  • State prosecutors here are on the verge of reaching a conclusion for the sale of the Atlantic Wireless Incorporated or Libercell GSM for its indebtedness to the government of Liberia in the tune of US$734,963.20, pending outcome of discussions expected to be held with Tax Court Judge Eva Mappy Morgan at the end of this week at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia.

    In a phone interview Tuesday with this paper, Finance Ministry's Counselor Powell Duan said, "We are intending to sell Libercell [for] $1m because of default.

    The Tax Court gave the[company] 15 days to pay the debt, but Libercell failed; so the only option is to sell the company. " Cllr Powell however said the decision will be made based on what comes out of the discussion with Judge Mappy.

    Earlier in December 2012, the Supreme Court of Liberia mandated Tax Court Judge Eva Mappy Morgan to resume jurisdiction over Libercell GSM tax arrears trial, about three months after the high court placed stay order on the Tax Court's decision to close down the company for failure to pay by stipulation US$1,469,926.40 tax owed the government.

    But acting upon the Supreme Court's mandate on Wednesday, December 5, 2012, Tax Court Judge Morgan ordered Libercell GSM to pay a total of US$734,963.20 along with clerk fees from the day of the ruling to 22 December, 2012.

    The judgement showing lower amount indicates that the company might have made initial payment as per the six stipulations put at US$187,740.80 each from 30 June through 30 November, 2012 prior to the ruling on December 5.

    The lower court closed down Libercell GSM on Monday, July 30 last year on grounds that the company failed to comply with payment stipulations reached before the Tax Court despite repeated warnings.

    Immediately after it was shut down, the company petitioned the Supreme Court of Liberia for a writ of certiorari (for the higher court to review the decision of a lower court), prompting the high court to stay the Tax Court's closure order and returned the company's operations to normal, pending the outcome of the review.

    However, in a mandate issued to the Tax Court dated November 30, 2012, Associate Justice presiding in chambers Phillip A.Z. Banks ordered that the lower court should resume jurisdiction over the case and proceed as per the directive of "his predecessor to the effect that only the clerk's fees are imposed on the petitioner" [Libercell].

    The Associate Justice further mandated that the trial court ensure payment as per the stipulation of the parties which was endorsed by the court. Atlantic Wireless Incorporated or Libercell GSM, is one of the oldest GSM companies in Liberia, but has largely confined its services to selective members of the business community, mainly Lebanese and Indian merchants, ignoring ordinary Liberians.

  • A Nigerian opposition party has condemned a government scheme to give 10 million mobile phones for free to farmers. All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) General Secretary Tijani Tumsa said the plan was a "mischievous vote-catching exercise" for the 2015 elections.

    Last week, the agriculture minister said the phones would help farmers "drive an agriculture revolution". Akinwumi Adesina said their purchase would be financed through a tax. He denied reports that the government had already set aside $400m (£249m) to buy the phones.

    Tumsa told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme the scheme was a ploy by the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) to "connect" with voters in rural areas in the build-up to elections. He said he doubted the plan would boost the farming sector.

    "You are just creating business for the telecom companies. You are not impacting on agricultural production in Nigeria, unless the purpose is to have more phone coverage," Mr Tumsa added.

    Defending the scheme, Adesina said Nigeria had the highest number of mobile phones in Africa - an estimated 110 million - but many Nigerians in rural areas did not have them. "Our goal is to empower every farmer. No farmer will be left behind," Mr Adesina said in a statement.

    "We will reach them in their local languages and use mobile phones to trigger an information revolution which will drive an agricultural revolution." He said five million of the 10 million phones would be given to women. A government agency, the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), would help finance the scheme through a tax, he said.

    "We intend to work with existing mobile operators in Nigeria through a public-private partnership," Adesina said. "Agriculture today is more knowledge-intensive and we will modernize the sector, and get younger entrepreneurs into the sector, and we will arm them with modern information systems."

  • Chip giant Intel is intending to plunge deeper into low-end smartphone manufacturing, with HumanIPO learning that it is set to launch a low-cost phone in Kenya in the coming weeks.

    The smartphone brand, yet to be announced, is expected to resemble to one the company launched in India late last year known as Xolo -- Intel’s first smartphone operating on Android platform and with an atom-based processor.

    VentureBeat early this week reported from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that Intel is ready to go into mobile manufacturing. Already, the chip-maker has entered into the mobile phone market by launching a smartphone platform known as Lexington that can handle full high-definition video encoding and decoding.

    Lexington also features dual-SIM card capability and a wireless display technology transfer video from the phone to the big screen television. Intel also hopes to push into tablet processor manufacturing, currently a huge hit in the IT space.

    The company is yet to make the launch of the low-cost smartphone in Kenya official and is said to be keeping it a “secret affair”.

  • Communication service company, Mainone cable has hinted on building a high standard Data centre in Nigeria which could accommodate 600 racks by the end of 2013. The data center which is expected to be fully operational by 2014 will host data from telecoms operators and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who till now have been hosting their data from outside the country.

    According to MainOne CEO, Funke Opeke, “the Data Centre will boost infrastructure in the country.” She added that the data centre would have full capacity to host large and small volume of sensitive data from small and big organisations.

    MainOne’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Babatunde Dada, collaborated that the data centre would be a physical data centre that would serve Nigerians in a very special way.

    Meanwhile, Opeke, one of the top female voices in African tech, advocated that there is need for a data center to be built in Nigeria as data centre established in Nigeria, would have enough bandwidth to host large volumes of sensitive data from various organisations.

    “Those organisations that are hosting their data outside the country should begin to make adequate arrangement to re-route their data to Nigeria and get them securely hosted in our planned new data centre for Nigeria,” Opeke said.

  • Authored by managers at ethio telecom, the federal government may soon write a bill that will force developers of buildings to avail rooftops for the erection of wireless network antennas, says a report in Addis Fortune.

    If legislated, the bill will also compel the state owned telecom monopoly to pay building owners for the service they provide; a source with knowledge to the plan, told Fortune.

    This comes following severe complaints from mobile users of repeated call interruptions, frequent drops and poor quality of sound during conversation. ethio telecom has 20.3 million subscribers of mobile telephony, with nearly 65pc living in the capital, according to data released on December 30, 2012. Experts at ethio telecom blame high-rise buildings in Addis Abeba for the obstruction of network. Hailemariam Desalegn, prime minister, told MPs in October, 2012, during his first address, after appointed premier, that high-rise buildings are causing network problem.

    "The current telecom poles erected on the ground are almost becoming useless," Abdurahim Ahmed, head of public relations department, told Fortune. "Some are completely blocked by the buildings."

    ethio telecom has identified around 217 locations in the capital where such problems are highly visible. Of these, buildings in 82 locations are identified to have caused serious problem, including structures in Piazza, Bole, La Gare and Addis Ketema areas.

  • Safaricom Limited has suspended an additional 400, 000 unregistered lines in the 2nd phase of the deactivation exercise. This brings to 1.2 million the total number of lines disconnected so far in the exercise to comply with a government directive requiring the mandatory registration of all SIM cards operating within the country. Safaricom has in the last 9 days alone registered more than half a million lines making 87% of its subscriber base compliant.

    Company CEO Bob Collymore said, "We invested over Kshs 100 million in publicity and awareness about SIM registration. This has contributed to our network having the highest percentage of compliant subscriber base."

    Safaricom is conducting the de-activation exercise in phase to allow for the manual entry of data from subscribers and to also process the backlog from last minute registrations. The firm has advised affected subscribers to visit Safaricom shops and authorised dealer outlets to start the process of reinstatement.

internet

  • With 49 e-service portals under seven Ministries now functional, the Ethiopian government is making progress in its e-government strategy.

    Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Debretsion G.Michael, says (ICT) is an essential tool for electronic government of nations across the globe. He says the Ethiopian government is progressively working towards full IT-enabled government service delivery.

    New online services provided by the government allow citizens to request public services by filling out electronic forms and attach scanned versions of all necessary supporting documents from anywhere, at any time.

    They can also track the status of their requests using unique service request tracking numbers; arrange appointments with the service providing government organizations when physical presence is required; get periodic notifications through email and SMS; and provide their feedback for future improvements.

  • The Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) & Meninx Technologies Data Centre (MXT) announced a public-private partnership which aims at:

    - The strengthening and the active participation in IPv6 deployment in Tunisia. In fact, ATI as the Internet exchange point of Tunisia (TunIXP) and Meninx Technologies, as a designer and operator of First Private Data Centre, will work to ensure better IPv6 addressing of the Tunisian websites to be hosted in the new Meninx Data Center located in Enfidha.

    - The adhesion of MXT - identified by “AS 37504” assigned by Afrinic (www.afrinic.net) - as a new member of the Tunisian internet exchange platform – TunIXP-  of the ATI

    - The hosting in Meninx Data Centre of a secondary copy of the Tunisian DNS to improve the provision of applications and websites secure hosting in Tunisia with guaranteed performance and high availability.
     
    The ATI and Meninx Data Centre aim, through this partnership, at making Tunisia a crossroads of trade between operators, and all stakeholders in Cloud information and communication technologies in general.

  • The Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement System (GIPSS) is to introduce an Internet-powered payment system that will link some local financial service providers with their counterparts in Nigeria and Francophone West African countries.

    The move is to help ease the challenges associated with inter-country trading between the countries involved. Once introduced, traders will be spared the ordeal of carrying cash and, or converting it for the purposes of trading in Francophone countries.

    The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GHIPSS, Archie Hesse, said traders would only carry with them the needed point of sale (POS) devices to withdraw  cash and make the needed payments.

    According to him, the products, which are expected in the first quarter of 2013, are two of three services to be launched by GHIPSS this year. Hesse said his organisation would also add a service that would allow local shoppers the opportunity of paying for products and services through special POS devices to be introduced in that year.

    “The whole idea is to make cashless transactions very appealing to people,” Mr Hesse said in an interview with the Graphic.

    GHIPSS, a subsidiary of the Bank of Ghana, has since its inception in 2007 introduced several products and services aimed at making cashless transactions more appealing to all.

    Its flagship product, the ezwich smart card, is currently gaining ground in the country, especially among students and informal sector employees.

    GHIPSS also recently launched the GH-Link, a national interbank switching and processing system that interconnects the switches of some financial service providers to third party institutions.

    The GH-Link provides banks and other financial institutions a common platform which enables them to perform a number of interbank transactions in the most effective and efficient manner. Currently, 14 banks are on the platform and their ATMS are retrofitted to work on the platform, making it possible for their individual customers to withdraw cash from each other’s ATMs.

    Such a service was aimed at lessening the burden of cash withdrawal by the banking public, especially behind the counter transactions, while reducing people’s reliance on cash.

computing

  • Funding for Katine's computer centre runs out in a year, and it's down to local residents to come up with a sustainable plan It's lunchtime, and teenagers, some in school uniform, are huddled around a large boardroom-style table with ageing laptops in Amref's office in Katine.

    Some of the youngsters seem to be fascinated by the gadgets. Others are moving the mouse around, clicking to open a Word document, and watching in awe as a press of a finger on a keyboard forms familiar marks on the screen. Under the eye of an intern trainer, others point excitedly at webpages, their whispers barely audible against the din from the diesel generator outside.

    This is the Katine community media resource centre, one of the legacies of the four-year Katine Community Partnerships Project. When I worked here two years ago, we had five desktop computers, a couple of which were chronically unreliable. The initial idea was to use the resource centre and the internet to increase interaction between the community, Guardian readers and the rest of the world. But computer literacy proved a big challenge. My colleague, Joseph Malinga, a community reporter on the project, and I had to teach people how to use keyboards and mouses.

    Under a partnership with the technology charity U-Touch, things did seem to improve, with five laptops added. Amref, now implementing a two-year exit strategy from the project, employed a full-time trainer, Andrew Serekedde, who taught 137 people basic computer literacy. The group here consists mostly of students from the neighbouring Katine primary and secondary schools, who are quickly learning that away from the chalkboards and tattered books, the future is computerised.

    "I like it here very much; right now I am simply going to do some reading on the internet," says an excited Christopher Egonu, who is in the middle of his O-level exams. When he finishes his papers in three weeks' time, he hopes to spend a lot more time in the resource centre – to improve his computer skills.

    But what will happen to the centre in a year's time, when Amref is expected to finally pack its bags and leave the sub-county, is being debated. How will the computers be maintained? Who will hire and pay a trainer? Who will buy fuel to run a generator to power the computers?

    Amref and the sub-county authorities have taken steps to transfer ownership of the centre to the community. In August, a seven-member management committee was appointed to run its affairs. Led by John Ogalo, who made films for the Guardian's Katine website, the committee works with the sub-county's community development officer and the sub-county chief. It will be responsible for managing the centre and hiring staff.

    But officials here know this voluntary committee will need an incentive package to work sustainably. Yet the local authorities say they do not have a budget for even small tokens of appreciation.

    Moses Eroju, the elected chairman of Katine sub-county council, admits that the spirit of voluntarism is on the wane. He says one member of the committee has already resigned, citing personal reasons. The hope, he says, is that the centre will somehow raise the money to be able to offer committee members some token compensation.

    For Ogalo, the only option is to find ways of generating revenue. Ideas being considered include charging a nominal fee for computer lessons, or providing paid-for services such as a photocopying, video-conferencing and video-recording.

    "The resource centre has a very bright future; we only have to come up with sustainability strategies," Ogalo says.

    Ogalo's most pressing need is to find someone to train the community members who are increasingly embracing the resource centre. Serekedde's contract has not ended, and Amref's relationship with U-Touch appears to have soured. Because the centre has no budget for staff, two former students have returned as intern trainers. One is a diploma-holding social worker, the other a student hoping to go to university soon. They regularly volunteer at the centre. They receive no food or transport allowance, even though one lives 13km away.

    "Even our own parents are asking how long we are going to work without any form of motivation, but we are waiting with hope that the sub-county authorities will make some adjustment," says Simon Erau, 24, one of the intern trainers.
    Powerless

    The centre will remain up and running for another year through Amref funding. But it's expensive: it costs just under $100 in fuel to run the generator for a week, and about $600 for the internet every month. Without Amref, and with the sub-county providing money, Ogalo's management committee will have to work out how to meet these costs, as well as other expenses, such as the repair and maintenance of the computers.

    "It is all in the hands of the committee," says Erau. "If the committee plans, they may utilise the centre well; if they do not plan, it will fail."

    The local council chairman, Eroju, says that during last year's elections, President Yoweri Museveni promised to extend the electricity mains line through the Katine and Atirir trading centres. That would bring electricity within 100 metres of the resource centre, and although bills would still have to be paid, they would be much lower than those to run a generator.

  • The Botswana Examinations Council (BEC) is optimistic that the web-based application it is using for processing the national examinations will produce the desired results.

    The Malepa application, used for capturing candidates' registration details, examining personnel details, and payment details for various activities, started operating for the first time during the 2012 national examinations.

    The new system will see all the three levels of examinations being processed locally as all along the bulk of the BGCSE was processed by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) with BEC only capturing entry details and forwarding them to CIE for processing.

    BEC executive secretary Dr Serara Moahi due to the introduction of the new system, there has been some challenges such as the delay in the release of the 2012 PSLE results, adding that it would be the case with JCE and BGCSE results.

    She said the new system would ultimately help reduce turnaround times, streamline registration and reduced costs on postage, delivery and transport for private candidates and BEC.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • Vodacom’s M-Pesa service continues to spread its wings across various sectors in the country, with the latest development being education.

    "From today, students, parents and guardians in Kipawa Vocational Education and Training Authority (VETA) in Dar es Salaam will be able to pay school fees through the service, after Vodacom entered into an M-Pesa agreement with the college, said Vodacom Head of M-Commerce, Mr Jackson Kiswaga.

    He said that VETA Kipawa is among several schools and universities that will be able to use M-Pesa to pay school fees in the country, adding that the institution is the first to start using the service.

    "We are proud of this partnership. We believe that this is yet another technological development and will go a long way in changing our lives. We also aim to reach all VETA institutions across the country," he said.

  • Zimbabwe’s largest mobile phone operator, Econet, has moved to acquire the entire shareholding in TN Bank through a share swap deal.

    The mobile operator has integrated its mobile money transfer service, EcoCash, to the bank and companies that have signed agreements to take EcoCash payments instead of cash redeem at the financial institution. The largest financial institution in the country, CBZ Holdings, is also integrated into the EcoCash system and plans are afoot to get most of the banks in the country on the platform.

    Also, about 50% of EcoCash’s 1.8 million subscribers transact through the bank, which Econet acquired as part of a strategy to grow the subscriber base of the mobile money transfer service.

    Econet already holds 45% of TN Bank, which is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, and wants to acquire the remaining shares through the share swap of one Econet ordinary share for every 28,79 bank shares.

    Alternatively, TN Bank shareholders can get US15,91c for each TN Bank ordinary share held. The price is about half the listing price of US32,08c in June last year.

    The minority shareholders, with a combined 30,46 percent shareholding, have indicated they would accept the offer.

    TN Bank founder Tawanda Nyambirayi said he had already accepted Econet’soffer of shares, which will make him a minority shareholder in the telecoms company which he served as chairman from 2003 until his resignation last December.

    “The transaction has no material effect on the earnings per share and net interests value of TN Bank Limited,” said Econet in a circular to shareholders.

    “EWZ will pay for the TN shares using Econet Wireless Zimbabwe shares in its treasury stock and there will be no issue of new shares. The transaction will have no material effect on the earnings per share and net assets of Econet Wireless Zimbabwe.”

    Econet said apart from approvals from the shareholders, it had made an application to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to approve the company holding of up to 100 percent of TN Bank.

    TN Bank will also delist from the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, where Econet is also listed.

  • Proposals for a tax on new mobile voice connections could net the Egyptian government around EGP750 million (USD115 million) per year, the Egypt Independent notes, citing executive director of the National Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (NTRA), Amr Badawy.

    With the taxes currently being discussed with a view to generating public support for such a move, Badawy noted that he expects around 30 million new mobile accesses will be connected in the first year following the implementation of the tax, with this figure in part a result of fixed line incumbent Telecom Egypt looking set to gain its own mobile voice concession.

    Alongside the new mobile tax, the report also notes that there are plans to increase the percentage of profits that mobile operators are required to pay to the state; it is understood that under the proposals cellcos will be required to pay an extra 3% of their profits to the government, increasing the total from 15% to 18%.

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • Vodafone customers and Facebook enthusiasts have a reason to smile, as Ghana’s most respected Telco, Vodafone Ghana, is offering free browsing on Facebook for existing customers on their Streamer internet bundle.

    Unlike any other offer in Ghana, Vodafone’s free Facebook browsing gives internet users full access to Facebook to upload and download pictures, chat and share information at no extra cost.

    “Every single second of the day, millions of people are connecting on Facebook; that is why we are empowering our customers and every Ghanaian to stay connected to the people that matter to them most, without worrying about costs. We believe this offer will undoubtedly excite our mobile internet users, especially the youth, who spend a considerable amount of time interacting with their friends.’ noted Tara Squire, Head of Consumer marketing at Vodafone Ghana.

    Vodafone customers can access information on the Streamer internet bundle and other unmatched Vodafone mobile internet bundles by dialing *700# from their handset.

Digital Content

  • Mobile phone text messaging does not considerably enhance HIV/AIDS patients' adherence to treatment, a study conducted in Cameroon reveals. The study, which was published in PLoS ONE last month (6 December), found that the use of weekly motivational text messages did little to increase the number of patients sticking to antiretroviral treatment (ART).

    "Our study did not find a significant effect from motivational SMS texts on improving adherence to antiretroviral treatment over a six-month period," says lead author of the study Lawrence Mbuagbaw, researcher at the Yaoundé Central Hospital's Centre for the Development of Best Practices in Health and at Canada's McMaster University.

    The findings undermine the case for using mobile phones to help improve healthcare in resource-stricken settings. They also contradict the conclusions of similar studies, such as in South Africa and the Kenyan WelTel trial that endorsed text message reminders as ART adherence boosters.

    The trial sought to establish the effectiveness of using mobile phones to improve adherence to ART treatment, which can be undermined by stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and the cost of treatment in resource-constrained Cameroon.

    In November and December 2010, the researchers enrolled 200 participants for the study from Cameroon's largest HIV/AIDS accredited treatment centre, which is in the capital, Yaoundé. Participants had to be 21 or older and have been receiving ART for at least one month.

    They were randomly split into two groups. Those in the intervention group received weekly motivational texts reminding them to take their medication as well as their usual care, including occasional home visits and ART counselling. Control group subjects were not sent the text message reminders.

    Adherence was measured using a visual analogue scale - an instrument that measures a characteristic or attitude across a spectrum from none to extreme and can be used in questionnaires- the number of missed doses and pharmacy prescription refill data.

    Most study participants did not adhere to treatment and even those who got message reminders did not have considerably higher adherence rates.

    Cameroon's Ministry of Public Health says the country had a HIV prevalence rate of 4.3 per cent in 2011 according to a health demographic survey conducted annually and down from 5.5 percent in 2004

    "We're providing antiretroviral drugs to 120,000 patients and intend on increasing coverage to 150,000 next year. Such trials help us determine how to best boost treatment reliability," says public health minister Andre Mama Fouda.

  • The country's litany of technology issues might not be featured directly on most of Kenya's presidential candidates' promises but tech will indeed play a big role in the upcoming 2013 elections.

    Technology might not be a major issue in the country compared to other major challenges but Google use it to help Kenyans track elections' information through a hub. It employed the use of Fusion Tables among other Application Programming Interface (APIs) to ensure transparency and easy access of this information.

    Speaking during the launch of the Kenya Elections Hub at the Sarova Stanley Hotel in Nairobi, Ory Okolloh, Google's Policy Manager for Africa said that the organization's role is to organize elections information and not to provide an opinion.

    The hub provides voters, journalists and campaigns an easy track of news, trends information related to the elections. With so many constitutional changes including new boundaries, new elective seats, and a new voter registration, it is more important than ever to help keep Kenyans informed about the elective process.

    She mentioned that Google has previously engaged in such undertaking for Ghana and Senegal and the intention is to empower voters so that they are not simply watching from afar, but participating in, engaging with and shaping the political process in a democratic way, through platforms like YouTube, Google Maps and Google+.

    "For instance, we had an experience in Ghana where candidates were captured on YouTube promising what they are going to deliver to the people when elected", says Okolloh. The hub will display how Kenyan politicians are using social media platforms during the election period.

    The Internet is playing increasingly an important role in transforming the way citizens participate and engage in the elections across Africa. Now its Kenya's turn, and expectations are high both for a peaceful transition and a deepening of democracy under the new constitution. Voters are already turning to the internet for information: according to Google Zeitgeist, the IEBC (Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission) was the top trending search in Kenya in 2012, and all the major candidates have a strong presence across the various social media outlets.

  • As Kenyans gear up for the presidential elections in less than 90 days, technology is proving to be a friend and foe to the many politicians embroiled in political musical chairs by changing alliances faster than ordinary Kenyans can comprehend.

    It started with establishing a presence online for the presidential contenders. Indeed many were caught flat footed when statistics available on Social Bakers website revealed that Kenya has more than 2 million registered users on Facebook alone. Many Kenyans are now using the internet for entertainment as well as for alternative news and information.

    The race thus began and many presidential contenders started opening Facebook and Twitter accounts, with no strategy or understanding of how to effectively use new media.

    The Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in collaboration with the Registrar of Political parties published lists of party members registered in each political party on the IEBC website complete with a page where Kenyans could query the database of registered members for each political party.

    It has now emerged that many political parties stole National Identification details of unsuspecting Kenyans and went ahead to register them as their party members. This was in a bid for them to meet the mandatory number of registered members per county before the given deadline.

    News of this fraud broke on Twitter on Thursday 3 January, 2013 when Larry Madowo, a journalist working with one of Kenya’s leading media houses Nation Media Group tweeted that he had been illegally registered as a party member. Larry, a victim of this fraud by The National Alliance Party (TNA) whose presidential candidate is the son of Kenya’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta confronted Uhuru Kenyatta on Twitter seeking an explanation.

  • A year ago plans to connect Rwandan hospitals through telemedicine - the use of telecommunication and information technologies to provide distant clinical healthcare - were announced.

    According to the plan, district hospitals across the country would start using the technology to treat patients without doctors necessarily meeting them physically. The technology, which helps improve access to medical services that would otherwise not be available especially in rural areas, was expected to link the health facilities across the country, with the national referral hospitals.

    A study, a copy of which was availed to The New Times last year, was conducted in Butare between October 31 and November 14, 2011 and focused on technical and organisational feasibility of the project.

    Following the study, which proved that the project can be practicable, a pilot study was set to be conducted for a period of three months starting on February 1, 2012 after which it was set to be extended to other district hospitals.

    But almost 12 months after the project was announced, it is yet to start operating.

    The project, Dr Richard Gakuba, the coordinator of E-Health in the Ministry of Health, says was delayed by the lack of the required infrastructure to support it.

    "The fibre-optic network was not working properly in some districts," Dr Gakuba told The New Times in an interview.

    High-speed broadband network is needed for a stable internet connection which is necessary for the project to take place.

    But, Gakuba then hastened to add that now that the issue of internet seems to be resolved after the fibre-optic network became operational in some parts of the country, the project is set to start 'soon' in some district hospitals.

    "We have installed all required infrastructure in some hospitals and they are inter- connected," he stated.

    According to Gakuba, the first hospitals to benefit from the project will be district hospitals offering practical training to students pursuing medical studies at higher learning institutions.

    However, this would be possible only if all the hospitals are connected to the national fibre-optic network.

    So far, only 22 hospitals-which is about a half of all district hospitals across the country- have access to the high-speed internet connectivity, Gakuba said.

  • Following a successful pilot project in December 2012, students at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) will be able to access academic and financial information on their mobile devices through ITS Mobiles' new app. It will be the first institution to go live on the application in South Africa.

    The app provides students with access to their university data from a variety of mobile platforms, including tablets, smartphones and other cellphones. It gives 24/7 on demand access to available academic, financial and residential information to students, including exam timetable information, exam results, registration information, admission status, financial statements and financial aid information.

    "The application was thoroughly tested by a team of seven TUT staff members from the enrolment and residence department, assessment management department, student debtors department and financial aid department who will be making use of the system extensively," says Jeanette Moloya from TUT. "These divisions are all happy that the system is now ready to go live to the wider student community."

    "Most students have access to these technologies and ITS Mobile makes use of mediums of communication that will appeal to students. It is also much faster than the postal system, making it an efficient and reliable way for students to access their information. We are looking forward to a successful university wide launch and experiencing the benefits of the application as time goes on."

    "ITS has partnered with two well-known companies with specific expertise in the area of mobile applications in order to bring this offering to market quickly," says ITS's MD, Derick Jordaan. CampusEAI Consortium has developed the ITS Mobile apps that smartphone and tablet users, including Android, Apple and Blackberry users, will be able to download in order to access their student data remotely. CampusEAI has developed similar applications for the tertiary sector internationally. Listed company FoneWorx is supplying the mobi technology enabling non-smartphone users access to their student data.

    This fits well with TUT's BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) strategy, whereby both students and staff are encouraged to use their own mobile devices to conduct research, online learning, access information and browse internet through using the university's ICT infrastructure such as wi-fi access across the university's network and through broadband access provided by the university. This will significantly contribute to its success in meeting its corporate strategic objectives.

    "We are very excited to be part of this project. It aims to make life easier for all our students. With this technological application we hope to reduce and finally eliminate the long queues for enquiries at the university," concludes deputy vice chancellor Isaac Tlhabadira.

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!

    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:

Issue no 636 18th December 2012

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Top story

  • Dear Readers, Clients and Advertisers

    2012 has been the year that online content and services really arrived in Africa. The combination of fast-growing social media (from the well-known international names plus the less well-known like 2Go, biNu and Eskimi) and film and music sites (most notably iROKO Partners, Buni TV and Afrinolly) have created the excitement of a different market. Voice revenues remain central to mobile operators but the current financial challenges in competitive markets and the coming challenges of data are robbing operators of past certainties.

    The launch of the France Telecom-driven ACE international cable system this week will close the current chapter in undersea cables to Africa. There are other projects being promoted to link the continent to Latin America but in the current investment climate, the odds on them being built are long.

    The new countries with international fibre – like Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone – may want to control the fall in international bandwidth prices but the road ahead is clear. Prices at volume will fall to around US$100 per meg and even below. More supply of capacity will mean lower prices because what you don’t sell today, you can’t sell tomorrow: fibre systems are time limited. Also, if you don’t reduce end-user prices for data, you won’t have a chance at a larger mass market.

    However, unlike the fibre capacity sector, satellite prices in Africa continue to defy market gravity. Despite shifts in the market that have put back into the market a great deal of supply, prices have only fallen slightly. Satellite operators and capacity resellers seem significantly happier than they were 12 months ago and there are a number of new entrants. It will be interesting to see whether the increasingly cheaper, high-end, satellite broadband offers work out for companies like Yahsat. Initial signs look promising but we’ll need to wait until later in 2013 to see.

    The new business model starts right here, right now: Everything will be data so if you look to the end of the road, the underlying business that will emerge is a data network on which all other services travel. So the question for the intelligent mobile operator is: how do you manage this transition? Currently mobile operators favor the long, slow retreat in which they “sweat” every last drop from the old model before they discard it and move on.

    However, the pace of some of these changes – particularly with the introduction of “real data” with LTE – will quicken and now is the time to anticipate changes early and lead the market rather than follow. Mobile operators elsewhere have introduced Skype services: who will be Africa’s first operator to do the same? If you don’t, your high-end smart-phone and feature phone customers will discover mobile VoIP and free SMS services via things like What’s App.

    Two MVNOs have sprouted in, of all places, Cameroon and more should follow: in maturing markets, there are plentiful niches. The business can be taken apart and towers and key parts of infrastructure leased from companies like Helios, Eaton Towers and IHS.

    Operators need to stop all the blathering about “dumb pipes” and start working out how to run a profitable data network based on mass data services. It will employ fewer people than the current mobile operators and it will facilitate market entry for services using data rather than trying to control or monopolise market entry.

    Content is not something mobile operators do: We have been too kind to mobile operators about content, writing that they have to make their minds up whether they are in or out. In truth, mobile operators have only the faintest idea about content as it becomes more complex than SMS messages. The conversation with one mobile operator about what Facebook was about was really a “road to Damascus” moment for us. You don’t get it, so please stand out the way and simply encourage others to do it.

    The content deal that gives operators 70% to 80% of the revenues is outrageous by any standards and at Africa Com it left European visitors shaking their heads. If you don’t start offering better deals to allow content to market on this media, the content operators will all start going where the Internet allows you to have unpaid access to customers. It might only offer you part of the market – smart phones and feature phones – but at least the content owner controls his or her own destiny.

    Michael Ugwu, CEO, iROKING noted at a recent event that its Nigerian users had gone from 12th to 6th by volume of views over a six month period. Its free-at-the-point of delivery model has made rapid progress, both at home and with the extensive Nigerian diaspora. Music is a whole lot easier to deliver than film in the still bandwidth-strapped Nigeria. However, paid-for services are understandably making slower progress. This is the future of content: local film and music that people want delivered to them on the device of their choice. Another content sector that has begun to grow is the games sector and we will see more of it in 2013.

    The second part of the double head-lock the mobile operators have on the development of content is their control of the payment channel. One content owner we spoke to recently described how it was collecting revenues through the mobile operator and as a result the price it was selling its content at was 20-30% higher than it should be. It’s time for the mobile operators to step back and see the bigger picture. 30% of several hundreds of thousands or millions of people buying content products is better than 70-80% of the current constrained, SMS-dominated market. Growing familiarity with m-payment systems may well lead on to users moving over time to online delivered payment services.

    The impact of the early arrival of LTE – Game-changing speeds?: The introduction of LTE by independent operator Smile Communications gives some indication of how the game will change. Up until now, African users have become accustomed to improving speed and availability but 3G and 3G+ both have a maddening ability to cut out, go slow or simply not deliver. On a data only network, Smile is delivering 6 mbps to real customers on something other than a test network using the 800 band.

    Whereas video is still in most African countries a stop-start experience as the clip buffers after a couple of minutes, LTE in Tanzania seems to deliver seamlessly and it allows businesses and individuals to have Skype video conversations and conference calling. High-bandwidth industries like advertising no longer have to wait until after hours before sending image-based material.

    Suddenly the pace at which LTE is coming over the horizon is speeding up. There are three existing market - Angola, Namibia and South Africa – and a whole rash of tests, both public and below the radar. Ethio Telecom is the latest to announce and in Nigeria there are three to four operators queueing up to offer it next year and in 2014. The greenfield, data only operators have an interesting business case and the mobile operators who have just installed 3G or 3G+ may be in some disarray when faced with pressure to upgrade in the next 12 months.

    They may not be the only ones as the most stable ISPs in the market are clustered around the corporate and high-end market, using WiMAX and the introduction of much higher speeds will challenge their “quality and service” mantra. There are upgrade paths to LTE but the bigger question as to whether they will challenge for the much larger household market has not yet been resolved.

    Although everybody in the business talks about 2015 being the year when LTE proves itself, our sense of it is that if users see what increased bandwidth means, it will start to take off much more quickly. The larger the number of users, the lower the device prices will go and for once Africa may contribute to setting the pace for this development.

    For those who still have no service: Depending on the country 20-30% of all Africans have no voice or data service. Here there has been a dual failure that surely cannot last. Regulators and universal service fund operators have gathered up revenues designed to be deployed to solve this problem and have simply failed to do so.

    Mobile operators once pushed relentlessly to the edges of their markets, not wanting their rivals to gain advantage over them. They are now much more cautious about extending beyond a tighter version of an addressable market as they seek to deliver returns in more competitive circumstances.

    So it needs to be said loud and clear that if mobile operators don’t want to go into un-serviced areas, they should facilitate the process of others delivering into those places. In Ghana, there is an operator called K-Net that uses Altobridge low cost base stations to deliver services in these areas that it then leases to operators. The technology and businesses models have now been proven in the field and will easily add at least another 10% of the population to the market.

    Taking the blockages out of the value chain: Africa’s national fibre network connections continue to expand. Liquid Telecom has connected to Lubumbashi, thus removing one town in DRC from the satellite market.

    However, there are still countries and incumbents whose prices are holding back the development of affordable Internet in Africa. Across most of eastern Africa, wholesale STM1s are now selling for between US$7-8,000. The cost in Mozambique? Well, it’s still between US$20-25,000 for an STM1. So you can see that that country won’t be joining the broadband fast-track unless it changes its ways.

    We might also add Cameroon, Angola and Chad. The latter has signed a monopoly deal with an Asian-America who is doing a lot of business in the country and he is busily matching the high prices charged by Camtel on the other side of the border. In the snakes and ladders of economic development, fall down the snake that takes you back 2-3 years.

    Ever wondered why South African Internet has yet to come down to really user-widening levels? US$15-20,000 for an STM1. And Telkom, that fading jewel that the Government wants to do something with that it will tell us what in March next year is still playing the old incumbent tricks by offering one price to international destinations from anywhere in South Africa.

    Things coming up over the horizon: With such a focus on the “near-future”, it would be easy to miss developments that will have a significant impact but that currently sound a little crazy. We nominate three things that may yet have a profound impact on the market. The first nomination is the easy one. There are now 20-30 innovation hubs (physical spaces or networks) encouraging ICT entrepreneurs from several in the noisy, self-promoting Kenyan market to BongoHive in Zambia and ActivSpaces in Cameroon. iHub in Nairobi and CC Hub in Lagos are running very interesting programmes. They are all encouraging both a particular frame of mind and some great new business ideas.

    The second nomination will certainly take longer to get adopted but it pioneers the way. Apps Lab in Uganda has been running services to farming communities at scale. It has produced a way (I almost said a model) of delivering services by mobile that may yet be the road that much of Government will travel. See clip:

    The third nomination is really out of the Left Field. 3D printing may well be able to deliver a range of products and services in the African context; some commercial, some social. Andrew Dent, Faberdashery is one of the pioneers in the UK, who has also been thinking about and looking at how 3D printing might be useful in somewhere like Africa. See clip:

    Next year we will publishing updated versions for two of our major reports: African Broadcast and Film Markets and Data and Data Centre Markets in Africa. We will also be publishing African Telecoms and Internet Markets: Part 4 - Southern Africa.

    Just under two years ago we started a Balancing Act You Tube channel to offer video interviews with key industry figures. Whilst we have interviewed a lot of really interesting people, the format of You Tube and the way it operates remains something of a frustration.

    In order to address some of these frustrations, we’ve opened a second channel and an associated web site called Smart Monkey TV. Confused? OK, going forward the industry-based video clips will be on the Balancing Act channel and the video clips with a slightly wider audience will be on the Smart Monkey TV channel. So for example, 03B’s Omar Trujillo talking about the launch of their new satellite service will be on the Balancing Act You Tube channel. But stories with a wider appeal – like online music and video platforms, interviews with content producers like film directors and ICT4D stories about using technology for social purposes – will appear on the Smart Monkey TV channel.

    This year we have carried out many different research and consultancy projects - both large and small - for a range of clients including operators, equipment vendors, investors and policy bodies. Because we operate discreetly, you may not be aware that we offer these services. If you think you have needs or requirements of this kind, talk to us about them. In what will be a year of great change, we will have both data and ideas to help you change your circumstances.

    A big thank you to all those who have helped News Update keep ahead of what was happening in 2012. Without your help, we would not have been able to bring you your weekly dose of information and new opportunities.

    News Update will return in the New Year with issue 637 on 11 January.

    All the best for 2013

    Russell Southwood
    CEO
    Balancing Act

    Isabelle Gross
    Senior Analyst
    Balancing Act

    Sylvain Beletre
    Senior Analyst
    Balancing Act

Issue no 635 14th December 2012

node ref id: 26742

Top story

  • One of Gambia’s leading corporate ISP providers Unique Solutions has bought Pure Wave’s 16e WiMAX solution to meet the up-coming demand from the opening of the ACE international cable. The latter will provide Gambia’s first international cable landing station and it will be run by a consortium of operators rather than by the incumbent telco. Russell Southwood looks at what’s happening in Gambia and at the kinds of choices open to insurgent challenger ISPs.

    The majority of Unique Solutions’ business, according to CEO Papa Njiye, is financial services customers and one of the motivations for putting in place a WiMAX network is the need for a redundant network. It will give between 90-95% national coverage through 40 base stations.

    The current network uses Motorola Canopy. For customer CPEs it will use Green Packet. The first phase of the network is 11 base stations to cover the greater Banjul area and the second phase will take place over the next couple of months. It decided not to go the LTE route for cost reasons but Pure Wave says there will be an LTE upgrade path.

    It currently has around 500 customers in the banking, energy, oil and gas sectors. According to Njiaye:”About 15-20% of our customers are home users but historically there has not been enough bandwidth to service a large number of them. We will be able to add more home clients when the cable arrives. We will also start offering USB dongles and Mi-Fi devices.”

    Currently, the CPE for a home installation is around US$150 and end-user bandwidth costs are as follows: 128 kbps ( US$42.60); 256 kbps (US$79.12) and 512 kbps ( US$120). The members of the landing station consortium who will sell the wholesale bandwidth have decided but not yet confirmed prices publicly:”We think prices should come down immediately and if that happens, you will see a price change for the end user.” 

    Current prices are between US$631-760 per meg, depending on volume, in other words six times the price found elsewhere in West Africa. Consortium members are sitting on the fence about making a major price reduction so initially it might halve prices, which would not take it anywhere near either existing West or East African prices.

    Njie believes that most will maintain existing prices for end users but increase the bandwidth offered. This has been the pattern elsewhere but within 12-18 months there are cheaper offers and the wholesale bandwidth price comes down rapidly. Unique Solutions will, once the landing station is operational, have just under 20 times as much bandwidth as it currently has. For others, it will be more like 10 times as much.

    The ACE landing station consortium is a public private partnership. On the private side of the partnership with 51% of the shares are mobile operators QCell, Africell and Comium and ISPs Unique Solutions and NetPage. On the public side with 49% are the incumbent telco Gamtel (20%), the Government owned mobile operator Gamcel (20%) and the Government (19%):”In Sierra Leone, the Government is still holding on to all the shareholding and in other countries, small operators have not had an opportunity to own a piece of the cake. The Government gave us fantastic repayment terms for the private sector’s 51% and the World Bank gave the Government a grant, not a loan.”

    Gambia has successfully secured a place for itself as the country where the overall launch of the ACE cable system will happen on 19 December 2012.

    Insurgent challenger ISPs are currently faced with some tough choices as bandwidth gets cheaper and technology changes. Most have hung on to the edge of the cliff with a customer base of corporates and high-end households. Service and reliability have been the two things they’ve been able to sell. However, last week we wrote about Smile Telecoms in Tanzania achieving actual speeds of 6 mbps with a rolled-out LTE network.

    Once customers have experienced that kind of speed level, there will be no going back. Current 3G and 3G+ speeds on mobile networks are extremely variable and not reliable enough to handle higher end services like video and video conferencing. 

    In the Gambian market, Njyie just thought it was too early:”One of the reasons we chose Pure Wave was they have a path to LTE and we were concerned about the transition. The issue for us was: who would pay for the LTE network? Our realities dictate that our customers need a reliable network and they don’t care what you call the technology.”

    However, there are already 3 LTE roll-outs in Africa (Angola, Nambia and South Africa), a number of publicly announced LTE pilots (see news sections below) and a number of LTE pilots that are still below the radar. There are spectrum issues but as with 3G and its many variants the moment one operator gets into market, the others will be forced to follow, either slowly or quickly.

    As Moataz Rafaat, Director of Sales-Africa, Green Packet observes:”LTE migration will be encouraged by the competitiveness between mobile operators. Many are doing LTE pilots.” Green Packet has around 20 African countries with WiMAX installations in the 2.3, 2.5 and 3.5 bands. “But the successful WiMAX segment is well-financed and stable enough to pursue LTE”.In terms of vendors, companies like Greenpacket will have equipment that can handle both WiMAX and LTE alongside each other:”LTE will co-exist with WiMAX and HSPA. There are two operators who will have LTE that will co-exist.”

    On the all important question of the price of end user devices for LTE, Rafaat says:”It will be disclosed at the end of the month when we launch the new products. It’s going to be more expensive than WiMAX, probably twice the price but they will come down in price over the next 2-3 years because of the mobile operator roll-out.” On this basis, the price is likely to be around US$300.

    2013 will undoubtedly be the year that LTE starts to cascade out across Africa but the big question is how quickly those device prices will come down to something more like Wi-Fi device prices? The more conservative put the timetable at two years but they probably havn’t thought what the impact will be on users of having a 6 mbps connection. When the father who is an African corporate executive has it today, there is no doubt that the son and daughter will be impatient to get it and they will want something in their home that matches or exceeds this kind of speed.

     

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

    Pierre van der Hoven, Tuluntulu on a low cost bandwidth streaming solution for mobile

    Kwabena Smith, Orun Energy on saving diesel costs on base stations

    Justin Hartman, Social Code on South Africa's ICT entrepreneurialism and the failure to support it

    Julian Macharia, Buni TV on this new online video delivery platform

    Doron Ben Sira, CEO, SkyVision on its acquisition of Afinis

    Envir Fraser, Convergence Partners on investment opportunities in ICT

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

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

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

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

    A special for Balancing Act readers:

    Alistair Hill on a major global mobile survey of English Premier League followers and viewers

    Jonathan Swindell on a survey of African business student attitudes to entrepreneurship

    Jonathan Donner, Microsoft Research, India and Marion Walton, UCT on Cape Town low income teens' use of PC and mobile Internet

    Mike Best, Georgia Tech on using interactive media with Liberia's Truth Commission

    Leonard Ah Kun from South Africa’s on augmented reality, Leap Motion and Google glasses

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

     

     

telecoms

  • Alcatel-Lucent is to help Bharti Airtel meet rapidly growing demand for mobile broadband services in its African operations by supplying advanced new IP-based networking technology to support the delivery of new mobile broadband data and video services.

    Rising smartphone ownership in Africa is driving demand for high-bandwidth mobile data services such as video calling and online gaming. To satisfy this demand and meet continued expansion, Alcatel-Lucent will evolve Airtel Africa’s data transport and mobile backhaul1 networks using its IP/MPLS (IP/Multiprotocol Label Switching) technology.

    This new backbone network will support all mobile broadband services to Airtel’s 17 affiliates across Africa – serving 60 million customers - as well as a much more robust interconnection to global networks including the UK. The single international network will offer a more simple structure to improve performance, reliability, capacity convergence and interoperable mechanisms for faster service recovery. The Airtel investment includes a common platform for Layer 2 and Layer 3 service provisioning to reduce the time of delivering the variety of service types. The result being faster internet speeds for mobile and Airtel business solutions, toll quality voice and extension of services from Airtel, ultimately leading to better customer experience and reduction in the cost of operations.

  • Teraco Data Environments, South Africa's first provider of vendor neutral data centres, has announced the launch of Africa's first vendor neutral satellite earth station. The station, which effectively positions Teraco as the most connected data centre in Africa, is due to be completed in March 2013.

    Lex van Wyk, managing director of Teraco says that this announcement has far-reaching effects for satellite service providers (SSPs), African carriers and Internet service providers with connectivity now available through fibre, wireless and satellite, this strategic offering reinforces Teraco's status as the communication hub for Southern Africa.

    A satellite earth station is a terrestrial station with multiple parabolic antennas or receivers that function as a hub connecting a satellite with a terrestrial telecommunications network. The station, named the Teraco Teleport, will provide clients' positions on which to deploy their receivers at the Isando Data Centre site.

    The teleport positions Teraco as the pre-eminent landing station of choice for the satellite service provider community. SSPs will now be able to position their receivers at Teraco Isando enabling direct access to a community of over 50 telecommunication companies without the need to incur significant capital expenditure. More importantly, SSPs now have the ability, via NAPAfrica, to distribute their services to the Teraco community without having to incur on-going last mile costs, which to date have largely restricted SSP service offerings to the broader market.

    Through NAPAfrica, Teraco clients have access to an immediately visible and continuously growing network of peers with just one peering agreement. Peering at NAPAfrica allows carriers and providers, Internet businesses and financial organisations to directly connect their Internet infrastructure through a distributed, fast, and cost-effective ethernet fabric to reduce IP-transit costs and to improve network connectivity and resilience. This move will now make satellite connectivity more affordable to South African corporates.

    As the first vendor neutral satellite station in Africa, the Teraco Teleport will enhance the Teraco open market offering whereby service providers can add collective value from the data centre environment. "Vendor neutrality is effectively a focused business model in which a provider limits its activities to a fixed set of value layers to avoid conflicts of interest with clients," says Van Wyk. 

    "The teleport will use existing and new Teraco infrastructure as well as link directly into the data centre via fibre," says Van Wyk. "We are providing access to municipal power, resilient generator power, top-class security as well as access control."

    In the Teraco environment, clients benefit from the advantages of co-location in addition to having access to all fibre and wireless points and now satellite connectivity. This allows for reduced interconnect fees, the freedom to select the best access provider and easy connections to numerous other clients housed in the data centre.

  • Vietnamese telecoms company Viettel Group has allegedly won Cameroon’s third mobile telephony licence, according to a report by Agence Ecofin which cites a statement from Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Jean-Pierre Biyiti bi Essam. 

    Last month the ministry announced that four companies had submitted a bid for the concession to establish and operate a wireless network in the country, namely: military-run Viettel; Maroc Telecom, part of the Vivendi Group; Indian telecoms group Bharti Airtel, which acquired the majority of Kuwait-based Zain’s African assets in June 2010; and Technologie et Systeme d’information/Korea Telecom. 

    According the report, Viettel Cameroon has committed to invest nearly XAF200 billion (USD394 million) in the rollout of a mobile network that will cover 81% of Cameroon’s territory from launch. Outside of its domestic market, Viettel also operates in Cambodia, Laos, Haiti and Mozambique, and holds telecoms licences in Peru and Timor-Leste.

  • Equatorial Guinea is set to expand broadband connectivity next year, when it connects its national telecoms infrastructure to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable, Biztech Africa reports. The ACE cable will be landed at Bata, Equatorial Guinea’s largest city and economic hub, where a control centre for the cable will be installed and is due to be operational by 6 December 2013. 

    Management of the cable will fall to the newly established Management and Maintenance of Telecommunication Infrastructures Organisation in Equatorial Guinea (GITGE), which was set up in July this year. Carmelo Martin Modu, secretary of state for technology and telecommunications commented: ‘Equatorial Guinea is working to expand its broadband connectivity. We believe that through our participation in the ACE project, we will continue to reduce the digital divide that exists in our country and improve our communications’ quality and reach.’

  • The Guinean operator Societe des Telecoms de Guinee (Sotelgui) has secured a USD50 million loan from the World Bank to help its restructuring, with the funds being used to recruit one consultancy to manage debt and another to advise on job cuts. 

    According to a report from Telecompaper, which cites local news source guinee7.com, the new loan agreement will enable the government of Guinea to retain control of the wireline and wireless operator. 

    The state had been looking to offload a 60% stake in Sotelgui to an international partner which could help to run the company, but it is now thought that plans for a sale have been put on hold. The Guinean government previously obtained a loan from China’s Exim bank to purchase equipment.

  • MTN Cote d’Ivoire is poised to inaugurate its long-awaited 3G network in the capital of Abidjan, Agence Ecofin reports, with plans to extend mobile broadband services to the country’s ‘top ten cities’ in due course. 

    The cellco, which was awarded a 3G licence by L’Agence des Telecommunications de Cote d’Ivoire (ATCI) in March this year, for XOF6 billion (USD11.9 million), is confident that it can attract between 100,000 and 200,000 new subscribers on a daily basis. 

    2G market leader MTN is keen to gain ground on chief rival Orange Cote d’Ivoire, which launched its 3G network in April 2012 in Abidjan, San Pedro, Bouake, Daloa and Yamoussoukro. As such, MTN has entered into dialogue with Chinese handset suppliers such as ZTE and Huawei to supply it with 3G-suitable devices in the XOF100,000 price range.

internet

  • MTN Business, a subsidiary of the MTN network, has launched a pilot project for its cloud bouquet of services that will provide a single point of contact for SMEs in Africa. MTN Cloud is targeted at SMEs in Africa to help reduce the cost of doing business by offering ICT solutions.

    MTN’s Executive for enterprise business ‚Farhad Khan‚ said the pilot project would be carried out in six of MTN’s Africa market – Cameroon‚ Cote d’Ivoire‚ Ghana‚ Nigeria‚ Uganda and South Africa.

    The new cloud service – a Cloud Service Brokerage model centralises access to services‚ where a third party‚ in this case MTN‚ acts as the single point of contact for customers.  MTN is the first mobile network operator in Africa to adopt the Cloud Service Brokerage model.

    Cloud computing refers to the use of internet to provide delivery of technology services including software and data over the Internet either from a remote location, mainly through data centres, or at the client’s premises. Among other things, the Cloud Service Brokerage model helps to ease administrative burden for companies so instead of dealing with multiple service providers‚ they deal with one.

    Speaking on the newly introduced service, Khan said, ”A particular challenge facing small and medium-sized businesses in Africa is the high cost of information technology software and hardware.This includes the licence fees. What MTN Cloud services seeks to do is enable SMEs to minimise these costs‚ and at the same time improve productivity and efficiency.”

    Khan explained that the overarching objective of MTN Cloud services was to provide customers in the selected markets with “peace of mind‚ as well as affordable business management tools at reasonable price.”

    “We want our enterprise customers to focus on running their businesses knowing that their data is kept safely and securely‚” he said.

    MTN Business has however, identified a number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in these markets to test its cloud services and product. The trial period of the cloud services starts on Thursday with selected customers and will end by the end of January next year (2013).

    Participating Companies will gain access to a variety of MTN Cloud services which  include Office Desktop, an e-mail and collaborative software, Mozypro, a back-up service for the effective management of files and servers, and Dialcom, an on-demand video conferencing offering.  MTN will also provide McAfee (a popular anti-virus and anti-spam security software) and Averiware catering for companies’ HR, accounting, finance and sales force automation needs, and Microsoft SharePoint, a staff and cross functional collaborative tool including Microsoft Dynamics CRM, a customer relations management tool.

    Users will be able to pay for MTN’s cloud offering using their airtime or MTN Mobile Money. Payment for the services will be in the local currency of the different markets.

    MTN’s introduction of cloud computing service into the market is part of its move to provide a wide range of information and communications technology services in addition to its mobile services that it is providing in the continent.

  • Google announced its annual Zeitgeist, a look at 2012 through the collective eyes of the world on the web, offering a unique perspective on the year's major events and hottest trends based on Google searches conducted in Kenya. The results gave an interesting perspective on what the trending searches were, who the most-searched personalities were, as well as which new technologies captured Kenya's imagination.

    Leading the list for overall trending Kenyan searches in 2012 was the Independent Boundaries and Electoral Commission (IEBC), as the country prepares itself for the first election under its new constitution. Wrapping up the top 5 list were the social media site Facebook, the late American singing legend Whitney Houston who passed on in February, mobile video search engine Tubidy and Euro 2012.

    Kenyans also went online to find get more information about famous personalities making the news, with politicians dominating the most searched for local personalities. They included the late veteran politicians Njenga Karume, George Saitoti and John Michuki who created legacies through their public service, Prime Minister Raila Odinga's former adviser Miguna Miguna, aspiring presidential candidate Peter Kenneth. Renowned media personality Louis Otieno as well as musician Prezzo who participated in the BBA Stargame were also among the local personalities most searched for on Google, with Olympics star David Rudisha and former Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza rounding off the list.

    When it came to the arts, Kenya's online trends revealed that art transcends boundaries. Whitney Houston topped the list, with James Ingram, Eddie Murphy, Bobby Brown, Gangnam, Michael Clarke Duncan, Bobbi Kristina, and Morgan Freeman featuring as top trending artists. Local artists, Prezzo and Camp Mulla held their ground and also made it to the list of top searched artists.

    Sporting personalities also generated a lot of Google searches, with the popular Premier league and the Olympics driving a lot of this interest. The top ten sports personalities included Robin Van Persie, David Rudisha, Mario Balotelli, Victor Wanyama, Ronaldinho, Conjestina Achieng, Michael Phelps, Ezekiel Kemboi, Podolski, and Lance Armstrong.

    The "What is" query was dominated by ethnicity and illnesses such as cancer, ebola, HIV/AIDS, typhoid, malaria, and stress. The Kenyans love for Spanish telenovelas was revealed in the Entertainment searches with Eva Luna, Triumph of Love leading while BBA Stargame, Shuga and KulaHappy gained more popularity in Kenya.

    The global Google Zeitgeist website will be launched on December 12th 2012, and will host all 838 top-ten lists from 55 countries. Visitors will be able to compare terms through interactive data visualization, check out global search trends, and watch the annual Zeitgeist video on the page http://www.google.com/zeitgeist/2012.

  • The Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) has successfully demonstrated that Nigeria could hold its general elections online real-time, just as it was done at the recent US election.

    The engineers at the weekend successfully conducted its yearly general elections online real-time through an e-voting system that was developed locally by Nigerian Engineers at Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT).

    Participants and voters monitored the elections online from their internet enabled laptops and smartphones.

    Before voting commenced, data of the members were captured electronically and biometric information taken, and at the venue of the election, the data was accessed electronically and accreditation carried out smoothly.

    It was gathered that NIGCOMSAT provided mobile internet via VSAT for connectivity to broadcast events online real-time on the NigComSat-1R satellite.

    Participants and contestants who monitored the procedures online real-time, were satisfied with the new voting system, and commended NIGCOMSAT Engineers for their ingenuity.

    The elections were conducted at the Kwara Hotels, Ilorin and transmitted live on NTA Network.

    Pleased with the online election procedures, NSE President, Mustapha Shehu Balarabe, said, "The engineers did extremely well. The innovation, which is novel, has proved that so many good things could come out of Nigeria and we engineers are pioneers in this regard of e-voting."

    He said the engineers had done what could be adopted by government in future general elections that is likely to save the country from huge capital flights.

    Balarabe called on Nigerian government to embrace electronic voting in subsequent elections, since NIGCOMSAT Engineers have proved that it could be achievable, going by the NSE election.

    Chairman, NSE Elections Committee, Charles Mbanefo, who expressed satisfaction over the successful online election, said the online real-time election, made the committee's job light because those who won and those who lost saw the transparency of the process. "It was free and fair. Even people who were not at the venue monitored the election because it was web-based and results were updated real-time on the dedicated website for the election." Mbanefo said.

    Pleased with the online voting, President, Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Dr. Chris Uwaje, said "It shows that indigenous technology is capable of meeting global competition. Now that NIGCOMSAT Limited has demonstrated this in very exemplary format, government should constitute a national e-voting committee to do something similar."

    A total number of 1,313 voters registered while 1,033 were accredited to vote.

computing

  • The management of Muslim Community Centre, Wuse, Abuja on Thursday organised a one day seminar on the dangers of cyber crime for the students and staff of Fou'ad Lababidi Islamic Academy as well as other institutions run by the centre.

    Resource persons were invited from the UNICEF, United Nations, State Security Service and the NDLEA to deliver papers on the dangers of cyber crime to the young generation and the need for the youth especially those in schools to spend less time on internet.

    Speaking at the event, the centre's governing board chairman, Senator U.K Umar, said the centre organised the seminar to sensitise the staff and the students of its schools about the numerous adverse effects of the globalisation, where technology is on its advance stage.

    Represented by Alhaji Sani Usman Nasarawa, the board chairman, said if such adverse effects are not properly guarded against, it may lead to stunning of the dreams and aspirations of a great number of young students in the society.

    Earlier, the Principal of the Fou'ad Lababidi Islamic Academy, Alhaji Ibrahim Aliyu Kperogi, appreciated the importance of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in the area of improving the cognitive development of the individuals.

    He however cautioned that a system must be put in place to cushion the effects of its usage because such usage is being abused globally on daily basis.

    In her remarks, Hajiya Rakiya Bamalli, the school's Vice Principal (Administration), assured that both the teachers and the students of the centre will make optimal use of what they learnt during the seminar.

    Some of the students spoken to, described the seminar as very educative and commended the centre for striving to give them sound education and quality moral upbringing.

  • Techno Brain, a software development company has partnered with the NetHope Academy by providing placement opportunities for fresh university graduates for a six-month program at the academy to enhance their classroom and on-the-job IT skills.

    The NetHope program launched in Kenya in March 2012 is open to students in Kenya, Rwanda, and South Africa. . NetHope Academy provides training and certification in relevant technical skills, supplemented with practical on-the-job work experience and daily mentoring and guidance.

    The program has enabled fresh graduates to earn relevant work experience becoming fully competent in the current IT sector and hence boosting their employability.

    Techno Brain is among technology partners that include the Kenya ICT Board, Accenture and the Accenture Foundations, Microsoft, Cisco, ESRI, Global VSAT Forum complementing the intern program.

    Techno Brain scouts for talent in the locations it plans to hire and conducts an assessment of the skill sets required which are then shared with the concerned personnel.

    The program enables participating graduates to transition flawlessly into a working environment upon graduation from University. Frankline Okuche Okal, an ICT graduate from Maseno University and now an intern at Techno Brain says Net Hope greatly assisted him in transitioning into a work environment due to the trainings he received while being prepared to join the IT industry.

    "I have had a wonderful transition to Techno Brain as I was already prepared to join the IT industry in various ways from Net Hope," said Okal. "I really like how people at Techno Brain work and treat each other and the cooperation from my colleagues, employee engagement activities and mostly the knowledge am getting from the trainers."

     

Telecoms, Rates, Offers and Coverage

  • South Africa’s G-Connect In-Flight Wi-Fi will be available free of charge to Mango airline passengers on all enabled flights between Durban and Johannesburg.

    The airline plans to break connectivity records during this time, and more than double its lead on the global uptake average of 8%. Mango’s G-Connect In-Flight Wi-Fi service was launched in May this year. The gratis period runs from December through to 31 January 2013.

    Mango expects to transport more than 75 000 passengers on the Durban – Johannesburg route between 11 December and 31 January 2013. “In line with our current above average uptake ratio of approximately 9-10%, our aim is to break all records with a target of more or less 20% of traveller volume on the route,” says Mango CEO Nico Bezuidenhout. Should Mango achieve this, it would be the highest in-flight Wi-Fi usage ratio ever achieved on any route, anywhere.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

  • The Kenyan government will soon force the auditing of mobile money systems and financial institutions, to ensure that customers are protected from the increasing risk of cybercrime.

    Ministry of Information and Communications permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo made the announcement last week while speaking at the East Africa Cyber Security Convention in Nairobi.

    Ndemo said that most financial systems, including mobile money systems, have never been audited, causing doubt over their integrity.

    As more and more Kenyans embrace technology in their day-to-day activities, cyber criminals are profiting from loopholes created by the new money systems and ignorance on the customer’s part. Ndemo said: "With no clear defined auditing rules for mobile money, and consumers not monitoring their accounts, these criminals could even go on for years before it is discovered." 

    For this reason, the Ministry of Information and Communications is working with the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) to ensure that banks and mobile money service providers comply.

    The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has also created the Kenya Computer Incident Response Team Coordination Centre (KE-CIRT/CC), whose main mandate is to respond to computer security or cybersecurity incidents by providing necessary services, disseminating cybersecurity information and acting as a national focal in matters related to cybersecurity.

    According to a report by consulting firm Deloitte earlier this year, banks lost over KSh6 billion (US$71.4 million) to fraudsters between 2011 and 2012. The Kenyan economy as a whole loses more than KSh3 billion (US$35.7 million) to cybercrime annually.

    With mobile money transfers in Kenya between January and September this year standing at KSh1.117 trillion (US$13.5 billion), there is reason to ensure that the systems comply with the best security and integrity requirements possible to reduce or totally eradicate cybercrime.

    KT Corp mulls Morocco move

    South Korean telecoms operator KT Corp is reportedly interested in acquiring Vivendi’s 53% stake in the Moroccan firm Maroc Telecom, Reuters reports, citing ‘two people familiar with the situation’. 

    Vivendi is hoping to raise up to EUR5.5 billion (USD7.15 billion) from the sale as the French group looks to exit some of its communications ventures to concentrate more on its media activities. 

    Qtel of Kuwait, UAE-based Etisalat and the France Telecom-Orange group have already been linked with the Maroc Telecom stake. The Moroccan carrier is the country’s dominant fixed line and wireless operator in terms of subscribers, while it also has operations in Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali and Mauritania.

Digital Content

  • A team of six students from the department of electrical and computer engineering at the College of Engineering, Design and Technology (CEDAT) in Makerere University have won this year's Huawei Android Applications Challenge.

    The team was rewarded with a Huawei tablet and a cash prize of Ushs 1.5m during an award ceremony held at Serena Hotel in Kampala on Dec. 5, and presided over by the state minister for ICT, Nyombi Tembo.

    The competition, held under the theme: 'Enriching Life through Communication' brought together student developers from some of Uganda's top universities including Makerere, Kyambogo and Kampala International Universities.

    The participants were required to develop applications in line with the theme, especially in relation to education, research, lifestyle and productivity.

    The six students; Edward Semuwemba, Timothy Asiimwe, Power G Mukiisa, John Paul Otim, James Muranga and Noah Wasswa developed an application called 'Destination East Africa' which enables travelers to East Africa to plan for and have a perfect trip.

    'Destination East Africa' offers trusted advice from real travelers and a wide variety of travel choices and planning features with a plethora of booking tools. The application features national parks, hotels, tour operators, restaurants, lodges, shopping malls, taxi hire services, national heritage and cultural sites. Detailed information and beautiful galleries of all these places are also included in the application.

    This application beat 15 other entries that reached the final stage of the competition. The apps were judged based on relevance, practicability, originality, completeness, usability and marketing.

    The Huawei Android Applications Challenge was established in an effort to boost ICTs in Uganda, and seeks to engage local university students in developing android software applications that address local needs.

  • Telecoms operator Vodacom has partnered with public-private health group GAVI Alliance in a move expected to ensure health initiatives in Africa are integrated with mobile technology, especially the use of SMS text messaging.

     The pilot project will begin in Mozambique, where mobile technology will be used to enhance immunisation for children, before being spread out to the rest of the continent.

    GAVI Alliance reports that the most effective way to utilise mobile technology is to have mothers alerted on available vaccinations by SMS. Health workers could also access health records and schedule appointments using their phones.

    The group says it will also implement a system through mobile phones to monitor vaccine stocks.

    “We’re committed to identifying viable innovations that can sustainably address the challenges we face in providing life-saving vaccines to all children, no matter where they live,” said GAVI Alliance boss Seth Berkley.

    Berkley added that mobile technology offers a cutting edge and has the potential to overcome the difficult challenges in terms of communication from the health centres to mothers about vaccination appointments.

    The mobile stock management service is in use in 5,000 clinics across Tanzania. In South Africa, community health workers have also taken advantage of mobile solutions to access and update patient records.

    UK Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening supported the initiative. The UK government has also announced its contribution to GAVI, matching Vodafone’s contribution of US$1.5 million.

    "One thousand new mobile broadband connections are made every minute in the developing world, which means we have a tremendous opportunity to transform lives in an easily accessible way. Britain is a proud partner in this innovative project from Vodafone and GAVI,” Greening commented.

    She said: “Opening up healthcare to people through their mobile phones will increase the take-up of basic treatments that make a huge difference to people's lives and livelihoods."

  • The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announces a partnership with biNu to provide increased English language content to people around the world. Under the partnership, biNu will distribute Department of State English language learning resources, such as e-books, audio content, and the Trace Word Soup English language game on their free mobile phone platform. biNu is a mobile application platform used by over 4 million people worldwide that provides a smart-phone-like experience on mass-market feature phones, which account for roughly 85% of today’s global mobile phone market.

    The State Department’s Trace Word Soup game allows foreign language students to practice English vocabulary and spelling from their own mobile device. Launched on biNu in early October 2012, over 1.2 million games have been played in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and other countries around the world. Trace Word Soup players can enhance their experience with biNu’s integrated dictionary, translation tools, and social media features. Users are also able to access thousands of free e-books, including State Department publications, through the biNu World Reader application.

    The U.S. Department of State continues to find new, innovative ways to use technology as part of Secretary Clinton’s commitment to 21st Century Statecraft. This collaboration is part of the English Language Education Alliance (E2A) consortium that brings together public, private, nonprofit, and academic organizations to help connect resources in the U.S. and English language teaching and learning needs and opportunities worldwide.

     

More

  • ECONET Wireless chairman Tawanda Nyambirai has stepped down from his position after selling his entire shareholding in TN Bank to the mobile phone operator. The buyout deal means that  Nyambirai becomes a minority shareholder in Econet Wireless while TN Bank becomes a subsidiary of the mobile telecommunications group.

    The transaction is, however, yet to get regulatory approvals from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and the Securities Commission of Zimbabwe.

    Prior to the transaction Econet Wireless held a 45 percent stake in TN Bank while Mr Nyambirai owned the bulk of the remaining shareholding. The TN Bank founder has, however, been offered a seat on the board of Econet Wireless Global.

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